The Film Locations of Taxi Driver (Part 2)

Today, we delve into Part 2 of our Taxi Driver coverage (Part 1 is here).

When we last left off, Travis Bickle was cruising through Times Square. We then catch him uptown as he makes a drop off at the Hotel Olcott at 27 West 72nd Street. Here, he drives up to the hotel, and we see the O LAR Restaurant on the east side. Today, it’s a Dallas BBQ.

TD - 020a - Restaurant

TD - 020b - Restaurant

Curious what O LAR Restaurant was all about? This awesomely bizarre ad from a 1974 New York magazine should tell you all you need to know!

Olar2

Travis pulls up to the front of the hotel. Note the new awning:

TD - 021a - Olcott

TD - 021b - Olcott

Then, Travis meets up with his cabbie buddies at an unknown grease joint. As far as I can tell, this isn’t the Belmore Restaurant nor The Terminal/Exchange bar featured later on in the film. Anyone have any idea where this might have been? There’s a Hess across the street, if that helps.

TD - 022a - Hess

The next day, Travis meets Betsy at the campaign office. I incorrectly identified the building in the previous post – I trusted the Taxi Driver Special Edition DVD “Locations Featurette,” which has the building at 62nd & Broadway. As alert reader David pointed out, it’s actually at 63rd & Broadway and has completely changed. Nowadays, Betsy would be coming out of a Bank of America (I’ve updated Part 1 with new pictures for those who are curious).

TD - 023a - Office

TD - 023b - Office

Travis takes Betsy to a place called Charles’ Coffee Shop at the corner of 58th & 8th Ave (long gone, of course). In this shot, we get a glimpse of the old Museum of Arts & Design building:

TD - 024a - Diner

TD - 024b - Diner

A different angle gives us a view of Columbus Circle and the future site of the glass-and-steel Time Warner Center:

TD - 025a - Diner

TD - 025b - Diner

Charles’ Coffee Shop is now a Duane Reade:

TD - 025c - Diner

Travis asks Betty out to a movie, and decides to get her a Kris Kristofferson album as a gift. He goes to a record store, and though I don’t know the original location, the woman’s shirt tag identifies it as a Sam Goody (one institution I don’t mind having gone extinct). Any guesses?

TD - 026a - Sam Goody

TD - 026b - Sam Goody

We then get a shot of Travis driving by a news ticker announcing Palantine’s arrival in New York, and at first I couldn’t figure out what the hell this mundane office building was. When it hit me that it was 1 Times Square, I couldn’t believe how much has changed. Also, I love the ad on the bus.

TD - 027b - TS

ts

Travis then meets up with some friends at the Terminal Bar (next to the Exchange Bar), formerly at 41st Street and 8th Ave. Currently, the New York Times building resides on the property, with a Schnippers restaurant in place of the Terminal. I realize “Terminal” refers to the Port Authority across the street, but there’s something absolutely perfect in the double-meaning.

TD - 028a - terminal

TD - 028b - terminal

The Terminal Bar was closed in 1982. A short documentary about the place – more information here.

Finally, we have the legendary meeting between Travis and child prostitute Iris (played by Jodie Foster) in front of the Variety Theater. What remains of the Variety today?

TD - 029a - Variety

TD - 029b - Variety

Yes, the Variety was torn down to make room for another glass-and-steel 21-floor condo highrise. Originally opened in 1913 as a Nickelodian theater, the Variety operated until 2004, at which point it was an off-broadway theater. It was torn down in 2005. Intelligent Flickr photographer GVSHP took some pictures prior to its demise, and I warn you, they’ll break your heart:

Variety Theater

Variety Theater

We get a tighter angle as Travis pulls up. The bar on the left is now Daydream Yogurt.

TD - 030a - Variety

TD - 030b - Variety

A yogurt place. Just because I’m now feeling particularly angry (really, I want to drive home the point), here’s a picture of the Variety’s demolition:

Variety Theater Demolition

Later, as Travis drives west on 42nd Street, we are treated to a great view of 8th Ave looking north. First, we catch a man begging in front of a diner on the east corner. That diner is now some sort of bland pizza chain called the Villa Italian Kitchen (with locations around the world – even Kuwait!).

