There's a big "for lease" sign on the side of 44 South Broadway, and once the building is leased -- in a day, in a week, in a month -- the Denver Book Fair will inevitably close. But in the meantime, it remains a browser's delight.
On a visit to the multi-storefront spot this past weekend, I found the space still packed floor-to-ceiling with paperbacks, first editions and, most important, magazines. I was on a mission to find vintage issues of Playboy, and the musty cave had plenty of them. In fact, I found issues of the magazine going back to its founding in the 1950s, some with covers I have only seen in image form online.
But here's the deal: You can't just walk into a place like this while it's in the middle of liquidating its inventory and expect to easily find all of the good shit: You have to work for it. When I asked the mustached man behind the high counter about "old issues of Playboy," he just pointed to a rug-draped doorway, which had lots of signs taped to it saying stuff about porn, and not touching stuff, and charging sticky fingers a dollar for touching stuff, etc.
I snuck back with my shopping companion, only to find walls of Playboy from the '70s forward. We dug through the sealed plastic bags, crossing fingers for issues in which the images were still campy -- which is true of most Playboy spreads up until about 1976.
By now the man guarding the bookstore had realized we weren't just a couple of looky-loos, and he asked what, specifically, we were desiring to find.
When I explained that I wanted much older images to be used for collage work, he offered to show us the "back room" stash. There, behind the porn section, and through another door, was a small room that contained boxes and boxes of issues of Playboy dating back to the early '50s.
Most were in near-perfect condition -- with crisp, full-color photos of women's backsides, pouty lips and every rendition of the bunny ears-logo imaginable -- and they were falling into my hot little hands. After just an hour of digging through that gold mine, I emerged from the dusty den with fourteen issues.
Some issues were unsealed, allowing for full perusal of centerfolds and hilariously sexist advertising spreads for alcohol, cigarettes and home stereos. Others I had to choose based on cover alone -- which is how I may have come across an issue of Playboy with Jayne Mansfield in it. The keeper of the books wasn't quite sure if it was her in the now ten-dollar magazine, but I didn't want to pay that much to find out. Instead, I went for a deal on thirteen issues, less Jayne, for twenty-nine bucks. It didn't take much haggling, but I definitely put what I could spend out on the table, and he worked with me. If nudie magazines aren't your fancy, the Denver Book Fair has rooms and winding pathways crammed with books and magazines for every type of reader (or looker). If you're a collector of something specific or you just want to take advantage of some really good deals on out-of-print tomes and special editions, get here soon. With an inventory like this, a store can't stick around until everything is gone.
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