New York’s “Fun City” nickname was born in the first days of Mayor John Lindsay’s administration in January 1966. There was a transit strike; after observing New York’s troubles by helicopter, Lindsay declared that he still thought that New York was a fun city.
The term quickly was parodied, with “fun” applying to the darker elements of crime and sex shops. Charles Gillett’s 1970s “Big Apple” campaign effectively removed the unfortunate “Fun City” nickname.
Dick Schaap (1934-2001) published a column in the New York World-Journal-Tribune titled “What’s New in Fun City?” His first citation of the term is the Schaap column in the New York Herald Tribune of January 7, 1966.
The “Fun City Bowl” is the name of the annual charity football game between New York’s “Finest” (New York Police Department or NYPD) and New York’s “Bravest” (Fire Department of New York or FDNY) that was first played in 1973.
“No Fun City” has been an occasional nickname of both New York City and Vancouver, British Columbia.
Wikipedia: John Lindsay
John Vliet Lindsay (/vliːt ˈlɪnᵈzi/; November 24, 1921 – December 19, 2000) was an American politician, lawyer, and broadcaster who was a U.S. congressman, mayor of New York City, candidate for U.S. president, and regular guest host of Good Morning America.
On his first day as mayor, January 1, 1966, the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU) led by Mike Quill shut down the city with a complete halt of subway and bus service. As New Yorkers endured the transit strike, Lindsay remarked, “I still think it’s a fun city,” and walked four miles (6 km) from his hotel room to City Hall in a gesture to show it. Dick Schaap, then a columnist for the New York Herald Tribune, popularized the term in an article titled Fun City. In the article, Schaap sardonically pointed out that it wasn’t.
Old Fulton NY Post Cards
4 January 1966, New York (NY) World-Telegram and Sun, pg. 4, col. 4:
How Mayor Keeps Pace With Strike
By ANTHONY FRISENDORF
Of the World-Telegram Staff
Mayor Lindsay scampered out of the police helicopter, lifted the Mae West over his head and, handing it to an aide, remarked, “It was fun. New York is a fun city.”
His one-hour inspection flight at 200 feet of the bridges, tunnels and highways leading into the city was a small part of the ubiquitous, indefatigable mayor’s first Monday in his new job, one complicated by the transit strike.
7 January 1966, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, pg. 13:
The Fun City
Not long after the transit strike began the other day, Mayor John Lindsay went on radio and television to announce that New York is a fun city. He certainly has a wonderful sense of humor. A little whole later, Lindsay cheerfully walked four miles from his hotel room to City Hall, a gesture which proved that the fun city had a fun Mayor.
The funniest thing was that New Yorkers actually were finding humor in the absence of buses and subways. One citizen was very concerned that the pickpockets and muggers, the true New Yorkers, he called them, would get out of shape. He offered to give them a room where they could practice on each other for the duration of the crisis.
Robert Wagner, who had been Mayor of New York for 12 years before Lindsay took over, chose to spend the first week of 1966 in Acapulco, another one of those fun cities. He thought it was kind of funny that the city had never had a transit strike when he was Mayor.
Even policemen were groping for jokes. “It could be worse,” said a policeman on duty at City Hall early in the week. “It could be snowing. It could be the Christmas shopping season. And Consolidated Edison could have another blackout.” Some fun.
13 January 1966, New York (NY) Times, pg. 21:
The transit strike wasn’t at all amusing and one benefit is that it will be a long time before advertising men and politicians again will embarrass real New York-lovers by calling it a fun city.
IBDB (Internet Broadway Database)
Morosco Theatre, (1/02/1972 - 1/08/1972)
First Preview: Dec 20, 1971 Total Previews: 8
Opening Date: Jan 02, 1972
Closing Date: Jan 08, 1972 Total Performances: 9
Category: Play, Comedy, Original, Broadway
Setting: Fun City in the immediate probable future. Christmas Eve and Christmas day.
Ephemeral New York
December 30, 2016
Why 1970s New York was nicknamed “Fun City”
The phrase caught on with New Yorkers, who were unimpressed with the new mayor’s upbeat tone in a metropolis that over the next four years would endure a sanitation strike, a teacher walkout, a crippling blackout, and increasing financial distress.
Soon, the nickname was emblazoned on Times Square strip club marquees, city bus ads, and even on Broadway, where a short-lived play starring Joan Rivers debuted in 1972 (and closed a week later).