The Grand Luncheonette: Sadly, No Place Left at the Table for 42nd Street Diner

The Grand Luncheonette: Sadly, No Place Left at the Table for 42nd Street Diner

Fred Hakim, last of the old-time Times Square hot-dog vendors, has died at the age of 83. Mr. Hakim’s family owned a hole-in-the-wall hot-dog counter in Times Square, which was the last of its kind when in the 1990s the city began condemning dozens of establishments like it in order to revitalize the area. The Grand Luncheonette was a seven-seat, 250-square-foot piece of Edward Hopper streetscape on West 42nd Street, which Mr. Hakim’s father had opened in 1941 and wryly named the Grand Luncheonette.

The Grand Luncheonette lived on 42nd Street for 58 years, grandly offering its greasy ambiance to the passing crowds in Times Square, proudly wrapped in shining chrome beneath the rotted marquee of the old Selwyn Theater. Mr. Hakim tried to keep the place open as a sort of living museum-like tribute to the golden age of Times Square’s hawkers, strippers and honky-tonks. But New York’s urban planners had other ideas, and after a two-year fight, he finally was evicted on Oct. 19th, 1997.

Writing about the demise of the Grand Luncheonette, a New York Daily News journalist pessimistically concluded: “This is bigger than 42nd Street, bigger even than the Disney Corp. This is about New York being colonized by The Gap and Banana Republic and Starbuck’s and all the rest. If new and improved Times Square is any indication, the standard for Italian cuisine will be the Olive Garden chain.”

Read more about the Grand Luncheonette in The New York Times here.

The nostalgic, touching documentary short film Grand Luncheonette was created by New York-based documentary filmmaker Peter Sillen.

Grand Luncheonette: Sadly, No Place Left at the Table

(Best Viewed in Full-Screen Mode with Scaling Off)

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Leon Levinstein: Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players

Leon Levinstein: Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players

Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players is a knockout series of photographs by Leon Levinstein, which recalls the vibrancy of Robert Frank’s urban scenes and the unselfconsciousness of Walker Evans’ hidden-camera subway shots, but with elements of levity and the grotesque.  Staking out New York City’s busiest public arenas, Times Square, Coney Island and Washington Square Park, Levinstein photographed hookers, hustlers, housewives, businessmen, cross-dressers, and the permanently down-and-out with no trace of sentimentality, but with plenty of heart.

From the early nineteen-fifties until a few years before his death in 1988, he worked on the fly, and almost always without engaging his subjects.  Perhaps that’s why his pictures still feel so urgent and raw.  Levinstein refined his Bowery compositions, but he never blunted his hit-and-run attack.  He wasn’t slumming or judging; always a loner himself, he was communing with New York at its grittiest, and clearly relishing the experience.

The Photography of Leon Levinstein (1950-1980)

Slide Show: Hipsters, Hustlers, and Handball Players

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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