“Amber, you know I”m going to have to call your mother,” the video store clerk at Hollywood Hits says in the same judgmental takes every time I try to rent a movie.
“Yes, I know go ahead call her,” I say for the thousandth time, “she doesn’t care about what movies I rent!”
The clerk picks up the receive, dials my patient mother who is still at work and always too busy to deal with my rental routine and gets the same answer she always gets, “What’s Amber renting? ANOTHER horror movie? Sure, that’s fine, thank you for calling.”
I finish up at Hollywood Hits, head over to Becker’s for a bag of Lay’s ketchup chips and ride my bike home brimming with anticipation for yet another deranged afternoon after school.
I owe the love of movies I have now to that tiny video store down the street from my house. Hollywood Hits was owned by family friends of ours and I would show up a few times a week to browse the Horror/Science Fiction section. Despite the majority of these films being rated 14A to Restricted, it’s amazing I ever made it out with a movie in my schoolbag. The teenage staff didn’t really care that I was only 11 years old and that almost every movie I rented contained brutal violence and a hell of a lot of nudity. Somehow, my mom didn’t really care either. Well, let me rephrase, she didn’t really know.
“Amber, what the heck is this one about?” my mother asks after I’d already watched the movie in question.
“Oh, just like, like this guy, he’s crazy and he hates babysitters, it’s sooo good. You would like it, Mommy!”
“I don’t think I’ve seen that one, Amber but I think you’d like this old one from the 70’s – it’s called The Exorcist – it will REALLY scare you!”*
After three more years of this song and dance, I finally graduated from “annoying kid renting after school” to “video store clerk renting to the annoying kids.” Hollywood Hits was my first job and I worked there until I graduated high school. I’d get to go to work and after making enough popcorn for our patrons, I’d put in a movie that I’d want to watch (Hollywood Hits had a “PG”-only policy for the movies we screened, but on a slow night I could get away with something more risque) and spend my evening doing homework, watching a movie and chatting with the customers.
My time at the video store broadened my horizons, from slasher horror flicks to serious Oscar contenders. When work was slow I’d browse the aisles finding new movies I hadn’t heard of or that looked cool because of the box. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Dog Day Afternoon, The Godfather, Amelie, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Dead Alive… All movies I had found because of the endless hours spent at the store. I sincerely enjoyed working there and would feel so rewarded when I got to know the customers and recommended them movies I knew they’d love.
Hollywood Hits will always hold a special place in my heart. What’s funny is the amount of people in my social circle that worked there throughout the years – Even my little brother got a job there! A special thanks has to go to my mother. I would not be the pop culture, movie obsessed person I am now if it weren’t for her leaving me to my own devices and saying “Yes, of course” everytime I tried to rent a movie. Thanks, Mom!
*That is a true story. My mom barely remembered the contents of The Exorcist after she watched it when it came out. I picked it up a few days later and watched it in my room, with the lights off and eyes wide. I was 12 years old and would never think of crucifixes the same way again.