The Oscar Wilde Memorial Book Shop is closing. Billing itself as, "Since 1967 - The World's First Gay & Lesbian Bookstore" it was an institution on Greenwich Village's Christopher Street two years before the Stonewall Inn Riots of 1969, considered to be the historical beginning of the gay liberation movement. A victim of the competition that has been affecting all independent bookstores for the last ten or fifteen years, it has now been topped off by the financial crisis that is affecting all business, everywhere.
When I heard it was closing, I had to go there. I hung around the Oscar Wilde in the 1970's when I was a clueless kid from Queens who didn't even know exactly what I was looking for. Today, I took the subway down to the Village at lunchtime. I wasn't alone. The Oscar Wilde was enjoying more business than many retail stores in New York. "We thought we were going to have to close at the end of February", the sales clerk said, "but since people heard we were closing, they're all coming in to buy something. We're probably going to make it to mid-March now. But two weeks ago, before we made the decision, there was a day when we only rang up two purchases all day". No business with a payroll to meet, shelves to stock and rent to pay is going to make it on that.
I bought two books and a DVD, and added $47 to the store's coffers. "Is there anything anyone can do?" another customer asked the store manager. "Only if a multimillionaire comes in and buys the building and the business" she said. I don't know if any multimillionaires read this blog. But if you do, please buy the Oscar Wilde Memorial Book Shop.