Last Exit for the Lost

Sarah Louise DeVos was born February 12, 1976, in Cape May Court House, New Jersey, to William and Sandra DeVos. She leaves behind her parents, sister (Sharon), brother (Mark), two nephews (Isaiah and Rashon), two great-nieces (Ariana and Makenna), as well as aunts, uncles, cousins, and the many friend’s children who also considered her their Auntie Sarah. She also leaves behind an eclectic group of friends and acquaintances from around the globe who loved and adored her for the beautiful, creative, compassionate, stylish, and loving person she was.  

Sarah was raised in both Cape May and Carlisle, PA. After graduating from Carlisle High School in 1994, she moved to Philadelphia. She self-funded her education at Moore College of Art and Design, obtained a degree in graphic design, and made lifelong friends. During college, Sarah worked as a valet for the Rittenhouse Hotel, which was an ideal position for someone who loved stylish cars. She also worked at Shampoo during college, one of the most well-known nightclubs in Philly during the 90s, which allowed her to enjoy many things she loved – fashion, music, and people.  

Sarah took her degree and talents to every agency she worked for, most recently Free People in Philadelphia. She also took on many freelance gigs throughout her career, during which she created some award-winning chalkboard illustrations for friends’ weddings, and special events, and logos for businesses. She also displayed her artwork in Old City on First Fridays.

In addition to being a talented artist, Sarah loved music and fashion. She could easily dance all night in three-inch heels and often sent her friends CD mixes of some of her favorite songs. When other people saw clutter at a discount clothing store, Sarah saw an opportunity. She could create the most unique and stylish outfits from any discount clothing store.

Sarah also loved meeting people, hearing their stories, and talking with them about their adventures.  She used those skills throughout her life, including visits to Paris, Italy, Prague, London, Mexico, and throughout the US with friends.  

Sarah loved taking walks and looking at architecture.  If you ever spent time with her in her beloved Philly, she would share all this passion with you. She was observant and would point out all the details in the ornately decorated buildings as you walked past. And she usually had a story about all of them because she had no qualms about walking up to someone outside of these buildings and asking to tour them. Most of the time, people obliged her whims, happy to share their places with her appreciative eyes. 

She never owned a car during her time in Philadelphia but mastered the public transit system like she’d been riding it her whole life. Also, you would see her gracefully navigating through the heavy Philadelphia traffic on rollerblades or a bike like it was an Olympic sport.  

From her childhood friends to those she made at Moore College of Art and Design, to the strangers she turned into friendships, and all of the furry creatures she loved, everyone she met would be forever changed by her presence. She will be missed dearly by all that knew her.

Service will be held at Daybreak Church, 321 Gettysburg Pike, Mechanicsburg, PA, on Thursday, December 1, 2022, at 11:00am.  Visitation will be held for an hour prior to, at 10:00am.  There will be space available at the church if people would like to stay afterward and share further remembrances.  

Sarah’s portfolio can be viewed at http://www.thedutchfox.com 

To honor Sarah’s spirit, the family asks that you reach out to the person you love who needs to know they are loved.  All donations in her name came to be made to https://nami.org/Home,  https://www.furryfriendsnetwork.org/donate/,  or any other organization that contributes to the arts, mental health, or animal rescues. 

Arrangements are being handled by Hollinger Funeral Home & Crematory, Inc., Mt. Holly Springs. Visit www.HollingerFuneralHome.com to offer condolences to the family.

Please visit our flower store to plant memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Sarah DeVos.

On Saturday, November 19th, Sarah borrowed her nephew’s car and drove to Harrisburg. She found a parking garage and drove up to the roof. She got out of the car, walked to the edge, and jumped.

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If you know anyone struggling, down, or feeling sad… give them a call. Or better yet, go see them. Check on them. See if they’re okay. If you are feeling like you can no longer cope in this life, help is available 24 hours a day.

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 6 – Game of Chance

Wildwood, New Jersey – Spring – 1984

It was great dating, Betty. She was the perfect girlfriend. Smoking hot and not around all the time. We were walking on the boardwalk in Wildwood one night. I just loved strolling with her. Holding her hand. Occasionally glancing over at my gorgeous girlfriend or stealing a sweet kiss.

Betty saw this game of chance that had these beautiful plush stuffed animals all around it that you could win. (Or in the case of most games of chance on the boardwalk, NOT win)

“Oh my god. Look at that big white lion, I bet my little Kelly would love that!”

“Yea, those prizes rock because that game is nearly impossible to win. Look at all those people tossing their dimes onto that board. Now watch how the attendant is literally sweeping piles of dimes off the board. They’re raking in thousands of dollars a night. I’ve won lots of stuff on this boardwalk over the years but that game is nearly impossible. They’re selling hope and crushing disappointment all at the same booth!”

“You’re funny, Chaz. Ready to go back to the motel?”

“That’s a game where we both win, Betty. Let’s go.”

I told my friend Pitchy about her. I’d been friends with him since we were 9 years old. He lived around the corner from me down the shore in the Summer. He has always had an incredibly dry wit. I was explaining to him my current romantic situation. Pitch was never a ladies’ man and liked that I always had something interesting going on. In 1984 he was already married and had a baby on the way.

On the boardwalk, there were many games of chance. Most cost a quarter and you bet on a number on a spinning wheel and if your number came up, you won a prize. I was a pretty lucky guy and won many a T-shirt or record album on the boardwalk. I remember winning Iron Maiden, Killers on a wheel one night out front of Morey’s Pier. I just liked the cover. Turned out to be a magnificent metal record that I loved but most of my friends thought was too fast.

But my buddy Pitchy had an incredible skill. A skill that wasn’t really based on chance. I don’t know when he discovered this ability and I’ve never seen it replicated by anyone else in all of my years on that boardwalk. There was a game called The Dime Pitch. This game had been around for decades. Customers would hand the attendant a dollar or two and would be given the appropriate amount of dimes. Which was cool, because it gave you 10 chances to win for only a buck. The way the game works is this. This huge wooden board is in the middle of the floor of the game booth. People toss their dimes onto the board and try to get their dimes on one of the red dots on the board.

Dime Pitch

Classic Dime Pitch Game - Lets Party

But here’s the thing. There are hundreds of them and a lot of spaces in between. You have to throw your dime and get it to land in the very center of the red dot. Not just on the red dot but there has to be red showing all the way around your dime. You’re throwing dimes at this board from 4 to six feet away. They made a fortune on this game because it looks easy, but is nearly impossible. But here’s the thing, with great risk comes great reward. If by some rare chance you got a dime on the red circle and there was red showing all the way around it, the prizes were massive. Not some small trinket from the lower shelf of junk. I’m talking huge plush stuffed animal that any kid would adore. If you were a guy and won a stuffed animal like that and gave it to your kid, or girlfriend, you would be looked upon as a local legend for the night.

