In a Surprise Twist, Hyatt’s Classic Video Remains Open

Bob and Beverlee Hyatt at the East Rochester “Classic Video” location now closed. (Photo by David Andreatta, courtesy Rochester Democrat & Chronicle)

by Legendary Lew

Some movies have an unexpected twist at the end or a hero appears at the climax to set things on the right path.

Hyatt’s Classic Video, which originally was set to permanently close its doors last week, now has an extended life in a new location.  It’s not exactly the knight in shining armor that came charging through, but more like the people of Bedford Falls giving back to George Bailey what he’s provided for them over many years.

Bob Hyatt, the owner, just got off the phone with me, letting me know that the new location is in Pittsford at the “Old Pickle Factory” building with the same business phone number.

Apparently, they are still selling some stock, but will concentrate the business as transfers of VHS to DVD for your family memory videos (please don’t approach them with copyrighted stuff. It’s illegal and the answer is ‘no’). They will have a limited supply of rentals, I’m told, but will probably be more interested in selling you films.

Some of their VHS will eventually be part of ROC Archive, a non-profit with the goal of preserving a regional audio and video archive for the public.

Good to see Bob and Beverlee Hyatt still at it and providing a much needed service to Rochester. Best of luck in their new location!

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The Debut of Vital Indie Media: TUGM’s Vlog of Unusual Movies, TV, Music, Games and other Ephemera!

by Legendary Lew

This has been a long time coming. Vital Indie Media is now a reality!

Vital Indie Media is the new vlog series (monthly, but can be more frequent with your help) concentrating on my collection of weird movies, TV shows, music, games and other strange stuff.  The debut episode features the unusual board game, The Bottom Line.

The main focus, however, will be independent and cult movies. Non-Hollywood movies have an uphill battle to gain any sort of attention. Media machines, eager to siphon as much profit as possible through manufactured big-budget exports to China, are on overdrive for your eyes and ears.

Other programs on YouTube have an interest in the latest releases from DC Comics, Hasbro, Marvel Comics and other corporate conglomerates.

Not me.

I’m in the fight to help the small voices out there.

The indie filmmakers who can barely scrape enough money to get their dream projects released.

The producers who shy away from biased festivals, some of which are downright scams.

The remaining indie video stores that remain open for cinephiles, despite the constant drive to digital.

The DVD companies that brave releasing unusual movies from all over the world, while conglomerate media studios hoard their “vaults” to release expensive burns, often with no remastering nor extras.

Vital Indie Media is my small contribution to the fight, but it’s truly vital for me. Come join me!

“Make Out Party” Seeks to Blast Hollywood Norms on a DIY Budget

by Legendary Lew

I become very intrigued when I see projects like this one in development.

Writer/director Emily Esperanza is crafting a DIY no-budget film that, from the looks of the pitch video, is a hybrid polyamorous child of John Waters, jd films and indie queersploitation festival movies.  They’re getting support from Full Spectrum Features, a non-profit co-producer of the project.

As the Seed and Spark website describes it, “Make Out Party is a no-budget, high-style comedy of errors that follows three vibrant characters though a day of misadventure as they set out to attend hostess Mary Woah’s Make Out Party.”

Regardless of how the final product comes out, I’ll say this: I’d be much more interested in how this type of film gets made, with its challenging ideas and blasting of accepted cultural norms, than the next high-budget, soulless Hollywood product.

If you want to help the movie get completed, contribute to their Seed and Spark campaign.

That Moment When You’re Outed as a Charlottesville Nazi

by Legendary Lew

 

Legendary Rochester Video Store, and Major Influence on TUGM, Shutting Down After 41 Years

Hyatt’s Classic Video (3rd location) (Courtesy: Rochester City Newspaper)

by Legendary Lew

In 1976 when Kodak was booming, and Rochester NY was, as a local newspaper crowed, “The Oz of the East,” Bob Hyatt expanded his 10 year-old stereo business into the brand new market of home video. He began acquiring Beta tapes of popular feature films and renting them to folks in the community and surrounding area. Soon, Hyatt’s Classic Video became a mecca for those who searched for a wide variety of titles from all over the world. Known for his tendency to “pack rat” videos and formats, he kept Betas, VHS, VideoDiscs, DVDs and even 8mm video features (used in the 1980s primarily on airlines) for as long as he could possibly keep them.

