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June 1. 2012

Body Language sold to owner of Southern LGBT stores

Cleveland--A year short of the store’s 30th anniversary, Paul Zeitzew is selling Body Language, a fixture at West 115th Street and Lorain Ave.

Zeitzew will be 80 in July, and quipped, as he has many times before, “I didn’t plan to be the oldest man in America selling dildos.”

The store is being purchased by Darian Porter, owner of Inz and Outz, LGBT stores with locations in Memphis and Little Rock.

Body Language is one of the longest-running LGBT commercial establishments in Cleveland. It was founded in 1984 by activists Linus Herrell and Ray Burton. When Herrell’s health began to fail, his partner Steve Schochet bought it from him. Herrell passed away in 1990.

In 1993, Schochet sold the store to Zeitzew, who expanded the store, tripled its sales and began selling over the internet as well as in the brick-and-mortar establishment.

The other early LGBT establishments still operating in the city are the Leather Stallion Saloon, the Paradise Inn, and Flex, originally the West 9th Street Club Baths. All three date from the 1970s or earlier.

The store, and Zeitzew himself, have long supported Pride and the Cleveland LGBT Center, among other community organizations. During the Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend’s first years, Body Language was a pioneer in its vendor mart. The store has brought in special guests ranging from noted authors to impressively endowed porn stars, and Zeitzew insisted on stocking a selection of LGBT literature beyond the pornographic, even when sales did not necessarily warrant it, making sure there were items for women as well as men at the store.

He is a former president of Chevrei Tikva Havurah, the LGBT synagogue now operating under the auspices of the Fairmount Temple. Through his work with Body Language, Zeitzew received awards from the Cleveland LGBT Center, Northern Ohio Coalition, Inc. and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland.

After 19 years of dedication, “I just want to do nothing until I get tired of that,” he said.

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