Pitchy was so good at this game, they had to ban him from the game. Not entirely, but they had to limit his time at the board because those giant plush animals were expensive. I kid you not. They would restrict him from the game to maybe once a week. They all knew him up there and understood his power.

They feared him.

He and I were up on the boardwalk one night and we were chatting about his special gift. It had gotten to a point where it was no longer a game of chance for Pitchy. It was a revenue generator. He would go to the first dime pitch game and after about 15 minutes he’d win a giant stuffed animal. He knew which ones were the most popular with the tourists. He’d hand it off to me and I’d start walking up the boardwalk with the great beast under my arm.

Within minutes people would be saying things and complimenting me on my prize. I’d always target guys with women with them. I’d respond with the same statement to everyone. “Wanna buy it?”

“How much?”

“Forty bucks and it’s yours.”

“Seems a little high.”

“You’ll spend twice that trying to win a prize like that for her this vacation.”

In the meantime, Pitchy was already at a different dime pitch game and playing. By the time I sold the stuffed animal he’d be approaching me with another one. We’d sell it too and then he’d give me a cut for doing the sales end of the deal. Then we’d go spend the money on beer and pizza.

This was an ongoing grift we worked all summer. I spoke to him about doing me a favor in regard to his special power. I’m sure you can guess what it was by now.

The next time I went over to Betty’s house to hang out with her. I got out of the car and had a little something under my arm for her to leave in her daughter Kelly’s room.

Amazon.com: American Made Giant Stuffed White Lion 48 Inches Soft Made in The USA America: Toys & Games

“Chaz! Oh my god! How did you? Where did you?”

“Don’t worry about it, Betty. I got a guy.”

On a final note to this chapter. One night I was over at Betty’s house and the babysitter had brought her daughter Kelly home. She immediately made a beeline to her room to go see her big white lion. I had to hide in a closet across the hall until the coast was clear!

Crazy times, man.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can buy my latest book LAWNDALE on Amazon! It’s stories from my childhood, growing up in Northeast Philly in the 60s and 70s. 

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 5 – Summer Nights

North Wildwood, NJ – May 1984

The saga continues…

I was sitting on the porch at my friend Pitchy’s house and telling him all about my exploits with Betty. He was amazed by the tales of my recent prowess. Pitchy was my best summer friend at the seashore since 1971 when I first met him as a kid. He lived right around the corner from me at 7th and Ocean Ave. We had a rich history together hanging out all of those summers in the 70s. He was a close friend and we’d had some great times together. He had a lovely dry wit that was uncanny. He was also a person I could always trust.  One of his gifts was that he had always been the master of the dime toss game on the boardwalk.

But he was never that good at talking to girls. I noticed a lot of young men struggled with that back then. (And even today!) I never understood that but I guess we’re always good at things we like, and I loved the company of pretty women so I was okay.

I would tell him… “If you think you’re going to be tongue-tied on a date with a girl… take her to the movies. That’s two hours right there where she’ll be entertained and fed. You don’t have to say or do anything at all. Just hold her hand during the picture. If the film is fun and exciting, she’ll associate those feelings with you and you’ll be fine.”

Pitchy was working as a summer cop in North Wildwood by 1984 and really enjoyed police work. He had always wanted to be a cop and was beginning his career as a summer cop to gain experience.

I’m happy to say that through the years, he stayed in law enforcement and became a roaring success. He achieved success beyond anything I could have imagined for him. 

We sat on his porch in the quiet evening silence of North Wildwood. All the craziness was happening 25 blocks away on the boardwalk and in the clubs on Pacific Avenue. But we both had a moment of repose from our jobs this evening and were just chatting and sipping a few cold beers. The glow of the neon signs from the motel, The Friendship 7 across the street was the only light that illuminated our presence on that porch. 

He would do these comedy bits like he was the voiceover guy for a movie preview. It was hilarious and I loved when he would come up with these things. It was like he was describing me as a character in a horror movie. He would say; “In 1980 you loved him as the Wildwood Gigalo. But now…he’s back. It’s been four years… but he’s back. Chaz is… THE HOMEWRECKER. This time it’s not your girlfriend…It’s Your WIFE!”

I liked that he referred to me as the homewrecker as if I were the villain in a movie. So funny. I told him how Betty drove a light blue BMW 5 and that she and I stayed in motels in Wildwood to hook up. I never thought back then how much Betty must have spent on babysitting fees for someone to watch her daughter, Kelly while she galavanted around Wildwood with her young boy toy, ten years her junior.

But as much as I had built up a reputation as a rocker and charmer of women, it was nice to reach that legendary status with my friends. It’s all so silly when I think about it now.

I’d be on the phone with Betty.

“I want to come to Wildwood to see you this weekend, Chaz.”

“That would be great, Bets.”

“Can you maybe rent a room for us?”

Because the season hadn’t started yet, the rooms would not only be available at several motels in town, they’d be much cheaper. 

This became a regular thing with Betty and me. She liked her anonymity in Wildwood. She had no fear of running into anyone she and her husband knew up in Absecon. Plus, she had that whole rule about not having sex with her in her house, car, or matrimonial bed.

I was totally fine with it. I was working and had money to burn, and Betty always had cash. Most times she would pay for everything. I remember one day I was at her house and she gave me a brand new Gucci watch. It was beautiful. A 14k gold timepiece with a lizard skin strap.  I wore that watch until the strap practically dissolved on my wrist. I loved that watch. It was the nicest piece of jewelry I had ever owned.

At this point, I wasn’t falling for Betty…

I had already fallen.

I always shared with my mother what I was up to romantically in my life. I would sit at the kitchen table chatting with my mom and profess my love for my new, older girlfriend. I told my mom I was done dating girls and only wanted to date women now.

“Oh, you mean that alley cat you’re currently running around with?”

Mom did not approve. I think she had some concerns about the seed not falling far from the tree in this family. She had already had enough of my father’s many dalliances and probably feared I was becoming like him. On the other hand, I know my dad secretly loved the idea of his son capturing the heart of such a lovely woman that was in his wheelhouse.

(This polaroid was taken in a little photo booth in an arcade on the Wildwood boardwalk. It was her idea. I’m so glad we did this. I was so happy.)

We stayed in several different motels that spring and it was awesome. We once stayed in a motel that was right on the corner of 8th and Surf Ave. That was around 100 yards from my parent’s house! Crazy night!

We’d do fun things like go to the boardwalk, and it was amazing. Going out to eat and just spending time together. I just loved being with Betty. I know she enjoyed my company too because I think I helped her retain her youth and show her how fun it was to date again. I think she needed that in her broken marriage. 

The passion we shared.

I remember we once pulled up at a motel where one of my friends was working as a lifeguard and I introduced her to him. Betty Ann stepped out of the car in a white mini-dress. Her caramel skin glowed in the sun and her raven tresses tumbled over her shoulders like a moonless river.

