In yesterday's digital edition I came across the death notice of Fred Hakim who died at the age of 83 on April 25th. You can read the obit here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/01/nyregion/fred-hakim-times-square-hot-dog-vendor-dies-at-83.html?ref=obituaries
Until 1997 when they tore down seedy, sordid and squalid Times' Square Hakim ran the seven-seat hotdog stand memorialized in the five-minute documentary pasted above. His wisdom shines through in the obituary. It contains gems like this: "'A knish? It’s potatoes,' he explains to an off-camera customer. 'Potatoes inside, outside, every side.'"
Times' Square was a different place 15 years ago. Virtually every third store was involved in some aspect of the porn business and there were still peep shows a-plenty. There were no national chain restaurants and the few hotels around the Great White Way were, at best, frayed and down at the heels. An ex-partner of mine used to call the hotel the Milford Plaza the Mildew Plaza. And that was kind.
Guiliani, the neo-fascist warlord and self-proclaimed hero of 9/11 is credited with cleaning up New York in general and Times' Square in particular. And unquestionably Times' Square is, today, family friendly--if you don't mind exposing your family to truck-sized tourists who don't know how to walk in a city.
Many people of my ilk lament the passing of trashy, threatening Times' Square. I don't. I live in New York and Times' Square was out of control and a symbol of New York's decadence, depravity and decay.
That said, I do think New York, of all places, could have lived with fewer Dave & Buster's, fewer Coldstone Creameries, fewer Red Lobsters.
And a few more hotdog stands run by guys like Fred Hakim.