by Legendary Lew
by Legendary Lew
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.
by Legendary Lew
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.
by Legendary Lew
We had a good group for our March edition of The Thrillo Pad Board Game Night. I made a brief video discussing how it went down and the general consensus of the classic board game, “Showdown Poker” by T. S. Lowe.
by Legendary Lew
I arrived at O’Hare Airport too late last night for any protests. However, I made it there tonight. Here’s a group of pictures of the crowd. There were easily hundreds there on a very cold Sunday night. I’m proud of Chicago! #NoBanNoWall
by Legendary Lew
It’s tough to know what to write here. On Thursday, I had just finished uploading and distributing a video about how we fell short of our goal of $820 and along come a couple of fantastic souls (one, a great pal Paskal and the other, an anonymous donor) to put us over the top.
Now, as of this writing, we’re at $1020, two hundred dollars over the top!
When we reached the goal, I was utterly speechless.
I believed for years that each person needs to find where he or she “fits.” I moved to the Chicago area 15 years ago believing this area was the place for me. Tonight, I’ve been proven correct. I have fantastic friends from across the country and even overseas. I do have to say, though, that people here in Chicago and the surrounding area have been really true to my heart. They came through for me in volunteering and being there for me. I give a special thanks too for the folks back in my home state area who remember me. All of you are truly a joy in my life!
And now, the task of building a show is on! In the next two months, we’ll be acquiring the equipment stated in the GoFundMe campaign, plus continuing production of Vital Media, Mediatrocities and (fingers crossed) upcoming book set for Dec 2017.
THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR LOVE AND SUPPORT! PEACE AND LOVE TO YOU ALL!