Tulsa TV Memories: Tulsa TV/radio/movies/pop culture of the past      

An early shot of Lewis

The Lewis Meyer Bookshelf

The Good Humor Man Is Still Playing Strong On Peoria

By Lori Roll, Oct 17, 1982 (by permission of Joe Worley, Tulsa World)

Located at one end of what used to be known as "The Strip", the Lewis Meyer Bookstore sits so unobtrusively next to the old Brook Theater that you'd have to hunt for it if you didn't know the place.

It's a small store crammed with thousands of books, from Chinese history, house repairing, karate and astrology to fiction, children's books, adults only books and inspirational books.

Low stools invite bookworms to browse. A few chosen customers have cellophane rights, the authorization from Meyer to slit open a newly shelved volume.

An old black upright typewriter from which Meyer issues his monthly customer newsletter shares the check-out counter with a chocolate chip cookie and three of Meyer's seven published books.

Lewis Meyer - always on hand - greets customers with compliments, advice, opinions and hints on good books.

"Why, hello dear," he croons to a familiar customer. "You look good, darned good, younger than ever. Say, here's a new novel I think you'd like. Outrage. I bought a hundred copies of it."

He approaches another customer. "Have you seen Buscaglia's new book? He is so WONDERFUL! He LOVES, he SWEATS, he, he..."

"Did she buy Outrage"?" he whispers to his wife Natasha as the first customer leaves.

"I like to sell the right book to the right person," Meyer explains. "That's how I get my kicks."

Raw enthusiasm, a positive outlook, brutal frankness, sensitivity. All are descriptions aptly applied to Lewis Meyer, depending on your point of view. He is many things to many people.

Meyer's philosophies are simple, and he doesn't mince words when he tosses a few unsolicited remarks at you across the counter. "People tell you 'Everything in moderation.' I don't believe that. I say if you live a moderate life you'll die a moderate death." He pauses for effect, erupts with a throaty giggle.

A whole generation of Tulsans has grown up with "Lewis Meyer's Bookshelf", a half-hour book review on television.

Week after week, Meyer shares enthusiasm for books with an unseen world of followers.

In person, Meyer is a character out of J.R.R. Tolkien's Hobbit stories come to life.

He says he's psychic, "I KNOW certain things. Some people call it intuition, but in my case I'm just plain psychic."

His head nods, and he draws a little closer. "When I was in Dartmouth College, in the summertime one year I read palms at the Hearthstone Restaurant in New York City. I loved it. It was hard work but I was very good at it.

"I could tell you things that've happened in this store you wouldn't believe. A classic case happened when this gal walked in one night and said, 'Read my hand. I hear you're very good at it.' And I said, 'No, I don't want to read your hand. I don't want to.' I just got this feeling. Her neck was dirty. I don't know She kept bugging me.

"Finally I said, 'Look, I'll read you and I don't need to look at your hand. You are having a love affair with your boss who is very much married, and if you do not stop that tonight, this minute, right this minute, something awful is going to happen!' And I never tell people things like that. I tell the positive things. Well, two days later this woman called just frantic. Her boss had died in her bed in her apartment."

He explodes in a giggle, then settles back in his chair and soberly continues, "My psychic powers are a gift. I try to use them to help people, not for my own gain."

A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Michigan law school, Meyer practiced law in Creek County for five years before he turned to books. "I didn't fit in," he says. "I can't stand to see injustice done and most lawyers get away with it. I just don't have the soul for it. I have been so happy since the day I walked out of that office and started doing what I liked.

Photo by Lori Roll"I've always wanted a bookstore. When I quit law I went to work in the book department of Brown Dunkin for free. Then I began doing book reviews and lectures for them. I worked there for 16 or 17 years doing book reviews on KVOO and touring the whole country. Sometimes I went to 24 cities a month. I've known all the publishers in New York for years.

"Then I bought an hour a day on KTUL and KOME doing book reviews, and I would sell these to sponsors. It was very profitable. In the meantime I bought this building and opened my bookstore. After I married Natasha I started writing books."

Meyer's book, including a book of children's stories and a spoof on sex manuals, are successes.

Preposterous Papa, now published in five languages and a best seller in West Germany, and Off the Sauce have sold over a million copies apiece.

