I spent the summer of 1998 working at a video store. The place was called 16,000 Movies, a boastful moniker camouflaging a sad reality—the store only had around 15,500 movies and was rounding up. We weren’t supposed to let customers know that. 15,500 is still an impressive amount of movies, though. They definitely had a ton of stuff I’d never seen or heard of before, and this store was in an area one might colorfully refer to as “the sticks.” The only time I ever saw a physical copy of Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video was at that job. So I don’t know why they thought they needed to lie.
16,000 was an alright gig. The only lasting pain stems from management consistently shutting off any movie I picked to play on the in-store tv system just two or three minutes in, making a big show of my apparently awful taste. “Oh James, how could you? King Kong vs. Godzilla? You’re driving away customers. This is going back on the shelf now.”
Meanwhile, I had to work the night Titanic was released, and at the start of that shift one of our most loyal customers showed up with a VHS tape he edited himself containing a 40 minute super cut of the “My Heart Will Go On” music video. All evening my manager rotated between that and the infamous Partyin’ With Leo tape (which is just shaky footage of Leonardo DiCaprio entering and exiting night clubs). Garbage is in the eye of the beholder.
Vindication came the weekday morning I put on Cabin Boy to the chagrin of every other employee. I think the credits were still rolling when a customer looked up toward the nearest monitor and started freaking out, Christmas morning style. I’ll never forget the joy on his face.
“Is this Cabin Boy?! I love this movie! Where is it? You gotta let me have it!”
You’re welcome, video store. That’s $3 in your pocket courtesy of J Greene.
Related to all that is the one thing I think I learned at 16k: some actors are totally critic-proof. We couldn’t keep any Eddie Murphy in stock, especially the post-Coming to America stuff. Dr. Dolittle, Metro, and Nutty Professor were constantly absent and people would stream in every day just to inquire about their availability. John Cusack was like that as well. Midnight in The Garden of Good & Evil evaporated like the cure for cancer. Sandra Bullock, she’s another one. I got a pretty clear picture of which stars would slaughter if they ever ran for office. Sandy would take a swing state like Florida in a fucking heartbeat.
Was there an adult movie section at this store? Of course there was an adult movie section, a closet in the back marked by a pair of purple saloon doors, the kind you might see if Prince remade A Fist Full of Dollars. The only title I remember from that room is Last of The Muff Divers (parodying Last of The Mohicans). A friend of mine checked it out and never returned it.
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