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.

Check out my latest book LAWNDALE on Amazon!

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

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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!

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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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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!

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LAWNDALE – The 312 Magee Avenue Playlist

The Lawndale book is just one week away from being published!

While writing the Lawndale book I started to think about all of the music we listened to growing up in the house on 312 Magee.

There was always some sort of music playing somewhere in the house at any given time. Whether it was my mom listening to Andy Williams on the record player in the dining room while she did her housework, or us kids listening to our records.

My father always loved music and would listen to classical and operas in the basement while he worked or read his books.

We had the jukebox on the porch that had been loaned to us by a couple that my dad was friends with and we loved that thing!

There was the the 8-track player in the 1969 VW minibus that we all rocked out to on trips on the road with dad.

We listened to the radio in the kitchen and would hear all the new popular songs of the day.

I would sometimes bring a little record player to the dinner table and sit it on the seat next to me. My dad wasn’t home, and it would be just my mom and my sisters. I would put little 45 rpm records on and we would all sing to them. It was a riot!

I got into listening to some of my favorite songs and bands recently on Spotify and thought about creating a playlist of all the music we heard in our house growing up as kids. Not just the music we owned, but all the theme songs from our favorite shows that were on TV in the 60s and 70s.

At first I thought it would be cool to share it with my sisters for nostalgic reasons. But then I thought, wouldn’t it be great to share it with all of the people who might remember some of these songs from their past as well.

So I’ve decided to add to the anticipation of the Lawndale book coming out next week and share it with everybody as a soundtrack to the book.

Some of the songs you may not recognize but some will make you smile and take you back to a simpler time. This is an eclectic mix of music and themes from the 60s and 70s that were alive in our house at 312 Magee growing up.

I hope you enjoy it, and maybe you’ll listen to it in the background while reading my book! (Don’t worry if you don’t have a Spotify account. It’s free and you can just go on and check it out!)

Here it is! The 312 Magee soundtrack!

https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/5nQ0QYz4dBIphiU7hiIZR4?utm_source=generator

I hope you all enjoy listening to this as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I’d also be happy to add any songs I may have forgotten!

Enjoy!

LAWNDALE the book will be available on Amazon next Tuesday on August 9th!

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Another Life – Chapter 3

We took them to a movie – Dutch treat. I didn’t catch much of the film: Sam kept leaning over to whisper in my ear. “Who is that?” she’d ask. Or, “Why is he doing that?”

She had a hundred questions. Some of them were truly stupid. I think she genuinely had trouble following the plot. Or maybe she thought she had missed something important.

But it didn’t escape my notice that every time she had a question, she leaned over, rested her hand on my arm, and put her lips next to my ear. Once I even felt the pressure of her boob on my shoulder. Sam wasn’t skinny everywhere. Tanya kept shushing her. Sam tried to justify herself. I had to promise to explain the movie to her afterwards.

We went for ice cream (Marty’s idea). I kept my word, and summarized the film’s plot for Sam. It turned out that she really did think that she had missed a key scene, near the beginning. After that, she felt like she was struggling to catch up. Tanya rolled her eyes so energetically, I was afraid she was going to hurt herself.

I wasn’t sure that I believed Sam – not entirely. But while I was explaining the movie, I discovered a few things. For one, if I was doing the talking, that shut off most of Sam’s inane chatter. She listened attentively, with a big smile, her eyes never leaving my face.

It’s flattering, for an 18-year old guy, to have a girl focus on him like that – no matter how dumb she might be.

Besides, I had no problem looking at Sam. When she wasn’t saying something stupid, she was actually quite pretty: long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a cute face. In fact, if she wasn’t talking or giggling, Sam was downright attractive.

She had narrow hips, and not much of an ass, but she was far from flat-chested. Then she giggled, and put her hand on mine. “You’re so smart!” she said.

It was like throwing a bucket of water on me. I immediately remembered where I was, and who I was with. I wasn’t immune to flattery, but …

– “I think she likes you.” said Marty, after we had dropped them off.

