Books, Films – Part 1

12-21-11                  Books, Films – Part 1

As a child, my Mom made sure we all had library cards!  My earliest book memory (apart from school) is probably either the Dana Branch Library in Long Beach, CA – or the massive “Acres of Books” in downtown Long Beach, CA.  I wanted to read about Groucho Marx, Harry Belafonte, The Beatles…

Crown Books, B. Dalton Bookseller, the bookstore at U.C.L.A., Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop, A Change of Hobbit (Westwood)…at some point, I think my Mom took me to a place in downtown L.A. to get “back issue” Mad magazines, or possibly DC comics – my sets were invariably incomplete.

My 21-Year-Old self wandered Charing Cross Road in London, England – Foyle’s, Compendium!  In Paris is was Gibert Jeune, Shakespeare & Company!  FNAC!  Powell’s in Portland, Chapters / Indigo in Toronto!  Kinokuniya Shinjuku – that’s right!  It doesn’t have to be in English!  Verbeelding on Utrechtsestraat in Amsterdam!  Parco Book Center in Shibuya!  Book Soup!  Vroman’s!  City Lights!  Black Oak!  Cody’s!  Moe’s!  Book Shop Santa Cruz!  Bank of Books!  Warwick’s!  Numerous places all called some variant on “Recycled Books”…Rooks & Becords, Book Off…powerful places all.

As I grew up in the 60’s, it was TV time – and my Mom and sisters liked to go to the movies.  Yes, I got taken to a lot of movies as a youngster.  Two films that my Mom took me to see resulted in her going out into the lobby to have a cigarette:  “200 Motels” (too weird!) and “Woodstock” (too long!) – But while in elementary school, it was possible to buy a book of tickets to go to a double feature every Tuesday (or Wednesday) during summer, when a youngster was out of school – relatively low price, maybe $3.00?  “Chisholm”, “The Valley of Gwangi” – films of this nature; stuff that could be shown to children without incident.  And afternoon TV in L.A. was slightly oddball, too:  “Bedazzled”, “Morgan”, “The Knack”!

I only remember going to a Drive-In theatre once (twice?), with my Dad.  Mostly, I went to local Long beach theatres:  The Towne, The Crest – scary places too: The Rivoli, The Atlantic!  The movie theatre complex that was built behind the Lakewood Center!  My first “revival house” was The Art Theatre, which fortunately still exists!  “O! Lucky Man!”, “La Strada”, “Swept Away”!  Anything with Laura Antonelli!  Later on, we all went to Filmex in Hollywood – a nifty alterna-festival where I first saw “Derek & Clive Get The Horn”!

How many times did you see “A Clockwork Orange” in a theatre?  I saw it about 30 times, over the course of a year or two.

But Beta and VHS killed the need, for me.  I could watch Albert Brooks’ “Real Life” in the comfort of my own home (or my friend’s home).  Writing about all of this – movies used to be so important to me!

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2 Responses to Books, Films – Part 1

  1. Misterbee says:

    Don’t forget the Z Channel. That’s how we stumbled onto “The Sweet Smell of Success”!

  2. postpunkmonk says:

    Books were my first love, before music. As a child, buying books to own was it. I also lusted for records, but they were much more inaccessible to me as a child. Believe it or not, my mom was concerned because I read too much! Any money I ever was given turned into books [or comic books]. When I learned about used book stores with their cheap paperbacks, it was a transcendent moment. Which would be repeated a hundredfold when discovering used record stores many years later.

    In first grade, we got to go to the library at the elementary school just once [!] during the school year! Kind of a bummer because I was reading well before school and it was like torture to me to see so many books and be denied access. It wasn’t until I went to a new school in fourth grade whose library was in the center of the open plan building, that I had access to a school library at my will. Which is to say I spent every free moment combing those shelves. I would take home a book a day and read it upon arriving home from school each day. This pattern continued through secondary school, and each new school had a more impressive library. I’d always go there after school until I was asked to leave, usually 30-60 minutes after the end of the school day.

