A Different Light Bookstore in the Castro may be shuttering, but quietly on Larkin Street, a nearly 40-year-old institution of the printed page lives on. The Magazine, opened by partners Trent Dunphy and Robert Mainardi in a time when Polk Gulch had more hustlers and porn theaters and was a center of San Francisco gay life, is now an ersatz archive of vintage magazines of all sorts -- with vintage Architectural Digest and LIFE magazines in bins up at the front, and the smut stored in back, both gay and straight. You can find vintage Penthouses, but also magazines from the days of gay liberation like After Dark, and dusty broadsheets like Screw.
“We always felt that magazines were magazines,” Dunphy tells the Bay Citizen. “Now, National Geographic is still a wonder -- and any one who has a subscription to it gets lucky every single month -- but National Geographic was also where you used to go to see nudity.”
Now the store has worked with publishers like Taschen to preserve the work of early pornographers, and occasionally with the GLBT Historical Society. Despite their eBay page, business has slowed in recent years, but as Michael Stabile (he of The Smut Capital of America) notes, places like this need to exist lest we all start to think Wikipedia is our greatest historical resource. "“There used to be lots of used bookstores, and they'd all have piles of used magazines,” says Mainardi. “That whole world is gone... I guess we've cornered the market.”