Memoir

209. Lessons Learned From an Oscar Winner

chapter 209I need to backpedal a little bit, back to a year earlier when I was still wearing the black vest and name tag of Music Plus. The “Plus” was video: In the late ’80s Blockbuster hadn’t completely dominated the market yet. About half of Music Plus’s floor space was dedicated to VHS rentals, including a separate counter where non-purchasing customers could check out movies.

The late Kevin DuBrow was a regular customer. He’d just been kicked out of Quiet Riot — maybe he had too much time on his hands, so he passed it by watching movie rentals, I don’t know. His wig never seemed to sit on his head straight and his belly poked from beneath his t-shirts. This was not the best time in DuBrow’s life.

Sam Kinison came in now and then, too, as did a bunch of television actors who filmed around the corner at the Sunset-Gower Studios. One old sitcom actor used to hang out in the adult section and make unsolicited porn recommendations: “Oh, that’s a good one right there. She got big titties. That’s a good one.” You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the cognitive dissonance on the face of a potential masturbator getting porn suggestions from an actor on his once-favorite TV show. The place made for great people watching.

Behind the counter we were overwhelmingly young, straight males unleashed in Hollywood, so the people watching mostly centered around women — women in regular movies, women in porn movies, women in the store, women not in the store, women who might someday be in the store, women we once knew who went to a store. Women.

One young lady started visiting the video side of the store regularly. She had bright, feline eyes and a square jaw, and aside from her breasts she was a tiny little thing. She seemed awfully shy, rarely making eye contact and occasionally breaking out in a bashful grin.

“Goddam, who was that?”

“Patty? She comes in all the time.”

“You know who she looks like? That chick from the Madonna movie.”

Over the next several months we watched her body grow in wonderful ways. Motherhood was just around the corner for Patty, but she just keep getting better looking. What really impressed me was how comfortable she seemed with her new body, neither flaunting nor hiding it. Her sex appeal came partly from how little effort she seemed to exert in that direction.

“You ever been with a pregnant chick?”

“No, but I would be.”

“She’s so fucking hot.”

“I heard Nicolas Cage is obsessed with her.”

“Damn. I guess that rules me out.”

Okay, that brings us back to story time, back to the Tales From The Crypt cutting rooms. Andrew, my favorite among the editors, is walking me through a scene, explaining how he’s put it together in a manner that helps to tell the story. “See how this character exits at the bottom right of the screen? If I don’t have her enter here after the cut, it’s jarring. It doesn’t flow.”

When I think back on my time in the cutting room, these are the moments I miss. Most of my time on Tales was spent driving around Los Angeles, but that handing down of knowledge — those moments of master and apprentice — made up for it.

All of that is true, but equally true is the fact that I wasn’t listening to much of what Andrew was saying because on screen a cute little blond in a tank top was leaning forward, looking for eggs in a chicken coop: take after take of her glowing, braless breasts swaying beneath her thin white shirt.

“Hey, that’s Patty,” I said.

“Patricia Arquette?” Andrew asked.

“Yeah, Patty. She used to come into the record store I worked at all the time.”

It was a strange, almost surreal moment. While we were behaving like horny schoolboys behind the video rental counter, Patty the Somewhat Anonymous Customer was busy building both a family and a career. No wonder she was on screen and I was the flunky in the cutting room.

Nothing much has changed in 25 years, other than now I’m a horny schoolboy behind a keyboard rather than a counter. Well, that and the news that Patty the Somewhat Anonymous Customer now owns an Oscar.

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