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August 29, 2018

“Hey Mister, Want to Party?” – Photos of Hookers on the Streets of New York City in the Mid-1980s

Remember when hookers all hovering around the tunnel as you were exiting the city. They’d come up to the car while you were sitting in traffic, and say “Hey mister, want to party?”

A former prostitute recalled life on the street in these days: “In the 1980s, we are called prostitutes and streetwalkers. If we do it in a hotel we are call girls. Interesting how long it took for people to realize this is a job and work.

“... When you are out here, you don’t think about the danger. For one thing, I am high as a kite on meth. These guys are rude and repulsive, but I can enjoy myself because I am high. People without addictions don’t understand that there are three highs: the high; the high of knowing you’re going to get high; and the high of doing risky things while you’re high.

“... I am white and I do not have a pimp. But the black girls who do have pimps say some of their wives-in-law are being strangled up by North Avenue. You hear it all the time—girl found dead in dumpster. No one cares.

“What is the danger out here? What isn’t the danger? You could get robbed, raped, cheated, beat up, knifed, shot, strangled, abducted and, of course, arrested. You could get STDs. Once I got pregnant. That’s what the world needs—a meth-and-alcohol-addicted baby from a john. You don’t think about the danger because when you are high you think you are bulletproof and making your own luck. And, for some reason, there is something about putting yourself in danger and surviving it that makes you feel safe. Anyone who’s had trauma, whether from war or the streets, knows this. This is why you can’t stop drug addiction by legalizing it. Danger is part of the high. It relaxes you.

“I am totally addicted to getting in cars. There is no addiction like this addiction. It’s cash, sex, attention, ‘love,’ drugs, control, gambling, adventure, ego, street theater, making your own luck and the thrill of getting away with it. This must be how it feels when you hold up a 7-Eleven and get away with it. The more danger, the greater the relief. Every time you get away with it, you think you’re not just lucky, but indestructible. You think you rock...”

West 30th Street, Manhattan, circa 1985.

30th Street and Tenth Avenue, circa 1985. View from the High Line.

30th Street and Eleventh Avenue, 1986.

Eleventh Avenue and 31st Street, 1987.

Eleventh Avenue and 31st Street, 1987.

(Photos © Steven Siegel)



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