TD - 032a - Corner

TD - 032b - Corner

As we move west, you can see how much has changed. That cigarette shop now appears to be an Auntie Anne’s pretzel place. Also, note that the phone booth in the first picture is now a phone stand.

TD - 033a - 8th Ave

TD - 033b - 8th Ave

As we continue west, we get a glimpse of the sign for the old Times Square Motor Hotel (free parking!). According to this NY Times article, in 1988, “the director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeless and Single Room Occupancy Housing Services…announced the city’s intention to buy the hotel and use it as a residence for the homeless and as the site of a work-release program for jail inmates.” In other words, a halfway house. Times have changed since ’88: a Westin Hotel is now on the site.

TD - 034a - 8th Ave

TD - 034b - 8th Ave

Finally, as we complete our journey across 8th Ave, we get a shot of the old Show World Center porn theater marquee. Though the theater is now the Times Square Comedy Club/Laugh Factory, Show World is still in business next door as a sex store, and for some reason, I find that a bit refreshing.

TD - 035a - Showworld

TD - 035b - Showworld

Here, you can see the building housing the theater in full – I love its bizarre height and width, and how it sticks out so oddly from the surrounding buildings. It almost looks like a giant middle finger flipping off the rest of Times Square.

TD - 036a - Showworld

Meanwhile, I’d love to know how much – if any – of the awning is originally part of the old porn theater sign (again, I find it strangely appealing to think about tourists sitting in the same theaters where countless pervs spent skeezy nights in Times Square).

TD - 036b - Showworld

Ready for Part 3? Click here!

-SCOUT

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35 comments

  1. Oh I LOVED the Variety! All the great mid-sized Off-Broadway theatres are gone. So sad.

  2. Great posts Scout!

    As far as the diner that isn’t the Belmore, my guess would be the old Market Diner at 43 & 11th. There very well could have been a Hess station across the street in the 1970s, there were many gas stations, as well as cabbies.

    Sam Goody’s. I understand your feeling about this record store, but back in the 60s-70s Sam Goody’s was one of those places you went if you were into music. Besides selling records (which you could listen to before buying) they also sold hifi equipment. I bought my first receiver (a Harmon Karden) there.

    The main Sam Goody’s was located on 49th Street between 8th and Broadway (not sure if the building is still there, but there was a dental clinic on the ground floor 5 years ago).

    And the Variety Photoplays…I lived just above 14th Street for a while in the first half of the 80s. I was in there when it was a porno (that’s another story), and I can tell you it was pretty insane. I saw a 7 foot tall African American transvestite hooker approach someone, and I could see heads bobbing in the seats in front of me. The bar next door was called the Dugout, and was a pretty sleazy joint also! Actually, it was even sleazier 5 years after Taxi Driver than what you see in the movie. OF course, this is all pre NYU (they built dorms along Third Ave, which was the start of the cleanup, even before Giuliani)

    Anyway , great blog, you brought back some memories for me of NYC in the 70s-80s.

  3. Oops, sorry…I thought I put spaces between the paragraphs! My post might be a little hard to read.

  4. The Sam Goody in quesiton may have been the one that used to perch on the northeast corner of 51st & 6th Avenue. More about that here:

    http://vassifer.blogs.com/alexinnyc/2008/05/goody-got-it.html

  5. Love this series and you’re covering such great films. Maybe Annie Hall, Manhattan, or some kind of all encompassing Woody Allen edition in the future?

  6. Fantastic post! I remember the Variety well, and was sad to see it go. I remember the Dugout, too–thanks, Aonghais!

    There was a Sam Goody’s on 5th Ave in, I think, the 30s, too. I waited on line there when I was 16 to get Queen to autograph my copy of “A Night at the Opera.”

    Sigh.

  7. Ha ha…I almost forgot, one of my favorite places…

    Disco Donut was also on the corner of Third and 14th, just down the block from the old Academy of Music (later Palladium, now NYU dorms). I spent quite a number of drunken 4 ams getting the greasiest cheeseburger on the planet. And let us not forget Julian’s pool hall!

