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Rad Retro Weekend Part 3: Video Store Victory

All epic adventures must come to an end and so it is with the Rad Retro Weekend I recently shared with my buddy, NLogan. In parts 1 and 2 we took part in the ritual of childhood sleepovers, then spent a Saturday morning ransacking antique stores and yard sales. We were partying like it was 1989.

As the sun was setting on our journey, my traveling companion told the legend of a small town video store that still stocked VHS tapes and I had to see it for myself. As we pulled into its tiny parking lot, I might as well have been 7 years old again. The anticipation was palpable.

Just as we walked through the door I was greeted by this wooden bookcase packed with VHS tapes. It was heavenly. In fact I was wondering if I had died and gone to heaven. I had seen the adventures of Matt from Dinosaur Dracula tracking down and visiting East Coast establishments like this, but never thought I would find one of my own to explore. This was an experience to be savored.

After I perused this shelf, I started digging through the 50 cent box (which was hilarious because the shelved ones were just 99 cents) and that's where the video gold was. 

I managed to pick up two old CBS FOX Home video releases "Mindgames" and "The Entity", as well as a Sam "Flash Gordon" Jones film called My Chauffeur and the totally un-PC Soul Man with C. Thomas Howell. The Karate Kid Part 3 was a must since I didn't even know that film existed until about 10 years ago and have not watched it nearly enough.

But the Video Store experience was rarely about buying movies back in the day, it was the process of walking the aisles and perusing the shelves. While about 75% of the stock had been converted to DVD sometime in the early 2000's, there were still entire walls dedicated to VHS. Mostly older titles involving the wild west or fishing/hunting tutorials (not kidding). All of these I assumed were being rented by elderly patrons who were still dedicated to the original rental format. I wish them all a long, happy life for keeping the demand alive.

Although this New Arrivals sign was touting films featuring modern stars like Dwayne Johnson or John Boyega, if I squinted a little I'd swear I could see classic film titles like Innerspace, Mac & Me or Surf Ninjas on the whiteboard marquee. One particularly fun find was a bootleg copy of the BMX movie RAD on DVD, though I would have preferred to see an original VHS copy in its natural habitat.

As I approached the counter to purchase my discount VHS tapes, I decided to join in on the conversation that NLogan was having with the store owner. I asked him how long he had been running the place and he answered 32 years. This video palace had been around since the rental market boom in 1986! More evidence was found in the dot matrix printer he was rocking behind the counter. As I pressed him for additional stories this Video Veteran started talking about the old days and how tapes would run him $60-100 just to keep in stock to rent. Then he brought out the proof.

Yes, this is a dealer catalog from December 1987 promoting the films that were about the hit home video in 1988. You gotta love The Lost Boys on the cover, but inside were images that are bound to fill you with good memories. Jaws 4: The Revenge? That's right, just $67 to put this turkey on the shelf and leave your customers confused as to how a shark could have a telepathic connection to a human. If someone really liked hearing a shark roar, they could add it to their personal library for a mere $89.

These pages are bound to bring tears to vkimo's eyes, Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger was $68 for dealers, but would have cost civilians like you and I a whopping $179! I guess it's worth it to see the bulging muscles of Carl Weathers and Jesse Ventura. NLogan didn't recognize Disorderlies, but then I informed him that it was the one and only film starring large and in charge 80s rap trio The Fat Boys, which was understandably cheaper at just $79. Imagine this double feature at the drive in!

The real high point of this catalog for me was this ad for The Monster Squad coming to VHS. This was a big rental for me as a kid and maybe even more of a favorite these days. Seeing this ad actually caused me to make an offer on this little catalog, but the store owner revealed that he is a bit nostalgic as well and this booklet held memories for him. I had to respect that.

But I wasn't prepared to bid farewell to this dreamlike experience without one more walk around the store and I'm glad I did. Nestled in the corner of a dirty bottom shelf next to a faded DVD copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a literal forgotten relic. Yes, Rainbow Brite and The Star Stealer on VHS. It was covered in dust and had literal cobwebs hanging from it, indicating that no one had rented this animated gem in at least 25 years. 

Bringing it to the counter I inquired as to whether he was willing to sell it off the shelf and he looked bewildered, as if to say, "I don't even remember buying that". Soon, my generous offer of "$3 to 4 dollars" was accepted and I soaked it all in. First, I watched him look up the tape in his inventory, then pull it off the shelf, savored the popping sound of the plastic shell case, observed as he removed the aging plastic wrap on the box and reunited the two halves of the VHS experience separated by decades. It was a fitting end to this experience that I may very likely never have again.

We couldn't have asked for a better batch of experiences for our Retro Weekend, many too good to be true. We even mused about me moving my family to the area so the pattern could be repeated more regularly. But then we realized that we'd probably end up like Tom Hanks in Big for the rest of our lives, 11 year olds in middle aged bodies. Some things are special because of how rare they are.

So I loaded up a suitcase with my retro bounty, which included a stack of Goosebumps books and a Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark volume donated by NLogan and I began my long journey back home. I have to thank my generous host for the tour to end all tours and some dang good grub. I look forward to returning the favor in the near future.

The hours zoomed by as I returned back to the 21st century, watching the time portal close on this journey, but holding onto hope for another trip back to those carefree days of youth that now seemed slightly less hazy. They say you can never go back, but sometimes you just have to try a little harder.

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Superman Posted on Sep 17, 2018 at 05:26 PM

It's so cool that a place like this still exists.

jkatz Posted on Aug 24, 2018 at 04:56 PM

Wow! A video rental store in 2018 is rare enough...but one that still deals with vhs tapes? I don't think I need to tell you how lucky you guys were to find a place like this (even though I just kinda did).

I would have loved to peruse that video catalog, looking for obscure B-movies.

Vaporman87 Posted on Aug 23, 2018 at 01:51 AM

A more fitting end could not have been had to such a righteous adventure. Truly this whole experience was the stuff of legend, now saved for posterity for the world to enjoy.

Speaking of Karate Kid III, Sean Kanan played the "villian" role in that film... and in this year's Halloween Special. LOL. He's an awesome guy.

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