Sex World: An oral history

A close peek at the most famous adult store in Minnesota

Sex World: An oral history
Benjamin Carter Grimes
Josh Anderson (Sex World's most tenured employee), Jimmy Mueller (Sex World general manager), and Mike Flueckiger (Dollhouse manager). Don't miss out on our behind-the-scenes look at Sex World and the Dollhouse...

In the burgeoning Warehouse District, on the corner of Washington and Second Avenues, Sex World beckons with a neon come-on. This is the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Twin Cities, a rite of passage celebrated on countless 18th birthdays.

Welcome to the most famous adult store in Minnesota. Here you can ride the gyrating golden phallus, buy all manner of porn and pleasure toys, and even have an intimate experience with a beautiful stranger behind glass.

The libidinous men who dreamed up Sex World more than 30 years ago were Dennis Buchanan Sr. and Robert Bonynge, related by marriage. Their friendship evolved into a business partnership when they opened Broadway Book and Video on Hennepin Avenue.

Dollhouse dancer Jade. Hair and makeup by Amber Rose Hair + Makeup.
Emily Utne
Dollhouse dancer Jade. Hair and makeup by Amber Rose Hair + Makeup.
Dollhouse dancer Jade. Hair and makeup by Amber Rose Hair + Makeup.
Emily Utne
Dollhouse dancer Jade. Hair and makeup by Amber Rose Hair + Makeup.

Some interviews have been condensed and edited.

Dennis Buchanan Jr., current Sex World owner: Bob and my dad were best friends. Bob was married to my mom's cousin and he was the pervert who hung out in adult movie and bookstores. My dad was an electrical engineer. One day, Bob asked my dad if he could make video booths. That's how the partnership started.

Colleen Bertino, owner of Fantasy Gifts: I consider Broadway the grandfather of Sex World. We opened Fantasy House in 1980 when my dad saw the dildo and vibrator manufacturers on the Phil Donahue show. Back then, female sex toys had just entered the market, and by the end of that show my dad had ordered each toy featured.

Dennis Jr.: Back in the '80s, this business was a men's business — male masturbation toys and everything that revolved around undesirable men's habits. Don't get me wrong; undesirable men have made Sex World a lot of money, so I have nothing against them. The sex industry was a lot different when my dad first went into the business.

BUCHANAN SR. AND BONYNGE — partners and friends — were very different men. Dennis Sr. was an engineer and visionary with the personality for business. Bob was the deviant inventory specialist and merchandise buyer.

Dennis Jr.: I loved them both for the things they taught me. Bob liked his porn and he was a drunk. He got into trouble videotaping his Rottweiler with women. I still remember the [newspapers] got a picture of me at 16 years old. I was stocking shelves and over my picture in the newspaper was "Bestiality." After Bob was convicted, he served nine months in the workhouse.

At around this time, Buchanan Sr.'s embryonic version of his famous Dollhouse began to take shape on the second floor of the Golden Spike, another business Buchanan and Bonynge owned together under the parent company of Broadway Visuals.

Dennis Jr.: My dad tried his first dance house with booths and live girls in the '80s. It was called the StarDust. The fire department closed it down and then we didn't have live girls until the Dollhouse.

Across the river, Peter Hafiz — another huge player in the Twin Cities sex industry — was having his own problems with his Faust Theater. The Faust was a one-stop shop for books, dancers, porn videos, and peep show booths — very much the same business model as Sex World today.

George Latimer, former St. Paul mayor: When I first took office, I took the perspective of a civil libertarian when it came to the notorious Faust — meaning there was no evidence people were being dragged there against their will. City Council Member Bill Wilson was sensitive to the impact the Faust had on the Frogtown community and neighborhoods. That's when we worked to get a third party to buy out the owners.

Bertino: We opened a Fantasy Gifts in St. Paul right around the time the Faust closed. Hafiz got an insane amount of money to close and move to Minneapolis. The early '90s is when legislation changed to where women could dance totally naked in Minneapolis as long as the only thing that was served was just juice.

Latimer: The Faust closing cleaned up the creeps around the University-Dale neighborhood. And now the Rhondo library stands in its place.

Part of the buyout deal included a clause that Hafiz couldn't start another sex business in St. Paul.

Latimer: It was a weird kind of precedent, because someone else could start an adult place in St. Paul, just not the former Faust owner.

Bonynge was released from prison in 1990. By then he'd lost the fortune he'd accumulated from Broadway Book and Video. Dennis Sr. let Bonynge move in with him to get back on his feet.

Dennis Jr.: Life was very different growing up in our family business. I was stocking shelves at 12. When Bob got out of prison, he lived with us for a while. That's when the differences [between Buchanan Sr. and Bonynge] really started showing up. Bob liked his booze. My dad liked his weed. And it grew from there.

Jerry Buchanan, brother of Dennis Sr. and current owner of Lickety Split: Bob and Dennis's falling out wasn't the type that could be reconciled. Bob went on to buy Lickety Split and Dennis started Sex World. They were arch enemies and competitors from that moment on.

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