They may be largely forgotten today but Baltimore’s own Bootcamp was one of the first bands to appear on MTV. Their video for Hold On To The Night was the 42nd video to ever be shown on MTV and appropriately it was filmed in Baltimore’s version of 42nd Street, The Block.
As you can see in this video, The Block was Baltimore’s red light district. In the 1940s, it was famous for its burlesque houses and, during World War II, many a soldier spent his last night before shipping out visiting the Block. It was here that Blaze Starr got her start. By the 1950s, The Block’s burlesque houses had been replaced by sex shops and strip clubs. The fact that Baltimore’s Police Headquarters sat at the east end of The Block didn’t keep it from becoming notorious as a center of prostitution, drug dealing, and general seediness. The story was that the police, realizing they could never stop either the drug or the sex trade, instead just tried to contain them to one section of the city. While that may or may not have been true, I always wondered if the Hamsterdam storyline in the 3rd season of The Wire was inspired by The Block.
Over the years, the Block has shrunk. Now, it’s only two blocks long and it’s best known for being home to a few strip clubs. The Gayety Theater, which is heavily featured in this video, burned down in 2010. Arson is suspected.
As for Bootcamp, they were briefly popular in the early 80s, playing with bands like The Tubes, Squeeze, The B-52’s and Split Enz, before breaking up in 1984.