I didn’t really hang out with this guy/clown anymore. He had burned too many bridges with me by then. I really did it just to show off my spectacular girlfriend to him. He later told me that if he ever got a girl like that he would never let her go, but I knew by then I was now operating at a level that he’d never understand, or ever be able to achieve. 

I was so proud to be with such a beautiful, sweet woman. Just kissing Betty was like waking up on Christmas morning. We’d kiss, and she always ended it with a little extra peck on the side of my lips. It was like she was putting her signature on that last kiss… just to remind me I was hers. 

But no matter what we did during the afternoon on our dates, it was all simply delaying the inevitable. We always ended up back in the room…and back in the saddle. 

(Cue up: Aerosmith – Rocks – Side 1, Track 1)

One night, we stayed in a motel on New Jersey Avenue. As summer approached it was getting harder to find available reasonably priced rooms. But it was a nice place, and of course, at the end of our fun day we ended up back there. I remember it being especially hot outside, and the air conditioner was right over the bed. It kept us cool while we passionately tore each other to pieces like teenagers through the night.

The next morning we walked out to the car and there was a piece of paper clipped under the windshield wiper. It looked like a ticket.

It was an official warning from the police.

The notice stated that we had violated the local noise ordinance in North Wildwood. It said that neighbors were complaining about the loud sounds of, “Moaning, Screaming, and a Squeaking Bed… Nonstop”.

I was obviously stunned, and Betty was horrified.

But as I read down toward the bottom, I recognized the name of the officer who had issued the warning last night. It was my buddy, Pitchy. He knew I was staying there and recognized Betty’s BMW.

Nice shot, dude.

(I may still have that warning ticket packed away somewhere!)

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 4 – Boy Toy

The next time I saw Betty was in the store. It was business as usual. She came in to order another video for purchase.

I would never kiss and tell and this new affair was top secret. No one I worked with knew what was happening between this queen and me, and I wanted it to keep it that way. I had never had an experience with an older woman, let alone a married one.

A few days passed.

When the movie she ordered came in I called her to let her know we had received it.

“Why don’t you bring it by my house tonight and bring something else we can watch. I’ll get a babysitter for little Kelly.”

After work that day I again drove to her house. This time it was under the cloak of night which I preferred. I was worried about her neighbors seeing something, or worse… saying something. I was pretty paranoid this whole time.

I get there and she invites me in. She gives me a hug and a little kiss. She’s very much in control of this situation.

She tells me that she’s having some issues with her video equipment and something’s not working right. This was pretty common back then. The technology was new and there were a lot of different complex hookups the average person didn’t understand. But because I was working at a video store I was a master of all things VCR and TV.

“I appreciate you taking a look at my system. I don’t know what’s wrong with it. Oh, and can you see if you can get the sound to come through the stereo when I watch a movie on the VCR?”

“I’ll take  look at that.”

“A couple of my girlfriends may be stopping by for a sec to drop off some stuff for a bridal shower we have to go to next week, okay?”

“I don’t care. You do your thing and I’ll see what’s wrong with your system, Betty.”

I’m down on the floor in front of their entertainment system checking all of the leads, wires and plugs. At one point I even had to move it away from the wall a bit and climb behind the piece of furniture.

I can hear the doorbell from the other room and Betty chatting with several other women.

But then it gets a little quiet. I’m checking the RCA audio/video cables and making sure red is right and white is left and yellow is direct video. I remember I had brought some really good gold top cables from the store. (Paid for with my employee discount of course!)

I came out from behind the unit to see several attractive ladies standing together giggling at the edge of the living room. They were whispering and smiling at me. Betty introduced me as her friend Chaz who was “helping” her with her video system from the store. I smiled and waved, and went back to the task at hand.

In a short time, I heard the front door close and Betty returned to the room.

“I think I fixed it, Betty. Watch.” I flipped a few switches and grabbed the remote. Everything was working fine and the sound was coming through the stereo now.

“Thank you, Dr. Video!”

I liked that title. “That’s me! At your service, Miss.”

“That was my friends. They thought you were cute.”

“They seemed nice.”

“I wanted them to see you. I was showing you off to them… my boy toy.”

“Is that what I am to you, Betty?”

“Of course. Come here and join me on the sofa.”

I obeyed like a dog. She welcomed me into her arms and we kissed. I loved kissing Betty. She was just so beautiful and perfect.

If she wanted me to rob a bank with her I would have done it.

She takes my hands and looks into my eyes. “Listen Chaz. We have to talk about a couple of things.”

(Here we go…) “Okay…” (Is this where we plan to rob a bank?)

“We have to have some rules. We can’t fool around in this house.”

(What’s she talking about? We haven’t even done anything yet!)

“You can’t drive my car, and we can’t fool around in my car. We can’t ever have sex in my bed either. I can only see you when I can because I’m the one with everything to lose here. I’m the one who’s married.”

(This all seems a bit premature, but I’ll say whatever she wants at this point. I just like seeing her.)

“I understand, Betty. I’m just happy to know you and spend time with you. I’d never do anything to make you feel uncomfortable in any way or jeapordize your marriage in any way.” (But in reality, it was she who called me and started this whole affair. But whatever.)

“That’s good, Chaz. We can have a lot of fun together and I think you’re a sweet guy. I just need to set some guidelines at the onset of this.”

“I totally agree, Betty. You’re right. I promise to respect your wishes and will make every effort to protect your interests.”

(I can almost hear my father in this moment…)

“Thank you, Chaz. That means a lot to me. I just don’t want any complications.”

“Me either, Betty.”

“C’mere…” She pulls me to her and kisses me deeply. It felt wonderful to hold and kiss this lovely woman with caramel skin. Her raven tresses tumbled over her shoulders like a moonless river.

I wasn’t falling for Betty at this point. I had already fallen for her the first time I laid eyes on her in the store. It was instant. But I never dreamed I’d be here with her right now. It was all a miraculous dream. I felt resurrected after failing to become a rockstar in Los Angeles. Here I was still able to pull the talent. I still had my mad game no matter what I did for a living. I had come so far from the timid, loser of my early teen years. Now I could get the kind of girls I could never have imagined would even talk to me in junior high school. But here I was. Making out with the lovely Betty Ann.

Most men dream about getting women they fantasize about when they meet them in real life. But I had become a magnet for this in the summer of 1980 in Wildwood and later in LA.

We wrestled on her sofa like a couple of high school kids. I don’t even remember what videos I brought over and I know we didn’t watch them. It was exciting. It was probably something Betty missed in her life now. She missed the rush of a new guy. A new face. A young man. Boundless energy and a fiery libido in its absolute prime. I was just happy to be in this simple teenage-like intimate moment with her. We were like a couple of kids just making out on the couch and doing a little gentle touching.

“I really appreciate you listening to me tonight, Chaz. It means a lot to me that you’ll respect my wishes and stick to my rules. I needed that.”

