Friday, September 11, 2020

Confessions of an ex-video junkie

Hi, I'm Stuart.

(Readers:) Hi, Stuart!

And I'm...sob...I'm a...videotape junkie!

I suppose I can root the origins of my terrible affliction back to my childhood. As a lonely, shy kid, I threw myself into a world of Spiderman, Batman, and most importantly, the late (in reality, not so great) magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland. In Forest Ackerman's nerdy periodical devoted slavishly to horror movies, I'd pore over the pages, nearly salivating at all of the thrilling, goony monster flicks I'd never get to see.

It's history time, Millenials, so drop a squat and listen up... Back in the day, we only had three--count 'em--three TV channels to choose from. My brothers and I battled it out for dominance over the little B&W TV box with lousy reception. I was always in the minority, my brothers uninterested in Star Trek or anything cool . Sigh. Saturday evenings at 6:00 was the absolute worst. I deemed it, "The Desperate Hour," for the choice came down to news, Lawrence Welk, or Hee-Haw, for God's sake. My point is we didn't get to choose entertainment like you lucky kids do now with the touch of a button. Rather, it chose us. How else do you explain the popularity of such shows as C.H.I.P.s or Three's Company. Dire. I just knew I'd never get to see the movies I could only dream about.

Then a fourth channel came out (sometimes; the reception sucked if it rained, snowed, or a bird skittered across the roof), an unheard of UHF station. On Sunday afternoons they showed something called "Slapstick Cinema" which was great, but at 10:30 Saturday nights, they started showing all of the old Universal monster movies. I'd stay up until 4:00 A.M. sometimes watching a triple feature. Nirvana! But it still wasn't enough.

Soon, my hobby took a backseat to the looming problems of high school (bullying) and college (women and beer!). After college, when I got my first job, I started raking in more money than I knew what to do with. When you're young (unless you're Michael J. Fox or whoever), life savings was something never considered. Then I discovered the miracle of videotapes. I threw myself into the medium, investing in a second VCR and dubbing three movies per tape for my own collection. I'd travel all over the greater KC metro area in search of rarities even though 99% of the selection was limited to current Tom Hanks films.

But...I discovered this whole new market, something mysteriously called "The Grey Market," the equivalent today probably being "The Dark Web (what's with all the color?)" On the Market, "dealers" were selling their own copies of rare horror films! Dayum, I'd found what to invest my money in. So, I ordered all the costly catalogs (mainly photocopies done at the dealers' day jobs) and started slowly. The mail wait was agonizing. Then it still wasn't enough.

It never is.

I started getting more movies than I could possibly ever watch. I cast my net wider and collected films from all over the world even if they were in a foreign language. I even bought a French dictionary (although THAT didn't last long). After awhile, I had amassed quite a collection, so I thought, why not hit these dealers up to see if they'd like to trade? 

It worked. After a while, I had a network of traders throughout the world, including someone in Japan and Italy! When I'd come home from my day job, tons of packages would await me on the doorstep (later, I found out the neighbors thought I was a drug dealer). I became well known in the trading circles, a world class videotape trader. I mastered the phone like a over-caffeinated stockbroker wheeling and dealing in pork bellies, although my stock in choice were movie oddities.
"Hmm, no I already have a widescreen, uncut print of Dario Argento's "Four Flies on Grey Velvet." You got it in English? Get it in English and I'll send you Sergio Corbucci's "Companeros, then we'll talk..."

On and on it went. I couldn't stop. I no longer had enough bookshelves or storage room. The fun just kind of petered out.

When I first met my wife, I told her I had 5,000 or so movies on tape. Not to brag, mind you, I just didn't want her thinking Serial Killer. She told her roommate of my claim and the roommate said I was lying. Once my wife saw my collection, she said, "You weren't lying! You have 10,000 movies!"

All good things must end. Soon, a new up-n-comer called DVD made my tapes obsolete. Like an unloved, redheaded stepchild, I abandoned my tapes to about 35 bookshelves in the basement. BIG mistake. Our basement is very old, very creepy, and very humid. To my dismay, I soon discovered every last one of my tapes had gotten moldy within the cartridges!


My wife and I rented a dumpster and watched as we took box after box of my life's savings to feed a landfill.

Let this be a cautionary tale, kiddies. (Think I'll get into collecting Blu-Rays next, though).

On the topic of collecting, how about starting a collection of my way cool books? There's mystery, horror, humor, suspense, thrills, chills, and ax spills! Fun for the whole family. Check out my way-cool, ginchy Amazon book page.

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