One for the Road and a Roll of Quarters for the Photo Booth

New York Times 7/18/1999
by Eric V. Copage


After midnight in an East Village lounge bar, the live music has given way to the jukebox. To commemorate the evening, two women in their mid-20?s clamber into the bar?s vintage 1957 photo booth. Four blinding flashes later, they tumble out to collect the strip of pictures.

It is a common sight of the Lakeside Lounge at 162 Avenue B, where Jim Marshall, the co-owner with Roscoe Ambel, said he had seen people get $20 to $40 worth of quarters and spend them $2 a time all night.

Yvan Fitch, who has tended bar at the lounge since it opened four years ago ? the booth was purchased three months later ? said he has seen people dart in from waiting limos and cabs and then dart back out, prize in hand.

But he has a warning for those who try to cram into it like clowns into a mini-car: ?They never get a picture because they are too close to the lens. The most you can really get in a booth is three.?

Invented in the late 19th century, the booths flourished in the 1920?s and 30?s and were associated with Coney Island, said Paul Levinson, author of ?Digital McLuhan: A Guide to the Information Millennium.? They mostly banished in the 1960?s, although a modern version, offering digital photographs in color, can be found at many malls.

But there are a few places in Manhattan to sit in one of the originals (Barmacy, a few blocks away, recently added a booth). The one at the Lakeside used to be on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, N.J.

?I?ve always loved the photos of photo booths,? said Mr. Marshall, 40, who bought this one at a thrift shop. ?Everybody looks good in those high-resolution black-and-white pictures, as opposed to color Polaroids, where everybody looks bad.?

Behind the bar is a small gallery. The faces include rock-and-roll icons like Richard Hell and Question Mark of Question Mark and the Mysterians. Several show women baring their breasts. A series features Sage, a hermaphrodite and the hostess at Coney Island High, a defunct club.

Armine Altiparmakian, 30, a freelance graphic designer who was at the bar Thursday night, said she usually fools around with ?goofy Elvis moves? when she pulls the curtain shut.

?It reminds me of growing up, of going to the beach, of my friends,? she said.


Contributed by Brian