American Scene: Tell All the Gang on 42nd Street

She's an ugly cow, but she gives a lot of milk.

—Real estate broker describing New York's 42nd Street

THE cynical businessman was explaining why 42nd Street is difficult to clean up, much as it needs sanitizing. The analogy is apt for a cowpath that became one of the world's most famous streets. Forty-second was once the grandest lady of the theater. Florenz Ziegfeld produced his Follies at the New Amsterdam Theater. Gertrude Lawrence, Bea Lillie and Will Rogers were stars of the street, and at the Liberty Theater there was music by George Gershwin,...

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