VHS movie diehards converge at Tape Eaters Convention
By Tim Anderl
Amidst basement shelves piled high with VHS cassettes and other movie and comic book memorabilia, local VHS collector, and the mastermind behind Dayton’s first Tape Eaters VHS collectors’ convention, Ryan Disney explains our marching orders for the afternoon. We’ll be travelling around the city, digging through wares at local flea markets looking for rare, long-forgotten movies produced by Lightning Video, Wizard Video, Lettuce Entertain You and other production houses yielding hours of sleazy, science fiction-y and horrific straight-to-video entertainment from yesteryear.
“In the mid-eighties when you went to the video store there were all these crazy movies that were inspired by more successful movies like ‘Rambo,’ ‘Commando,’ ‘Porky’s,’ or some slasher franchise,” Disney explained. “Every time one of those movies came out, there were dudes trying to ride that coattail by making straight-to-video movies. They tried to outdo every body count, the blood, the nudity, but they had these plot lines that didn’t make any sense at all. That’s what makes them great.”
Celebrating these forgotten movies, as well as found home movies of the strange and awkward variety, The Tape Eaters VHS Convention and Art Show takes place at Dayton’s Yellow Cab Building, located at 700 E. Fourth St. on Saturday, Aug. 25 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Vendors will offer opportunities to buy movies, and artists inspired by collecting and the elaborate box art of those movies will also exhibit their tributes to those films and genres.
“There was a VHS meet-up near Philadelphia this spring that I wanted to go to, but travelling there just wasn’t feasible at the time,” Disney said as he explained the convention’s origins. “There were some other collectors who couldn’t go who were talking on the VHS collector Facebook pages and saying, ‘I wish there was one of these in the Midwest, or in Ohio or Indiana.’ So I called up Yellow Cab building and they agreed to let me do this there.”
“A lot of people have told me they are excited about Tape Eaters, but I have no idea how many people will show up,” Disney added. “So I’ll go, put the tables up and hope for the best. Sometimes I wonder what the people who started the first Star Trek convention were expecting. Who knows? No one may show up, but I know I’ll have fun with those who do.”
Beginning at 7 p.m., a concert will also take place in the parking lot of the Yellow Cab building, which will offer attendees an opportunity to show off their best purchases and trades, enjoy music by local bands, including Oh Condor, Give Ups, Bill Parker and The Mother Scratchers from Detroit and Suicide By Cop from Ann Arbor, and drink frothy beverages from a beer truck provided by Blind Bob’s.
In addition to the thrill that comes with finding a rare, braggable VHS tape or movie, or something that another collector will pay high dollars for the opportunity to own, Disney said that spending every weekend searching junk shops and flea markets around the area for VHS has provided the opportunity to really explore his own backyard.
“I spend a lot of time at garage sales, in junk shops and in flea markets,” Disney said. “So I’ve been in a lot of the weirdest, creepiest basements or back rooms in the city, and met some of the strangest, and sometimes grumpiest, people in Dayton.”
“Most of the time I just find stuff I’d never want. The running joke around the VHS collectors community is that you’ll go out looking on a day like today and end up only finding used copies of ‘Jerry Maguire,’” Disney joked. “They must have produced a billion copies of that movie on video. So we’ll need to avoid those at all costs.”
Truth be told, as Disney and I visited flea markets on North Dixie, we found more basement-and garage-grime-covered copies of “Jerry Maguire” than we did rarities, proving that uncovering lost treasures is less-than-glamorous work. While most of the vendors we encountered were helpful to our cause and gracious, we also encountered a few characters. During a stop at the Forest Park Flea Market (located in the basement of an abandoned North Dixie strip mall), Disney uncovered a pile of discarded, dusty laser discs amidst yellowing copies of Playboy, disintegrating ceiling tiles, furniture reeking of cat pee and cigarette smoke and piles of mismatched shoes. When Disney offered the vendor a generous 50 cents apiece for the un-priced discs, the vendor said that he was asking for $25 per disc and would rather throw them away then sell them to him.
“That guy has actually tossed movies that I was trying to buy in the trash right in front of me when I didn’t make him the offer he wanted, so I’m not surprised,” Disney said, as we left the flea market empty handed. “He probably thinks this cat is worth $40,000,” Disney added as we passed a geriatric, mangy and sleepy feline living at the market.
I asked Disney what his “holy grail” find would be on a mission like the one we’d embarked on.
“I was recently told about a video and decided it was my personal holy grail. My friend Bill Furbee’s brother-in-law went to high school in Ohio and graduated the same year as actor Woody Harrelson,” Disney said. “When they had their ten-year reunion while Harrelson was in the midst of his days on ‘Cheers,’ he sent in a video of himself in a hot tub with a bunch of beautiful women and the sentiment was that the entire class could go fuck themselves. That VHS tape is probably in a landfill somewhere, but maybe it isn’t. I would love to have that.”
For more information, visit the Tape Eaters Facebook event page here: www.facebook.com/#!/events/415335485155547/.
Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Anderl at TimAnderl@daytoncitypaper.com