No police seen anywhere. Times Square, New Years Eve. Revelers hurl champagne and wine bottles as high into the air as they could swing them, unconcerned for the heads they will land on. A bottle crashes nearby, then a bloody scalp, frozen blood plus alcohol for antiseptic. You better squint into the Klieg lit glare above for early warning of incoming. No steel pens caging-in the horde. We bristle and squawk and pee.
Sure, it was dangerous. Some poor souls left cars parked inside the party zone and soon enough their big Detroit iron got stomped flat. Coil-spring trampolines. Journalist Robert Lipsyte said, "Times Square is an oasis of celebration and a sewer of crime."
The ball drop was a relief. We survived another year in New York City.
I was in Times Square proper for just two New Years Eve celebrations, the one related above in the early 1980s, another toward the end of that decade. It was a period where NYC's murder rate was more than six times that of today; to say nothing of more commonplace crimes. Everybody got mugged. Rents were low. New York was interesting.
The focal point of all the mayhem, that "ball" sliding down a flagpole, wasn't always the gaudy, high tech bling-bob it is today. I prefer the diminutive 80s aluminum version with a stem, the "little apple," stippled by hardware-store halogen floodlights and lowered by rope. Below it, the same structure supporting all of the high tech signage seen today, as well as the ball, is actually a building. 1475 Broadway, or One Times Square, stands, a triangle skyscraper -- once the second tallest building in New York -- cloaked by ads, one window wide at its apex pointing north into the heart of Times Square. As I write this it is completely vacant save for a Walgreens at the first floor.
I spent my other Times Square New Years Eve on the inside of that very building, near the top, overlooking the Great White Way, just below the little aluminum apple ball. Nirvana Club One was an Indian Restaurant, bar, disco and venue available for special events; a regular spot for Saturday Night Live after parties. You could still see out the windows at that time. During the Eve's celebration, I walked into the very narrow apex of the Times triangle, vodka martini in hand, and looked down at the congregation: Mayhem, debauchery, crime, consolation and hope. Quite a view.