The Magazine, the 44-year-old Tenderloin shop that offers thousands of vintage print publications of all kinds, has announced that it's willing its building at 920 Larkin St. to the Bob Mizer Foundation. The Foundation plans to eventually turn the store into an archive dedicated to Mizer's photography.
For the time being, The Magazine will continue to operate, but owners and life partners Robert Mainardi, 70, and Trent Dunphy, 79, have realized that they need to prepare for a time "when we are no longer here," according to Mainardi. As we previously reported, Mainardi and Dunphy have operated The Magazine out of various Tenderloin locations for the past 40 years.
"We've been debating for years what to do as our legacy," Mainardi told Hoodline. "We have a large personal collection of physique photos which we will be donating to the Mizer Foundation—this will be our legacy."
The space will eventually become a tribute to Mizer, who died in 1992 at age 70. "In his lifetime, Bob shot over 10,000 different models in nearly two million photographic images over a 47-year career," said Dennis Bell of the Bob Mizer Foundation. "And nearly 25 years after his death, he remains one of the most influential figures known for pushing societal boundaries for what he believed to be basic freedoms."
For many gay men who came of age in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, Mizer's work was essential. With magazines like Physique Pictorial, Mizer let gay men know that there were others out there like them, amidst an era when gays were invisible in popular culture and homosexuality was considered a crime. In 1947, he served a nine-month prison term for publishing some scantily clad shots.
Though a lot of skin was shown in Mizer's photos, genitals were kept hidden, and the photos were carefully staged in beautiful settings. It's believed that he left behind more than one million images at the time of his death, as well as some short films shot with his models.
"13 years ago, all of [Mizer's] creative output was almost lost forever, but with the help of our volunteer team, I've been able to ensure that his work and his methods are preserved and made available to research for future generations," said Bell, noting that Mizer's work represents gay history.
"The move into The Magazine building will allow us to reach the public and provide better access to Mizer's estate than ever before," Bell said. "I plan to use the space to mount photographic exhibitions from the estates we hold in our permanent collection of not only Mizer's work, but also those he influenced and was influenced by. The space will become a public exhibition and research center showcasing masculinity in photography."
The foundation will also catalog and archive photographic materials "in a way that the public can observe and take part, both onsite and online," Bell added. "Like The Magazine, these materials will be open for research and education and will continue the legacy that Bob and Trent have established ... Pairing the legacy of Bob Mizer with the legacy of The Magazine is just the next logical step in all three of our journeys."
There's no set timeline for the changeover, and for now, Mainardi and Dunphy will continue to sell their vast collection of vintage magazines to a steady stream of customers who wander in and out on the store. Currently, their front window features a collection of vintage monster-movie magazines, in honor of Halloween.
In the meantime, the store is hosting a November 3rd launch party for Taschen Publishing's new two-volume collection AMG: 1,000 Model Directory, which reprints Mizer's 1957 original, pocket-sized volume of the same name, a sought-after item among those who collect male physique photography. (AMG, or Athletic Model Guild, was the name of Mizer's company.)
Admission to the party, which will be part of the First Thursday Art Walk, is free, and the Foundation will offer refreshments, screenings of some of Mizer's films, and merchandise for sale, including T-shirts, mugs, and original 1957 copies of the directory.