  8. I always thought that the diner that the drivers hang out in was the Frontier coffe shop on 39th and 3rd, but others say it actually was Disco Donut! Was the Con Ed parking lot across the street a Hess station?

  9. Burgeon, there weren’t any gas stations in the vicinity of 14th & 3rd where Disco Donut was. I’d forgotten the Frontier, I think I ate there twice but then 39th & 3rd wasn’t exactly in my travel routine! .

  10. I would agree with Aonghais, the old grease joint is almost certainly the Market Diner.

  11. That coffee shop on 58th & 8th was called “Childs” and they were a franchise outfit that were staples in the city at that time.

  12. Impressive work and great pictures, taking on one of the finest films of all-time.

  13. Hate to nitpick about a fascinating breakdown of one of my favorite films; but the Times Square Motor Hotel is still standing. The Westin is across the street, on the southeast corner of 43rd and 8th. I lived there for a few months in the mid 80’s, and always walk by every time I’m back in the city(but I stay in Queens. Sorry).

  14. Is your Times Square Comedy photo flipped? Looking at Google maps looks like the Show World Center is gone (with the whole building).

  15. Hi. Thanks so much for your work. But I have to say I feel so sad there is no preservation of the textures, the colors, the cafés, and all that makes a city a city, in NY. All I see is Duane Read and Walgreen. I am from Europe and all I have to say is maybe we pay more taxes (although not sure any more) but at least our government is working to maintain our culture. America, before it became so corporate, really had one, how come no one stood up to preserve it! sad sad sad… what else is there to life… young baby country and big mistakes.

  16. Variety Theater – – –

    In the foreground of the first image of the Variety Theater on 3rd Ave. is a bar that required 4 steps down. It was called THE DUGOUT.

    It was a notoriously sleazy place until NYU hipsters found it in the early 1980s, mostly because of the very cheap draft beer.

    Strangely enough, none other than Jodie Foster would show up occasionally in the mid-80’s during her crinkled hair phase.

    Now – Long gone.

  17. I love this concept, and I am actually thinking of stealing it to apply it to Berlin. Would you mind that a lot?

  18. The Marquis of the comedy club is the same one of yeras gone by. I remember all these locations as if they were still there. Thank you.

  19. Well, I lived there for a few months in the mid 80′s, and always walk by every time I’m back in the city(but I stay in Queens. Sorry).

  20. What I remember about that time period in NYC was the very loud and very smokey diesel buses back then. You used to cough as one drove by. It’s a lot quieter and the air is a lot cleaner now.

    Trying to wrap my brain around why things seem so much different in the city is that there used to be a lot more independent stores back then, not big chains, although that is probably true in all cities.

  21. I think that the first diner may have been located at 44st and 10th avenue. There is a Hess gas station at that location and it looks similar to the scene in the film.

  22. I used to live in the cruddy little Single-Room Occupancy building next to the Variety Theater.

    First they tore down the Variety, then our building paid us all to move out, then it all got torn down and glass and steel went up and I moved back home to Texas.

    Makes me sad looking at pictures of it, I used to love living on that block so much.

    Burroughs mentions the corner of 13th St and 3rd Avenue as a prime “junk” spot in his book Junky.

    It was pretty cleaned-up when I moved in there in 1998 but not as squeaky clean as it is now.

  23. The sam goody used to be located at 49 St between Broadway and 8th Avenue.

  24. Regarding the Hess station question. Rene is most likely correct that it was the one on 44th as that was a hot spot for us cabbies (at least back then) but there was another one on 14th and 10th although I don’t recall a diner nearby….just the hot sheet hotel and of course the meat markets.

    Being a natural born feces disturber, I had a pic of Travis stuffed next to my hack license. The reactions of some of my fares still makes me giggle like a pre-teen Japanese school girl. Sure miss that era, along with my hair.

  25. The coffee shop on Columbus Circle was named Childe’s, not Charles.

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