“Of course. I completely understand.”

Betty smiled and held me tightly. Her warm perfume swirled about me as my face disappeared into her dark mane that was like ribbons of coal.

At that moment, I knew.

I knew what I had to do. I was now determined to a singular mission.

I was going to break EVERY ONE of those rules and Betty Ann was going to like it.

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 3 – Lipstick on your Collar

Spring, 1984

I called Betty and assured her I was on my way. I had the necessary videos on the front seat of my car.

Betty lived in a nice house in a lovely neighborhood in Absecon. As I pulled into the development, it was as if they had simply poured asphalt into the shape of a road through the woods and dropped a few elegant houses in there.

I parked away from the property and approached her house. (What if something crazy happens and I have to make a quick getaway?)

Betty Knight. The prettiest lady that came in our video store. How was this different from California? Those days in the early 80s were full of debauchery and recklessness. I was back. But I lived with my parents for god’s sake. I failed out there in L.A. My career or, my imagined career in music was already over. Why? How did that happen? All I ever wanted was to be a rockstar and now here I am.

I sang in a band in Philly, played guitar in a band in Wildwood, and played more rock in L.A., and none of it amounted to anything. My favorite thing in the world wasn’t going to happen to me. What was to be my fate now? Was I just a leaf cast upon the winds of my whims and dreams only to be cast asunder in some grinding domestic life from now on?

But all of the magic things happened in the summer of 1977, 1980, and 1983. I was on a 3-year success cycle there. What happened? It’s 1984, and I thought my luck had run out. My transformation was over. I’ve had my laughs and had my fun with all the girls, I need to buckle down and fly right.

But here I am. Walking up the pathway to this lady’s house. This stranger. This beautiful woman that looks like a Mayan queen and smells like the first day of spring. No matter what I do I always end up here. Walking up to the next adventure. The next extraordinary affair in my life. Why do I keep doing this? Maybe it’s not me, and it’s the forces trying to get me back on track as to where I’m supposed to be.

(This is her front porch. What’s behind the Green Door?)

I was nothing in the ’70s. Then I rose up. But there were those who seemed superior to me. Undoubtedly these things had been allotted to the beautiful, the athletic, and those with clear skin. This stuff was for them. Not a loser like me.

But here she is. I’m at her house. Not a girl. Not some teenager hanging at my side by the pinball machine. This was a woman. 10 years my senior. For some reason, she’s chosen me. It can’t really be happening.

Is my co-worker Tyrone some sort of cupid or even a wizard in matters of love?

I didn’t know what love was back then. Any love I ever felt for anyone came at a price. Whether it was scorn or the sweetest touch of a hand in mine.

I knocked on the door. There’s the moment. You’ve made a sound. Has it been received? There is nothing in the world right now but you and your waiting.

Do you knock again?

No.

Wait.

Knock again. Use the brass knocker on the door this time, buster.

I can’t believe I’m standing here right now. In this neighborhood, knocking on this customer’s door. I look down at the two plastic tape cases in my hand. Rod Stewart and Eddie and the Cruisers on Beta.

The door opens.

Betty is dressed in casual clothes. Light blue button-down blouse and jeans with white Keds. Those dark eyes and raven mane though…

Nothing alarming here. Gotta stay cool. She welcomes me into her home.

She’s lovely and relaxed. I on the other hand am a cluster of nerves and anxiety. I almost can’t describe the feeling. It’s as if I’ve been the miraculous winner of some exotic lottery.

We exchange pleasantries and I set the vids on the table. Her house is how one would picture the home of what appears to be a wealthy person. I know she drives a light blue BMW 5 series, but I don’t know what Betty does for a living.

She takes me on a tour of her house. It’s clean, neat, and nicely appointed, but nothing that points to extravagance. But it’s a really nice house in a very nice neighborhood. We go down a flight of stairs that lead to the basement. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean the basement in some John Carpenter film, it’s a finished basement. As we head down the steps I see some framed photos that appear to have been taken at the Grand Prix. This part of the house is giving me a strong male vibe here.  We walk through a finished playroom area complete with a bar and pool table. Spider sense is tingling like mad now.

“Well, I guess you know I’m married.”

“Umm… No, I didn’t. I hadn’t thought of that, Betty.”

To be honest, if a lady is renting little mermaid videos she obviously has a little daughter. If she has a little daughter, she might be married. But in my blind desire for her back at the store, I can honestly say I didn’t think about any of that. I know I should have, but at that age, I only saw what was before me and what I liked and wanted. I think that’s simply a trait of youth. You act before you think of the repercussions of your decisions. I know I did that well into my 40’s! You want what you want when you want it, and nothing is going to stop you from getting it. You only see the end goal and not all the hazards along the way to your destination.

“My husband, Dick works at the Showboat Casino.”

“Is he in the mob?”

“Oh gosh, no. I wish everybody would stop assuming that just because someone works at the executive level in a casino they’re associated with the mafia.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean…”

“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter. Follow me.”

Betty then takes me into the laundry room. (Is this where I get murdered and no one ever hears from me again?) I doubt it. Betty is 5’3″ and 100 lbs. She reaches into the dryer and pulls out a man’s dress shirt. She holds out the collar to me.

“Look at this.”

“Okay… Hmm…”

“What does that look like to you?”

“That looks like lipstick, Betty.”

“Yea. The lipstick on your collar always tells the tale on you.”

“I suppose so… I wouldn’t…”

“And look at this.” She reaches behind a cup on the shelf above the washer and produces what appears to be a woman’s earring.

“I found that in his car.”

Things don’t look good for Dick at this point. Who named Richard goes by the name Dick anyway? I would love to know the question’s when, how, and why.

“Wow.”

“Yea, what does all of that make you think of?”

“Well if that’s not your earring and that smear on the collar of his shirt is clearly not your color, I’d say your husband is probably cheating you, Betty.”

“Yep. That son of a bitch.”

Clearly, she’s pissed.

Why is she showing me all of this so early in our first meeting? It’s as if a message and a motive need to be sent. As nervous as I am at this moment, I kind of like the rush and intrigue of my current situation. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been like this. The nice innocent guy who is somehow drawn into the darker aspects of existence. This is a precarious position I’m in and the bigger question is… where is Dick right now? Cheater or not, I’m in the basement of the guy’s house with his wife right now. I don’t know where the escape routes or heavy sharp objects are in the house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Where is he right now?”

“He’s in Chicago on business until Tuesday.”

(Sigh of relief.) Oh… okay. Well, I’m sorry this is happening to you, Betty. You seem like a really nice lady.”

“I am, but I should have expected something like this to eventually happen. Let’s go back upstairs. Would you like a beer?”

“That would be awesome.” (Alcohol would be the perfect remedy for my nerves right now.)

We get up to the brightly lit kitchen. “When you said you should have expected this, what did you mean?”

