Nostalgia porn
March 9, 2018 12:22 AM   Subscribe

"We did have to collect magazines from a vicar once.” Clearing a house after a death in the family can uncover some surprises, sometimes welcome, sometimes not, and sometimes problematic. A specialist shop on London's Holloway Road can help with one particular class of head-scratcher: what to do with Uncle Harold's collection of gentleman's entertainment? And who's buying it thereafter? A study in subculture evolution from the unmentionable to the collectible.
posted by Devonian (37 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Dear friends and, ugh, family. My personal collection of smut is usually in a folder clearly labeled "pron". If I'm dead I don't care whether or not you look at it. There's some cool vintage stuff in there.
posted by loquacious at 1:51 AM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Their 'webuyanyporn.com' url is genius - there is a very well known car company that advertises a lot on daytime TV in the UK called webuyanycar.com
posted by DanCall at 1:56 AM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


I have to ring a doorbell to be let into the shop, which is open only two afternoons a week.

Whatever can they be doing the other 5 days? (*clutches pearls*)
posted by chavenet at 3:06 AM on March 9, 2018 [5 favorites]


I din't know if it had anything to do with Dave and his family of not, but until a few years ago there was a big S&M parlour on Holloway Road too. It's immortalised in these lines from Holloway Boulevard by Shane MacGowan's old buddies The Popes: "From Upper Street to Archway Towers / Bondage to golden showers / All you need to while away the hours". Truly, all human life is there.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:07 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


A vicar? That's a sticky wicket
posted by thelonius at 3:22 AM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Thus, Ram Books was born, selling magazines to Daves across London and the rest of the country.

For some reason this notion charms me inordinately: a whole tribe of Daves, endlessly cataloguing the yellowing pages of Playboys past, gruffly lamenting the loss of 'creativity and allure' in the modern day porn practice.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:38 AM on March 9, 2018 [16 favorites]


These are the Daves I know.
posted by parki at 4:06 AM on March 9, 2018 [26 favorites]


Well, if one who habituates brothels is called a john, why shouldn't the equivalent for adult bookshops be a dave?
posted by acb at 4:09 AM on March 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


Finally, we know what the Four Daves do between jobs.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:22 AM on March 9, 2018


Those LPs actually do sound really interesting.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 4:28 AM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


If they were smart, they'd also sell latex gloves.
posted by Beholder at 4:32 AM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's not like the grand kids didn't know where grandpa's porn collection was hidden. They know.
posted by waving at 4:42 AM on March 9, 2018


♪♪1-877-PORN-4-DAVES, p-o-r-n porn for Daves, 1-877-PORN-4-DAVES, donate stroke mags today!♪♪
posted by dr_dank at 4:51 AM on March 9, 2018 [11 favorites]


too many daves
posted by kokaku at 5:05 AM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Did you hear what happened to the guy who found the vintage porn?

He had a stroke.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:07 AM on March 9, 2018 [11 favorites]


Holloway Road was also where Joe Meek lived and died and recorded all those amazing noises.
posted by Grangousier at 5:39 AM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


Dave leads me through the shop, past stacks of boxes filled with magazines. “I’ve just bought some sex albums,” he says casually. “12-inch vinyl LPs, which are really amazing. They’re recordings of stag parties, interviews with porn stars, prostitutes and cops. Really interesting stuff.”

Is there a market for that? “Oh, I just bought them because they’re rare.”


Somewhere in my dad’s LP collection is s copy of Xaviera! [exclamation hers].

I need to ask him to add a codicil to his will about that one because it’s hilarious.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:48 AM on March 9, 2018


(*clutches pearls*)

I feel that there is a pearl necklace joke to be had here, but I can’t bring it to completion.
posted by nubs at 6:15 AM on March 9, 2018 [16 favorites]


Slightly off topic, but helping a scholar find primary source content for United States Civil War era is beyond difficult. Most early content is almost entirely in private collections, as mentioned in the article. Secondary writing about the content exists but examples are impossibly rare to locate. (With standing orders at antiquarian book sellers for early American printed pornographic literature, early photographs, and especially plates, most sellers still come up dry). Here is an original plate digitized from a private collection last week: "Assaulting the Enemy's Breastworks".

