Friday Rentals

All this talk of classic horror films from when I was a boy in short pants has me reminiscing about Friday nights of my youth. The Friday night video rental, to be exact. It was a semi-regular thing for my parents and I to go out after my dad got home from work and go grab a pizza at Pizza Hut, stuff ourselves, and then head to Video World and rent some movies for the weekend. Of course, I’d head straight to the back room(not THAT backroom, you perv) and start perusing the horror and sci fi. Video World had a back room dedicated to nothing but horror, sci fi, music docs, and weird odds and ends. That’s where I spent a good portion of my time. This was my formal education into the world of the undead, vampires, alien creatures, soulless slashers, and general weirdos that I’d carry around in my memories for years to come. At first it was an appreciation for being scared, but then it changed. It was the whole aesthetic that I loved: the effects, the music, the set designs, and yes even the stories that were attempted. Some were better than others(much better at times), but each movie carried with it something endearing, no matter how horrible the film was. If it was really bad it would sometimes transcend into something even greater than scares. The horror film that tried so hard but missed the mark would become something else: parody. Something so bad that it became a completely different genre. Even a lousy movie could make for fun viewing.

This Friday night ritual continued on through high school. One of my best friends and I would crash at either my place or his, grab a Tombstone pepperoni pizza from the store along with a bag of Cheddar and Sour Cream Ruffles, hit Video World for the newest horror film(by this time we’d rent from either Video World or Video Plus), and spend Friday night distorting our minds(and our intestinal tract with that Tombstone Pizza.) Oh, and if you hadn’t guessed, we weren’t the partying types. Were we dorks? Nerds? I don’t think so. But we definitely weren’t “popular kid” material. Listening to Rush and Joe Satriani and pining over Daphne Zuniga didn’t win us any cool points, but we were cool with that.

I don’t think much has changed for me(except I make my own pizza nowadays.) The video store has turned into renting movies off of Amazon, and Fridays are also shared equally by watching movies and spinning records. If I’m going to waste time, I might as well waste on things I love to do, right? I do miss the video store, though. The strange cast of characters that haunted the aisles: whether it was parents and their kids looking for something to watch together, teens looking for something they shouldn’t watch, or the creepers disappearing into the “other” back room. And of course the folks working behind the counter, renting to the folks hungry for entertainment on a Friday evening. Spending their weekend making ours a little more interesting. I had much admiration for them. I was one of them, as I started working at Video World when I was 18 and worked their for nearly a year. A great year it was, too.

So here’s to Friday rentals and making the most of those little moments.

Ether Drifts And Android Sex

I’m not sure what it is about robot music that appeals to me. Robot music? You know, that stuff you’d hear in those early 80s sci-fiIMG_1313 flicks that would be on at 1 am on a Saturday morning, usually on USA Up All Night. Or if you were lucky enough to have movie channels you could’ve been watching it on Cinemax with the added bonus of a nudity-filled sex scene between an android and a brunette space vixen. Something about those way out synthesizers and overbearing electronic bass drum hits always made me feel nostalgic, even before I really knew what nostalgia was. Since I didn’t have cable growing up, around 1984 it was grabbing these movies at the video store. Lots of Vestron, Thorn/EMI, Gorgon, New World, and New Line Cinema videos were watched back in the day and they all had those kinds of movies that were soundtracked by some guy sitting alone in a stuffy music studio with nothing more than a Yamaha DX-7, Boss Dr. Rhythm, and a Roland Juno-106(as well as plenty of Cuervo Gold and ample amounts of Columbian blow I’m sure.)

The solitude and one man showiness of the world of synths always appealed to me. Seeing what my uncle could do with just a keyboard and an acoustic guitar was pretty inspiring to my 12-year old self. Of course going to strange churches on Sunday mornings and playing your love songs to Jesus wasn’t really what I thought to be a cool time. I liked to idea of soundtracking robot sex and space battles instead. I never got prolific on a keyboard, but I’ve found some folks who have. I think these guys grew up with the same robot dreams that I had. One of these guys is Seth Haley, aka Com Truise. I’ve been listening to him intently for a couple years now. I bought his album early last year, deep in the harsh Midwestern winter. He makes music that sounds like epic space battles and android sex, but slowed down a bit and with some serious deep bass crunkiness to it.

