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?”
“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!”
“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.”
“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?
“Let me know when they are available, maybe some of my readers will want one.”
* * *
Tomorrow: The Bareasssed Bookseller 2, The bookstore.