A great book on this subject - if any are interested - is: "Sex and the Civil War : soldiers, pornography, and the making of American morality" by Judith Giesberg.
posted by mfoight at 6:30 AM on March 9, 2018 [8 favorites]


We'd occasionally find porn while buying used books over the counter, but it tended to be fairly highbrow overall. People's private photos were often more disturbing though.
posted by aspersioncast at 6:43 AM on March 9, 2018


Great article, thanks for posting it. I walk past Ram on the way to my physio, and doing so fills me with unmediated delight each and every time.

The pursuit of a life informed by libidinous charge is surely, and properly, far more complicated than it used to be, and neither the sentiment nor the man responsible for it are without deep problems of their own, but I do tend to believe with Araki that "[w]ithout obscenity, our cities are dreary places, and life is bleak." The things that Ram offers for sale make this city less dreary and, I suppose, this life just that much less bleak.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:10 AM on March 9, 2018


I feel that there is a pearl necklace joke to be had here, but I can’t bring it to completion.


There's medication for that.
posted by Ferreous at 7:13 AM on March 9, 2018 [4 favorites]


A vicar? That's a sticky wicket

More D, vicar?
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:26 AM on March 9, 2018 [2 favorites]


The small local sex shop I worked at would end up with a few cardboard boxes of old magazines or VHS, the owner would buy them from the family members for a small amount, and we’d turn around and sell the the magazines for a buck each.

On one of my shifts an older gentleman came in with his own extensive collection that he wanted to sell, I guess his cancer wasn’t getting any better and he didn’t want his kids to find it, so he was being proactive. It was honestly quite heartbreaking.

Also, we always ended up with some weirder niche stuff. The new magazines we sold were like “BOOBS” and “JUGS” and “TEEN BOOBS” and “MILF BOOBS” and then you’d open up a box of used magazines and it’d be like 7 different magazine titles worth of legs, or some self published smutty graphic novels.

However every once and while we’d have a gentlemen come in SURE his playboys were collectors items, and I we had to break it to him that he could either try to sell them item by item himself online or we’d buy all four boxes for $25.
posted by Grandysaur at 8:54 AM on March 9, 2018 [1 favorite]


The used books store near me had a basement full of porn mags, all neatly organised by year, and when I asked the owner how he did with them, he said that his biggest customers were vintage car guys who were looking for the big full-page ads featuring their particular vehicle when it was new. They'd frame the ads for hanging in their garages or displaying at car shows.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 9:08 AM on March 9, 2018 [9 favorites]


Back during my thrift store junkhound days, I used to pick up the odd stroke book or sex manual, which made for a fun party game: We'd do dramatic readings of various pages while in various stages of drunkedness. T'was great fun back in the hoary days before YouTube and video on demand. One of the junk stores I used to frequent was operated by a church, and they couldn't bring themselves to profit off of the occasional stag party record or smutty book (oddly enough, romance novels were fine though) so they'd usually have a box of them free for the asking (if you knew the right people to ask, and had no shame, which I did and which I don't). One day, the manager who knew me and my weirdo collecting habits, called me over. One of the members of his congregation had been cleaning our her bachelor uncle's place after his death, and well, found a trove. Would I be so good as to make it disappear? Never one to let a trove go by, I agreed and ended up with six paperstock boxes full of mags, books and VHS tapes. Quite the trove. It was porn of all sorts, gay, straight, vanilla, kink, from the late seventies through to the early 90s. My and my friends had several drunken nights of laughing and digging through the trove, being tittilated and shocked in equal amounts, and then I put it in my attic and went on with life. When I moved a few years back, I liquidated a lot of my stuff to various institutions: museums, libraries and whatnot. The porn almost got dumped until I happened to get a note from someone who knew someone who knew about my world of odds and ends, and asking if she could have it for the fledgeling Gender Studies library she was putting together. How could I say no? And that is how I gave away a lot of porn, got the world's best line item tax break, and got named a founding trustee for a Gender Studies library at an unnamed university here in the Deep South.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2018 [44 favorites]


When my little cousin was around 18 and I was in my early twenties, he temporarily lived with my grandparents for boring reasons that I won't go into. This was also around the time that my grandparents acquired an Internet connection. On one of my visits and I had a need to use the computer for some purpose and found - porn! Casually saved in My Documents and on the Desktop, with no attempts to even minimally hide it.

