Rocket Video, the independent video store on La Brea, closed at the end of September after three decades of supplying esoteric and hard-to-find films to amateur and professional film buffs alike. The reasons probably are obvious – the Amazon of independent video shops, Netflix, ate up a huge chunk of its customers, plus the shitty economy – so, in a way, it’s a little surprising that it managed to survive as long as it did. Manager Jeffrey Miller penned a lovely tribute to his store over on Zocalo, recalling a few fond memories about his great customers:
My favorite was Faye Dunaway. Certainly, she could be a little demanding. The first time I encountered her, she bounded through the doors of the store and yelled, “Quick, I need Reservoir Dogs right now! I’m double parked on La Brea!” Another time, when we called to tell her a certain title had come in, she was livid. “What are you doing calling me?” she yelled into the receiver. “I am trying to write! Don’t you know I have to answer my own phone?”
He also ruminates on the nature of the video store as a proxy for a community water cooler, wondering what fountains, if any, will fill the gap:
Hollywood is a tough place. Landmarks get demolished. The Brown Derby is gone. The Tail o’ the Pup hot dog stand is in some warehouse in Torrance. In traffic, drivers swerve manically and cut you off, as if to signal they have to get there before you. In a culture so inward-looking and self-centered, focused only on the next big thing, we easily forget the paths and paving stones that led us to where we are. Film history is important to Los Angeles. A sense of community is scarce. Rocket Video offered both those things. I don’t know if Angelenos will miss a place like Rocket right away, but I think they will eventually. I know I already do.
Rocket Video is out of my zip code, so it’s not a place I regularly visited. That said, the loss of idea of Rocket Video resonates: not only is Hollywood a tough place, it can be an awfully lonely one if you let the sprawl get to you and forget what human interaction outside the freeway and the workplace feels like. In other words, you’re enormously lucky if you do have your own version of Cheers where everybody knows your name and you know theirs. No doubt the community will gather again – it always does – but for now, the rocket is grounded, its passengers lost in space.