Abstract: DSI: The 1960s Gay Consumer Culture Revolution

David K. Johnson


Founded in 1963 in Minneapolis, Directory Services, Inc. (DSI) had a simple business model: market directories of physique photography studios, book services, and bars to gay men throughout the country to help them navigate an increasingly dense web of gay commercial enterprises. Soon DSI owners Conrad Germain and Lloyd Spinar expanded their mail order business to market a host of items, including physique magazines, books, toiletries, and clothing. By 1967 they employed fourteen full-time employees, making them arguably the largest gay-owned and gay-oriented enterprise in the world. DSI represented a major shift away from small, independent outfits such as Bob Mizer's Athletic Model Guild toward corporate conglomerates that controlled numerous gay businesses and had the income to fight and win legal cases against the forces of censorship. In 1967 DSI won a crucial, but virtually forgotten, legal victory against the U.S. Post Office that allowed male full frontal nudity in American magazines, ushering in an era of open homoeroticism. Looking at the history of DSI and its relationship to its customers, federal censorship authorities, and homophile organizations, this paper explores the important, overlooked role that such gay enterprises played in the history of gay community formation and resistance.