In the last of Times Square’s peep shows, a man pays $40 to watch a girl strip naked behind glass. These institutions, left over from the days when 42nd Street was the vicious center of vice, will soon disappear completely from a rapidly gentrifying New York City, their stories lost forever. Yet, the story of the peeps is too interesting and too vital to the history of Times Square not to be told.
In The Last of the Live Nude Girls, Sheila McClear pulls back the curtain back on the little-documented world of the peep shows and their history. A late bloomer from the Midwest, McClear became a stripper in the peeps after finding herself adrift in New York. But after-dark Times Square seeped into her blood, and she ended up staying much longer than she imagined. The story she tells is not just of her own coming-of-agenor is it one of sex and vice and salaciousness. Rather, it is a redemptive narrative of modern life on the fringes of society in New York City.
Praise for The Last of the Live Nude Girls
"[McClear] finds new ground not only in the specificity of her subject matter, but in the strength of her account of just how easily she drifted into a life she neither asked for nor expected . . . The real accomplishment of Live Nude Girls isn't the descriptions of the underwear McClear wore, or the racial dynamics of the sex industry, or even the history of the peep show in New York City, as interesting and well reported as all of that is. The most compelling aspect of The Last of the Live Nude Girls is that it illustrates just how easily one can wind up living a life outside the margins." Portland Mercury
Ms. McClear’s closeness to the material most enriches her reporting when it comes to her coworkers. Despite their outsized personalities, they could have wound up sounding as interchangeable as their stage names, but with Ms. McClear’s writing, even their tattoos are memorable. Their substance abuse becomes familiar, occasionally even endearing, in a madcap way. Ms. McClear also has a keen ear for dialogue.” New York Observer
A richly informative read, helped by Ms. McClear’s erudite, laconic style . . . The Last of the Live Nude Girls offers a unique fragment of New York history that allows us to better understand a specific aspect of the Times Square underworld at thae very moment before its demise.” New York Journal of Books
"Sheila McClear's sharp, sweetly personal account of New York's vanished tenderloin asks the question if such supposedly degrading places are such a blight, why do we remember them with such fondness? A fascinating and honest read." Mark Jacobson, author of The Lampshade and American Gangster
"While Alice took us through the looking glass, Sheila McClear takes us through the peep show glass. The result is an unforgettable memoir of a young woman fleeing the decaying city of Detroit only to wind up stripping during the waning days of Triple-X Times Square. Baring both body and soul within the pages of The Last of the Live Nude Girls, McClear arrives on the literary scene dressed for success." Charles Kipps, author of Hell’s Kitchen Homicide and Crystal Death
"Sheila McClear's beautifully detailed account of her life as a peep-show girl reads as both a eulogy and a paean to the freaks and misfits who have long given their souls to the city. Filled with psychological insight, metaphor, and above all empathy, this book should be read by anyone who has ever taken or even contemplated extreme measures to escape the pain and tedium of life, with the hope of finding some meaning or redemption along the way." Matthew Gallaway, author of The Metropolis Case
I was beginning to think Manhattan was all about food, fashion, shopping, and real estate until reading this fascinating memoir. McClear has a voice all her own, and I was thrilled to discover a history of the peeps’ at the end. I can’t decide which is more impressive: the heroic reporting or what she did with it.” George Gurley, author of George & Hilly
Sheila McClear is a reminder that kids can still arrive in New York City from Nowheresville and break in with some serious grit, hard work, and talent.” Out Magazine
"As Sheila McClear recounts her tangled trip through the infamous 8th Avenue peep shows, she does so with strong, clear prose and a remarkable command of detail and memory. It's impossible not to feel yourself slipping right along with her into the claustrophobic, bleach-scented booths where she revealed much more than she ever thought she would. McClear not only plumbs her own depths, but also Manhattan's, caught on the cusp of past and present and forever negotiating the boundary." Jennifer Mascia, author of Never Tell Our Business to Strangers
"Everyone is required to buy two copies." Gawker
"Eye-opening, gritty, and compelling." The Paris Review
"Quirky, weird, funny, smart and sad, and it offers a window (not the kind with a naked girl behind it) into a part of seedy, freaky New York not many get to know intimately." xoJane.com