Radio Killed the Video Store

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The Buggles “Video Killed the Radio Star”

 

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Depending on your standpoint, working in the video trade during the turn of the nineties could be considered a soul-destroying endeavor. The industry had been hit hard by the boom of Sky and a growing reluctance for people to leave their comfortable chairs just to grab a couple of movies. I can see how the turn of events could be construed as shattering; watching a business you have nothing but unconditional affection for slip away may not be as significant as doing the equivalent for a loved one, not even in the same stratosphere and it would be flippant of me to suggest otherwise. But for a lifelong fan of movies as an art form it cut pretty deep.

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I had turned up for work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for seven years, notably from the moment I gawkily entered my teens to the instance I parted ways with them. The owner was a dear friend of my father’s; one of a breed of entrepreneurs sadly strangulated by a declining financial climate and the steady emergence of new technological advancements. An honest, hard-working, dignified character; this man had built his empire with his own blood, his own sweat, and ultimately his own tears. He afforded me the honor of joining his modest ranks long before my thirteenth birthday; nine months prior to be anal. Thirteen was then the legal age to ply a trade although this was before the birth of the impersonal wage slip and wired transaction.

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A freshly pressed brown note each week was my monetary prize but the real gift was in spending six hours of my growing years every weekend in the company of thousands upon thousands of VHS movies. This is why I feel like a mortal encyclopedia of film; he used to say as much. It was his correct analysis which then afforded me the springboard to the honor of ordering stock exclusively for his store, later to become two stores. This in itself shows the immense character of the man in question; entrusting a lad of such tender years with such a responsibility is a dicey pursuit, let’s be fair. It is more than just that though; it is a display of faith which in twenty years of full-time employment I have never again witnessed.

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Akin to an outbreak of genital fungus I was in my element. Every time I opened the new trade magazine I felt a buzz which sparked my soul. Obviously I didn’t have contact with the suppliers; that was not my role. I had the fun part. With relish, I scribbled my approximations; long before the days of proceeding to checkouts or updating account details. My father had been the store’s second ever member and given the fact that numero uno passed soon after, nothing to do with Keeper I might add, the pinnacle beckoned. Fate can be an unusual creature.

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Picture if you will; a young lad with eyes like a Quad bike’s tires, salivating over hundreds of grisly images and bold red fonts. I believe I found myself sexually soon after with Linnea Quigley, Sybil Danning and Adrienne Barbeau supplying the mental wallpaper. Anyhoots, now imagine being able to watch every single film you have been ogling at; drooling over like a sex pest in a titty bar. It was my utopia, the hub of my creativity and the source of my pure-as-crack passion.

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The store was flourishing on my arrival; the eighties video trade boom had spread far and wide and it was a lucrative trade to be in. The slasher craze in the first part of the decade had been ideally suited to the home video market with seemingly another offering every week. Horror was at its commercial zenith; John Carpenter’s The Thing is a stellar example of a movie which performed with indifference at the box office only to find sanctuary on video store shelves. With cover art like that; it’s no small wonder his majestic monster movie gained such a distended following. I have wildly eclectic tastes, and clearly watching Eric Weston’s Evilspeak in a family store would do the business no favors so I blissfully watched every PG rated film I could get my grubby little hands on. John Hughes was a major pawn in my filmic rearing but my true surrogate father, the one guy who gave me life in a technological sense was the true gentleman who gave me that first shot.

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I truly hope I did him proud, had the store remained open I’m sure we would have enjoyed a long and lustrous working relationship. My heart remains there; a curry house the last I heard, but I cannot bear to look to the left each time I pass the remnants of my second spiritual home. That will change from this point forward; I feel compelled to make an expedition back to that place and when I do I will sit and reminisce with startling clarity about the glut of memories those four walls hold and maybe even order a Korma. Saying that, it will be just as easy to turn away and walk in the opposite direction. The reason for this is that Movies will always have its true home in a place not governed by bricks and mortar; a place which to this day opens daily and a place which beats with the consistency of the till I used to man until those cursed early nineties.

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As for the man I hold in such lofty regard I can say only this. Thank you for seeing my potential, my passion, my true calling. My father is alongside me as I scribe this and he thanks you for keeping his son safe in his absence. And I can assure you that the quill would not run as freely with crimson as it does now, had it not been for the nurturing creative upbringing which you afforded me.

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Dedicated to Mick Manns

 

 

 

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