As long-time readers of Ad Aged know, I love the obituaries that appear in "The New York Times." It's not some morbid fascination with death that makes them interesting, rather it's the lives, loves, wins and losses of the great and small people the Times decides to catalog. Almost invariably there's something interesting, crazy or thought-provoking in Times' obituaries, attributes that make them well-worth the time.
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.