In 1972, Shelly Nadelman began a ten-year run bartending at one of New York City’s most notorious dives: the Terminal Bar, across the street from Port Authority Bus Terminal. The bar, which is one of the settings of Martin Scorsese’s film Taxi Driver, had a reputation of being the roughest bar in the city, but it was all media fabrication. Instead, the Terminal Bar was refuge to everyone who didn’t have a place in the world. For ten years, until the bar closed in 1982, Shelly shot thousands of black-and-white photographs of the regulars, locals, drag queens, pimps and prostitutes, tourists, and office workers dropping by before catching the bus home.
Shelly’s son and co-author Stefan Nadelman says of his father’s photography: “He recognized an opportunity to capture a moment in time, a world not many people had the chance to experience. I think he knew these people were unique, striking, and beautiful but otherwise forgotten by the world outside this watering hole.” Now, a new book is commemorating this iconic location – showcasing 900 photographs, accompanied by Shelly’s reminiscences in his inimitable voice. A sort of 1970s pre- sanitized Times Square Humans of New York, Terminal Bar is an impressive volume of cultural and visual history of a New York that no longer exists.
Here, we take a look at some of the most iconic photographs taken of the bar’s patrons.