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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18 comments
ElliotPark
ElliotPark

@altavista I have no real issues with adult entertainment businesses. That particular block has a cluster of them yet Sexworld is the only establishment that has a loitering issue that is causing the noise and gunfire problems that are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life in the neighborhood. Now would I prefer a Dunkin Donuts in that building instead of peep shows? Of course - Living near Sexworld does not make anyone's property more valuable. But really all anyone should expect is that your business does not create a riot mob every Saturday and Sunday at 2am that negatively impacts the neighborhood in which it resides.

altavista
altavista

Change the zoning and get this place out of here---In the past ten years there has been a 281% increase in residents in the North Loop/Warehouse District where Sex World is located.  That is why we didn't want the Twins to locate here, or, for that matter the Vikings or any other sports venue.  Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis have benefited tremendously from the property taxes that private residences and decent small businesses located here represent.  We resent the fact that members of the Minneapolis Downtown Council have declared the place where we have our homes "the entertainment district."  What is noteable is that most of these people live out in the suburbs.  What kind of business person thinks that it is acceptable to have downtown Minneapolis crowded with bars and sex clubs?  They apparently have no concern for their own employees much less the 1000 kids who live here.     

altavista
altavista

There has been a 281% increase in the population of North Loop/Warehouse District where Sex Worls is located---Taxpayers have purchased homes and brought their families here and we have many retirees.  People are bringing their kids to see Twins games at Target Field.  This neighborhood is no longer a place for this kind of business.  It is time for the City of Minneapolis to change the zoning so that people are safe in this area. Politicians had better start paying attention. 

daryl5370
daryl5370

Formerly known as *RA-SHA*

I spent 6 years of my life with Dennis Sr. and the SexWorld family, they are good people providing a service without judgment or questions. I wish Dennis Jr all the best. I have a lot of great memories and stories from my time there and I don't regret anything.

ElliotPark
ElliotPark

The most dangerous place in Minneapolis is in front of Sex World at 2am on Saturday or Sunday. In the summer months gunfire is a normal occurrence each weekend. With yuppies and empty nesters fueling the building boom in the North Loop it's about time the neighborhood starts to act to push out businesses that are attracting the violent element to the area.

midwestexplorer81
midwestexplorer81

@altavista I think sex world is a dirty dingy place and have been almost mugged in the area BUT the 281% of people you speak of are just like the people who move by the airport or by railroad tracks and then complain of noises and vibrations. The business was there first and they knew it, so tough shit! You should always check out a neighborhood before you sign a 15 or 30 year mortgage.  You don't like sex world then move and save yourself some property taxes also.

altavista
altavista

@ElliotPark   Thank you for making this statement---If you haven't already done so, please share your commments with Mayor Betsy Hodges, Minneapolis Council Pres. Barb Johnson, Councilperson Lisa Goodman and Councilperson Jacob Frey.  Not enough people  are speaking up about this.     

MplsMuse
MplsMuse

@ElliotPark you have no clue what you are talking about.  SexWorld works with the police to provide video footage of both 2nd ave N and Washington ave when any violent crime does occur.  Since SexWorld opened crime on that corner had dropped significantly.  People in the north loop are safer because of these businesses.  Why don't you go hang out on Freemont and Dowling at 2am sometime...see if your attitude doesn't change.

Alirox
Alirox

There are no such things as yuppies anymore.

altavista
altavista

@midwestexplorer81 @altavista Your analogy isn't accurate---And, people bought homes here because Minneapolis officials indicated that this area would be cleaned up and gentrified into a place for families.  Do you own a home in Minneapolis or Hennepin County?  Then, you can't afford to have us pack up and move out of here and neither can City and County officials.

ElliotPark
ElliotPark

@MplsMuse "works with the police to provide video footage when any violent crime occurs" --- That's exactly the kind of establishment people want in their residential neighborhood. You may not have noticed but that block is changing rapidly. Between 2013-2015 there will be 750+ new residents that live on the adjoining blocks that are not going to appreciate all the good Sexworld has done for the neighborhood over the years. They will however become keenly aware that they can not sleep with the windows open in the summer because Sexworld deals with the crowds of 250 people loitering on that corner at 2am with an outdoor PA system blasting away as late as 4am even on Sunday night. And then there's that minor issue with the persistent gunfire.  


If Sexworld was to leave that area the problem would vanish overnight. Don't believe me? Ask Trocedero's neighbors.


No Clue? The property I own is on 2nd Ave N and I have a 24/7 view of 2nd and Washington. I think I'm qualified to tell you what is really happening.


Get off my lawn :-P

midwestexplorer81
midwestexplorer81

@altavista @midwestexplorer81LOL You? Carry the state? That will never happen just like I will never be at HCMC. I would rather die than go to that hepatitis factory. No I don't live in the woods, I live in Anoka County and pay enough taxes for stupid crap already without the light rail lines and ball parks your city begs for. Now you mofos want a multimillion dollar trolley too! Pay for it yourself. You deserve every penny of taxes you pay for moving where you live and believing the politicians will get rid of sex world. Even if the intent of some "officials" is to get rid of sex world anybody that knows anything knows tasks like that can take decades in the political world. Say hi to the fat old guys, strippers, and gang bangers for me. Have a nice weekend.

altavista
altavista

@midwestexplorer81 @altavista   Without the property taxes that we pay in Hennepin County you would be living in your ice fishing shack all year.  We are tired of carrying the rest of the state and having those whom you have elected in the hinterlands, and sent to St Paul, have the audacity to take gifts from lobbyists and then inflict legislated messes upon our City and County.  Our own elected do plenty of that, already.   The Hennepin County property taxes about which you are sneering?  The next time that you or, anyone else who lives in those areas where the winds are blowing hard, are so seriously ill or injured  that you have to be flown in for care at HCMC be sure to bring big bags of money with you to pay for your own medical care.  Hasta la vista, baby. 

midwestexplorer81
midwestexplorer81

@altavista @midwestexplorer81No I don't live in Hennipin County and I never will. Every time I go there I'm reminded of why I hate cities. I like free parking, real open space without having to watch my back, and polite people. The only reason I care about Hennepin County is because they expect the rest of the state to fund their pet projects. No I don't need you to pay property taxes in Minneapolis because they won't use that to pay bills, they'll just use it is as collateral to borrow even more!

 
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