The (Crazy) True Story Of My Video Collection

18 Mar

Image

Synopsis: “An epic story about one man’s obsessive movie purchase, and his need to let it go…12 years later!” (Rated PG; 12 years, 4 days)

Why do I look so down-in-the-dumps? It wasn’t easy giving up my prized movie collection, there’s quite a history behind it. To understand what happened with me today, on March 18th, 2013, I must first revisit the past…

1996

A few months after graduating high-school, my friend Josh Rothstein told me to swing by the new Blockbuster Video store where a staff of new employees were helping to get the store ready for its grand opening the next week. After chatting with Josh for a few minutes, he told me to fill out a job application. The thought of working while I was in college honestly hadn’t even occurred to me yet, and Josh was only being half-serious, so I took the application and did a very Boaz-typical thing: I filled it out as a prank, and it looked something like this:

NAME – Freddy Krueger

ADDRESS – 666 Elm Street

REFERENCES – Jeffrey Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Josh Rothstein (yes, I included my friend’s name)

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN CONVICTED OF A FELONY? – “Convicted?” No, I’m too smart for that!

You get the idea: amusing, juvenile answers. I then walked away to chat with Josh, and was surprised to find the store manager laughing as he read through my application that was left out. He then approached me, and asked when I could start. Confused, I explained that it should have been obvious that it wasn’t a real application. He laughed again, and insisted that I work anyway, and could get started the next day. Feeling confused, and caught off-guard, I accepted the job offer; and so began my illustrious career at Blockbuster Video, which would last about 3 1/2 years and create my massive video collection….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

1997

I got another job working for a Beverly Hills real estate attorney, Stacy Sokol, organizing his office, and wasn’t exactly enamored with the minimum wage pay I was getting from Blockbuster; so it was time to call it quits. Speaking with my manager, I informed him of my new job and that I was done. In a panic, he asked me if I could stay on anyway. I answered no, I would be making twice the money at the other job, so what was the point? He then asked if he could create a new job just for me, where I’d come in on Saturday nights (their busiest night of the week) and just stand around giving people movie suggestions. I was so blown away by the flattery of this idea – and absolutely loved doling out movie suggestions – but realized that this would mean not being able to go OUT to the movies on Saturday nights, and again I politely declined.

Exasperated, my manager asked me, “What WOULD keep you working here? Just tell me!” I laughed, and jokingly responded:

-Not needing to wear a uniform

-Doing whatever I please when I come

-Not having any shifts, and showing up whenever I want, for however long I want

-Getting the store a better selection of movies (a constant irritation of mine when they didn’t have the movies I was trying to recommend)

The response by my manager? “DONE!”

1998-2000

Over the course of the next few years, I was a strange version of an employee of Blockbuster Video, which made no real sense. I wasn’t a manager, but I did have a manager’s password which gave me some authority, and allowed me to make purchase orders. I didn’t wear a uniform in spite of the fact that even managers needed to wear those navy-blue polo shirts with khaki pants. I was still paid a lowly minimum wage. Whenever the district or regional managers would come by, I was told to go home or pretend I was a customer so they wouldn’t ask me any questions. I showed up for an hour here and there as I pleased, and I spent my time giving recommendations to customers (who loved me), cleaning up and organizing the shelves (in line with the “neat freak” aspect of me), and most of all ordering new movies for the store.

During this time, countless employees came and left, including my friend Josh. I went through 8 managers in total, each one of them inherited me as this bizarre fixture to the store who they could not tame. I sang the same tune each time a new one was hired.

NEW MANAGER – I hear you don’t do normal things here, that needs to change. From now on you’ll be wearing  a uniform and working a normal shift, we can’t just have a job that exists exclusively for you.

BOAZ – No problem, I have another job at a law firm, I was only here for the free rentals and to enjoy improving my community store, so I understand.

Previous manager whispers something to the new manager.

NEW MANAGER – Okay, we’ll make it work.

In the meantime, the store slowly but surely began to burst at the seams due to the vast number of movies I was ordering. Try to understand, I was like a kid in a candy store being given the ability to order NEW delicious candies, along with the realization that I couldn’t get any cavities or be stuck with any bills. It was a beautiful thing for this movie-loving college kid at his local video store!

