The strange, true tale of the naked bookseller
In Quartzsite, Ariz., at the sprawling Reader’s Oasis bookshop, readers can purchase their books from a man known as the naked bookseller. Also known as Paul Winer or Sweet Pie, the naked bookseller has been selling books for 24 years.
“I’ve been naked in public now for 55 years,” he tells them. He’s not interested in joining a nudist movement, however. He explains: “I went to a nudist park once — my whole life I’ve only been to a nudist resort or park once — and decided that is not where I belong. I’d rather be where there’s a variety to people. Once everybody is naked, it’s the same as wearing a uniform. They only talk about why they’re naked, where they go naked, who they’ve met naked, where they’re going next to be naked. I find that quite boring. It’s like going to a tailgate party before a football game — all people talk about is football. Naked is just the way I’m dressed.”
In the 1960s, he was a musician and performer, playing boogie-woogie and blues piano, doing comedy, writing songs that included devil-may-care obscenities. “I was a very outspoken person. I won 68 court cases, including a federal court case,” he tells the magazine.
More than two decades ago, the naked bookseller settled in Quartzsite with his wife and daughter, so she could be closer to her grandparents. At age 8 and a half, their daughter died of a viral heart infection. “The town was so good to us we stayed, because this is where people knew her,” he says. “And we’re still here.”
The Reader’s Oasis, stocked with used books and featuring brightly-colored vintage paperbacks, does its briskest business during the winter, when the desert isn’t too hot. The store is cash-only.
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