Be Kind, Rewind: A Deeply VHS Remembrance of Kaleidoscope Video

While searching for photos of the much-missed Kaleidoscope Video, I asked an old employee, Paula, if she had any. She told me she didn’t and neither did any of her old coworkers, adding that the store was very much like “Brigadoon with porn.”

She’s really not that far off.

Now a dusty clock repair place, the mythical video store that, as I remember it, once sat at 3420 N. MacArthur Blvd., was very much a gateway drug for film geeks and other assorted losers who were addicted to the dark gleam of the magnetic tape that was housed deep inside the oft-worn cases, movies with titles that had many of our parents double-checking the rating, lest there be any bare bosoms amongst the constant blood-letting.

Hearing about the place through the various grapevines that I frequently picked from, I was able to convince my father to take me one Friday afternoon, circa the summer of ’93. Armed with about twenty dollars of lawn-mowing money that I bilked from a neighbor earlier that day, suddenly films that I had only read about in then-recent copies of Hitch, Psychotronic, Film Threat and other assorted film ‘zines were notably at my beck and call, titles like Frankenstein’s Castle of Freaks and Demoniac, two of the first I ever rented there, based on the covers alone.

Though a tad bit pricier than Blockbuster or Hollywood—not to mention it was quite the trek down to MacArthur—Kaleidoscope would become my summer home away from home; making lists of films from the books in the library or scouring the sleazy classifieds in the back of most mags would become my obsessive hobby, finding much of my needed wares to rent there.

They satisfied my early love of Jess Franco, Lucio Fulci and Joe D’Amato, their horror section a weather-beaten collection of Wizard, Magnum and Media tapes galore. Even more so, I made intrusive friends with the employees there—I imagine it was a bit one-sided, though. I spent my non-valuable time between searching for films and jumping into random conversations with the workers, all as my father heatedly sat in the hot car, my five minutes to return said tapes up by about twenty or so minutes by then.

This love carried through to about the tail-end of the 90s, when their wall of previously viewed tapes, as well as boxes of posters and other video-store memorabilia, became bigger and bigger, like they were trying to get rid of everything. I asked Blaine, the long-haired video-recording rebel working that day, what was going on; he told me that the store was going out of business.

It felt like a girl breaking up with me, my fragile heart crushed and bleeding all over the priced-to-move video rewinders.

Buying up what I could with whatever money I had at the moment—a couple of copies of some Tai Seng videos, a few films starring Klaus Kinski, Running Out of Luck with Mick Jagger and, best of all, a large Smokey and the Bandit poster that I once cherished, all were eventually recklessly lost to time and to trash. I returned a couple of weeks later with far more dough, but I was too late, as the doors had been shut on this video-case for good.

Like Brigadoon, Oklahoma City’s premier video store had disappeared, the spot scrubbed like it had been power-washed with VHS head cleaner. It didn’t matter anyway: the big box stores were coming in to unload their goods at discount prices that even Blockbuster, Hollywood and Video Update couldn’t keep up with. For a while though, Blaine made a good run of it with the incomparable DVD Depot, out around Meridian and N.W. 63rd, but that’s a long-gone stone-cold memory as well now.

Whenever I bring up Kaleidoscope, a 12:00 light flashes repeatedly in most people’s eyes—but hopefully some of you will get it and, like being a raucous member of a mostly secret club of enterprising film-junkies, a string of exploitation flicks always on hand that very few had ever heard of, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if you can still rattle off all the influential titles you once rented, remembering to be kind and to always—always—rewind.

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