Of course Com Truise is a play on the name of a famous male Hollywood star that came up in the 80s and got his start in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Outsiders. Of course I’m talking about Rob Lowe. Anyways, Haley is an aficionado of the decade of neon, parachute pants, and The Terminator. I’m sure there’s a certain part of the universe at large that would find what he does kind of cheesy, and I’d have to disagree wholeheartedly. The percussive end of things is like this neo-futuristic hip hop vibe and a dash of synsonic drum cheese. The kind where you mimic a robot voice and say “Syn-syn-syn-syn-sonic!!” as the electronic roto toms blast away. The synthesizers on a Com Truise record are the real treat, of course. There’s some deep and heavy Juno vibes going on, but there’s also some lighter tones happening, like a Mannheim Steamroller album was possessed by Giorgo Moroder working out some serious Klaus Schulze envy vibes. But everything feels slowed down and stretched out, like being roofied as you’re passing through a wormhole from one universe to another.

IMG_1314I recently picked up a copy of Com Truise’s debut record, Galactic Melt. It’s one I’m very familiar with, I just had never gotten around to picking up a copy for myself. Well I now own it and it’s pure 80s heavy synth heaven. Listening to songs like “Terminal”, “VHS Sex”, and “Cathode Girls” you’re transported to 1984. Jeans are properly pegged and your hi-tops are white as white can be. Your hair, properly business in the front and party in the back with the collars of your Izod and jean jacket in their upright positions. From there you’re transported to the year 2084. The Carnithians have attempted a total global takeover, but Jas Thurston and his band of rugged and rag tag space mercenaries are going to do everything they can to save the planet from total alien subversion. “Hyperlips” plays as Jas makes sweet, filthy space love to Mara, Queen of the Tenth Quadrant. Later on “Flightwave” soundtracks Jas’ discovery of his parents destroyed space pod floating in the Mettle Sea. “Ether Drift” powers through the Dolby Sound System as the Carnithians perish in the great Karnog explosion, while “Futureworld” runs through the credits over a triple sun sunset.

You get the gist, I’m a fan. If Com Truise stopped making records like this I’d be okay, as I’ve got In Decay and Galactic Melt to soundtrack my 80s daydreams. I’ll probably be a pathetic old man and still spinning these cheesy synth records, and I’m pretty damn good with that.

Hail Jas, and long live Com Truise and those deep space grooves.


Sentiment :: I Will Rent You Porn And Sell You Chips

photo (10)I was thinking about all the jobs I’ve had in my life and how out of all of them there was only one that I ever truly loved. It wasn’t saving lives as a volunteer superhero. Nor was it my time as a door-to-door door salesman. And as much as I loved being a midwife for homeless greyhounds, it just didn’t come close to the absolute joy I felt from October 1992 through June of 1993 when I was a video store clerk.

In December of 1991 -during my senior year of high school- I’d gotten the ultimate job. I was a bag boy at a local grocery store. One of myphoto (5) good friends had put a good word in for me with the manager and they decided to give me a chance. After a string of lousy, typical high school jobs, including fry fryer, chicken breader, and dishwasher, bag boy was a huge step up. I got to dress well, wear a tie, and occasionally be tipped by old ladies, housewives with screaming kids, and even creepy dudes I was worried that might push me into their trunk. Well, after graduation I continued to work at the grocery store and in August I was promoted to stock boy on third shift. I was in charge of HBA product. Health and Beauty Aids. You know, tampons, toothpaste, makeup, toilet paper, and disposable razors. It wasn’t a bad job, plus I was bumped up to $6.25 an hour. Not bad for pre-Clinton wages. But I wasn’t digging the hours. Third shift is for a certain group of individuals. I’m a morning person, and your mornings are your evenings on third shift. Unless you want to start resembling Charles Manson or Marty Feldman you go to bed after your shift. I never wanted to go to bed after my shift. I’d go home and make breakfast and talk with my parents. I’d read or listen to music. If it was “new releases” Tuesday I’d wait around till Video World would open so I could go in and grab whatever album I was waiting for. Pretty soon, I realized I needed to get out of HBA before I lost my mind. My best friend had gotten a job at the local video store Video World and he said they were hiring. Well, I went in and talked to the owner and he hired me on the spot. Video World was run by a guy named Bill Frazier. He was a good old boy from Kentucky that had retired from RR Donnelleys, the local printing company that had employed a good portion of my town(including my dad)for many, many  years. Well, Bill knew my dad and liked him so he gave me a chance. I hung up my grocery smock and pricing gun for the lucrative world of being a video store clerk. Kevin Smith’s got nothing on me.

