Rambo on the Lower East Side

“It’s hard to imagine now how lawless and crazy Times Square and Forty-second Street were back in the late seventies and early eighties. It was anything goes – drugs, whores, you name it. …

“We started out going there for the double features in the crumbling old opera house theaters. But the campy grindhouse gore and crime onscreen paled in comparison with the action in the audience and outside on ‘the Deuce.’

“The movies ran all night, and a lot of the crowd more or less lived there in the flickering dark halls whose walls and balconies hadn’t seen a paint brush or a new sheet of wallpaper in decades. Junkies shot up, puked, pissed, passed out, and sometimes died in the seats. You never went in the men’s room of the Lyric or any of the other old derelict theaters. They were reserved for bums that looked like degenerate versions of Popeye the Sailor and hustlers in tight jeans to do God knows what to each other for money or drugs in the stalls. Times Square bars never checked IDs. Every dark flagstone- or linoleum-floored dive was equipped with a steam tray of inedible food, the stench of decades of spilled beer, a junkie stripper on a makeshift backroom stage, and a dozen guys scamming each other or ignoring everything but the drink and the ghost in front of them.”

from Alphaville: New York 1988: Welcome to Heroin City by Michael Codella and Bruce Bennett

This is a gripping memoir by a hard-boiled NYC cop who earned the nickname “Rambo” working the Lower East Side in the 1980s. The book is filled not only with vivid portraits of New York in the 80s, but also snippets of New York history that give the story context and depth. First rate prose and a fascinating story. Highly recommended by Mean Street Cinema.

Also be sure to check out author Mike Codella’s interview with Ed Opperman, where they discuss the Son of Sam, the Process Church of the Final Judgment, and Alphabet City in the 80s.

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