She takes a bottle of Heineken from the fridge and pops the cap. Pouring it slowly into a pilsner glass I notice how dainty her hands are and how lovely her vermillion nails are. “Well, that’s how I met Dick. A leopard doesn’t change his spots.”

“Go on…”

“I was his secretary. He was married before. I worked for him in my early twenties and he started having an affair with me.”

“He left his wife and married you?”

“Yep. So I suppose I should have seen this coming. Maybe he’s tired of me now that I’m 32. I wonder who he’s fooling around with this time.”

Her sadness mixed with betrayal and scorn flashed before me. She’s so beautiful and perfect that I can’t imagine a man wanting anything but her. But I was young. I’m jaded from being in bands and living in L.A. for a couple of years, but youth is still a place I can’t escape. I take a deep swig from the ice-cold beer for solace.

“I’m sorry, Betty. I’m glad you feel comfortable enough with me to tell me how you’re feeling.” (I’m navigating new waters at this point.)

“Yea… Hey, come look at my cul-de-sac. I love my cul-de-sac.”

Okay, at this point I have no idea what a cul-de-sac is. Is it french for some sort of sexual thing? No. Can’t be. Is it something in the house? I’m lost here. I had heard the word but never knew what it meant or what it was.

She walks me over to the kitchen sink. I look down. Okay… drain, spigot, dish sprayer thing. What am I supposed to be looking at?

She points out the window over the sink. “Look. Isn’t that a lovely cul-de-sac?”

All I see out there is the end of a street surrounded by other nice houses in a circle with no apparent exit. It’s just a street that ends with no passage. I’m confused but I have to play along. I look intently out the window at the view. “Well, I must say, Betty… that’s about the best-looking cul-de-sac I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“I know, right?”

But as I turn around and away from the window, Betty is standing right there in front of me. Like, right there. Like six inches in front of me. My heart quickens as I look into her dark eyes. I can feel the familiar searing burst of warm color that explodes in my mind and heart.

This is ignition.

I set my glass on the counter and kiss her lips. It feels like I’ve kissed her before. But it’s brand new. But there’s a friendly familiarity to her kiss. We fit naturally together like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be in the universe right now. I take her in my arms and we kiss deeply. It’s amazing. I’ve been kissing girls all of my life. but now I’m kissing a woman. A beautiful, exquisite, experienced woman. My god, she’s beautiful. If Dick walks in here right now and shoots me dead, I’ll die willingly knowing the last thing I ever did in this life was to kiss this lovely woman.

The kiss comes to a conclusion and she hugs me tightly. She smells incredible. What is that fragrance? Is that Red Door? I don’t know. I can’t think straight. There’s too much dopamine firing in my brain. I lean back on the counter and look at her. She smiles and her eyes twinkle as she tosses her raven mane to the side. My god… what did I do to deserve this moment?

Instant love.

“You’re cute, Chaz. I like you. Bonus points for being a great kisser.”

I blush like mad and look down. “I always liked you, Betty. Ever since the first time you came into the store. You were my favorite. You’re the prettiest girl that comes in the store. I’m glad Tyrone said something to you now.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but this is probably what she needed to hear from her husband. She was over 30 and had a 5-year-old daughter now. No longer the spring chicken she was when she met her husband. No longer the forbidden fruit that he spent time with at the office every day. Most men never leave their wives for the mistress, but this guy did, and then cheated again.

“I always thought you were cute and nice, Chaz.”   Get your beer. Let’s go into the living room. and watch a movie.”

We watched Eddie and the Cruisers. It is a cool story, with a great soundtrack, but is a cliche-ridden mess. But I didn’t care, I was just happy to be sitting on the couch with this pretty lady. There were more beers drank and more sweet kisses stolen.

We watched some of the Rod Stewart video because she loved him. Most girls from that generation loved Rod Stewart. I never understood it, and neither did my mother. “What do they see in that skinny big nosed Scotsman?” she would say. But what was happening here now was no place for thoughts about my mom.

After some cuddling on the couch and more kisses, it was time to wrap up the day. I smooched her one more time before opening her door and making my departure. We planned on getting together soon, and I didn’t ask any questions. It was her movie and I was merely an actor in this one. A very willing actor.

I think this was an audition for me. Betty wanted to see what I was like outside of the store. She felt comfortable enough to bring me to her home, so at least there was that.  But would I get a lead role in this affair?

Only time would tell.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Check out my latest book, LAWNDALE now for sale on Amazon!

Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 2 – Infatuation

If you missed Part One, you can read it here.

Spring  1984 – Wildwood, NJ

I was 22 years old.

Like any job when you work with men, we always have our favorite female customers that come in. Everybody had their favorites, but there are always the top 5, top 3, and number 1. I know it may sound silly or sexist, but it’s really just something men do. I’m sure women do the same thing as well. That certain guy that comes in with the shoulders, eyes, or voice that makes you weak in the knees when he comes in your store to buy or rent something. It makes any job more fun.

But there was this one lady that came in that I absolutely adored. She was petite, with lovely caramel skin and raven hair. Her name was Betty Knight.

Not Elizabeth.

Betty.

I made it known to my male coworkers that she was my number 1. They all agreed she was one of the prettiest women that came into our store. No one knew much about her other than the fact she was beautiful, over the age of 30, and had a little daughter. Just a lovely lady who periodically came into the store to rent movies.

There was this black guy I worked with named, Tyrone. He was in perfect physical condition. I remember the guy just being in incredible shape. He could just grab onto any secure object from above and pull himself up in the air. You could wash clothes on this guy’s abs. I was always envious of guys that looked like that. Anyway, he was a sweet guy who had a goofy sense of humor.

He liked silly jokes and pulling pranks. One time I was putting away some of the video boxes on the shelves in the library. I was reaching up high to put a box on a shelf and Tyrone snuck up behind me and tickled me. I was not only surprised, I accidentally farted. I was embarrassed, but Tyrone thought this was the funniest thing he’d ever seen. He joked and kidded about it with me for the rest of the week.

I didn’t really mind, because no one else was around when he did it, and he didn’t tell any of my co-workers.  He simply enjoyed juvenile humor. I liked him so I took it in stride. Just locker room horseplay among guys working together in a boring retail job. Let’s face it, farts are funny.

He knew I liked Ms. Knight because when she would come in I always said that I’d wait on her. I would fuss over her and go above and beyond on the charm and customer service. I don’t know if she realized it at the time, but I simply did it because I thought she was gorgeous, and enjoyed engaging her in the store. Any excuse to chat with her and be near such an ethereal beauty.

Thursday

One morning I was working the day shift with my man, Tyrone. We were just working the counter, chatting, and watching videos on MTV. (Which ran all day, every day at the store.) Betty came in to drop off some videos and get some more. Of course, I greeted her and did intake on her returns. She then went back to the library section to look for more movies.

