by Gabe Meline
Thomas is leaving Video Droid this Saturday, and yes, everyone else who works there is fantastic. But Thomas has truly been the face of the place on the late-night: drumming up conversation with customers, playing Camp Lo on the stereo and recommending the best experimental underground Samurai movies you've never seen. I caught up with him while he bumped Kid Cudi's "Day n Nite" played over Flash Gordon on his next-to-last-ever shift.
When did you start working here?
I started working here about six and a half years ago, I believe. Before here, I worked briefly at something called Calico Corners, which was, like, an upholstery type thing. But my main job before that had been Hot Topic, where I'd been assistant manager for a few years.
What was the first movie you ever put on your 'Employee Picks' rack?
The first movie I wanted to put on it was The Way of the Gun, but unfortunately it was already taken! So I can't remember what the first one was. It might have been The Warriors, I'm sure.
Who was the worst customer ever?
You get some people who cuss you out, you catch some people urinating on the building. A lot of the worst people aren't customers at all, just transients. I've had people pull out full-size jugs of vodka and start chugging it in the middle of the store, just wasted, and then not remember why they're not allowed in the building! Every two months, you'd be like, "Nah. You're still kicked out of here."Who was the best customer?
Just the whole community of customers. There's a lot of teachers and whatnot around here. I can't think of any single best customer, but the whole community—a lot of them know each other. A lot of them are from the educator field, as well, which is why I don't mind extending the teacher discount to more than films just for class, because teachers have to pay so much out of their own money.
Have you ever saved any movies from the dollar sales where you were like, "We can't sell that shit! We have to keep it in stock?"
They're all right here! [Motions to gigantic pile of movies he's saved from tomorrow's sale, including Joe Golds' Secret, Dance With the Devil, Lords of Flatbush, Punisher: War Zone, Uzumaki (Spiral), The Hills Have Eyes Pt. II, Hostel Pt. II, Psycho II and III, Air Guitar Nation, Best of the Power Rangers, and Samurai Jack]What's your all-time favorite terrible movie?
Oh, so many. Gymkata might win out. It stars 1984 Olympic gymnastics Gold Medal winner Kurt Thomas, traveling around Eastern Europe fighting ninjas. It's so bad, I love it. I watch it all the time. That might be my all-time favorite bad movie.
Which movie that you've shown on the in-store TVs has received the most complaints?
Well, I mean, I've shown Oldboy and Battle Royale in here. I watched The Thing for Halloween one year. I just watched Prince of Darkness. I watch a lot of John Carpenter movies that I really shouldn't in here. Then there's that scene from Mean Girls where they talk about the Burn Book, that drew a big complaint. But usually it's just parents with their kids in the store, goin' like, "Hey guys." I try to be on top of that. You gotta pick the night well. Some nights I can totally show Oldboy, and other nights Mean Girls will get complaints. Or Bring It On.
What's your favorite story about tracking down a movie that someone hasn't returned yet?
Usually someone will just be like, "I know who that person is." I've never broken into anyone's house or stalked someone of Facebook. Three Criterion movies, two years ago, for your second rental? I'll just charge the card. I'll always make a call first, but I enjoy charging the cards. It's like, "Let's decide however many late fees we're gonna charge you on top of that." If it's just some whatever movie, I'll give 'em a deal, but sometimes I'll be like, "That movie?! Oooooooooohhhhh!"What has been the most-stolen movie at Video Droid?
Blow, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, American Me, Blood In, Blood Out (Bound by Honor). I've had some of those stolen out of my picks before. Some movies we just stopped ordering for a while, like Fear & Loathing, because the Criterion edition was the only edition available for a long time. A lot of David Lynch stuff. Wild at Heart. David Lynch fans are shifty people. Cheech & Chong is kind of hard to keep track of, but usually with those people they just forget.
Have you ever been offered anything other than money to pay for late fees?
Food. Food's easy to get me with. People have brought me enchiladas, brownies. Regular amounts of wine, alcohol, beer. It's easy to get me with beer. Dave has a story about a girl offering to flash him if he would rent her a new release before the official date. Unfortunately that's never happened to me, I woulda been all hell yeah.
Didn't you have a death metal band that played one show in the parking lot here?
Uh, yeah. Shitstorm. Shitstorm played a show here once. Heironymous played here a couple times, that was my band. We had a few people coming in off the street going "Yeah, brother! Yeah, brother!"What is your proudest contribution to the decór around here?
A lot of little touches, but I think the one I'm most proud of hung above the adult section. It's the Italian passage that hangs over the entrance to hell in Dante's inferno, and it ends with the "Abandon hope all ye who enter." That I'm going to be taking with me.
What are you gonna miss the most about working here?
Oh, a lot. I've spent a lot of time here. The co-workers. Some of the customers. The movies. Oh, the movies. I just love movies and film. I love everything about 'em.Thomas is off to tech-ier pastures, working for Sonic.net. If you're modem's acting up and you happen to get him as your customer service rep, make him feel at home and start asking about Jean-Luc Godard.Best of luck, holmes.