– “Great deduction, Sherlock.” I said, with a snort. “Lucky me.”

– “Come on, Joe – it’s not so bad, is it?”

It wasn’t. That’s why I agreed to go a party with Marty and the two older sisters a few weeks later. Tanya was there when we picked them up, and from the expression on her face, she wasn’t too happy to be excluded.

– “Don’t be late!” she said.

Marty drove. I picked up a case of beer. Caroline sat quietly; she didn’t say much at the best of times. Her older sister made up for it, with a non-stop flow of questions: who was hosting, would they know anyone there, could she have a beer – or two …?

The host was a friend of Marty’s, a guy from our high school named Jim. He had a cute sister, who had been a grade behind us. But if I had had any plans to check her out, those were immediately torpedoed.

Sam attached herself to me like a barnacle. She kept one hand on my arm at all times, as if she was afraid to lose contact. I couldn’t entirely blame her: she didn’t know a soul at the party. It didn’t stop her from asking questions about every single person there, though.

Did I know him? Did I know her? Had I dated her? Would I date her? Did I think she (another girl) was pretty? Could she (Sam) have another beer? Half of her questions I couldn’t even hear, because the music in Jim’s basement was on so loud. They were playing the Cars album – I’d heard it too often on the radio.

I steered Sam up the stairs, and into the backyard. It was a nice autumn night, with a clear sky. We sat down on a bench. To keep Sam from talking, I told her a long story, about how Marty and I had met, and become friends.

– “He likes Caroline.” she said, with a giggle.

– “Yeah, he does.” I agreed. “Does she like him?”

– “I dunno.” she said, with a shrug. Well, that made sense. I doubt that either of her sisters ever confided in her. Telling Sam a secret would be the equivalent of putting it on a billboard.

At that point, Jim came out into the backyard with a buddy of his. Introductions were made, and Jim said “Hope we’re not interrupting.”

– “Not at all.” I assured him. I didn’t want Sam to start chattering, so I asked Jim what he’d been up to since graduation.

– “Working with my Dad, mostly. Learning the ropes. Have to get started, if I’m going to take over the business some day.”

– “What kind of business?” asked Sam. I held my breath when she started to talk, but to my relief, it wasn’t a stupid question at all.

– “Men’s clothing.” said Jim.

– “Is it hard work?” she asked. I had to turn, and look at Sam. She worked in a major department store – in the women’s clothing department!

Jim started explaining the trials and tribulations of selling suits to ignorant customers, or cheap customers, and working with temperamental tailors.

– “And then you have to deal with the Jews …”

My eyebrows rose.

– “I’m Jewish.” I said.

Jim stopped dead. Then he started backtracking. “I was just … umm … I didn’t mean …”

I didn’t say anything. I just let him squirm. His buddy looked embarrassed. Finally Jim remembered that he needed to refresh his drink, and went inside.

– “I didn’t know you were Jewish.” said Sam.

– “I’m not.”

Jim’s buddy grinned. “Nice one.” he said. “Have to remember that.” Then he excused himself, and left us alone.

– “I don’t get it.” said Sam. “Why did you say you’re Jewish when you’re not? Was it just to make him stop? Oh … that’s it, isn’t it?”

I told Sam another story. “There was a kid in Grade 4 who got picked on, just because he was dark and had kinky hair. I didn’t stand up for him, then – but I knew I should’ve.”

“My uncle Ray lives with a woman from Guyana. Nice lady. My stepmother calls her names, makes fun of her. I call her on it. I can’t stand that shit. One more reason we don’t get along so well.”

Then I remembered something. “Sam, you work in clothing.”

– “Yeah. In a department store.”

– “Why did you ask Jim if it’s hard work? If anyone would know, you would.”

– “I know.” she said. “But … I didn’t want to start talking about my job. It’s not very important. Besides – I can tell … you don’t like it when I talk too much.”

