Getting Wired to the Video Revolution

Times Staff Writer

I came to the video revolution late. But when I came, it was with a vengeance.

That this revolution was meant for someone like me, should have been obvious. I was a New Yorker raised on the Million Dollar Movie--famous for its multiple showings of the same movie every week night and several times on the weekend. When “West Side Story” premiered, I saw it 11 times, three times in one sitting. I sat through “Ragtime” 2 1/2 times in one afternoon. I would have stayed longer, but the evening crowd was chatty, clearly ignorant of the historical context of the film from their all too audible conversations, and inclined to get lost: “George, George, back here. George.” Three times in 45 minutes George left for a Coke or the bathroom, then couldn’t find his seat when he returned. Clearly, I was a woman made for the solitude of her own living room and the rewind capacity of the VCR.

Nonetheless, technology never really impressed me. I have had the same 12-inch black and white Sears television for 16 years and it works just fine. I dream in Technicolor, always have, which my mother thinks is strange. But I never felt the need for a color television. Neither did she. “I’ve met the flowers and the trees in real life. I don’t need a color TV to show me what they look like,” my mother would say. At least, that’s what she used to say.

Last year, I walked into her apartment near Tampa, where she lives most of the year, and found a 27-inch color TV sitting in the living room. I was only slightly relieved to see it didn’t have remote control. She hadn’t changed that much. But when she went back to our house in New York, with its half dozen black and white televisions mostly knobless and with blurred pictures, she instructed my brother to accompany her to the nearest electronics store. It was all he could do to persuade her that a 20-inch, remote control, stereo TV would suffice. We didn’t need a 50-inch, rear-projection TV in the house.


Finally, I broke down. I bought a 20-inch used color TV. The picture tube blew out within a year, and I returned to my reliable 12-inch black and white.

Then I had one of those work weeks that was a month long. That same week, I had to go to night court--expired out of state tag was the problem--and to the DMV to get a California license. I had to register my new car and pay California state sales tax, and get new car insurance. I live, of course, in the ZIP code with the highest auto insurance rates in the state.

By the time I’d finished, I had spent enough money to pay the closing costs on a condo I was considering but wouldn’t be able to afford, at least not that week. And this was the Fourth of July weekend. Even I couldn’t face a black and white TV after the week I’d had. I needed solitude and a Technicolor dream.

I rented a color TV, a VCR, every Fred Astaire movie I could find, and took the phone off the hook. Few things made me happier as a child than Fred Astaire week on Million Dollar Movie, and his recent passing made me want to see him all the more. I put on my silk pajamas, propped my feet on velvet cushions, popped the cork on a bottle of Korbel brut, bit into a decadently delicious chocolate brownie and began the marathon with “Funny Face.”

Since that Fourth of July weekend, I have joined two video clubs. I now associate home video viewing with such a sense of pleasure, peace, escape and release that I can put a cassette in the VCR--preferably a classic musical--and get that same drugged sensation without the brownies or the bubbly.

And I am now waiting for a sale so I can buy my own 50-inch, rear projection TV for the living room, a smaller one for the bedroom and VCR’s for both.