Street preacher, New York City, 1960

Found at Frog Blog

This put me in mind of the Charles Addams cartoon which shows a bunch of people clustered around a giant octopus emerging from a manhole and grabbing a passer-by. Two guys walking behind the crowd who can’t see what’s going on say “It doesn’t take much to collect a crowd in New York.”

It’s true, too. Times Square was the scene of a dramatic self-immolation at 2 P.M. on Saturday, July 18, 1970, when Hin Chi Yeung poured two cans of gasoline on himself and struck a match. I sadly happened across this event just after he had been extinguished; apparently he was getting poor grades and was distraught at the prospect of shaming his family who had sacrificed much to get him here to study. The crowds were insane. It was surreal – I thought someone had set fire to a department store mannequin at first, never thinking it might have been a real person.

On another note: See those “Cooled by Refrigeration” signs on the marquee back there? That was a huge draw in New York. “All around, people looking half dead, Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head” is an accurate description of summer in New York, and for 50¢ you could pop into a theatre, sit down, watch the newsreel, the short, the cartoon, and the feature presentation… and then do it again and again for as long as you pleased. It was a cheap way to get out of the heat. Back then it was no big deal if you were late to a show… you just waited for the next round to start and caught what you had missed. Those were the days.

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