In February 1998, my life changed forever. My father dropped me and my brother off at the movies. We were going to watch two movies back-to-back. The first, The Wedding Singer, the latest Adam Sandler comedy. The second, Titanic, one of the most popular movies of all-time.
I remember thinking Titanic was going to blow me away and become my favorite movie. I had developed a fascination with the Titanic as a kid thanks to those books where they showed ships cutaways and the cover art of Raise the Titanic.
However, when the afternoon had ended, I wasn’t obsessed with Titanic, no, my heart belonged to the 80’s.
I was fourteen years old, and had grown up in the 80’s, but viewed it from a child’s point of view. I knew the music, remembered some adult movies like Dirty Dancing, First Blood, and Robocop, but most of my memories centered around The Real Ghostbusters, Batman, GI Joe, and the toys. I had never viewed the 80’s as a decade of style and substance, not to mention great music.
1998 seemed to be a great year for growth of 80’s nostalgia. Television sets ran commercials of compilation albums that featured 70’s and 80’s hits. I’d get to hear small snippets of songs I vaguely remembered from my childhood and needed to hear more of. I started with buying both of The Wedding Singer soundtracks, and thanks to VH1’s Behind the Music, I was able to discover 80’s bands, which led me from into 80’s glam rock. The 90’s were firmly stuck in 70’s nostalgia, but the 80’s were beginning to creep in.
I’ve been hooked ever since. Eighties music, television, movies, video games, toys… you name it, I’ve researched it and indulged in it.
Today, it’s pretty easy to get your 80’s fix. A quick internet search will bring up options to watch, listen, or buy, but back in the 90’s, it wasn’t so easy. First off, since 80’s nostalgia wasn’t really a thing yet, there were no lists or books. I could find two or three websites dedicated to the 80’s, but the content was limited. Instead, I got my education from trial, error, and word of mouth.
I rented a TON of movies. I’d check the date on the back of the box and if it looked interesting and was released in the 80’s, I’d rent it. Anyone who grew up in the video store era knows how dangerous this was, since cover art was often misleading, but I experienced a lot of interesting films this way.
When I got my job at Blockbuster in 2001, I had the keys to the kingdom. Suddenly, I could rent whatever I wanted for free, so it was easy for me to snag a couple of 80’s movies and give them a go. Also, the 80’s movies that didn’t rent were usually sold off cheap, so I’d just buy them and see what I thought. I discovered The Wraith this way.
When DVDs began releasing in the late 90’s, some 80’s titles were brought out rather quickly. In fact, my first DVD was a copy of Highlander. Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Southern Comfort, Vision Quest, and Scarface were just some of the DVD I bought blindly because the films were released in the 80’s.
Working at Blockbuster also introduced me to some adults who were in their late 30’s/early 40’s, and had experienced the 80’s. These folks were valuable in shaping my 80’s knowledge as they were the ones who helped guided me in finding some of the more rare movies out there.
One manager, who had spent her high school years in the 80’s, was your typical 80’s rocker chick who had grown up. She was a bit of a mess, but always super sweet to me and she loved that I had such an interest in the 80’s.
I went over to her house one afternoon to hook up her entertainment center and she told me about two movies I needed to find: Valley Girl and The Last American Virgin.
These two movies quickly shot up my list of films to see and I was disappointed not to find them at my Blockbuster or any of the nearby Blockbusters. I tried to make a special order, but the films were out of print and had been for many years. Neither had been given a DVD release, so, I resorted to visiting the mom & pop video stores in hopes to finding a copy. I spent almost a year looking for a copy of Valley Girl and came very close to paying $70 for a used VHS copy on eBay as the legend of this film had slowly grown as I exhausted all options to find it.
Anytime I’d visit family, I’d take a trip to the video store in hopes of snagging a copy. I finally got lucky during one trip and was disappointed to find the tape mangled beyond repair. I was used to repairing my own tape at home as well as at Blockbuster, but this tape had to have been intentionally mistreated. It was done for, and so Valley Girl alluded me once more.
I finally stumbled upon a copy for sale at a mom & pop video store in horrible shape. The box was battered, but I didn’t care. I bought the movie on the spot and well… as you can imagine it didn’t quite live up to the hype. It was good, but not worth the trouble I put into finding it.
Ironically, enough, I’d find The Last American Virgin about a month later and well… it was alright as well.
Of course, right after I found the VHS copies, a DVD release of Valley Girl was announced in 2003. The movie had been delayed for so long due to right issues with the music that had finally been sorted out. I bought the DVD anyway, since the VHS copy I had was very dark and I was interested in the director’s commentary. I found a bit more appreciation for the film, and especially the soundtrack, which truly was remarkable. I think it also helped being removed from the great hunt for my Holy Grail.
The Last American Virgin also received a DVD release, albeit in 2002 shortly after I found a VHS copy. I still haven’t revisited that film, but its on my list to do so soon.