The movies which were originally facing forward, with plenty of space between them, became closer and closer together as I kept adding more and more titles to its video library. Eventually, many of the shelves needed to display side-facing movies, in order to fit them all. Customers would know that if there was a movie the store didn’t have, you could just ask Boaz and he’d order it no questions asked. There’s little doubt that it became the best-stocked video store in the country. Were these all great movies? Absolutely not. If they had Puppet Master II but not the other sequels, I made sure to order them, spare no expense! In fact, there were hundreds of movies which were out-of-print and the only way to get them would be by finding a preexisting copy at another Blockbuster location and ask them kindly to send it to me. I literally spent hundreds of hours finding those stores, and getting them shipped to us. Every day the UPS delivery man was my personal Santa Claus, delivering anywhere from 5-20 boxes just for me. It was not uncommon for me to show up after missing a few days, and finding a pile of boxes behind the counter that looked like they were barricading an attack from enemy fire. And in case it isn’t clear: I loved it!

Then one day in the year 2000, the 9th manager was hired, and she wasn’t going to deal with my crazy routine. This manager had been hired because apparently there was a lot of spending going on from our particular store (hmmm), and a strict “no more purchasing movies” doctrine had been created. This was both because we had more movies than the Smithsonian, and also because DVDs were starting to make all of these VHS tapes a thing of the past. Since I could not continue working the way I had enjoyed so much for the previous few years, I thanked her and left my job at Blockbuster Video.

Christmas, 2000

During a random visit to rent a video from Blockbuster one day, the only remaining employee who had worked with me exclaimed, “Boaz, you can buy movies for ten cents each!” I rolled my eyes, and said, “suuuure”, knowing this couldn’t possibly be true. He then explained, “No, I’m being serious. They’re getting rid of most VHS tapes in Blockbuster to make space for DVDs. What they’re doing is putting all of them at $2.99 each. At the moment, there’s a two dollars off per movie sale. But if you use my employee discount, it’s 20% off BEFORE the two dollars are removed, so it comes out WITH TAX to 44 cents per movie. But this week is Christmas, so we have 30% off; so it actually comes out to ten cents each…total. And you can totally use my employee discount to get whatever you want!”

If you think I was like a kid in a candy store WORKING there, just imagine how I felt knowing I could take them home with me. I literally went downstairs to Ralph’s, borrowed one of their shopping carts, and started to FILL UP the cart with a copy of every single movie they were selling. Ten cents each, how could I not?! In fact I didn’t mind if it was a terrible movie I would never want to watch twice, there were many places including Tower Records and 20/20 Video which would purchase any VHS tape for a 25 cents up to 1 dollar each, so there was literally no downside. Silence of the Lambs? Check. The Godfather Trilogy? Yep. Puppet Master III? Got it!

March 14, 2001

The Video Purchase! (2)

See that? It’s a photograph of my friend Kathi helping me with just a fraction of the movies purchased! This was March 14, 2001, a day we dedicated to start the massive process of going through the hundreds and hundreds of movies, putting them in cover boxes, alphabetizing them, and organizing them onto the shelves of my room and throughout the house. By the end, there would be nearly two thousand movies purchased over the course of a few months, and the shelves in my parent’s house looked like a cross between Blockbuster Video and an episode of Hoarders.

2001-2013

Over the years, countless friends would come over to borrow a dozen movies at a time. My friends Mike, Adynna, Steve & Nava even bought me a funny gift one year; video rental stationary so I could track who borrows what. (And no, I never charged anyone a penny for this, I just didn’t want to lose any!) But the more time passed, the less people borrowed them, and even I stopped using VHS tapes since On Demand and Netflix truly made the need  for it redundant. In fact I asked around and there was NOWHERE left to even sell these movies. 20/20 Video? Nope. Tower Records? Not anymore. Aron’s Records in Hollywood? Not even them.