    My folks only ever took me to the dinky local library branch [never the huge main library] once a week for a single summer in my life [1973?] and that was it. They couldn’t be bothered too much. I think they only did that because my cousins spent that summer with me. Once when I was fourteen, my mom gave me five bucks and forbade me to buy any books with it! I never saw her read anything but the National Enquirer, or even better, Midnight – a much trashier tabloid her friends would bring to her when they were done combing through them.

    My family never went to films. The first movie I ever saw projected, was at a drive in. It was the re-issue of “Butch Cassidy” and in fact, it was the same summer that my cousins spent the summer with me, so I detect a pattern here. That must have been ’73-’74. The second movie I ever saw was “Murder By Death.” Some neighbors invited me along and I was glad to go. It played at that theatre for a good six months back then! The third film I saw the next year, was “Citizens Band,” an early Jonathan Demme movie, which I didn’t want to see at the time. Different neighbors were going and they invited me along. I wasn’t into the CB craze [my dad was though], to put it mildly. My mom actually made me go against my will. Ironically, within ten years I’d be a dyed-in-the-wool Demme fan, but I never re-visited “Citizens Band.”

    The fourth film I saw was “Star Wars,” which I first found out about while reading Time magazine after school [until they kicked me out of the library. That pre-release story [“inside – the Best Movie of the Year”] was filled with eye-popping visuals my then sci-fi loving self found compelling. But in spite of being ahead of the Star Wars curve, I didn’t manage to see it until late in that summer. Later that year I saw “Close Encounters” eventually, which my dad loved. He loved anything with flying saucers.

    By the next year, I was in high school and my movie going life finally commenced. Lots of movies, finally. Wow, when “The Empire Strikes Back” came out, I had a friend who saw it about once a month for a year. He’d call up, “you wanna see ‘Empire?'” “Sure,” I’d say and we’d be off to the Winter Park Theatre, where it played for over a year. The theatre had a huge 70mm screen that was immense and was the way to see that movie.

    The next year, my dad bought my first VCR and collecting movies became possible. When I could buy factory Betas I added movies to the media mix. Orlando by this time was starting to get some book stores that weren’t in a mall. My entertainment dollar was being widely spread out. By the late 80s I finally took the laserdisc plunge [I’d been contemplating it for years] and these giant silver discs were the ultimate in home video quality for another decade. At first I bought at least a laserdisc a week, at the various stores which seemed to be adding them to their stock to the point that they were allllllmost mainstream by the time DVD appeared stuck the knife in.

    By the late 90s I began to pull away from books. They cost so much for something you read only a few times, and took up so much space. The switch from Laserdisc to DVD didn’t impress me since the lossy compression of the early masterings looked horrible compared to state of the art [uncompressed analog] Laserdisc of the time. I didn’t buy into DVD until Y2K! I was no longer an “early adopter.” I was married and couldn’t justify that outlay of cash. Besides, by this time, I was putting all of my eggs into the music basket. My book library had stopped cold, and in the new millennium, I’d actually be selling off many of my books. If I wanted to read something, that’s what libraries were for. In the last ten years I’ve bought maybe ten books. Things that were worth the effort.

    My video library never really recovered from the move from Laserdiscs to DVD. I was a late DVD adopter. I could no longer justify buying movies, since the groovy movies we used to host at our home faded away. We moved away from Orlando and since then we have no friends to watch films with anyway. And the cost of a DVD was always better invested in music, which I would derive far more enjoyment from in any case.

    In 2011, I am so busy with freelance work, that I simply, don’t have 2 hours a week to waste watching a film. TV series on DVD are impossible for me, unless they are UK/Canadian series of six episodes. Even then, I am very picky. One series I have loved in the last ten years was “Slings + Arrows.” I have watched all 18 episodes three times in the last few years and actually feel the need to buy the complete set to own. It’s that good! Most of my time, I am working my regular job plus significant time on the side. My main hobby of just listening to records gets almost no time at all. Careful remastering of vinyl to CD is almost non-existant any more, so when my wife watches a movie on DVD she gets from the library, more often than not, she’s alone.

    Well. That’s the state of my media life ca. 1972-2011.

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