At the time of his death, he had a full-size boxing ring in his apartment upstairs from Show World. Supposedly, he somehow slighted mob boss John Gotti. Basciano — who pleaded no contest to a coupon scam and was found liable for a deadly Philadelphia building collapse — made no such mistakes. They were very good at throwing out anyone who misbehaved.
Pimps came in to recruit girls and they got bounced violently. For 25 cents, patrons watched them gyrating in the nude. When time — fractions of a minute per quarter — elapsed, metal shutters dropped, blocking the view until more coins were inserted.
Simultaneously, a light outside the booth signaled the moonlighting boxers. The place was more about high anxiety than sex. Thus, porn videos replaced 8-millimeter loops, offering 10 different titles per booth. Business truly boomed when Basciano removed peep-show windows around , allowing dancers to reach in, touch patrons and be touched in turn.
Aggressive women made hundreds per shift. Other performances went less smoothly. Tim Connelly remembers an audience member who became impatient during a comedic lead-up to the sex: Then I saw his gun.
I was buck-naked and the guy had a pistol on me! Everybody started going crazy; I grabbed the woman I was with and we walked off stage.
The guy put the gun back in his coat and left. Meanwhile my knees were weak and the audience members were stomping their feet, wanting us to come back out and finish. Friedman recalls soap opera stars and a musician from the Philharmonic turning up. There was a cautionary component to Show World.
First there was AIDS, which had a chilling effect. As the s ground on, Tim Connelly remembers the scourge of crack adding to the damper. If a girl walked out to get coffee, there was always a decent chance she was not coming back. Half of them were drug addicts. Plain-clothes cops became increasingly common and so did arrests — Connelly got busted one night, and was expected to return to Show World for the remainder of his shift.
Beginning in , Show World would grow increasingly smaller as hypnotism shows and a comedy club took over spaces that once hosted explicit activities around the clock. Show World shrank to a tamed-down, fractional footprint of what it had been: Crossword-puzzle books were for sale in the basement.
And yet Basciano hung on as property values continued to rise. His sudden death leaves people wondering about the fate of Show World. It is unclear who inherited the property. Basciano leaves behind his wife, Lois, and three daughters, all from a previous marriage; no will has yet been made public.
Sounding bummed, Friedman speculates: