Bright Pink Literature (Get Booked)

Bright Pink Opens

(c) Dennis McBride, 2010

LGBT Literature in Las Vegas

The longest-lived LGBT bookstore in Nevada is Get Booked, located in the Paradise Plaza shopping center in Las Vegas on the corner of Paradise Road and East Naples Drive, an area known as the Fruit Loop for its cluster of gay businesses. While more famous bookstores across the country, such as A Different Light and the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop, have closed as LGBT literature has gone “mainstream,” Get Booked has survived for more than 20 years. Part of that reason is that, as gay author Michael Thomas Ford has pointed out, “There’s more to be found in a gay bookstore than just something nice to read.” Just walking into a gay bookstore can be an act of liberation, and such shops often serve as welcoming space for the queer community in otherwise hostile environments.[1]

R & R Assordid Sundries

In the years before Stonewall, gay literature was unavailable in Nevada outside porn shops, and there were few commercial bookstores willing to stock such material. The first establishment in Las Vegas to offer LGBT merchandise and to advertise openly as a gay shop, was R&R Assordid Sundries. R&R opened February 14, 1984 at 4637 Paradise Road next door to Gelo’s nightclub, then closed in November 1985. R&R was ahead of its time, was more gift shop than book store, and was not much patronized by the Las Vegas gay community.[2] Opening at the outset of the AIDS epidemic in Nevada didn’t help. It would be several years before the chain bookstores in town such as B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, and, later, Barnes & Noble and Borders, began stocking gay sections.

Get Booked 1996

Bright Pink Literature

But in 1987 Rob Schlegel, publisher of the Bohemian Bugle and one of the community’s greatest activists, opened Bright Pink Literature, the city's first specifically commercial LGBT bookstore. Schlegel's interest in opening such a store was born when he visited A Different Light in Los Angeles, and wondered why Las Vegas couldn’t have something just as wonderful. It could — on December 11, 1987 Schlegel opened Bright Pink in a small office space connected to the Body Shop bar at 4310 South Paradise Road. Schlegel came up with the name Bright Pink Literature and its pink triangle logo as an homage to the book, The Men With the Pink Triangle, about Nazi persecution of gay men.[3]

Schlegel kept over 200 gay titles in stock and particularly tried to carry a wide selection of lesbian literature. He filled a bowl on the counter with free condoms as part of the community's fight against HIV. Bright Pink was a welcome addition to the growing Las Vegas gay community. Bright Pink’s location next to the Body Shop, however, was problematic: patrons wandering in from the bar spilled their drinks on the merchandise, and cigarette smoke turned the books and t-shirts yellow.[4] Schlegel moved Bright Pink in July 1988 to Paradise Plaza at 4640 Paradise Road, next to the Buffalo bar. Schlegel had been there only a month when the Gipsy nightclub across the street burned down, which robbed the Bohemian Bugle of its biggest advertiser; it was advertising revenue from the Bugle which subsidized the bookstore. Faced with having to close Bright Pink, and perhaps shut down the Bugle as well, both were saved when real estate investor Ed Uehling gave Schlegel $5,000 to keep the bookstore - and the renamed Las Vegas Bugle -- going. When Uehling and his lover, Marlon Tinana, bought the Gelo’s nightclub shopping center across the street from Paradise Plaza, Schlegel moved Bright Pink into the storefront where R&R Assordid Sundries had been. Bright Pink's grand re-opening on February 11, 1989 featured an autograph reception by famed author Sylvia Pennington.[5]

Bright Pink Cinema

In 1990, Schlegel moved the bookstore into more spacious quarters in a renovated cinderblock duplex behind the Gelo’s shopping center. Bright Pink filled 1400 square feet with more than 5,000 books, had a rainbow flag hanging outside the door and rainbow windsocks fluttering in the breeze. Schlegel expanded his inventory to include queer-themed stationery, cards, t-shirts, buttons, jewelry, and other merchandise.[6]

Bright Pink Cinema

In association with Bright Pink Literature, Schlegel established a gay and lesbian film festival he named Bright Pink Cinema, which debuted on April 20, 1991 and ran for six weeks at the Metropolitan Community Church. Among the films Schlegel presented were many which have become classics of LGBT cinema: Before StonewallBilly Turner's SecretFun Down There; and the gay African-American documentaryTongues Untied. After Bright Pink Cinema, Las Vegas would not have another LGBT film festival until the annual Neonfest, first presented in 2004.[7]

Get Booked

Target for Harassment

The more successful Bright Pink Literature grew, however, the more of a target it became for the straight community. When Schlegel agreed to sell the book Las Vegas Post Mortem--a sensational exposé about the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department -- Metro cops began harassing Bright Pink’s patrons and threatened Schlegel.[8] And when Ed Uehling and Marlon Tinana revealed plans to turn their property into a “gay district,” neighbors in apartment complexes behind the area, who already hated the nearby gay clubs, told the Clark County Commission that Bright Pink was a porno shop. Uehling’s and Tinana’s plans were rejected.[9] That rejection forced Bright Pink in August 1991 to move out of its spacious duplex and into a much smaller storefront around the corner at 4643 Paradise Road—the county gave Schlegel less than a week to do so. Even then, harassment from the county didn’t stop: a large vacant lot next door to the shopping center, which the gay community used as a site for overflow parking, was fenced off. Business at Bright Pink dropped dramatically.[10] Bright Pink limped along another year and a half before Schlegel decided to sell it to Marlon Tinana and Wes Miller, who had moved to Las Vegas from Ohio in 1990. Tinana and Miller expanded the shop, added gifts and videos, and enhanced the book and magazine inventory with the help of Raul Mangubat, whom the two met at the March on Washington in April 1993 and who moved to Las Vegas from New York to run the bookstore. By 1995, Miller had become sole owner.[11]

Wes Miller, 2002

Sting Operations & Get Booked

When Wes Miller and Marlon Tinana took over Bright Pink Literature, they changed the name to Get Booked in honor of Wes Miller’s 1992 arrest in a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police sting operation that targeted gay men along Paradise Road.

Sting operations against gay men in Nevada had long been a favorite tool of threat and harassment, particularly so long as the state’s sodomy law was still on the books. During the summer of 1992, the Metro vice squad set up several such operations in the Las Vegas Valley, leading to the arrest of gay men in the Las Vegas Athletic Club, Jaycee Park, and Nellis Air Force Base. Schlegel published a story about these vice operations in the July 1992 Bugle warning the community how to protect itself from Metro. The Paradise Road sting involved undercover vice cops trying to maneuver gay men around the Fruit Loop intersection into a sexual liaison, and then busting them on charges of soliciting for prostitution or infamous crime against nature.[12]

Frank Marino

Wes Miller was arrested on June 25, 1992 when he was approached by a vice cop posing as a married tourist wanting to explore his “gay tendencies.” Miller suggested the man visit one of the nearby bars and agreed to walk with him. Before they got to the bar, two Metro squad cars raced out of side streets; the undercover cop disappeared, Miller was handcuffed, taken to jail, and “got booked.” When the cops examined Miller's personal effects they discovered he had only $1.75 in his wallet and realized he was not soliciting for a hustler. Nevertheless, they threw him in a holding cell with several other gay men arrested that night from whom Miller found out what was going on. Miller’s friends bailed him out, he recorded an interview with several leaders from the gay community including lawyer Kevin Kelly, and all went to Metro the next day with evidence in hand. Then-sheriff John Moran claimed he knew nothing about the vice squad's activities. But with Miller's interview in hand exposing Metro's blunder, and Miller’s willingness to go to open trial and expose what Metro was doing, the group convinced Moran the operation had to stop. All the charges against Miller were dropped, and Metro has never again conducted such harassing stings.[13]

Get Booked Ad, 2009

A Safe Haven

It was the embarrassment of that incident that convinced Wes that Get Booked needed to be a safe haven, a place gay people didn't have to worry about vice officers lurking in the shadows to entrap and arrest them. Get Booked became an anchor for the Las Vegas gay community where artists, writers, performers, musicians and political figures gathered for autograph receptions, concerts, art shows and other social events. Among those hosted at Get Booked in the 1990s and early 2000s were Robbi Sommers of Naiad Press; gay ex-FBI agent Frank Buttino; famed impersonator Frank Marino, who signed his autobiography, His Majesty, the Queen; Leslea Newman, author of Heather Has Two Mommies; Dr. Charles Silverstein, who wroteThe Joy of Gay Sex; historian Karla Jay; and famed novelist Patricia Nell Warren.[14]

 

Get Booked has flourished under Wes Miller and Raul Mangubat, outliving several competitors such as the Alternatives Pride Emporium and the Pride Factory, and at the time of this writing remains one of gay Las Vegas's most important resources.[15]

Notes

  1. Liz Highleyman, “What is the History of Gay Bookstores,” in Bay Area Reporter (February 13, 2003), 8.
  2. Rick May, interview by Dennis McBride, December 29, 2001 [author’s transcript]; Christie Young, interview by Dennis McBride, October 18, 1998 [University of Nevada, Las Vegas Lied Library Special Collections Department transcript (hereafter noted as UNLVSC), HQ76.2 U52 N359 1998]; Robert “Rob” Schlegel, interview by Dennis McBride, March 9-11 and 21-22, and April 11, 1998 [author’s transcript].
  3. Bohemian Bugle (December 1987), 20, 25, insert; (January 1988), 11, 13; (February 1988), 9; (March 1988), 10-11; (April 1988), 10-11; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview.
  4. Bohemian Bugle (April 1988), 22.
  5. Bohemian Bugle (May 1988), 16; (June 1988), 6, 16; (July 1988), 1, 8; (Extra, August 9, 1988); (September 1988), 1, 8; Las Vegas Review-Journal (August 9, 1988), 11E; Las Vegas Bugle (January 1989), 1, 13, 14; (February 1989), 4; Marlon Tinana/Ed Uehling, interview by Dennis McBride, March 14, 21, 22, 2000 [author’s transcript]; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview.
  6. Las Vegas Bugle (June 1989), 15; (March 1990), 18; (May 1990), 5; (June 1990), 1; (July/August 1990), 1, 9, 25; (September/October 1990), 6; Memorandum of Agreement between Robert L. Schlegel, Jr. and John A. Mendoza, Jr., August 29, 1990 and Addendum [author’s collection]; Schlegel correspondence, May 27-28, 2006 [author’s collection]; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview; Marlon Tinana/Ed Uehling interview.
  7. Las Vegas Bugle (February 1991), 1, 4; (April 1991), 1, 5, 17, 30-31; (May 1991), 1, 9, 19-20; (June 1991), 30; Night Beat (March 2004), 24:1; (April 2004), 35:3; (August 2004), 38:2; (September 2004), cover, 22, 26, 27, 29; (October 2004), 18, 32-33, 43:2-3, 44:1; QVegas (September 2004), 46, 93; Las Vegas Review-Journal (September 19, 2004), 9K; Las Vegas CityLife (September 23, 2004), 24; Out Las Vegas (September 2004), 14; Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada press release, July 23, 2004 [author’s collection]; UNLVSC MS #85-121; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview.
  8. Las Vegas Bugle (September/October 1990), 12; (June 1994), 26; Las Vegas Sun (June 30, 1997), 2B; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview; [also see Larry Kepler, Las Vegas Post Mortem (Las Vegas, NV: Gunbarrel Consultant Corporation, 1989) and Sin City Post Mortem, (Las Vegas, NV: Broadmoor-Acme Corporation, 1992)].
  9. Las Vegas Bugle (July 1991), 2; (August 1991), 1, 4; (October 1991), 36-37; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview; Marlon Tinana/Ed Uehling interview.
  10. Las Vegas Bugle (August 1991), 3; (September 1991), 53; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview.
  11. Las Vegas Bugle (May/June 1993), 13; (July/August 1993), 19; (August/September 1993), 7-9, 19-20, 27; Night Beat (July 1993), 8; (September 1993), 11; Sales Agreement between Robert L. Schlegel, dba Bright Pink Literature and John A. Mendoza, April 1, 1993; Sales Agreement between Robert L. Schlegel, John A. Mendoza, Edmund Uehling and Marlon Tinana, c. May 1993; Agreement to Sell between Rob Schlegel, Marlon Tinana, and Wes Miller, June 7, 1993; Schlegel correspondence, April 17, 1996 [author’s collection]; Wes Miller, interview by Dennis McBride, March 8, 1998 [author’s transcript]; Raul Mangubat, interview by Dennis McBride, February 27, 1998 [author’s transcript]; Marlon Tinana/Ed Uehling interview; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview; also see UNLVSC MS #2003-18.
  12. Las Vegas Bugle (July 1992), 1, 8; Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview; Wes Miller interview.
  13. Robert “Rob” Schlegel interview; Wes Miller interview.
  14. Las Vegas Bugle (September/October 1993), 43; (September/October 1995), 24; (January/February 1997), 61; (March/April 1997), 49; (May 1999), 16; (June 9, 1999), 38, 42; (November 23, 2001), 32; (December 21, 2001), 29.
  15. Las Vegas Bugle (April 1996), insert, p. 30; (May/June 1996), 66, 41; (June/July 1996), 37, 51; (July/August 1996), 61, 68; (August/September 1996), 53; Out Las Vegas (June 2004), 15:3, 29:1; (August 2004), 4, 18; (September 2004), 14; QVegas (July 2004), 13, 45, 52; (September 2004), 4; (October 2004), 57, 59; Night Beat (June 1996), 2, 21; (July 1996), 2, 5; (August 1996), 11; (September 1996), 11; (August 2004), 15, 36:1-2; (September 2004), 13, 43:2-3, 44; Las Vegas Weekly (August 19, 2004), 29-31.