When I looked at her account I noticed she rented The Little Mermaid on a regular basis. Now, this isn’t the one we’re all familiar with. This isn’t the animated Disney classic that my daughter grew up on. This was a cartoon made back in 1975, and one of several titles that found its way onto home video in the 1980’s. I’m talking some Hans Christian Andersen stuff here.

Amazon.com: Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid: Fumie KASHIYAMA, Tomoharu KATSUMATA: Movies & TV

Not many people have ever seen this relic, but back in the mid-’80s, you couldn’t get many Disney titles back then. They hadn’t made the leap to home video yet. I knew a guy I worked with who had a bootleg of Disney’s Pinocchio back then. That was a rare and illegal copy of the film. The video and audio were poor quality, but it was still Pinocchio and a watchable dub.

We chatted a little bit when she returned to the counter to rent her movies. I mentioned to her that I noticed that she rented the Little Mermaid quite often and that if she wanted we could order her a copy for purchase and it would only be around forty bucks. I even told her I could hook her up with a discount. She said she’d think about it.

The transaction passed without incident and she was preparing to leave. Then Tyrone suddenly said the following words:

“Charles likes you, Miss Knight!”

I was mortified. I couldn’t believe the unmitigated, awkward, audacity of the outburst. Was this something he did to his friends? Just outed their private romantic feelings to whomever? It was insane.

“Shut up, Tyrone!”

She simply smiled and I was so embarrassed I could barely look up from the counter. She gathered her things and walked out the door, smiling and saying goodbye.

“What the hell, man?”

“What? You know you like her!”

“But you didn’t have to tell her! I don’t know anything about this woman! It’s weird, dude!”

Tyrone just laughed it off and went back to stocking the shelves.

A week or so passed, and I was working at the counter with a different guy who worked there. That’s when the phone rang. My co-worker was waiting on someone so I answered it.

“Thank you for calling Home Video Centers, this is Charles. How can I help you?”

“Charles. Just the person I want to talk to. This is Betty Knight.”

(My heart rate speeding up…)

“Oh… Hi Betty. What can I do for you?”

“I thought about what you said, and I want to order the Little Mermaid for purchase. Can you order it for me?”

“Sure! Let me just write that up and take some of your information for the order.”

I do that and then… “We’ll probably get that in a week to ten days, and I can probably get you a discount. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“Umm… would you like to get together sometime?”

My brain almost couldn’t process the data that was coming through the phone into my ear. I nearly threw the receiver into the air thinking this was some sort of spell that had been cast upon me by evil wizards and witches.

“Uh… yea. Sure…” (Anxiety raced through my system like a freight train.)

“You have my address and phone number. Are you working Saturday?”

“No…”

“Why don’t you just come to my house on Saturday around 2pm. Can you do that?”

“Yes, I can Betty.”

“Bring over a couple of tapes. I like Rod Stewart. Bring over one of his concert videos and maybe something else. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Uhh… how about Eddie and the Cruisers. That’s a great movie.” (trembling)

My mind is reeling at a million miles per hour. Dopamine is searing my brain as it explodes and blooms like a flower in my cerebrum.

“Great. Call me before you come, okay?”

“Sure thing, Betty.”

“Great. I’m looking forward to seeing you, Chaz.”

“Umm… you too. See you then.”

She hung up and I had to step away from the counter. I had to go outside into the parking lot to process what the hell just happened. I lit a cigarette. How was this possible? She’s like the hottest woman that comes in here! Why me? This almost seems like a prank. It can’t be real. It can’t be happening to me! I’ve lived a charmed life since I was 15 years old, but I don’t remember anything about me getting wishes granted. Had I somehow accidentally made some pact with the devil for my soul one night while I was drunk? This can’t really be happening.

But it was happening.

It was real, and it was on.

More next Tuesday!

Check out my latest book, LAWNDALE on Amazon!

It’s chock full of stories from my youth growing up in Northeast Philly in the 70s!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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Wildwood Daze – Betty Ann – Part 1 – Home Video Center

Winter 1984 – Wildwood, NJ

Upon my return from California after failing to become a metal god, I took a job as a sales clerk at Home Video Center in Northfield, NJ. The last job I had in Los Angeles was at a video store called Videon. It was a new idea back when VHS & Beta were in their infancy. The owner of a chain of stores in LA called Music + decided that home video was going to take off and wanted to create a new line of stores that catered only to video. So I had a little experience in a new industry.

I was 22 years old.

It was a fun job, and I liked the people I worked with. We had 500 titles in both formats, VHS and Beta. We carried, all kinds of titles. Drama, comedy, horror, thrillers, kids movies, and also adult titles. (The adult titles were all stashed on the very top of the shelves so kids couldn’t see them.) It was funny how people rented pornography back then. There was no internet, and the only place you could view porn back then was in magazines, or some sleazy adult theater or peep show in a rough part of the city. Now video brought pornographic movies right into the homes of America for the first time. It was funny when people would rent porn. They would get a few legitimate titles and the porn box was always at the bottom of their stack or sandwiched in the middle. They had to hide their desires. But we were trained to be professionals and after a while you ring up the titles like anything else you do in a job. It’s simply another transaction. Like when I worked in a bank. The money loses it’s meaning because it’s just part of the job. You might as well be handling lettuce. The companies that made porn videos back then must have made billions of dollars. They already made their films on the cheap. (Every movie is about the same thing) and they already had all of the films, so they just attached themselves to a new delivery system to get their products into the hands and pants of America. But surprisingly, adult titles were a very small part of what we rented. People wanted quality films they could enjoy at home with their family and friends. It was a good job. We were selling entertainment. That’s a good thing. (But, please, be kind, and rewind the tape when you’re finished watching it!)

They had more movies in one place than I had ever seen. It was amazing, because we could rent up to three movies at a time for free. I saw so many films I had been dying to see for so many years and this was a huge win for a film guy like me. Home video changed the way people got their entertainment. We were no longer chained to local programming and cable TV. We could watch what we wanted when we wanted for a fee. This was the beginning of the way we get our entertainment today.

Here’s a post I wrote a while ago about how wonderful that experience could be when shared between family members.

My Father’s Chair

I worked the rental counter with a few other people, and they had one or two sales guys that sold VCRs, TVs and video cameras. When I think about that technology now and how groundbreaking it was, it all seems so ancient now that I can do all of the things that all of those machines did with my cell phone.

There were five owners, and they banked at First Fidelity bank where my dad was a regional manager. He got me the gig at Home Video Centers. Again, my father helping me find gainful employment. He told me to go apply and they naturally hired me. It’s funny how history repeats itself. My dad got me the job at Hunt’s Pier, Home Video, and later Circle Liquors. I got my daughter the hostess job at The Continental when she first moved to Philly in high school, then the gig at Bar Bom Bon, and later a part-time position at a local smoke shop during the pandemic. So it goes full circle. My father led by example, and he taught me to walk where he walked… not where he pointed. I’ve tried to do the same for my daughter.

