Downtime

An Interview With the Owner of the Sex Shop Next to Four Seasons Landscaping

“I was pretty much in awe of the funniness of the whole situation.”

A yellow sign advertising Fantasy Island Adult Bookstore hangs outside of a grey concrete building.
Fantasy Island Adult Bookstore in Philadelphia Mark Makela/Reuters

Shortly before the AP and other news outlets called the election for Joe Biden on Saturday morning, the Trump campaign held a now-infamous press conference at Four Seasons in Philadelphia. That’s Four Seasons Total Landscaping, of course, a landscaping company located in an industrial corner of Philadelphia, nestled between a crematorium and an adult bookstore. To find out what it was like on ground zero of FourSeasonsGate, Slate caught up with Bernie D’Angelo, owner of the adult bookstore and sex shop Fantasy Island. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Rachelle Hampton: When did you find out about the Trump campaign’s press conference?

Bernie D’Angelo: I was inside and we didn’t know what was going on. One of our customers said, “There’s something happening, it looks kind of crazy out there.” And I walked out and we saw all these vehicles pulling in. And I [thought] they were definitely in the wrong location, because we’re an industrial commercial area. I couldn’t understand why they would bring something of this caliber to our location, because there’s no real venue that would support something of this sort.

We started seeing the sheriff’s department, all the cop cars, trucks, looked like Secret Service or some type of security for Rudy, I’m assuming. We were kind of laughing at first because we knew there had to be a screw-up somehow, because why would you pick a spot like this? And then when we heard it was the Four Seasons, I laughed. I knew exactly what it was then. They wanted the Four Seasons in Philadelphia, inside town, not on the outskirts of the Northeast Philadelphia area. [Editor’s note: The New York Times has reported that the campaign actually always meant to hold the event at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, but the president misunderstood which Four Seasons was hosting when he first tweeted about it.]

I can’t imagine Rudy Giuliani, the former big-time mayor of New York, 9/11, you know, handled that and then all of a sudden, now he’s in someone’s backyard, so to speak. To think that he’s in an industrial commercial area where there’s no one here except a landscaping business and an adult bookstore and a crematorium across the street. There was no reason why they would be in this area. It’s funny. I’ve stayed at the Four Seasons. I know the difference between the two Four Seasons. One’s a landscaping business, and one’s a nice hotel.

What was the general mood outside your store on Saturday?

I would say there was about 40-ish people. Hard to tell because I didn’t want to go down the street and get involved in anything. Because I didn’t know exactly what was going to break out or turn into. Plus, I have regular customers that, you know, didn’t want to get involved. The customers who were there couldn’t leave because they couldn’t get out. But the Bidenites, I call them, were yelling back and forth to the Trumpers across the street.  There was a lot of foreign press. Because the location, there were not a whole lot of places to actually park. They were parking in my parking lot. [So my customers] were trying to sneak through the Sunoco to come down the street to come into my business.

Did anyone come inside Fantasy Island from the event?

We’ve had customers from both sides, Republican and Democrat. But nobody from, like, Rudy Giuliani’s [camp.]

What are the odds, you know? Donald Trump starts out playing around with Stormy Daniels, and next thing you know, one of his final hurrahs is going to be down the street from an adult bookstore that’s been there for 40 years. You can’t write this stuff. Basically, I was pretty much in awe of the funniness of the whole situation.

Have you seen any increased business after this?

Oh yeah. It’s helped me out. Matter of fact, if I knew this was coming, I would have definitely got in touch with a web designer, and also [gotten] some silkscreen-type things, to just put on a shirt because my Fantasy Island Facebook page has been blown up. I’m past 7,000 people commenting on everything that’s been going on. I had to order some more stuff and ask the companies if they could physically pick up some stuff at my distributors or actually ask UPS if we could fast-track some of it. People in the neighborhood forget about us because we haven’t done any major, major advertising. We could never afford advertising like this. This is worldwide. I don’t know if I’ll ever trend like this ever again.

You said that you were thinking about making T-shirts?

Yeah. You know, capitalism is what capitalism is. It’s about making a buck. And I know the landscaping company, I think they made a shirt. If I knew this was coming, like I said, I would have invested in making shirts. We weren’t sure if we wanted to just put our name and our logo on it, or just put a couple pictures of some stuff and add little things to just make people get a laugh out of it, that 2020 has been so insane that Rudy Giuliani is in the parking lot of a landscaping company when he should be at a five-star hotel. If that’s how they’re running the country, and that’s how he runs his things, it’s kind of embarrassing.

How did you feel about the Trump people?

They were a little spicy, so to speak. But it wasn’t that out of [control]. I think the reason is the location. You’ve got to really drive far to get there. If they had done this at the Four Seasons [hotel], there are a lot more people in that area who can literally walk there, compared to Fantasy Island. Nothing’s really in walking distance there. People got to really love us to be down there. So that’s why, like I said, 40 years in business. There’s a reason why we got some staying power. No pun intended.

How long have you worked at Fantasy Island?

It’s family-owned and operated since 1978 by my parents. I’ve been there since I was out of high school, and then I’ve been back and forth. I went back to school to become an electrician, and then I went out and opened up a few other businesses, pizza places, and bulk food stores. And then my father asked me to come back to work and I’ve been there ever since. I’m 57 now.

What was it like being in high school, with your parents owning an adult bookstore?

I was the coolest kid in school. Plus I was cool anyway. Bit of a rock and roller, you know, kind of a rebel in a certain way. I was a little anti-establishment. And we had some fun with it. I had plenty of girlfriends, and you know, I’m married to my wife for 29 years. Matter of fact, my anniversary was yesterday. And I’ve known her since first grade.

Oh, congrats.

Thank you.

So why did your parents choose Fantasy Island as the name?

Actually, it was me. I was watching the TV show Fantasy Island and my father said to me, I’ve got to name the business. And I was laughing. I said, “Dad, why not name it Fantasy Island?” And he says, “That’s it.” And we did it.

What are your bestselling items?

Oh goodness. We have things from Dick Rambone to a lubricant called FuckWater, to basic normal vibes, six-to-eight-inch vibes, multispeed, multifunctions. The Fleshlight, the Main Squeeze. And basically, we sell all types of harnesses. A lot of just normal-type vibrating things. Male enhancement pills, and female stimulation pills. And we even sell hand sanitizer and stuff because the times have changed at the moment. So we’re following CDC guidelines.

Being in our business, we’ve seen everything. You know, you have to have a sense of humor to run the business that we run. And we have a lot of fun with it. A lot of fun.