“There is a new hotspot for heavy petting on the Upper West Side,” declared the West Side Rag, awesomely, some months ago. Widely considered the dirtiest, crummiest, saddest, and generally worst movie theater in Manhattan, the Loews Eighty-Fourth Street transformed itself in 2013 into an amorous teenager’s paradise, instituting luxurious, fully reclining seats and removable armrests. Reported the New York Post,
The new loveseats are a huge hit with teens. Upper West Sider Richard Velazquez, forty, was seated in the same row as an enthusiastic teen couple at a World War Z showing last month. “Even before the previews started, they were going at it,” says Velazquez.
“She was not entirely on top of him, but a quarter of the way there. When the movie ended, they were still at it. I was thinking, ‘Get a room already,’ but the theater was their room!”
I don’t know if this gamble—or whatever it is—has paid off. Did anyone want an unsanitary multiplex with business-class seats? Who knows? All I know is that the Love Theater is my local, a mere five-minute walk from door to door. They don’t often show films I want to see—I guess the lineup is more geared toward the tastes of the heavy-petting demographic—but yesterday I crossed Broadway to see The Wolf of Wall Street, my thinking being that a comfy seat might come in handy in watching a three-hour film.
Because the film is rated R, the teenager taking tickets carded me. All I had on me by way of ID was an expired learner’s permit from 1996, but this seemed to satisfy her. Or at least prove that I was thirty-two and a half. “Do the kids get too frisky in the R-rated movies?” I asked.
“We have to check ID,” she said unhelpfully.
The theater was nearly empty, so I disregarded the seat assignment on my ticket and took one of the isolated pairs which, a sign informed me, was intended for companions of those in wheelchairs. I was wondering whether anyone actually respected the seat assignments when a furious old man demanded a couple relocate so he could have the perfectly ordinary seat he’d been assigned. I reclined my seat fully, which was sort of uncomfortable. An old lady with a walker took the pair of seats next to me.
Three hours—spoiler alert—hundreds of quaaludes, and dozens of hookers later, numerous people had been bilked out of money, DiCaprio was leading motivational seminars, both the angry old man and the lady with the walker had left, and I had seen exactly zero percent offscreen amorous activity. The sparse crowd trickled out, looking depressed and tired.
I walked a block east to Amsterdam and three north and stood in front of the Popover Cafe. LOST OUR LEASE! declared the sign papering the window. FAREWELL AND THANK YOU FOR 32 1/2 GLORIOUS YEARS! The sight was unspeakably melancholy. It was not that I had eaten so regularly at the Popover, which was scattered with stuffed animals and whose menu consisted largely of items which I, at any rate, did not generally want to eat accompanied by popovers; spaghetti squash primavera, say (with a popover) or a blackened fish taco, served with a popover. But it was the sort of Upper West Side institution, like the yarn stores, or the Sensuous Bean, which had started and then persisted in the face of reason and commerce.
“Did we go there when I was a baby?” I asked my mother later that night.
“No,” she said. “That wasn’t our spot. We went to the Éclair. Or the Golden Ass.”
Word on the street—and I do mean that literally, a neighboring business owner told me—is that the owner of Popover lost a great deal of money in the Madoff scams and never really recovered. I don’t know if that’s true; I hope not. Now, the blogs have it, the space will be some kind of twenty-four-hour bistro. In The Wolf of Wall Street, we are treated to a great many cynical speeches about money and opportunity and taking advantage of people. “Create demand,” instructs the protagonist of his trainee traders. Would that life were so simple.