The other four owners were silent partners. Brad ran the operation for the stores. (We also had a site in Vineland, NJ.) They had a manager that was in charge of the staff, named John. A cool ex marine that had a humorous intensity about him. I really liked him. I’m pretty sure he was married to Brad’s daughter and that’s how he got the job. Speaking of family, one of the partner’s daughter’s worked there too. Her name was Valerie and we used to call her Video Val. (I think because her monogrammed  license plates said that.) She was a sweet girl who loved all things Madonna. I mean, LOVED Madonna like I loved Aerosmith. So I got her passion. For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 80s, Madonna was the Britney Spears of the music scene back then.  I remember taking Val out for some gin and tonics and then we wet to see the film, Suddenly Seeking Susan, a movie that Madonna had a small part in. Val always liked me and we were good friends back then.

It was a good crew of people. The one owner Brad was in and out, or up in his office. John managed the place and there were a few guys who worked in the repair shop in the back. Can you imagine that now? There was a whole workshop back there where a few tech guys would repair and clean ppeople’sVCRs. I remember some guy brought in his front loading betamax and said it  something was wrong with it because he couldn’t put a tape in it. When the guys opened it up, they found a little toy car inside that his son had put inside it thinking it was a garage for his matchbox cars.

Sony Betamax ARABIA SL-T20ME RED PAL & SECAM Beta auto voltage *free shipping*

I have to admit, it does look like a little garage door on the front. You could jam a whole fleet of Hot Wheels in that thing. I’m sure the man wasn’t pleased.

It was a good group of people working together in a relatively new industry. I remember when I was back in California I went to a party at some rich dude’s house and he had a VCR. Nobody I knew had one of those back in 1982. It cost him around $1500 back then. It was new desirable technology back then and they could charge what they wanted for it.

We also sold some of the old big screen rear projection TV sets. That was an amazing yet primitive hunk of furniture and technology. They made them 36 inches up to around 40 inchesscreen-wisee back then. They were thousands of dollars but we sold a lot of them. Back then it was the best way to watch a movie at home or a sporting event. Some of them weren’t that bad, (Sony, and Mitsubishi made the best ones of course) but most of them really didn’t have much clarity as classic tube sets of the day. Little did we know that one day you could have a 50 inch flat screen that you could hang on the wall for around $300 from Walmart!

I remember one day this guy came in and there were a couple of us guys hanging out on the sales floor. The conversation went like this:

Guy: “Do you guys sell anything that I can use to get stains off abig-screenn TV?”

John: “Hmm… I could check in the back.”

Guy: “Okay.”

Me: “Actually, we have a product like that. It’s called, “Cums Off.”

We all burst into laughter, including the guy, who got the ‘big screen, you’ve been watching too much porn reference.’

Me: “I’m sorry sir, I just couldn’t resist. I would just turn off the set, unplug it, and use a little light soap and water on a cloth. Wipe the screen down vertically.”

It was a riot.

Working at Home Video Venters was a cool job. I watched all of LIVE AID while at work. It was on every TV all day and a magical day for a musician and music lover like me. It was amazing to watch all of the music stars of the day rock out in an all day live concert up in Philly.

I saw the whole MOVE thing happen in Philly as well at Home Video Centers. I watched as they burned down Osage Avenue on 30 TVs around the store.

I learned everything there was to know about VCRs, VHS, Beta, and wiring up audio and video systems to work together. I once rewired an entire media room including all the HIFI aspects of the system to make it all sing together in one room.

I saw my first Pioneer laser disc. I saw my first compact disc at that job. I remember putting the demo disc in a CD player in a 100100-wattstem and hearing the band Rush’s song, Tom Sawyer for the first time digitally. I was blown away by the power and clarity and sound of this new technology.

Plus, I’m surrounded every day by bunch of people who love film and watching movies. I remember going to see Hitchcock’s, The Man Who Knew Too Much with a buddy of mine at a small revival theater. It was amazing. I had never seen any older films in the theater in my life. Only new stuff. Just brilliant!

Oh, Betty? I’ll get to her in the next installment. Tune in next Tuesday. I’ve had too much fun writing about the video store!

Check out my latest book, LAWNDALE on Amazon!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. 

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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California Dreamin’ – VIDEON

Santa Monica, CA – 1983

I always loved music and films, so at some point, I decided that working in a music store would be better than working at a restaurant. I applied at several around Los Angeles and got an interview with a chain called Music Plus. They sold albums, tapes, videos, and concert tickets. I remember acquiring tickets to see David Bowie on his Serious Moonlight tour from there! But that’s another story.

Here’s another author’s memories in regard to Music Plus:

https://www.championnewspapers.com/opinion_and_commentary/chino_memories/article_4d1201f6-23d7-11e8-88aa-9faa52530da0.html

They liked me well enough but told me they didn’t have anything available in their music stores. But they were opening a flagship video store on Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica.

I knew that VHS and Beta were emerging in the home video market and thought it would be a cool job. Music Plus was a retail chain around LA, and since video was growing they decided to designate a whole store to just videotape sales and rentals.

It was a great idea at the time and the owner was truly a visionary for coming up with the idea. (We all know what happened in the coming years with the arrival of Blockbuster, but this was at the very beginning of the home video craze.)

VCR’s cost over $1500 back then and were the size of old electric typewriters. They weighed a ton and I think Beta was the only format in the beginning. Sony invented Beta and VHS but Beta was the better format. More compact with a simpler mechanism with better sound and video. They sold off the rights to VHS because it was inferior. But more companies bought it up and started making VHS VCRs like crazy. VHS ultimately won out in the format wars simply because more companies manufactured the machines and they were more available to the public. Funny, how the superior format failed to the inferior one simply based on availability. Man-made selection at its best!

I was 20 years old and just happy to not be working in a hot, sweaty kitchen in a bar and grill until midnight every day. This was a cool, clean job in a new industry.

The day manager was this super French guy who was easily well into his forties. He knew a lot about film and especially foreign films so that was cool. In the evenings they had another manager named Renee who was probably around twenty-five. She was short with brown hair and eyes. Kind of cute, but that was ruined by her bitchy personality. She seemed over her head in the position and was always short-tempered and stressed. She was always scheduling me to close with her because she liked me. Even though she was cranky a lot of the time, I knew she dug me. She would always ask me to smoke a joint with her out in the parking lot after work. I obliged because I figured maybe she’d be nicer if I hung out with her.

One night that parking lot smoke turned into a bit more and we ended up back at her place. I was young and didn’t possess the moral compass I have today. (Come on… who am I kidding? You’ve read this blog.)

There was one other girl who worked there most days with me, who was the quintessential 80s girl. (Think one of the members of the band The Go Gos) She was after me as well. Where were all the available men in LA back then? Nothing ever happened between us because I just wasn’t that into her. She seemed weird.