Preposterous Papa, (and its mate, Mostly Mama), about his unusual parents and well-to-do upbringing on their ranch in Sapulpa, Oklahoma, gives insight not only into the larger-than-life man Meyer describes as a "king, general, conquering hero, vote getter, supersalesman, father confessor, and trumpeter of the morn," it also offers clues about Meyer himself.

Meyer is not a tornado like his father. He is a small cyclone.

Customers come in emptyhanded and leave with bundles of books. Telephone orders come in to be filled, inventory is taken and replenished, fortunes are told to willing and sometimes unsuspecting customers, weekly radio shows are prepared and taped, newsletters mailed, books read.

Off the Sauce, his other best-seller, tells another side of Meyer in a tragic, but hilarious account which typifies Meyer's philosophy of life.

"With the booze I had to either stop drinking or drink myself to death," he says of his bout with alcoholism. An avid member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Meyer says "For 34 years at AA I've sponsored literally hundreds of people. Sometimes in the bookstore they're shaking in all corners, you know. It's such a joy to help."

Always, Meyer is an unfailing optimist.

"I think everything is going to be all right. I live one day at a time."

He pauses. "One reason I wrote seven books is that Natasha told me any time I sold a book, she'd give me a week at any horse track in America. I'm crazy about horse racing," he giggles.

Meyer hasn't written a book in five years. "It's too much hassle. You can't just write it, you have to get out and beat the bushes to sell it."

Besides, he has gotten what he wants -- a bookstore which The New York Times described as "the best bookstore in the South."

"There are more failures in the book business than even in restaurants or any other business in America," says Meyer. "Your inventory has to be so large. A bookstore should be a very live place. We're such a happy operation."

"I don't even consider those sterile little chain bookstores real bookstores. They're pretty, but they don't have books on skin diving, tatting, weaving, you name it.

"I always have my nose in a book because it just takes that to keep up. I think people who spend time with their noses in books are the happiest people.

"Because books never let you down."

Copyright © 2000, World Publishing Co. All rights reserved

(From Guestbook 3) Erick Church said:

Oooohhh!! Lewis Meyer's Bookshelf! Sunday's were good for 3 things, praising God, watching sports (preferably football), and checking out Lewis. I could've cared less what books he was reviewing, I just thought he was too awesome. I had the pleasure of meeting Lewis in 1992 at a bookfair in Muskogee. He was obviously not feeling well, but had a big smile on his face, and seemed to get a kick out of meeting all of those people. Now there's a Tulsa TV icon I can relate to!

(From Guestbook 3) Mike Bruchas said:

I worked with Lewis Meyer at KOTV for a year - we all loved him! I also think Lewis popped up on either CBS or ABC network morning shows a couple of times. He was Tulsa's best small  bookstore owner.

Before I met Lewis and worked at 8, the late Cy Tuma (who had worked at 6 with him) once whispered to me that Lewis had the largest collection of pornography in Tulsa over headset to me - very conspiratorial like. I found out later it was banned books for literature (I presume like Henry Miller) not pictures! It would have seemed out of character to have been otherwise.

(From Guestbook 3) Mike Ransom said:

I found a book to buy at Lewis Meyer's store one time in the 80s, and took it to the counter with my VISA card. The clerk told me, "Oh, Mr. Meyer doesn't like credit cards. Just send a check tomorrow." So I did, but that was a unusually trustful way of doing business.

And do you remember his slogan, "The more books you read, the taller you grow" (135KB .wav file)? When I met him at the store another time, I told him I was the embodiment of that slogan. I am 6'6".

(or hear it in Lewis Meyer's slogan...from the KOTV 50th Anniversary Special.)

Lewis Meyer at KAKC(from Guestbook 39) Don Norton said:

Lewis Meyer's book reviews (were) on KTVX-TV before KOTV...

(also from Guestbook 39) Jim Ruddle noted that Lewis Meyer did an afternoon program at KAKC in 1950.

(from Guestbook 24) Frank Morrow said:

Lewis Meyer was quite a character. Back in the homophobic ‘50s the males thought he was a little too effeminate, too gushy, and overly sincere.