I pulled my cousin aside, wondering if he was going to be embarrassed at having this conversation with an older, female cousin, but determined that he should be taught the error of his ways. I said, "Dude, download all the porn you want, but can't you cover your tracks a little bit? Our grandparents also use this computer."

He said, "Oh my god! Do you think I'm an idiot? Of course I know to not leave the porn lying around. This is our grandfather's work! And I know that if anyone finds it, they're going to suspect the 18 year old, not the 80 year old, so I'm constantly cleaning up after him, but he's constantly downloading more!" My poor cousin.
posted by peacheater at 9:16 AM on March 9, 2018 [26 favorites]


We'd occasionally find porn while buying used books over the counter

One of our local used bookstores actually sells vintage Playboy and, I think, Penthouse. I often wondered about who came in to sell their old porn, but now I suspect it's more likely the type of situation mention in the OP and not some old guy deciding to sell his '70s porn for beer money.
posted by asnider at 10:04 AM on March 9, 2018


I have come to believe that the success of the U.K. in comedy is built on the fact that they apparently have vicars just all over the place.
posted by atoxyl at 11:44 AM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


there is a very well known car company that advertises a lot on daytime TV in the UK called webuyanycar.com

The logo on the shop exactly matches theirs too!

(Very proud to have my very own Holloway Road make it into an FPP - I go past the shop all the time but have never dared look up what the address was all about)
posted by grahamparks at 2:19 PM on March 9, 2018


I once chased a monk down a Chicago street, while yelling and waving pornography.

In my defense, I meant well.

O'Gara and Wilson used to have a giant stack of 50s and 60s Playboys, which had great classic science fiction and hilarious advertising. The neighborhood was also constantly overwhelmed with seminarians.

One day, I picked out three issues and waited my turn at the register, behind a novice monk who was, I could tell, extremely flustered at something. (Yes obviously it was the Occasions of Sin I was holding but I didn't realize that.) He was so flustered that he paid and left in a hurry, leaving one of his books behind. I had exact change and said "Oh, don't worry! I'll catch up to him!"

The poor man had escaped the Den of Iniquity only to be pursued by that same nineteen year old running after him and yelling "hey!"

He did stop and turn around at least, then I gave him his book and wondered why he looked so embarrassed.
posted by Hypatia at 5:29 PM on March 9, 2018 [6 favorites]


It reminds me a little bit of Circus of Books in LA. All those old gay porn novels and magazines and stuff must have come from somewhere.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:37 PM on March 9, 2018


The poor man had escaped the Den of Iniquity only to be pursued by that same nineteen year old running after him and yelling "hey!"

Hmmm. Way back when I was a Catholic kid, I recall one of the priests revealing that he had a copy or two of Playboy. As he explained it: "Someone has to keep an eye on the competition."
posted by Twang at 7:02 PM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


When I was in my twenties, I was friends with a 50 year old man. He once asked me if I could keep a box of magazines for him. I was curious and he told me it was porn from his youth in the 50s. He had moved in with his mother to take care of her and he was afraid his mother would find it. So I took custody of this stash of nudist magazines and fairly tame nudes, no sex acts of any kind.

After 10 years and a move I had forgotten all about it. I got a call out of the blue and it was that guy whom I hadn't heard from in years. His mother had finally died and he wanted his porn back. It took quite awhile to locate and I was able to reunite the man with his porn, It's just as well it didn't stay stored with my papers until I die. It would probably confuse the hell out of my heirs.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:43 PM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


Someone - I'm pretty sure it was Jessamyn - posted some links to recordings of vintage audio porn from a collection called "Unidentified Vintage Porn Album." They're surprisingly racy (says every person who ever witnessed the previous generation's porn). I have "Is Your Mother Asleep," "Milkman Delivers the Milk," and "Defloration By The Old Fishin' Hole."
posted by bendy at 12:06 AM on March 10, 2018


Was that milkman Pat Mustard, by any chance?
posted by Paul Slade at 4:19 AM on March 10, 2018


"O'Gara and Wilson used to have a giant stack of 50s and 60s Playboys..."

Well, I certainly wouldn't have expected that at the Seminary Co-op.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 8:23 PM on March 11, 2018


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