Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Janus: the end of it all

To everything there is a season, a time to be born and a time to die... As you can see from the photos that illustrate this posting, for Janus it is the time to die.

The outfit had a good run and when the magazine was edited by Alan van Ocker it led the field, partly because there was not much in the way of competition, but also because the owner, having picked the right man for the job, then left him to run the little gold mine as he saw fit. Sadly, the death of van Ocker at the end of the 1970s marked the beginning of the slow decline of the Janus behemoth.

Like many a tired empire before it, Janus carried on losing a bit here and there to competitors, until eventually the internet put the outfit into its death spiral. It managed to keep going because of the shop and the company's willingness to sell pirated copies of everyone else's videos. On my trips back to the UK I would always go into the Janus shop and see which Moonglow videos were being pirated that year - it was truly one of the highlights of my England trips.

I remember in about 2005 asking one of the Chuckle Brothers who worked behind the counter if they ever planned to put their back catalogue on-line? I was amazed to learn that Janus did not keep its catalogue and nobody actually knew what had happened to the old photos, artwork and stories. Probably for this reason the new Janus website is reduced to offering overpriced PDF scans of the magazine in the hope of pulling in some cash from the nostalgia brigade.

Certainly looking at the website with its broken links and content that would have been cutting edge twenty years ago, but now appears sad and lifeless, I think of the final spin of the roulette wheel on a table that nobody is playing on anymore. The words of  Shelley seem appropriate:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".


Ben said...

So goodbye Janus bookshop. Well, well. I remember when it was around the corner in Green’s Court. I spent many happy hours in both locations. I can still hear the 8mm projectors showing some great classics on the back of a door in a private booth. The films had no sound of course but they were in colour.

I’m not surprised that the magazine has folded. The bookshops were always run by the most unhelpful people. To this day I never remember a sale, or a buy one get one free promotion. For awhile Janus was the top spanking magazine and it became boring and complacent. And then came the internet. They should have developed a Janus website ten years ago to retain customer loyalty. But they didn’t and it looks like Janus will never regain its former glory.

Uncle Nick said...

I remember Green's Court as well, it was a tiny lock-up shop with a large shutter that came right down over the whole front. The film booths were at the back of the Old Compton Street shop, though, in what became the store room when they were removed following the arrival of video.

You thought the staff unhelpful? I always referred to them collectively as the Chuckle Brothers, and they were a wonderful assortment of London low life at it finest. At least they left the punters alone to browse, unlike their competitors.

I agree with you about the website, they really lost their way with the internet. Today the site is a joke - my guess is that it will carry on catering to the diminishing nostalgia brigade until eventually the plug gets pulled.

Master_Geoffuk said...

Janus is alive and well and spanking up to date on line see my blog

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