However, the women particularly loved him. I had occasionally listened to him, and was particularly intrigued by his commercials for ice cream. It sounded like he actually was eating the stuff. When I started working at KAKC in the Lewis with wife Natasha (photo courtesy of Jerry Cornelius)summer of 1951, he did his program during my shift. He did his ice cream commercials with a spoon and an empty bowl. He would scrape the spoon around in the bowl while distorting his speech to make it sound like he was consuming large mouthfuls of the desert.

During one program he gave a movie review of a John Wayne film, and related a story about something gallant which Wayne had done for the leading female actor while they were waiting for the shooting to start. After the program I asked Lewis where he got his story. He said he made it up. But he was so sincere, I’m sure no one ever suspected.

Lewis was a colorful, cheerful, highly intelligent man. He brightened the day of a lot of people---on both sides of the mike.

A footnote: One Sunday when I was doing network cutaways for local advertisers during a professional football game, I learned the hard way why Lewis didn’t use real ice cream. I never knew when a time out would occur which would require me to read a 60 second spot to cover up the commercial on the network. During one game my father brought me something to eat---some fried chicken and a thick milkshake (probably from the Malt-o-Plenty at 6th and Boston). Right after I had taken two large swallows of the milkshake, a timeout was called. I clipped off the network feed (while listening to it in my headset), and turned on my mike. To my horror my tongue was frozen from the ice cream. I got through the commercial, but, if there were any listeners, they probably thought that a retarded person had been hired by KAKC for their Sunday afternoon shift.

Here is a list of books written by Lewis Meyer:

Second Wife (romantic novel)
The Customer is Always
Seeing Writing
Off the Sauce
Preposterous Papa
Mostly Mama
The Tipsy Witch and Other Fairy Tales
Pooped! The last word on Sex Manuals
- A Penthouse magazine Book of the Month

They are currently out of print, but here is a way to find some of them: try this search on eBay!

Pooped; The Last Word on Sex Manuals   Lewis Meyer dedication

A tongue in cheek dedication

(from Guestbook 202) Terri asked:

Can anyone tell me the name of the kosher deli and the skating rink, situated in the Brook Theater vicinity, early 60s?

David Bagsby replied:

According to my in-laws who lived in the Brook area, the deli was Tex Meyer's...brother of bookseller Lewis Meyer. The only rink they recall was at 11th and Peoria but don't remember the name.

Jim Reid said:

I remember Tex Meyer and his deli. I think it now a liquor store or a frame shop. Can't remember.

There was a roller rink on the west side of Peoria at about 37th or 38th. It's now a very nice resturant where I had a nice prime rib last time I was in Tulsa.

Scott Linder said:

Yes the deli in Brookside was indeed Tex Meyer's. I was a frequent patron. The food was simply the best kosher food west of N.Y. The corned beef and pastrami were first-rate, and the potato salad was just wonderful. I moved to NYC soon after and found a similar salad at the Wilgold Deli on 33rd, just west of Madison Square Garden where I was employed at the time. They delivered to our offices each day....ummmm. So are there any good kosher delis in T-Town now?

(from Guestbook 202) Joe said:

In today's Tulsa World obituaries (2/16/2006), it is reported that the widow of Lewis Meyer, Mrs. Natasha Meyer has passed away.

(from GroupBlog 228) Michael Bates said:

I was just listening to some old Johnnie Lee Wills transcriptions from 1950, and I heard the announcer say to Johnnie Lee, "Our first tune was written by a good friend of mine and a good friend of yours. What do you say we get under way with the Coyote Blues, written by Lewis Meyer."

I knew Lewis Meyer was a multitalented man, but I never suspected he was a western swing songwriter.

Here's a link with the lyrics: http://www.rockabilly.nl/lyrics1/c0118.htm

"Coyote Blues" can be found on Johnnie Lee's "Band's A-Rockin'" (sound sample at the link). This is the 1949-1951 Wills band, and some of the songs were recorded at KVOO's studio.

From TulsaLibrary.org:

Lewis Meyer (1913-1995) was born in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. For sixty years, Meyer was a Tulsa institution as an author, bookstore owner, and book reviewer. His television program, "The Lewis Meyer Bookshelf", ran on KOTV for 42 years. Meyer wrote several books, the most well-known being Preposterous Papa about his father in Sapulpa's early days.

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