Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Virgin sacrifice

Just came home from a funeral. Boy, did I have a rip-snorting good time!

I know this sounds macabre, but I had such a blast that I went to this funeral twice today. And I went to the same funeral last night, and two or three times last week. I very well may return tomorrow.

The funeral I've been attending is for the Virgin Megastore. An international chain of record stores founded almost 40 years ago, Virgin announced earlier this year that it was shuttering all of its stores in the U.S.

I hate seeing record stores close. I miss driving down Sunset Boulevard and seeing the monstrous yellow and red Tower Records sign, and I miss all of the mom-and-pop record stores in L.A. that used to cater to music geeks like me. Only a handful of record shops scrape by these days, and an even smaller number thrive.

But I'm not sobbing too heavily as I watch the Virgin Megastore close to make way for a Hard Rock Café.

Virgin Megastores had confused DNA. Music was just one of the products they sold, and the prices were too high. There was something stimulating about walking into Virgin Megastores and wandering the supermarket-sized aisles but I never bought much there.

Until the funeral began, that is.

After the closing of the Virgin Megastore on Hollywood Boulevard was announced, they began a liquidation sale. Gentle discounts in the early weeks gradually gave way to bigger savings but when you did the math you realized that a CD marked at 50 percent off at the Virgin Megastore could be snapped up for less at Amoeba several blocks away.

Then this week, all of the merchandise was marked down 80 percent.

I shopped last night, and got a bag of CDs, DVDs and books for only $15. Then I popped by when the doors opened this morning and spent another forty bucks. This afternoon, I returned and spent even more.

I don't think I have wasted a dime at the Virgin funeral.

OK, the book of photos of people holding LP sleeves over their faces is not a distinguished addition to my library. But at 80 percent off, everything else was a deal.

I've been shopping far more wisely at Virgin's funeral than I did when Tower had its liquidation blowout, when I purchased two crates of the plastic bin dividers with artists' names on them. (My fantasy is that most of those dividers have Elvis Costello's or Elton John's fingerprints on them. Maybe even Jim Morrison's.)

After Sunday, the sale at the Virgin Megastore in Hollywood ends and there will be one fewer place to go to buy music. That really is a pity, you know.

So I just may pay one more call on the Virgin Megastore before the funeral finally ends, and this time bring along my camera. (I did exactly that on Sunday. Virgin's remaining inventory filled only about eight tables in a space about the size of an airplane hangar and had been marked down 90 percent.)

The day may come where people won't have anyplace to go to shop for music that comes in a sleeve and has a hole in the middle. When I'm in my dotage, it may help to have some photos to remind me that places like Virgin and Tower ever existed.

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