The Bareassed Bookseller

Although Paul Winer has achieved legend status after 20 years as the naked guy who has The Oasis Bookstore in Quartzsite, Az., he is much more than that.

Just posting pictures of a nude 67-year-old man, with sagging buns and a sock covering his junk, will guarantee a lot of blog lookers.  His image has appeared in hundreds of private blogs and the occasional print publication.

But when the ogling and eye-balling are done, it is worth it to stick around to learn the story of this life-long performer and point man on freedom of expression litigation.  These are the topics for today’s blog.

Later blogs will peek into the unique business model of The Oasis Bookstore.  In the face of the predictions already accepted as fact—that indie bookstores are about to join the dodo bird, $3.00 gasoline, and doctors who make house calls—Paul Winer has a business model that works . . . for him.

Paul has always been a nudist.

“When you put on a pair of pants,” he said to me, “you don’t even know you are wearing them.  I do.  I gave up clothing when I was a teen.  It has nothing to do with philosophy or being connected to Nature.  I am not a poster boy for nudism, naturism, or sun worship.  I just don’t like the feel of clothes. “

Paul Winer was a Vermont poet as a young man.  His poetry became lyrics and Paul embarked on a career as a performer of blues.   His act took a risqué turn toward adult comedy.

“It was not a sexually-explicit act.  It was comedy based on sexuality.  That is what it was in public, for private gigs it was more exotic.  In fact I was the first male exotic dancer in New York City.  I was also the first nude entertainer in a night club, in an art gallery and on TV.”

“Nude on TV?’ I asked.

“Yes, a cable channel.”

“It couldn’t have been easy to be first.”  I said.

“I was in court 68 times and won every case.  I was at the center of some landmark freedom of expression cases.  I won the case that Lenny Bruce lost.

“What was your stage name?”

1970s poster

“I sounds like you had a successful career as an entertainer, why give it up?”

“I had a baby girl and did not want her to grow up in motels.”

“Do you miss the stage, the audience?”

“I’ve had a different stage and different audience here at the Oasis Bookstore for the last twenty years.  But my old career is being reborn!”

“How so?”

“I was invited back to perform at Salisbury Beach in Massachusetts last Fall.”

“Isn’t that a sort of Coney Island for New England?”

“Yes, but a lot more blue collar.  I last played there 37 years ago, yet there were kids pointing at me,  ‘Look, there’s Sweet Pie’.  They were too young to have heard of me from their parents, it had to be from their GRANDparents.”

Poster for 1974 concert

“And you did a concert here in the Arizona desert in January.”  I said.

“Yes, 800 people attended. It was only the second concert I’ve ever done with clothes on.”

At that point Paul led me to a DVD player and showed me a few minutes of the tape of the concert.  He is a showman, keyboard fingering animated by crazy wrists and elbows.  High-stepping feet in time with music punctuated the Boogie-Woogie that alternated with the Blues.  And for every riff equal time was devoted to comedy.

“My first marriage was five years.  My second was one.  I made all the same mistakes five times as fast.”

“Is the CD available for sale?”

“I will be, it is being produced right now.  I should have them in a month.”

How much will they be?

“$20.00”

“Let me know when they are available, maybe some of my readers will want one.”

*               *              *

Tomorrow:  The Bareasssed Bookseller 2, The bookstore.

12 Responses to The Bareassed Bookseller

  1. karen wittgraf says:

    Oh my! I answered your email before reading all of this, but I’m still a little “faint of heart”. The fact that he does the blues does interest me and I really would like to hear his CD. ..kind of cute at one time, but then, weren’t we all?
    Al- this journey of yours becomes more and more like a dream. This is all too cool!

    • allevenson says:

      I think I have the habit or style of posting teasers that hint of evil, peril, naughtiness, etc. Yet, I am always searching for the redeeming feature in everyone and feature that in the essay. Now that I am recognizing that pattern, I will pay more attention. And the readers I’ve lured in will withhold judgment until they have digested the red herring.

  2. Dave L says:

    There’s somthin’ about the desert that allows ya ta run free. I s’pose it’s most folks jus mindin’ their own business. Seems purty invitin’ an kinda wish’d I was there. I al’ays hated donin’ laundry

  3. karen wittgraf says:

    The red herring is digested. Give me some more!

  4. tanya grove says:

    I guess it’s easier to be a bare-ass bookstore owner in Arizona than, say, in Maine.

  5. David Bauer says:

    It is understandable that he moved to the Southern California desert from Vermont. He would likely freeze his family jewels, if he were to be bare assed during a Vermont Winter. And, because of the price of gas and heating oil, few music venues set the thermostat at 80 degrees F.

    I wonder if he ever played the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe. http://www.trappfamily.com/

    This fellow is truly an interesting character in the spirit of the 1950s Beatniks and 1960’s Hippies.

    Thanks for taking your time and talent to share these experiences, Al.

  6. Michael and Marsha Joyce says:

    Setting his eccentric ways aside, his is a good little book store!

  7. Colleen Rae says:

    Thanks Al, for again, entertaining us and providing us with some eye candy…he he.
    BTW, you are becoming very skillful at interviewing, something I do a lot being a reporter. I recognize it in another.

  8. Jonathan Sewall says:

    I am cleaning out old boxes and came across Burlington (Vermont) Free Press article from March 26, 1969 on Paul and artist wife Lassie, living the “Thoreau style” life in a two century old farm house in Cabot, Vermont. Very interesting to follow-up on Paul 43 years later.

  9. Grazyna Jastrzebski says:

    He is amazing man.I spoke him in January 20.2014 in Quartzside, AZ

  10. We saw him perform (with clothes on) at the Grand Gathering, March 2014.

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