“I know I’m not very bright.” she continued. “I say – and do – silly things. My sisters tell me, all the time.”

– “What about at work?” I asked.

– “I’m fine at work. I know what I’m doing. And if I have a problem, or a question, I can just ask Mrs. Maguire – my supervisor.”

This came as a revelation to me. Sam was … well, pretty dumb. But she knew it. In my limited experience, most stupid people have absolutely no idea just how ignorant they really are. On the contrary, many of them actually believe that they’re smart.

“I just … I guess I try too hard, sometimes.” said Sam. “I just want people to like me.”

– “I like you, Sam.” I said. At that moment, it was no more than the truth.

– “Really?”

– “Really.”

– “That’s nice.” she said, with a smile that didn’t look goofy at all. “You know, I was really impressed – what you said to that guy.”

– “Let’s get you another beer.” I suggested.

 

https://lapetitemort17.wordpress.com/?p=369

 

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Die Hard is a Christmas Movie, Everybody Shut Up

Happy Holidays!

 

http://www.cracked.com/article_26110_die-hard-christmas-movie-everybody-shut-up.html

 

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Celebrity Sightings: Farrah Fawcett – 1947 to 2009 – Life Uncovered – Part 7

Stick Figure Thin

When Farrah was hospitalized, she seemed to fade in and out of consciousness, mumbling incoherent matters in between. She was stick-figure thin, so her dear friend Alana Stewart made every dish on Farrah’s former favorite food list so that she and O’Neal could try to tempt Farrah to eat. She made macaroni and cheese, fried chicken and ginger cookies – but there was no use. Farrah would take a cookie, stroke it gently and hand it back to Stewart with a smile, saying “that’s so beautiful.”

Marriage Wasn’t In The Cards

Fawcett and O’Neal had danced around the idea of marriage since before their son Redmond was born in 1985, with Farrah sometimes pushing it and O’Neal sometimes pushing it. But with three failed marriages between them as well as the difficulties in their relationship, a wedding never happen. One time, O’Neal even proposed to the actress using a cigar band as an impromptu engagement ring, but a flat tire on the way to the shotgun wedding ruined those plans.

O’Neal’s Last Chance

Just before Fawcett’s death, O’Neal decided to ask Farrah one more time to marry him and with tear-filled eyes, she accepted. While speaking about it in an interview, O’Neal said,” The priest at St John’s Hospital arrives to marry us but administered the last rites instead.” The next day, the doctor was ordered to remove the actress’ life support, and Farrah passed away just a few hours later with O’Neal at her side.

In Denial

Before her untimely and saddening death, Doug Vaughan, an NBC senior vice president, worked with Farrah on Farrah’s Story – a type of video diary she made detailing her battle against the disease. Doug was quoted saying: “This is so not the way she thought it was going to go, Farrah was certain that she was going to beat this.” Truth be told, Farrah was so profoundly convinced she was going to make it, the entire point of the video was to show other patients the fight is worth it.

In Sickness And In Health

O’Neal would not leave Farrah’s side during her last days. When he was asked why, he gave a rather unpredictable answer: “She’s never been more lovable,” he said. “There’s a sweetness – she’s skin and bones, but she’s got this beautiful look. I don’t know how long I’m going to get it, but I know why I’ve been around for 30 years for this person.” Although they have certainly had their rough patches over the years, some things never change.

Fighter Right Until The End

For two years Farrah moved back and forth between her comfortable California home and a personal German clinic. In the clinic, she underwent alternative treatments, some extremely painful and invasive. Suffering through the pain and clenching strongly to her mattress, Farrah insisted her best friend Stewart would film every single procedure she had to go through so that the documentary would chronicle her achievement in finding new means of combatting cancer. “She’s had terrible luck,” said O’Neal, “she tried so many different approaches.” Sadly, nothing worked.

 

Rest in Peace, Farrah. I’ll always love you because you were my first.

 

 

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