Even for midtown, there’s a lot going on in this brief video, shot 25 years ago today.
The scene opens with a stumbling man who leans on a fire hydrant.
Another man approaches, spying a treasure buried in the wire trash can.
The camera pulls back and we see a man in a red shirt open the hood of his car as steam billows out.
Then the man who was leaning on the fire hydrant tumbles over as he sees the steam come from the car. And that’s only the first few seconds.
It was shot by Bernie Doherty, visiting Manhattan with his two sons and their friend, during a summer weekend in 1990.
Now 70, Doherty, a retired police officer, says he’s happy 42nd street has been cleaned up. “I’m a bit of a conservative, I think. Back then you didn’t have to try and hit a hooker or a drug dealer,” he says. “It’s a different set-up now.”
Doherty’s son, Sean, 37, of Estes Park, Colorado, is in the above video — “I’m the little kid with the blonde hair walking back after the guy falls off the hydrant” — and posted it to YouTube.
“After my dad stopping recording, the guy who fell started yelling at my Dad — screaming obscenities,” Sean Doherty remembers. “He wasn’t happy with being recorded.”
Sean Doherty, who works for a TV production company, says YouTube was the perfect home for this long-lost scene:
“I just wanted to share with people what New York looked like back then,” he says. “Obviously the humorous factor, too. Even at the time when my dad shot it, America’s Funniest Home Videos was on, but it really wasn’t the right video for that kind of show.”
Sean Doherty says the bulky RCA video camera also made his dad a target: “People would try to steal it,” he says. “Luckily my dad was a police officer and could handle himself in those sorts of situations.”
“Back then I had to flash my badge quite a few times,” Bernie Doherty says, adding that now he can take his grandchildren to city.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 18, 2015