Tuesday, December 23, 2008

80% Straight

By A.J. Llewellyn
Waikiki is famous for being very gay-friendly. Honolulu county, which incorporates Waikiki pushed hard for Hawaii to be the first US state to advocate gay marriage and very nearly did so until the Supreme Court overruled the flood of marriages that took place here in 1999.
And now, Waikiki, the gay hub of Hawaii continues to rule the area all the way east from Diamond Head’s Queen’s Surf (named for royalty and a fabled restaurant that vanished along with other Hawaiian staples like Liberty House thanks to the tide of change) to the east and as far west as Eaton Square.
Eaton Square I learned is for serious gay activity – a full-on sex club called PA10 with live sex shows and other naughty stuff…in fact I modeled my sex club in the short story Midnight at Morning’s in the Sanguinary Seductions Anthology on PA10…but I digress.
There’s Max’s, a gay bath house and men only workout club…but try finding a place to buy a gay book.
Go ahead. Try!
I didn’t want to believe it, but I can report after three full days on the frontline that it is disheartening to find that not one single solitary gay-friendly book store exists in the "gay hub" of the islands.
My mate Tony (he of the dithering sexual orientation) told me about a place called 80% Straight an alleged gay book and gift store. After a quick lunch at Murphy’s, the Irish pub in Chinatown (I kid you not) I made my way there yesterday after being rebuffed almost every place I took my paperback copies of my gay erotic romance Phantom Lover and accompanying promo materials. The guys at Hula’s Lei Stand and Bar the most popular gay bar in Waikiki pointed me in the direction of 80% Straight up the road apiece on Kapahulu Avenue.
Oh it’s gay all right. Spanking and fetish magazines galore but the guy at the register was firm in his rejection of “Gay Lidderachure.”
He insisted, “We got out of the book business. It just doesn’t sell.” He admired the cover art of Phantom Lover and my new one Phantom Lover II and suggested I try Borders and Barnes and Noble…who were reluctant to take on new gay books because they said...They Don't Sell.
They suggested I try Aaxtion Bookstore, an adult ‘sex emporium’ I er…immortalized in my gay comedy romance A Vampire in Waikiki.
Aaxtion was interested until they realized the books are gay erotic romance…not straight.In a town known to be so gay friendly that once upon a time gay husbands were considered a class unto themselves…mahu, when mahu was not a derogatory term, it feels almost surreal.
It seems with the passage of time, we gays don’t bloody read!
We apparently like to get drunk, get laid, get massages, we like to slobber over festish rags…but we couldn’t possibly want to read a book!
I am determined to open a bookstore in Honolulu and am more determined than ever that it will have a huge gay and lesbian section. I walked back to my car, parked about nine miles away from 80% Straight and pondered how on earth such a tolerant city edged out things like books.
To be fair, it’s not just impossible to find gay books. Book stores period, are few and far between. There are books in the ubiquitous ABC stores and even the supermarket chain Foodland and I have checked the stock in all of them.
Mostly children’s books, tour guides and, to my surprise and delight paperback reprints of Jack London’s Hawaiian stories and Gavan Daws’s books.
There are some quirky choices too in some of the high end hotel shops: the hot local author is Chip Hughes, a professor at University of Hawaii in Manoa. His series The Surfing Detective, like all the other books are locally published. I have no idea how they are selling.
My mate Tony and I walked in and out of one ABC store after another. The exact same stock is in each one. One particular store owner even denied having any books until I pointed out the same selection of books I’ve been seeing everywhere.
“Bah!” he exclaimed. “You want bettah fo' buy some T-shirts?”
Not anytime soon, pops.
So now, I have left copies of my books with two small independent book sellers, including Native Books which is a truly beautiful store.
As I trudged the streets of my soon-to-be-island home I pondered the mere name 80% Straight. I told my dad what happened when I called him on my cell phone.
“Oh, AJ,” he said, sounding distressed. “Either the remaining 20 per cent jumped back in the bloody closet or you just found your calling.”
Maybe he’s right. I squared my shoulders, marched the rest of the way to my car…it ain’t over until the fat lady’s sung a big fat, glorious aria, baby!
Aloha oe,


Jambrea said...

Great outlook AJ! I can't wait until you get your bookstore open!

It does seem crazy that you can't find gay books. *sigh* Guess this just means your store is going to be the bomb! lol Yep...I went there. :D

Tess MacKall said...

I think Dad is right, AJ, you have found your calling. Now, just to find the appropriate site. Something quaint, with loads of traffic, don't forget, women want to read this, not just the gay men. lol

Something between shoes and jewelry preferably and food not too far away. lol,and don't forget the margaritas! oh,hell,just open up a bar that sells books, jewelry, shoes, and food!

git r done! lol

Merry Christmas AJ

AJ Llewellyn said...

Thanks Tess and Jambrea...I am on the hunt for the right location and I do love the idea of cocktails and books. I was thinking more along the lines of local estates coffee...Kona, Peaberry, but I like the idea of something stronger :)

Kissa Starling said...

I know you'll get that bookstore. And I'll send you some lesbian erotica to sell too! Now...what do you need to do? Do you have a plan? Let me know.

Any chance of MSA having a headquarters and overnight stay spot there? Just thinking ahead! hehe


Jeanne said...

I'm not surprised, AJ.
As you said it's tough to find any bookstores, much less gay book stores.
We ran a children's book store thirty years ago in Minneapolis up against B. Dalton's.
Guess who won?
Not us.

Nitaelf said...

Hey at least you have more than one actual bookstore there. Here in Klamath we only have Boarders, and what you can get in Fred Meyers, K-mart, Bi-Mart, Wal-Mart, and the grocery stores. Not a whole lot to pick from either.

It's one of the reasons I love and the e-book publishers. I can get what I want almost right when I want it.

But Sweetie You are a published writer, you WILL own your own bookstore...where you WILL show off your own books and those of other authors you respect. I believe in you Kiddo. And so does DJ.

Love Nita

Adriana said...

How sad - and fabulous that you're going to fix the problem! I'm so excited about your bookstore, can't wait to come check it out when you're up and running.

Much of what you're running into is the cookie-cutter bookstore problem and the huge reduction in independent bookstores who dare to carry something other than mass market. So glad you're picking up the challenge! And we'll be sure to send you some great stories for the B in GLBT!


Jaime Samms said...

As the others have all said, AJ, I'm sure you'll come up with a solution.

The big book stores are a problem, though. We have one book store in city where I live (Chapters), one small independant store that sells comics and manga, and two used books stores. In a city of over 100,000, that's kind of sad.

So the problem doesn't plague just your neck of the woods. If anyone can fix it, though, pretty sure you can. ;>

Neil Plakcy said...

Excellent post, AJ. Good luck in your quest.

AJ Llewellyn said...

Thanks everyone for all the awesome comments. Looks like I am now going to be available in Barnes and Noble - and I am still on the prowl for a good bookstore location.
The place I wanted, the old "Haunt" bookstore fell through...but I am a teancious guy. I will find something soon, I just know it!