In early March 2013, my mother asked me to “please get rid of them” so she could finally reclaim the 40 or so shelves in the house as her own, and put books and other sensible items on them. I came across a few people selling “vintage” items in their garage sales, including a handful of VHS tapes. I approached them and asked if they would like to sell countless more that I need to get rid of. Their answer? “No thanks, not even the ones we have here end up selling.” My mother had met a man who was willing to sell things on eBay for people. What was his answer when she asked him if he’d try to sell the video collection? “Sorry, no can do, they just won’t sell.”

March 18, 2013

3-18-13 - Removing & Donating all of the Videos! (4)

Now that we’ve revisited the past, we are back in the present. The photograph above shows most of the shelves emptied of their video-contents, as I was putting them all into trash bags (with the help of our wonderful handyman Herminio) to take to the local donation center. Saddened by the thought of giving them all up, I realized it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing in life. What if “just a few” of them stayed behind, so that this crazy collection that numbered in the thousands, could be just a few shelves of GOOD titles? Maybe they’d never be watched again, but I wasn’t quite ready to let go of everything just yet. So…

3-18-13 - Removing & Donating all of the Videos! (2)

I separated the classics; kept movies that I would want to see if I had a “greatest hits” compilation of videos. Maybe they wouldn’t be watched anytime soon, maybe never again since we are now living in a digital age, but keeping these few HUNDRED allowed me to feel better about letting go of the other few THOUSAND.  Heck, giving up an addiction cold turkey isn’t always the right strategy, is it?!

3-18-13 - Removing & Donating all of the Videos! (3)

I got a haircut (as seen above) and made the drop-off of the donation. All told they received 19 trash bags and 4 boxes FILLED with video tapes. The donation center was thrilled (and probably intimidated), and more importantly, my mother finally had her shelf space back. All was right in the world again. Boaz’s movie obsession would continue in the movie theater and via this blog, while the VHS obsession that started long ago by a college student filling out a prank job application, came full circle to an end.

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31 Responses to “The (Crazy) True Story Of My Video Collection”

  1. Daniel March 18, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

    End of an era. 😦

    Like

  2. Shlomo Abraham March 18, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

    Dude, what did you do with my DVDs?

    Like

    • Mike Burgher March 18, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

      Hilarious! Do you realize March 14, 2001 was a Wednesday? The following day, my favorite Chicago radio station at the time launched, WDRV FM, The Drive, playing timeless classic hits and true album rock, such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel, and Billy Joel. However, you could also find obscure songs by lesser known artists from the 60s and 70s including Jo Jo Gunn, Big Star, and The Raspberries.

      Today, WDRV still exists, but has sold out to more standard classic rock tunes by groups such as Def Leopard, Van Halen, Bon Jovi. ‘Tis truly the end of an era for both Boaz’s video collection and Chicago radio.

      Like

      • boazconstrictor March 18, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

        This insanely cool message was brought to you by Mike Burgher! 🙂

        Like

    • boazconstrictor March 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm #

      I kept them all, they have their own shelf now Shlomo, this was only about VHS tapes! 🙂

      Like

      • Shlomo Abraham March 18, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        You better damn well keep them. Those things have VALUE

        Like

      • boazconstrictor March 18, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

        I probably should have mentioned something about saving the dvds but it seemed pretty clear to me that I was exclusively discussing the TAPES that were purchased.

        Like

  3. Ephraim Osgood March 18, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Sounds like a fun day. What I want to know is what the donation center thinks they are going to do with 2000 vhs tapes.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor March 18, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

      God knows, I actually look forward to going in there in the next week or two and seeing if they’re on display!

      Like

  4. dale (and mark) March 18, 2013 at 9:32 pm #

    yeah i want to know why the donation center was happy and what they are going to do w/ them. also, which blockbuster store did you work in anyway? what a crazy job (?). adina must be happy, also. just shows you that even hoarders can “reform”. thanks linda. (p.s. books are always so much better). . .dale

    Like

    • boazconstrictor March 18, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

      We’ll see in the upcoming week or two if they actually are selling them and have reason to be happy, or if they were just impressed by how many things I was donating without the realization that they won’t sell!
      It was the Blockbuster Video on top of the Ralph’s on Beverwil and Pico!

