All's quiet on West 45th: the St. James today. (T. Rinaldi)
The. St. James in its gritty heyday. (Cruising)
"The day clerk at the St. James, who asked that his name not be used, acknowledged that prostitutes routinely try to bring customers upstairs. But he said he always did his best to keep them out, sometimes with the aid of a baseball bat. 'Sometimes a hooker will sneak by me,' he said from behind his desk-to-ceiling bulletproof canopy. 'But look, I don't know who is and who isn't. How am I supposed to know? They go into the Plaza, too, but who stops those girls?'
Checking in. (Big)
"'Now drugs - that I won't allow,' he said, reaching under the counter to display his Louisville Slugger, a Fred Lynn autograph model. 'I see drugs, I say Mr. or Mrs., out you go.'" Mr. Pitt also scored some choice quotes from the hotel's night clerk: "'See where the glass is broken?' he asked. 'We wouldn't let this guy in the other night, so he kicked in the door. That kind of pimp, they're the worst - filthy, dirty, living on crack. Your regular pimp is usually clean... These are lowlifes.'"
Photographer Guy Mansuco caught this great photo of the St. James sign just before it disappeared. (Guy Mansuco)The St. James' old neon signs hung in there all the way through the Times Square ball drop that rung in the new millennium. They finally came down a few years later, apparently around the time the St. James picked itself up, shook itself off, and re-opened as a more tourist-friendly hostelry. Today the pimps and the lowlifes seem to have checked out: the St. James gets decent reviews at yelp.com, though one visitor, a certain Karla P. from Encinitas, California, complains that the management still uses "actual metal keys" rather than electronic card readers for room access. The neon may be gone, but the old St. James lumbers on, its checkered past now safely pickled in celluloid.
IN OTHER NEON NEWS:
• Via the Lost City blog, D'Aiuto Pastry closed this past Sunday (8/11/2013), supposedly for "renovations." This does not bode well for that fantastic sign...