Desert Messenger

May 15, 2019

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2 May 15, 2019 SWEET PIE FROM PAGE 1 "Nudist is what people chose to call me. It wasn't a choice; it was who I was…" "Naked is just the way I'm dressed." Joanne & Celia Joanne was reeling from a past di- vorce, and her girlfriends decided to take her to a strip show on her birth- day to lift her spirits. They went to the Sweet Pie show in Canada. Fol- lowing the show, Paul joined the girls at their table and was smitten with Joanne. He sat on her lap and had a conversation. Joann later says that she looked past what he did for a living, and was impressed with his eloquence, poetry, and that he was a college graduate. They were mar- ried in 1984, and toured together in a 24-foot travel trailer. Joanne did not have success in getting pregnant, and had given up when they were "surprised" with the birth of their daughter, Celia on March 28, 1986. Celia was born after only 23 ½ weeks, weighing only 1.25 pounds and 12" long. She was Canada's smallest surviving baby in both birth weight and gestation. Celia grew, slowly, into a fi ne young girl, a straight-A student. She was artis- tic, and toured with the family. She was interested in everything; par- ticularly animals and the environ- ment. Celia was susceptible to colds and was getting to be of school age. Paul said, "I didn't want my daugh- ter growing up in a trailer behind hotels and next to dumpsters." Paul gave up performing to fi nd a location with Joanne, suitable to Celia's health conditions and pro- viding school opportunities. They ended up in Quartzsite in 1991. With $35 dollars in their pocket and a small trailer, they started by learn- ing "swapping" at The Main Event in a 10' x 20' tent, selling t-shirts, cards for truckers and RVers, and selling two boxes of Danielle Steele books given to him by his mother. It was a whole new learning experi- ence in the school of hard knocks. Over a few years, they gained ex- perience in bartering and selling books. Also, Paul's mother and fa- ther would glean yard sales in the Phoenix Area and bring them boxes of books. After several ramshackle sites on Main Street, Horizon Com- munity Bank offered them their fi rst loan in Quartzsite, to construct a bookstore, Reader's Oasis Books at 690 E. Main Street. Although active at school and in the community, Celia passed away sud- denly on October 25, 1994 from a vi- ral heart infection. Paul and Joanne were devastated, but decided, "The town was so good to us; we stayed, be- cause this is where people knew her." In October, 1995, Joanne and Paul received the blessings of the Town of Quartzsite and the Bureau of Land Management to construct Ce- lia's Rainbow Garden in Town Park off Plymouth Road, north of Town Hall, to commemorate Celia and her love of nature. The Rebirth of the Blues Having stopped performing in order to provide a home for Celia; Paul's music career "slept." Paul focused his attention to family and the bookstore. He was able to be comfortable in the bookstore say- ing, "The bookstore shelters a life- style. I can't live in most places on an everyday basis." Paul's life changed dramatically on August 10, 2010. Paul received a tele- phone call from a group which was staging a Salisbury Beach Reunion, his old stomping grounds in Mas- sachusetts. They said they wanted him to perform his Sweet Pie Show, and they would provide airfare, ho- tel, transportation, and a piano if he would attend. Paul jumped at the opportunity - his dream of becom- ing a Fats Domino had always been present. Paul spent weeks re-learn- ing all of his songs and practicing on the piano; his music having been mostly dormant for the past 20+ years. He boarded the airplane to the reunion…his fi rst airplane ride. At the venue, he was greeted by hundreds of fans. The theme from Rocky, was playing as he entered to a 15-minute standing ovation. Paul said, "I was fl ying – never had my 'self' been so 'rekindled.' Paul's mu- sical career was reborn. Upon returning to Quartzsite, Paul made big plans for performances, local and back east. After another jaunt back east, Paul decided that his home in Quartzsite was his best venue. On October 23, 2010, Paul was asked to perform at the "Nos- talgics Car Club" special dinner and entertainment in Quechan Park, Blythe, CA. It was his fi rst major lo- cal performance. He was joined by washtub bass player Ralph Martin, who played most concerts with Paul as his sidekick and accompanist. Many local performances followed over the next 10 years, punctuated by Annual Fundraising Shows at the Quartzsite Improvement Asso- ciation (QIA) where Paul typically played to sold-out crowds of his loyal fans. There were two particu- larly memorable shows at the QIA. The fi rst was on January 12, 2011; "An Evening with Paul Winer and His Friends." After his success back east, Paul assembled a group of his musical friends including: Ralph Martin, Jerry Mullins of "Barefoot and Boots," and Sonja and Norm in a new group, "Skyhawk." Paul and his friends played to an apprecia- tive, sellout crowd of 760 people (admission was a $5 donation.) Anker Rasmussen, of QIA, noted, "The evening was the most success- ful single-evening musical event in the history of the QIA!" At Paul's request, I picked up Paul's parents Jack and Celia in Phoenix, and brought them to the show. Paul and his father were estranged due to Paul's lifestyle, for over thirty years. His father didn't mind that he performed naked, or played rib- ald songs…as an act; but that, he should have a "normal lifestyle" af- ter performing. They had somewhat reconciled following Celia's passing; however, his father and mother had never seen Paul perform until that evening. Paul sang a special song to his father called, "I Love My Dad." There wasn't a "dry eye in the house." It was a great evening for all. The second memorable show was Paul's last performance at QIA on February 16, 2019. Paul was in ill health, and made a superhuman ef- fort to perform his songs and cajole with the audience. It was evident that he was in poor health; yet, his loyal fans were excited to see him perform, and rallied him to continue. Epilog Paul and Joanne have spent their entire time living in Quartzsite pro- moting the Town of Quartzsite, the Bookstore, Paul's career, and Ce- lia's Rainbow Garden. People and media have come from all over the world to see, interview, or fi lm "the Naked Bookstore Guy." There are news articles and references about Paul and Reader's Oasis Bookstore in hundreds of publications, televi- sion, novels, movies, DVDs, CDs, books, YouTube Videos (profes- sional and amateur), Social Media and more. Joanne has volunteered thousands of hours at the Quartzsite Business Chamber of Commerce, the Quartzsite Community Thrift Store. She has consistently pub- lished articles on Paul and has been promoting the Town of Quartzsite in local and regional newspapers, Visitor Guides, and lots more. They both have spent countless hours selfl essly donating their time and talents to raise funds for a wide va- riety of community causes. Most people have no idea that the team of Paul and Joanne have always been Quartzsite's most consistent and ef- fective promoters, pro bono. Paul said in many interviews, "I wanted to be Fats Domino when I was a kid. I lived my dream as Sweet Pie for 25 years, and I'm going to live the rest of the dream – and that is to continue it for a lifetime until I die doin' it on stage." Paul Winer, 1943-2019 [Editor's Note: See Photos of Paul on Page 23 of this edition. A memorial is being planned sometime in the fall, when snowbirds return. A Memorial CD of the Paul's fi nal concert will be available soon. As details become available, we will share in Desert Messenger and on Facebook. Folks are also encouraged to join the new Facebook Group called "Paul Winer Memorial." Feel free to share your photos, memories, and ideas for a memorial project honoring the lega- cy of Paul Winer.]

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