Last week, I marveled at the faded ad on the side of 765 Eighth Avenue in Times Square and wondered at what sort of rooming house it might have been back in the day. Well, I did a little research and I found out what kind of place it was: scary. And getting scarier with each passing decade, as it turned from whatever it was to begin with, to the Hollis Hotel to the current New York Inn. Actually, the residents start out as generally unlucky and hapless; they only turn actively criminal with the urban decline in Times Square.
Here's a sampling, drawn from the New York Times archives, or the kind of people who have called the address home over the years:
1904: Charles O'Connor, who was arrested for operating an illegal pool hall and betting parlor on 31st Street, in which information on the races was communicated from an upstairs bedroom by way of a 30-foot length of garden hose.
1913; John Heageney, the manager of the Bijou Theatre, who was arrested for showing the much-objected-to picture "The Inside of the White Slave Traffic."
1916: Charles O'Neill, 25, a salesman, who was arraigned for sending out a false fire alarm. His excuse was that he was celebrating his imminent marriage and that an excited friend, not he, pulled the fire alarm box.
1928: Irene Cross, a 26-year-old chorus girl, who was visiting the home of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sidell here, when she mistook the door to the dumbwaiter for the bathroom. She fell three stories down a shaft and fratured her right leg. Bad move for a chorus girl.
1937: Thomas Meister, a ventriloquist, who was arrested as possible kidnapper, but released when the officers found only a baby doll in his black handbag, not a real kid. The police were confused when Meister tried out part of his routine on a train, causing a voice to come out of the bag.
1939: Jade Sen, 25, an employee at Ruby Foo's Den at W. 52nd Street, who was slugged and robbed of $4,000 while entering the IRT subway, while heading to the bank at 34th and Eighth.
1964: Thomas Gambino, a boxer, who checked into what was by then called the Hollis Hotel, and strangled his 19-year-old girlfriend, one Laura Macaluso, an "unemployed waitress."
1976: Clarence Stewart, a resident, also known as Blood, also known as Ralph Moss, who abducted, abused and raped a 14-year-old Long Island runaway over a period of three days, and then attempted to turn her into a prostitute.
1995: And unknown John, who, on the night of June 29, checked in with Wendi Rivera Hoffman, a 46-year-old prostitute. The next day her body was found, partly clothed, face down on the bed, with her hands tied. She had been strangled.