We had a good time working there and it was fun being around all of those movies all day. I learned a lot about film and the video industry working there. The whole store was arranged by studio, not by subject. So we had a section for Warner, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, etc.

The best part was, at lunch you could go in the back and watch a video while dining on your sandwich.

But here’s the interesting part. This was a legit spin-off from a big music store chain. Everything was above board. For the most part.

You won’t believe what the home video experience cost back then. It was a fledgling industry and everything was new, so that means expensive. The machines were a fortune, and the tapes were really pricey as well. Most videotape movies started at $59.95 to purchase. But we did have a rental program. It was $100 to join and to rent a movie it was over $20 and you had to leave a huge deposit on your credit card every time you rented some movies. Isn’t that crazy? It was like renting an automobile!

I remember when Raiders of the Lost Ark came out on videotape. It had made so much money worldwide, they released it for $39.95 on VHS and Beta. This was unheard of. A groundbreaking low price for a blockbuster film.

Next was the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and the music video all in one tape. That was released for only $29.95. The lowest price ever offered for a home videotape ever. We sold the hell out of them.

There were NO Disney titles of any kind on VHS and Beta. I think they were waiting to see what the NEW format would do for their stockholders. (Now they own everything!)

We didn’t have hundreds of copies of popular movies back then. Most of the films available were from the past. So everything in the store was from the 70s and back. New movies were in the theaters and it would be years until they landed on video. But there were plenty of great films to watch. But the only place I could check out titles was during lunch in the back.

But here’s the twist to this upstanding business called VIDEON. We sold the occasional tape to some wealthy people who wanted to own some quality films to show their friends and family.

Home video was in its infancy and it was like the wild west back then. Here’s what they did at VIDEON. Say, someone rents a few films. They watch them and return them after the 3 day allocated time. We take that tape in the back room. There is a table with a spool of shrinkable cellophane on a roll and an industrial blow dryer. We rewind the tape and rewrap it in our own little shrink wrap. We sear the creases on the spool so it seals the wrap. We then hit it with the blow dryer and that shrinks the wrap so that it clings to the original box with the tape in it. Does it look brand new? Does it look like it came from the factory? No. But do the customers know that? No.

So basically they were renting movies all the time and then repackaging them and selling them as new to unsuspecting customers. I wasn’t comfortable with this practice because it just didn’t seem right. People were tricked into thinking they were buying something brand new and paying the top retail price. But in actuality were being sold a used product. That smells like fraud to me. It had to be illegal. But like I said, back then it was the wild west. I was getting a paycheck every week so I never said anything about their diabolical criminal enterprise.

The way to tell was, I knew what the rewrapped shrink wrap looked like, and if you looked through the window on the tape, the tape on the spool was slightly uneven. When they’re new, this is not the case.

I don’t know what happened to that company, but I’m sure they were devoured by Blockbuster some years later. (It was the last job I had before leaving California)

It’s funny how when something’s new, it costs a fortune and feels so exclusive. But in a few years, it’s all cheap and available to everyone. Now, it’s all gone. You can simply stream everything. DVDs aren’t even a thing anymore.

But it was a fun job and a peek at was to come in the world of home video in the future.

I recommend you watch the documentary The Last Blockbuster on Netflix. Very interesting. The best bits are about the business and corporate end of that industry. The rest is just a bunch of self-absorbed clowns talking about their love for Blockbuster and home video.

But I will say this one last thing. I do have some wonderful memories of picking up my little daughter on a Friday night and heading over to the local Blockbuster. We’d pick out some movies, popcorn, and candy for the weekend. It was a fun ritual that just about everyone I know once did together.

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Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Type. Tune. Tint. – LAWNDALE Podcast with Tom Kranz

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a gentleman I didn’t know. His name is Tom Kranz, and he’s an author and has his own podcast called Type. Tune. Tint. He asked me if I would be a guest on his show, and of course I agreed!

We talked about my latest book, LAWNDALE and how we’re from the same part of the city and some of our collective history. It was a great experience and I’m really grateful that Tom reached out to me.

I decided that I should share it with you all and hope you enjoy listening to this short piece as much as I did making it with Tom. It’s entitled: Creativity Born in a Philadelphia Row home.

Enjoy!

You can listen to it here:

Here’s the link too:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1208186/11295399

Here’s some more links to Tom’s work. He’s an accomplished author in his own right! Below is a link to his blog where he talks about LAWNDALE and the process.

Tom’s blog. He wrote a really nice post about me and my creative life. Check it out!

Thank you, Tom!

I’m super excited about being on his podcast and I hope you all enjoy it. I owe this fellow Philadelphian and neighbor a drink the next time he’s in center city!

If you’re one of the few who hasn’t gotten your copy of LAWNDALE, you can order it below.

Thanks once again to everyone who bought my book!

You can check out all of my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every week.

Star Wars Is Cool Again

Star Wars has always been a love of mine. Since it came out in 1977, I’ve been a fan. It was such a huge part of my teenage life just like the band, Aerosmith. We loved Star Wars and everything about the whole mythology for years. But then something occurred in the 90s. George Lucas decided to produce the prequels. If you’re a fan you know how badly that went.

Then there were the sequels in the last few years. Not as bad as the prequels but they just felt like a nostalgic retread to please all the Star Wars fanboys. Just updated versions of the original gems. Sad knock offs for any true fan of the original trilogy.

But a couple of years ago something wonderful happened. They made Rogue One which is a new prequel to the events leading up to the 1977 original, A New Hope. It was a really good and unique story. I liked it and so did my friends. But the sequels were still happening and they just didn’t feel right.

Then they came out with the series The Mandalorian. I watched it and LOVED it. It looked and felt like the original Star Wars from my youth. That’s pretty hard to do, but it’s been done. This is how it all should have gone down after Return of the Jedi, but didn’t. But now here we are exploring these new characters and it has the look and feel of the classic originals. I’m very pleased.

Then last year they came out with the Book of Boba Fett. I didn’t know how that was going to be but my fingers were crossed. I LOVED that too!

I think after 20 years the guys who were teenagers like me when we first encountered Star Wars are now making the new movies and shows. If that’s what it took, then so be it. I’m happy and it’s nice to see that there’s a group of artists that know what they’re doing and are expanding the Star Wars universe the right way.

So to my friends and me there really are only a few true Star Wars projects:

Rogue One – A New Hope – The Empire Strikes Back – Return of the Jedi – The Mandalorian – The Book of Boba Fett.

That’s it so far. If there is anything else after Boba then I haven’t seen it yet at the time of this writing. But we’re headed in the right direction and I think the true fans will agree!

Thank you, Jon Favreau!!!!

Update: The next Star Wars show that is coming out will be on Disney+ and is called Andor, dropping on September 21st. So… YAY!

Check out my new book on Amazon!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly.

You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

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