Hyatt’s Classic Video, located in East Rochester, New York, was more than a video store for me. I worked there for a few years in the late 1990s, but was a steady customer for a long time before that.

While I worked at Hyatt’s, I took the opportunity to check out and view the most mind-blowing collection of odd movies and TV shows I could have ever seen before the advent of the internet. Only the tragically short-lived Buffalo video store, Mondo Video, could come close to the strangeness of his collection.

But Bob didn’t really set out to gather the weirdest movies ever. He wanted the largest, so as to appeal to as much of the community as possible. From family features to art house obscurities, Bob had them all. He also, out of necessity for any indie video store to remain alive, had porn ranging all the way back to the 1970s. In fact, his insistence on stocking adult films from the very dawn of video ensured a devoted audience who shied away from the “plastic figures” of later DTV smut.

During the time I worked there, Hyatt’s had monthly rental specials for titles beginning with randomly selected letters of the alphabet. Looking through the lists, I began to wonder what certain mysterious titles were. This was before I had internet access, so looking up titles on IMDB was yet to be a convenience.

I searched through the VHS titles and decided to watch all the titles I did not recognize, especially those that were distributed by second line distributors. No MGMs nor Paramounts for me. I was watching titles from Sinister Cinema, Paragon, Gorgon and Vestron Video.

And boy, did that change my movie viewing life! Titles like Sweet Sugar, The Jar, The Cars That Ate Paris, W (from the Philippines), One-Armed Executioner, Circle of Power, The Killing of Satan, Beyond the Doors, The Loved One and many more astounded me. With the blessing of Bob, I created a photocopied newsletter of sorts, reviewing those and other selected strange titles. Once unknown neglected cult movies, sitting on the shelves literally collecting dust, began moving, and encouraged some lively chat with astounded customers.

This reaction fed a passion and obsession for unusual and strange cult movies that lives to this day. I carried it forward to Chicago, my new home, where brick and mortar video stores like Facets and Odd Obsession became my new searching grounds. With the explosion of digital sources, some of the finds became easier and with better visual quality. The marketability of cult movies, thanks to the success of directors like Quentin Tarantino, increased the likelihood of finding strange movies finally released on DVD.

Even so, some titles in Hyatt’s collection still haven’t seen a digital release. Finding them is the glory of browsing brick and mortar video stores.

Which makes the impending closure of Hyatt’s Classic Video a shame. However, I don’t take this as something that’s necessarily sad.

Hyatt’s Classic Video was an astounding success. It remained in business as a video store for 41 years!  I don’t know of any video store, independent or otherwise, that has lasted as long as Hyatt’s.  If so, it certainly has not been within the area.

It fought off other competing indies as well as Blockbuster Videos–4 of them surrounded Hyatt’s within a 3 mile radius at one point. Blockbuster actually was born and collapsed while Hyatt’s survived. Bob made the decision not to sell to Blockbuster at a crucial time during the 1990s and I’m so glad he saved the store.

Bob’s decision, in no small way, changed my life. It generated the interest and excitement for weird movies that I eventually carried to Night School (some of the movies I presented, I had first seen when I rented them from Hyatt’s) and will definitely be one of the acorn seeds that develops into Vital Media later this year and into 2018. I know for a fact that the store has influenced other media makers and film lovers.

So Hyatt’s Classic Video will soon be no more. But the spirit of indie will carry on with this site, Thrillo Pad Productions and all my future work.

Thanks to The Hyatt Family.

