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In Netflix's 'Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer,' Who Was 'Porno King Of NYC’ Marty Hodas?
Netflix's “Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer” examines the case of serial killer Richard Cottingham.
“Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer” focuses on the circumstances that allowed serial killer Richard Cottingham to keep on killing during a time when Times Square was at its grittiest — and a haven for people like “Porno King” Marty Hodas.
Cottingham has claimed that he preyed upon sex workers in Times Square for 13 years, and that his victim count could be more than 80 people. He was convicted in 1984 of six murders from 1967 to 1980 in New York and New Jersey. Within the last year, he was convicted of the killings of five more teens in New Jersey, NJ.com reported.
Veteran filmmaker Joe Berlinger told Oxygen.com that with “The Times Square Killer,” he wanted to examine the “external forces” and “the larger social forces at play that allowed his criminality to exist for a really long time.”
Cottingham often targeted sex workers who conducted business in Times Square in the 1970s, an area Berlinger called “a nexus of crime, particularly against women, at the time.”
He told Oxygen.com that police would routinely look the other way if a sex worker was sexually attacked, and sometimes they would even arrest the victim of such an assault on a prostitution charge. Meanwhile, the docuseries points out that police even sometimes used the unofficial acronym N.H.I. — meaning “no humans involved” — to describe some deaths of some sex workers.
“It’s really the core reason why I wanted to take a look at Times Square because this was the epicenter of the sex business and it just it was an anything-goes attitude,” he said. “You got people pushing the darker elements of their fantasies and the police just kind of looked the other way.”
In the 1970s, Times Square was full of sex shops, live sex shows and peep shows. And the so-called king of the industry was Marty Hodas, who was referenced in the series as a person who thrived running sex businesses at the time. His daughter Romola Hodas was featured as a historian of the era in the series.
According to an Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, Marty Hodas allegedly ran a "prostitution empire in the northeast." And he “owned virtually every 25-cent peep show in the city,” according to a 2018 New York Daily News report.
According to the piece, Marty grew up in Brooklyn after his Jewish family fled Europe. Growing up, he did any job from shining shoes to working on a chicken farm to make money. He eventually earned a good living working at a company that installed gumball machines in the 1940s.
It was 1966 when he first dived into the porn business, after he discovered numerous, neglected old film-loop machines in the basement of a New Jersey business. He utilized the machines by putting sex films in them, and placing the machines in adult bookstores in Manhattan, according to the New York Daily News. He claimed that this effort brought him $30,000 a week at one point.
From there, he began making his own pornography and opened up a shop to fix the sex show machines because they apparently broke down so often.
Marty was also known to host swinger parties, his daughter Romola Hodas wrote in her 2018 memoir “The Princess of 42nd Street: Surviving My Childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn.”
Romola described her father as both physically and emotionally abusive in the book, detailing how he’d beat her and neglect feeding while body-shaming her. Romola also detailed several other disturbing incidents, including one in which her father engaged in a sex act in front of her. She wrote that her dad was jailed a few times for financial and public nuisance convictions and that, while he initially made enemies with the Mafia, he later helped make them money.
Still, Romola Hodas maintained that she loved her father. The Daily News piece reports that she waited until his death before writing her tell-all book as to not embarrass him.
Marty Hodas' reign as porno king of Times Square came to an end when the city cracked down on sex shops in the 1980s — often through zoning law enforcements, as “The Times Square Killer” points out. He later opened up the porn bookshop and live dancing arena Miami Playground in Miami, which he operated for 20 years, the Daily News reported. He sold it not long before he died in 2014 at the age of 82.
A fictionalized version of Marty was portrayed in HBO’s “The Deuce,” a semi-fictional drama series that focused on the sex-trade industry 1970s Times Square.