photo (8)Video World was a place I knew well. When my parents bought their first VCR(Toshiba Betamax)in 1984 it was purchased from Bill Frazier. Bill saw a market in the early 80s. He may have been from a Kentucky holler, but he was a shrewd businessman. He was one of the first video stores in town and a good portion of his clientele were RR Donnelleys’ employees. I roamed the many rooms of Video World throughout my formative years, renting B-horror movies, lousy comedies, NES video games, and I’d also bought a good portion of music there as well. To be working there was an honor. By the time I started working at Video World there were a few more video stores in town. Video Plus, Broadway Video, and even the grocery store I’d worked at was renting movies as well. But Bill was the “King Video” in our town. Not just because he had a huge selection of new releases and an impressive collection of old flicks, but because he had a “back room” filled with all the best adult titles you could ever want. He also rented VCRs by the day. This made for some interesting business transactions.

The back room was like a maze you’d find in Bob Guccione’s mansion. A right turn, then a left turn, then BAM!, titles like Rump Humpers,Japan_adult_dvd_section02 Edward Penishands, and Will and Ed’s Keister Easter were there for the taking. Plus a plethora of classics to choose from were there for those seeking to learn the history of blue flicks. Now, as an employee, I had to got out in the store and hang tags in front of the boxes of videos that had come back in. Yellow tags were Betamax and white tags were VHS, this went the same for adult titles. Going into the back room was always an adventure. First, it smelled differently than any other part of the store. It was a cross between cigarette smoke and sweat. (and I won’t even go into how the VCRs smelled when they were returned with their 8 or 9 porn titles after a long weekend.) And it was a somewhat compact space, so if you were back there hanging tags and someone came in it became incredibly awkward for all involved. It was not a confined space you wanted to be in. And the clientele? Well, the folks renting those “back room” titles were quite varied. You had the ones you’d expect; those greasy, grimy, creepers you’d see slink back into the back room and not come out for 20 minutes before emerging with sweaty palms and a hand full of tags. But, you also had older couples, younger couples, straight-laced looking folks, and even teachers. Yeah, my Music Appreciation teacher’s wife came through the drive-thru window and dropped off some adult titles once. That put him in a whole new light for me.

From October of 1992 through May of 1993 I rented videos, hung out, talked music with one of my fellow employees, and watched videos as folks passed through looking for the latest and greatest flick on VHS. Bill also sold soda and snacks. Chips, popcorn, candy,…he had you covered. Another perk to the job was that in another back room there were boxes and boxes of discarded Betamax tapes that he no longer rented. I ended up taking quite a few home and copying several to VHS. We still had the old Toshiba Beta machine at home and would take some classics home to copy. Let It Be, Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, and Blood Simple were just a few of the titles I snagged. There also a bunch of Robert Altman flicks I “borrowed” as well. At the time, these were no longer available. You couldn’t go to the store and buy movies for $19.95. To buy a video you were looking at $70-$80 for one movie. This was before the days of mass video production. Yeah, this was illegal, but I felt I was preserving these movies for the next generation. I was doing AFI’s work for them.

photo (8)In May of 1993 I felt it was time to find something full-time with benefits. I was 19 and had no desire to further my education. I needed to become a true working-class schlub. So I found a job driving truck for a, surprisingly, local printing company. I said goodbye to Bill and the unique group of folks I worked with and set sail for longer workdays and bigger paychecks. I still rented from Video World until the mid-90s when he was only opened on weekends due to losing several longtime customers to Blockbuster Video. He shuttered Video World’s doors for good around 15 years ago. The last of the locally-owned video stores said goodnight to a hell of a run. Not long after that Bill got sick and passed away.

“King Video” was gone. Long live the King.

Nowadays the building still stands where it always stood. Dilapidated and corroding from years of neglect. Tape racks still sit in front of the windows, still filled with tapes. It’s as if the store is merely closed temporarily. Like Bill is on vacation, but he’ll be back. He’ll be waiting behind the counter, Pepsi in hand and happily renting you porn and selling you chips.

***Someone recently was arrested for breaking into the abandoned Video World building and stealing $10,000 worth of vintage NES games that were in boxes in the back. There’s a veritable goldmine of analog and digital entertainment in there. An 80s childhood stuffed in boxes and collecting dust.

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