 

So The NRA Released a New Ad, eh?…

by Legendary Lew

Far from Beads and Glitter: I Helped Organize a Pride March 30 Years Ago and It Was the Most Frightening Night of My Life

by Legendary Lew

Recently, there have been reports of corporations co-opting Pride Parades and non-profit groups using the events as marketing tools. In an astute article written last year, Nico Lang wrote about the problems of taking Pride events for granted. Marches were direct actions focusing on violence and intolerance against LGBT people. A case in point was the protest march I helped organize.

Thirty years ago, I lived in Rochester, NY, a young gay man not too long out of the closet and wondering how I can make a difference during the first wave of the nation’s AIDS crisis. President Reagan wasn’t mentioning AIDS and, at first, had health advisers so inadequate some of them believed HIV could be acquired via toilet seats. Through the AIDS panic, attacks on LGBT people skyrocketed nationally in a few short years.

It was in this climate that the Rochester chapter of the activist group ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) decided to have a protest march on Stonewall Day in 1987.

We had no celebrities, no major politicians, no corporate sponsorship. This was a bare bones event and a serious reminder of the rights not yet gained. As the media spokesperson during that march, I can tell you, it was the most frightening night of my life.

I agreed to be a designated monitor for the group, heading up the back to keep the marchers close together. It’s commonplace that potential assailants seek out march stragglers as targets for harassment.

The hostility towards us, a group of people peacefully marching for rights, was the most intense I have encountered in any protest before or since, and I’ve been to at least 30 different rallies. Hours before the march began, we received a voicemail message stating there would be snipers on nearby roofs ready to shoot us. Across the street from our starting point, a red pickup truck entered a parking lot. Out of the vehicle emerged three young men carrying baseball bats. One of the armed individuals wore a T-shirt with “I Hate Fags” emblazoned on the front.

Since there were about 70 of us marching, we had to use the sidewalk. Don’t ever underestimate how ironically safe it is to march on the street. A street can offer some buffer, but when forced to march on sidewalks, you have many more interactions, good or bad. You are literally inches away from a sucker punch.

How bad was that night? We had eggs thrown at us, rocks hurled at us, people passing by in cars and yelling out obscenities. But we also had some very brave people join us during the march and at the end rally of 120 people.

The night’s most disturbing sight was the hatred of a man who brought his son and daughter, both no older than about 8 years old. He was screaming at the top of his lungs about how we were all going to Hell and all the et cetera that comes with the typical anti-gay faction of presumed Christianity. Screaming bigots cloaking themselves with the false armor of Biblical verse was nothing new. But I felt sorry for the children who had to be subjected to his psychological abuse. I will never forget the terrified looks on their faces.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Wow, we’ve come a long way since then!” You would be partially right. A lot of good has happened over the last thirty years in regard to Pride marches.

Companies are evolving in their LGBTQIA stances and policies. Huge billboard ads, TV and magazine ads celebrating LGBT couples were unheard of just a short time ago. Straight allies are marching with us and demanding equal rights. After a straight male friend marched with me in a Pride parade many years ago, I told him it was my proudest moment of our friendship.

With unity, however, comes responsibility. It’s one thing to recognize equality and attach your company’s logo or associate your non-profit’s mission to it. It’s entirely something else to co-opt a Pride Parade for marketing purposes.
A Pride Parade is not a tool to hide polluting industries and contributions to anti-gay politicians–an incredible irony, since the first pride marches were counteractions against the concealment of the closet. It’s not a marketing scheme template designed to attract more millennials hungry for music festivals.

A Pride Parade should reflect the ongoing struggle from outside our communities and call for a look at the rifts inside them as well. This is a continuous movement that will hopefully remain true to its roots now and for future generations. It’s not for any one entity to seize for their own purposes.

Remember the basic common courtesy when you are invited to a party. You’re the guest. Not the host.

 

Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex. An out gay man for over 35 years, he hosts Mediatrocities, Strike That Line! and has presented award-winning midnight movie screenings. He’s also a movie critic and game inventor.