Credit: Todd vanGoethem

The Reader’s archive is vast and varied, going back to 1971. Every day in Archive Dive, we’ll dig through and bring up some finds.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all those who observe it. If you already have plans for tonight—chocolate, rose petals, Geja’s, the Sybaris, any of the fine suggestions in this week’s paper—read no further. But if you’re lonesome and need a little excitement in your life, check out “Stroke of Genius,” Dennis Rodkin’s immortal 1994 feature on Rich Gellert, the Arlington Heights inventor who, with the assistance of engineer Valentin Tsitrin, invented of the Venus II, the world’s greatest hands-free masturbation machine for men.

“When you hear what Rick Gellert has been doing with himself the past few years,” the story begins, “you may want to give him a hand.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!Credit: courtesy Abco Research Associates

That is just the first the many, many hand puns throughout the piece, which tells the story of Gellert’s quest to create a masturbation machine “that would leave one hand for turning the pages of Hustler and another for working the VCR remote.”

Rodkin spoke with many happy customers, but he also contacted state officials to answer other burning questions.

Illinois fans of masturbation can be proud that like Venus II Sybian is made and sold right here in our fine state. Unfortunately, we can’t hope for a new license plate design commemorating the Prairie State’s new eminence as the Masturbation Machine State. John Torre, spokesman for Illinois secretary of state George Ryan, says “I can’t really envision a groundswell of support for an idea like that. I think most people are happy with our current ‘Land of Lincoln’ motto.”

The Venus is still on the market; its website is remarkably tasteful and scientific, and the machine itself is modest and discreet, selling for $956. Alas, Gellert no longer seems to be in the masturbation game; all sales are through Abco Labs, a collaborator in Monticello, Illinois, that had invented the Sybian, a hands-free device for women.

Rodkin, too, has abandoned the masturbation-reporting game; he’s a reporter for Crain’s these days covering residential real estate. But on this Valentine’s Day, let’s take some time to appreciate his reporting and writing on the Venus II. Let’s give the man a hand.