Tucked away on the top floor of the iconic and timeless The Last Bookstore lies FOLD Gallery, full of vintage postcards, film cameras, and globes—a testament to the classics that once occupied Los Angeles’ shop shelves.
The gallery has been there for roughly 10 years, right after the time when the actual bookstore opened up. They’ve been entertaining guests for as long as the bookstore has, leading many to believe the two are a collective.
However, FOLD runs its own operation separate from The Last Bookstore. Curation, sales, and inventory for the gallery are all done by their own staff. Regardless, Priebe notes that the two entities are still entirely happy to operate beside—or more so, vertical to—each other. “Now we’re all just good neighbors,” Founder Jena Priebe told Los Angeles magazine with a smile.
In the right corner of the space lies a crate of records, which seems odd given that the store below them operates as a well-trafficked book and record store hybrid. However, upon a closer look, it quickly becomes apparent that those records were owned, written on, and labeled by none other than Hugh Hefner himself.
“So, there is this amazing, adorable named man named Andreas and he’s a total ephemera hound… he gets such crazy stuff,” Priebe said excitedly.
“I was just going through his huge warehouse, and then he has all of these containers lined up in the back parking lot… and it’s all part of Hef’s collection. So, I was most interested in the records because of their provenance. It was when he was doing the magazine and he would make notes on them.”
The man mentioned, Andreas Schiff, is truly just as captivating as Priebe makes him out to be. He is originally from Walsrode, Germany, a place he said had the “claim to fame” of the “largest bird park in the world.”
Schiff originally started off exporting classic cars in the ‘80s—Jaguar, Triumph, Porsche, and Mercedes, were just some of the names he fired off. However, the dollar exchange rate changed and the market for antique cars crashed, which launched his interest in books.
As he noted, he is “somebody where large lots of books normally end up with.” While on a trip to Covina to visit a bookshop that had been helping the Playboy Foundation to dissolve the collectibles of the Hugh Hefner estate, he was offered to purchase a lot of laserdiscs and records by a woman who worked for the foundation named Susie.
“I check them [the laserdiscs] out a little and normally I am not related, but they have a great value. And that’s when I said, ‘Yeah, I can make an offer on the laserdiscs’ And then she said, ‘How about records?’ And I said, ‘Well, normally not,’” Schiff said. “About a week later, she said, ‘Hey, you can have the records too’ and she had mentioned at the time, while they were not in great condition, that some of them who have had written stuff on it… so I picked it all up and there were about 40 boxes of records.”
When Priebe caught wind of the records, she knew they would be an incredible addition to the gallery and people would definitely be interested in picking them up. The historical notoriety was undeniable, but the notes also gave collectors a piece of history that they could get nowhere else.
“Gone… back to the birds and bees.” Hefner wrote on the back of a Bobby Short record. “Too much showing off, not enough music,” he penned on a copy of Erroll Garner’s The Most Happy Piano.
Hefner had also written many offensive and dated comments about the appearance of female singers, which may come as no surprise. As recent as February, A&E’s Secrets of Playboy took aim at the late-Playboy boss and various people who spoke out against him received an onslaught of backlash “mostly from bunnies.”
Given this, Priebe had a lot of hesitation about the records and even questioned if she should “put these out in the world.”
“I take what I put into the shop in a very thoughtful way and I’m especially about women empowerment because my team is all women,” Priebe said.
“And the base reason why I struggled with that was because I want to show how strong women are and how far we’ve come, but I think also in order for that to be an honest reflection of where we are you have to show, really, the past.”
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