The Continuation of History, Part II…

On Wednesday, March 12, 2014, when I published the first part of this post, “The Continuation of History, Part I…” (SEE, I left off with Ms. Pat Hill, the second owner with her great and serene Energy.

And my great Gratitude to all of you for your patience in waiting for this particular blog post to be written and published.

And now, I go to Ms. Arleen Olshan, who for a time was co-owners with Mr. Ed Hermance, who is the current and sole owner.

I must say, I kept being drawn, Energetically to both Ms. Hill and Ms. Olshan.  Other than the fact that they are both Lesbians, and former owners of Giovanni’s Room, they are very different ladies.

However, Energetically they are both quite vibrant.

Even when they were not speaking, I looked out for when they would add a comment or anecdote when Mr. Wilson Weinberg, or Mr. Sherbo were speaking, as well as John Cunningham.

My experience of Ms. Olshan is that she is a fantastic combination of serenity and suave, and, indeed, very eloquent.

She spoke about her experiences with the store, and the challenges, and I must confess I was present to the Energies in the room and how much Love and Pride there was that I hardly remember what she said, but I do recall it was quite well-received.

And then, we get to the current owner, Mr. Ed Hermance, who I had the opportunity to see on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, when I went to Giovanni’s Room for some book shopping. When I was at Giovanni’s Room in February, I recall seeing an article about the store with Ed’s photograph in it, on the second floor (although my European Mind wants to call it the first floor, but I digress).

He also shared his experiences, and the challenges, and I vividly recall Ed sharing about how when he and Ms. Olshan were co-owners, that discussed everything, specifically what kind of books would be sold in the store, as well as what kinds of materials.  Some of them would still be considered controversial to this day.

Nonetheless, and here is where I inject some of my personal commentary, many of us in the LGBT communities have seen many a Hollywood motion picture that features the following character and/or storyline:

1. A feminine-acting Gay Man who dresses in drag and walks in a feminine manner;

2. A Lesbian who kills straight men so she can be with her lover (and, not surprisingly, always with a phallic-shaped weapon);

3. A feminine-acting Gay Man who molests little boys.

For years, people thought it odd that I do not watch motion pictures.  Really?  Why would I want to watch yet another, ad-I’m-going-to-throw-up my-intestines-in-disgust-infinitum motion picture that thinks that ALL Gay Men want to dress up in drag and, when not in drag, molest little boys?!

Why, indeed!

Granted, my commentary may seem a bit outdated to some, but for many of us, especially those of us above the age of 40, recall this all.  Too.  Well.

One of the most important conversations of the night, was when Ed said that there are discussions in the works regarding who the new owners of Giovanni’s Room shall be.  Not surprisingly, I recall someone in the audience shushing everyone, and it might have been at that point.

May the Universe grant those new owners-to-be and Ed everything they need to make the sale smooth and effortless for all parties.  And so we can continue to go to a lovely store and buy and browse and (one of my favorite things to do) sit in one of the window seats on the second floor.

And because Giovanni’s Room is the only remaining LGBT bookstore in the United States of America, I cannot over-recommend that you visit them often, buy there often, and of course, let the staff know how wonderful they are.

The last two times I was there, I did not see one of my favorite employees, Richard, but he was there at the 40th Anniversary Program and happily Re-Minded me of his usual schedule.

If you have never met Richard, let me tell you, his Energy is fabulous (and that is a word I rarely use!).  More than ten years ago, when I first set foot in Giovanni’s Room, he welcomed me with his ready smile and his amazing Energy, and seeing him again was like a homecoming for me.

Before I close, I wish to provide you with a brief timeline regarding Giovanni’s Room, and once again, thank Mr. John Cunningham for providing me with a copy of his “cheat sheet”):

1973–Giovanni’s Room opens on 400 block South Street; owners Tom Wilson Weinberg, Dan Sherbo and Bernie Boyle;

1975–Pat Hill buys store;

1976–Ed Hermance and Arleen Olshan become owners;

1976-1979–Giovanni’s Room in 1400 block of Spruce Street;

1979–Store opens at 345 South 12th Street;

1986–Ms. Olshan leaves and Ed Hermance becomes sole owner;

1987–James Baldwin visits Giovanni’s Room (by the way, Mr. Baldwin made it clear to both Ed Hermance and Pat Hill that he had no issue with the name of the store being the same as his novel of this same name);

2011–Giovanni’s Room receives State (of Pennsylvania) Historical Marker.

Before I close, I wish to properly acknowledge one of my newest blog followers: “Dimitris Melicertes.”  My apologies to you for not properly acknowledging you sooner.  May you receive Divine Inspiration and Divine Pride from following “This Gay Man’s Life…”

And for those of you already following and reading “This Gay Man’s Life…” may you continue to honor who you are and what you do: as Gay Men, as Lesbians, as Bisexuals, as Transgendered folks, as Queer, and as straight LGBT*Q allies.

Photo credits:, Kimberly Paynter,
Photo credits:, Kimberly Paynter,

2 thoughts on “The Continuation of History, Part II…

  1. I love Giovanni’s Room and visit (almost – due to thanksgiving plans being interrupted with a stay in Jefferson U. Hospital. I did manage a visit during my follow up appointment with the surgeon 3 weeks later though) every time I am in Philly with a bunch of money, or at least plenty of room on a credit card.

    Was disappointed when Oscar Wilde closed here in NYC. Surely, this city should have been able to sustain a gay bookstore if any city could. Sadly, it wasn’t so. So instead, I try to make the trip to Philly at least 2x per year to visit.

    1. Actually, I remember that originally, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop was going to close, but it was saved by the Lambda bookstore in Washington, D. C. Alas, that store, I learned when creating this two-part post, closed, too.

      Sorry to hear about your hospital stay. Interestingly enough, the last time I was in Philadelphia, which was on the date of this “Continuation of History,” was when I first saw the Jefferson University Hospital. I had never walked in that particular area before.

      Nonetheless, after a few hospital stays in my life, I pretended I was a horse wearing blinders and kept walking forward.

      And great Gay Minds think alike, because when I go to Giovanni’s Room, or Center City, Philadelphia, in general, I prefer to have plenty of cash and time and enjoy myself as much as I can when there. I have already decided that this is the year that I stay for a weekend.

      And I think it is time I see if I can get an update on what is happening with the sale of the store. The current and sole owner, Ed Hermance, has been in talks with some good people to take over ownership.

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