Infamous New York City Dive Bar As Seen from a Bartender’s Point of View
Old Photos – 1970’s Times Square Pictures of Pimps, Prostitutes, Tourists, Drag Queens and Homeless
Terminal Bar was once known as one of the roughest bars in New York City. Situated across the street from the Port Authority Bus Station and near Times Square, the bar was frequented by customers of all types. Thrill-seeking tourists, prostitutes and pimps, midtown office men and women, and drag queens were all regular patrons to frequent the notorious establishment.
In 1972 a young bartender, Sheldon Nadleman, worked at the bar his father-in-law owned and decided it would be interesting to photo document his customers. This started a 10-year-span of photography that ran up until the bar shut down in 1982. “After 10 years I had a couple thousand portraits. It was simple as that. I was on a mission—don’t ask me why,” Nadleman later said. Sheldon liked to go beyond simply pouring drinks for his customers. He tried to get to know them on a personal level. And, he liked to take their portraits. “After 10 years I had a couple thousand portraits. It was simple as that. I was on a mission—don’t ask me why,” he said.
Nadelman’s black and white photos captured a wide assortment of characters, the surrounding neighborhood, and occasionally, the Terminal Bar itself.
“In the beginning it was just the regulars and they were willing and able to be photographed,” Nadelman said in an interview. “Then there were just faces that came in and I knew I wouldn’t see them again. But they looked interesting. I’d say 90 percent of the people were willing to be photographed.”
Sitting dormant for many years, Sheldon’s grown son, Stefan, came across the collection in the early 2000s. Stefan realized the photos were an important historical artifact of New York City’s past and began scanning, sorting and printing his father’s negatives. The photos you see on this page are just a small portion of the collection, now offered in a book – Terminal Bar – from Princeton Architectural Press, as well as a documentary created by Stefan that won several awards, including the 2003 Sundance Jury Prize.
(All Photos © Copyright Sheldon Nadelman)