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When Taxi’s Sunshine Cab Company Made A Home in Greenwich Village

On this day in 1978, the award-winning television show Taxi aired its first episode. The much-loved pathos-filled comedy set in a New York full of misfits, dreamers, and malcontents largely took place in the garage of the fictional Sunshine Cab Company,  shown to be at 534 Hudson Street, at the corner of Charles Street in Greenwich Village.

Opening of the show Taxi with the actor Tony Danza who played the prizefighter/cab driver character Tony Banta on the show driving a cab across the Queensborough Bridge

In the first episode, the central character Alex Reiger, played by Judd Hirsch, summed up the premise of the show when new cab driver Elaine Nardo, played by Marilu Henner, explains that although she has taken the job as a driver with the Sunshine Cab Company, she is not a cab driver, but really a receptionist at an art gallery.  Alex responds describing the other ‘cab drivers’ in the company:

You see that guy over there? Now he’s an actor. The guy on the phone? He’s a prize fighter. This lady here? She’s a beautician. The guy behind her? He’s a writer. Me? I’m a cab driver. I’m the only cab driver in this place.

The other memorable characters included Tony Banta played by Tony Danza, the prizefighter with a losing record; Bobby Wheeler played by Jeff Conaway, the struggling actor; Louie De Palma played by Danny DeVito, the irascible and abusive dispatcher; Latka Gravas played by Andy Kaufman, the immigrant mechanic; and, my favorite, Reverend Jim “Iggy” Ignatowski played by Christopher Lloyd, the burnt out, aging hippie minister who originally started as a guest character and became a regular during season two.

534 Hudson — today home to a Rite Aid, luxury condos, and probably a bit less pathos than Taxi’s “Sunshine Cab Co.” garage.

Many of the episodes of this hilarious series began with the camera scanning No. 534 at Hudson and Charles Streets. This 1920’s purpose-built, two-story garage was actually home to the Dover Garage, at a time when garages were a more common sight in this part of the Village. This building was replaced in 1998 by a six-story brick condominium, a more common sight today. But in the late 1970s, both the garage and the oddball characters grappling with life’s absurdities and their own aspirations felt right at home in the West Village.

The show left the viewing public with more than a few memorable storylines.  Who could forget such episodes as Jim taking his driver’s test, Latka and Simka’s (played by Carol Kane) wedding, the wrecking ball demolishing Jim’s apartment – with oblivious Jim continuing to eat his breakfast, or the sociopathic Louie meeting his girlfriend’s (played by DeVito’s real-life wife Rhea Pearlman) parents? Re-watching episodes of Taxi all these years later, I still find myself laughing hysterically, at a show which dealt intelligently with some very serious issues including gambling addiction, divorce, sexual harassment, bisexuality, immigration and racism.

Sign for the fictional “Sunshine Cab Company” on 534 Hudson Street
534 Hudson Street
534 Hudson Street
Hudson Street as shown in episode of Taxi in the opening credits.
Dover Garage at 534 Hudson Street. Source: http://krashkramer.blogspot.com/2011/03/arthur-alexander-soldier-of-love.html

Over the course of its five seasons (four with ABC and the last with NBC), the series won 18 Emmy awards including three for Best Comedy and four Golden Globes, three of which were for Best Television Comedy Series.  It was also ranked 48th in TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time, as published in 2002. In 1997, two of the show’s episodes, “Latka the Playboy” and “Reverend Jim: A Space Odyssey” were respectively ranked #19 and #63 on TV Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

As said in the show’s closing credits, Goodnight Mr. Walters.

10 responses to “When Taxi’s Sunshine Cab Company Made A Home in Greenwich Village

  1. Dover Garage was the first place I drove a cab, back in 1972. They didnt use Checkers, but Chevies instead. Every time I see the front of the garage at the opening or during the shows, I remember.

    1. Hey Robert – I was a driver at Dover from 1973 to ’75. Maybe we know each other?? Anyway, I recall all the characters there that became the Taxi sitcom, the appalling working conditions and the Rank and File group that called for a wild-cat strike against the company for firing the Shop Chairman, Tom Robbins and suspending members of the infamous “Dover 6”. I wasn’t among the Dover 6 but I hung with them some and maybe I was Dover 7,8, or 9…I still have the original flyer they put out calling for a Strike Meeting regarding Tom’s firing. I found the article from Sept. 22, 1975 New Yorker Magazine about Dover, to be well written, 100% accurate and recommend it to you. I should say that working at Dover was a lot of things – but the one thing that it was not, was boring!

    2. Hy Robert,I used to drive for Dover Garage when Eugene was dispatcher in mid 70s.I drove one of the last Checker Cab there.The good old days.
      Remember the bar across the street after work?

  2. I have often said because I drove at Dover starting in 1983 and was familiar with the real Ignatowski that the producers of this program did not only use the exterior of the Dover Garage, they hijacked some real personalities, definitely of Ignatowski. I was told about this buy some Old-Timers there. The shop stewards name was Henry Zeiger. Rhyme with any TV show character that you may remember? https://taxinights.blogspot.com/2007/04/i-knew-real-ignatowski.html?m=1
    I have finally written the book that I mentioned in that post and I will be publishing as an ebook in a few days.

  3. I drove out of Dover Garage in 1985-86. I worked with a playwright, Muddy Waters’ harmonica player (I learned so much from Nat Riddles, RIP), and other assorted musicians, actors, and other broke members of the intelligentsia. I was just a club kid, a Paradise Garage member looking for money to support my party lifestyle. I was still a few years away from working as a session keyboard/harmonica player and percussionist. If you listened to a lot of 1990s house music, you probably heard my work at some point.

  4. This site is an amazing find. I lived on West 10th Street and drove for Dover from 1977-1979. The job wasn’t exactly a blast, but the short walk to and fro was heavenly.

    1. I worked out of the Dover garage in 1982 when I was 23. The hack life was a tough job for me – 12 hour shifts driving in midtown traffic for what at the time seemed like not much money. On the other hand it was the kind of day job that helped support my aspirations as an artist – and it’s been fun to drop in conversations over the years that I drove a cab in the City. A final thought – I left the hack business and started working as a bike messenger. Loved it – best no brainer job I’ve ever had!

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