Times Square in New York during the 1970s was the center for the sex trade. It was also where notorious serial killer Richard Cottingham found most of his victims. Netflix’s ‘Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer’ probes the investigation into Richard’s crimes and looks at how the sex workers were at risk in Times Square. The docuseries also chronicles how Martin Hodas became a successful businessman by setting up peep shows and live sex acts in Times Square. So, let’s find out more about him then, shall we?
Who Was Martin Hodas?
Martin Hodas’ family fled Europe and ended up in the United States. After Martin set foot in Brooklyn, New York, he worked many odd jobs like shining shoes and selling papers to make a living. Sometime in 1966, he came across abandoned film-loop machines in the basement of a New Jersey business establishing. Martin then decided to use those machines to play pornography, thus beginning his relentless climb to success.
Martin set up a peep show machine at a bookstore in Times Square, which became an instant success. As a result, other stores lined up to install these machines at their establishments, hoping for a similar turnout. At one point, Martin said he made about $30,000 in just a week. Soon he was dubbed the “King of the Peeps,” and he branched out into doing other things.
After the success of the peep shows, Martin began shooting and selling his own films. He also hosted live sex acts for customers to watch. Since all of this raked in the money, the family lived a luxurious life. However, they also had a lot of problems. Martin was married to Paula, an artist who was bipolar. They had four children, and Romola, the oldest, said they grew up in an abusive household. According to her, Martin hosted many swinger parties at the house rampant with drugs and alcohol while the children walked around.
Romola added that Martin took issue with her weight when she was a child and constantly shamed and beat her. In the 1970s, Martin was convicted of income tax invasion and spent about a year in prison. He also got in minor trouble with the law otherwise for things like public nuisance. By the 1980s, the government began to pass stricter regulations regarding live sex acts and peep shows, leading to Martin’s businesses shutting down.
How Did Martin Hodas Die? Where is Romola Hodas Now?
Martin eventually set up another establishment in Miami, Florida, that sold porn and had live dancing. He continued to operate that for more than two decades, selling it sometime before his death. In 2013, Martin died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the age of 82. His daughter, Romola, maintained that she loved her father despite the problematic childhood. She majored in psychology and has since been vocal about mental health awareness.
After Martin’s death, Romola published a memoir titled ‘The Princess of 42nd Street: Surviving My Childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn’. About growing past the tough upbringing, she said, “I wasn’t going to be one of those people who committed suicide. I was determined to live life by my way. I guess I was born with this kind of fierceness. I wasn’t going to be defeated. I wasn’t going to be a victim of Marty Hodas.” Today, she lives in Queens, New York, and runs Creating Harmony, a program that helps people control their alcohol consumption better.