I’ve started getting nostalgic about things. I didn’t really expect this to kick in until I was in my retirement years, but here we are at my mid-thirties and I’m all, “Remember when we…”. Maybe it’s because I’ve already lived through so many tech changes and witnessed the end of an era on a lot of places. I’m sure every generation feels this way about the world around them once they get a few decades into their lives, but I don’t think it’s something you have a good grasp on until there are seismic shifts in pop culture. It’s not like I can say, “We used to pay a quarter to go to the movies!”. It’s more along the lines of, “Damn, Bring It On came out 15 years ago?!?!” (Wait, so that means I was in college 15 years ago? I’m pretty sure it was just 5 years ago in my head.)
I must not be the only one who feels this way, since a few things have come out recently that address these topics; the book “I Lost it at the Video Store: A Filmmakers’ Oral History of a Vanished Era” and the documentary All Things Must Pass.
I moved to Los Angeles in 2004, so I had two full years of enjoying Tower Records before it closed in 2006. That big yellow signage was a large part of the landscape on Sunset Blvd. and it was strange to see it shut down, along with Sam Goody the same year, and Virgin Megastores a few years after that. I grew up with Sam Goody being a staple of every mall, filled with tapes and then CD’s, but Napster in college and eventually iTunes not long after that, signaled the beginning of the end for retail music stores. Sure, you can still buy CD’s at a few record stores that have survived in big cities (Amoeba Music has 3 locations in California) or local shops in music cities like Nashville & Austin (Waterloo Records), but I would bet most of those sales are from records making a hipster comeback. Tower Records was actually one of the last places I bought a CD about 10 years ago, so I’m eager to see Colin Hanks’ documentary, All Things Must Pass, and learn how a chain that started in a drugstore in the 1940’s became a giant in the industry before it died off. (This is still playing in some cities, so check your local theaters.)
I’m also really excited about the book, “I Lost it at the Video Store: A Filmmakers’ Oral History of a Vanished Era”, by Tom Roston. It includes interviews from filmmakers who worked in video stores and grew up during that era, such as Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, David O.Russell and others.
My first job in high school was at a Suncoast video store in the mall. It was circa 1997 and the store was mostly VHS, with a very small section for LaserDisc, which as we all know, never really took off. For a movie geek like me, it was heaven. I got to watch movies all day, older employees introduced me to classics, and I used my discount to get my family and friends box sets and awesome items like cardboard cutouts, movie posters, and displays that were going to be dumped. I even did a class assignment on the back of a movie poster from the store and got points for creativity. By the end of my college years, we all started replacing our VHS collection with DVD’s, and it wasn’t until I lived in Los Angeles that another era ended with the rapid closing of Blockbuster video stores. Like record stores, there are still a few niche video stores out there and you can still buy DVD’ s at plenty of big chains, but again, the pop culture moment is over.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of iTunes, Netflix, and Redbox, not to mention all the ways we can stream things now, but I kind of miss going to these places. These stores had a life of their own where you got to talk to people who were passionate about the same things–or at least just offered great people-watching. I always enjoyed two of the video clerks at the Blockbuster on Orange Grove Ave.–they were like the two old guys on the Muppets, just heckling everyone’s choice. Irritating, sure, but highly entertaining.
So please forgive the trip down memory lane. If you don’t understand this feeling yet, believe me, you will. One day you’ll be reminiscing with friends over the golden age of social media and how it’s all swell that we have hologram tech built into our smart-whatevers, but you miss the days of sending an old-fashioned fitness pic on Instagram. Ah, simpler times.
Legends (10/9c TNT) – Sean Bean! Someone who’s also been around since the record/video store era.