      Like

  5. Linda Hepner March 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm #

    Marvellous account, Bo! I laughed all the way through! What you didn’t mention was that to find room for your tapes, you removed hundreds of books of chamber music and a whole load of seforim (hmmm…)…. …. Time to apologize to those venerable institutions and reinstate!

    From: Boaz’s Movie Obsession >To: lrhepner@yahoo.com >Sent: Monday, March 18, 2013 8:30 PM >Subject: [New post] The (Crazy) True Story Of My Video Collection > >boazconstrictor posted: ” Synopsis: “An epic story about one man’s obsessive movie purchase, and his need to let it go…12 years later!” (Rated PG; 12 years, 4 days) Why do I look so down-in-the-dumps? It wasn’t easy giving up my prized movie collection, there’s quite a hi” >

    Like

    • boazconstrictor March 18, 2013 at 11:52 pm #

      That’s true, I should have included that in my account. All of those holy and not-so-holy books packed into boxes and moved away so I could have the space. Well now you have that space back, victory is yours! 🙂

      Like

  6. Sue Pearl March 19, 2013 at 2:23 am #

    Mazel tov, Boaz! This seems to be a year of mazel for you! I am so pleased you have got rid of them. Now will Linda replace the shelves with books as there used to be, I wonder?

    Like

    • boazconstrictor March 19, 2013 at 3:02 am #

      Thank you Susan, who knows how she’ll fill the shelves, but either way there are now dozens of free shelves for her to do as she likes. Thank you for your prompting and insistence, I hope you enjoyed the read!

      Like

  7. Gaby Pell March 19, 2013 at 3:02 am #

    What I don’t understand is how people in the store would know to approach you to ask for movie advice, or did you just approach them in as uncreepy a way as possible?!

    Like

    • boazconstrictor March 19, 2013 at 3:12 am #

      Ha, you make it sound so sinister! People sometimes ask video store employees for advice. In my case, over the course of the years I was there people got to know me and my movie-freak knowledge, and would ask me questions quite regularly.
      That plus I’d simply approach people and ask if they needed any help, even without a uniform it’d be pretty obvious I worked there.
      Or maybe none of that is true and people were absolutely creeped out by the Jewish kid offering unsolicited advice! 🙂

      Like

      • Abigail Hepner Gross March 19, 2013 at 5:30 am #

        What a walk down memory lane! What will go on those shelves now????

        Like

      • boazconstrictor March 19, 2013 at 9:22 am #

        Only time (and my mother) will know the answer to that one! 🙂

        Like

  8. razbag@yahoo.com March 20, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    Well written. Bravo.

    Like

  9. Matti March 23, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Fun read :). I thought that was Sarah in the picture

    Like

    • boazconstrictor March 24, 2013 at 12:08 am #

      That’s funny! Definitely a STRONG similarity with the two of them!

      Like

  10. Robert Kellar April 18, 2013 at 4:28 pm #

    What a fantastic story.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor April 18, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

      Thank you Robert, it’s definitely one of my favorites, and I’m glad you enjoyed! 🙂

      Like

  11. Rob Gross May 6, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    What will we all watch at your house now? i was holding out for another run w/ “Scarface” or “Fawlty Towers” …

    Like

    • boazconstrictor May 6, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

      Not to worry, I probably kept Scarface, and Fawlty Towers was never one of my videos anyway! 🙂

      Like

  12. Jeremy Goodell July 1, 2013 at 10:04 am #

    Amazing story. Now we know the real reason Blockbuster went bankrupt.

    I used to have several hundred VHS tapes, I think I donated them as well. For a while they served as really cool toys for my young children. You can use them like building blocks and make castles, houses, fences, roads, no limit except your imagination. Most of them were my own recordings off TV movie channels, but some were purchased real cheap at thrift stores and movie rental places.

    Like

    • boazconstrictor July 1, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      One of these days I’ll post an epilogue to this blog, I already got a photo of a huge section of the thrift shop selling them after I was done!

      Like

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  1. Evil Dead (“When Horror Meets Funny”) | Boaz's Movie Obsession - June 26, 2013

    […] of Josh, if you haven’t already read about him in my Blockbuster Video story, check it out here, trust […]

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