This is why I created this website. It was after watching this VHS tape. If you don’t wish to watch the full two hours posted below, here is a flavor of the magic that is The Scherzi in NY:
My girlfriend’s family found this VHS tape at a thrift store years ago. It quickly became their family tradition to watch it each Christmas. There are many memorable moments and phrases that became part of their family banter, “where’s the baby?!”
I had gone to thrift stores looking for Tiki artifacts and Hawaiian shirts, but the thought of rummaging through VHS tapes never occurred to me. I am a computer programmer, obsessed with the current state of technology. The thought of media on VHS was as laughable as 8-track or owning electronics that used vacuum tubes. However, this video shattered the highly marketed reality I thought I was uniquely forging and realized that the media I had been consuming was highly crafted by large corporations and not as self determined as I had thought. Gone were the days of VHS to usher in a new wave of consumerism in DVD and now BluRay. However, in the process, most had forgotten the unique ecosystem that had existed of hobbyist production… the likes of which will probably never be seen again.
Besides home movies erupting in families’ living rooms, the ubiquity of video rental shops ushered in an ecosystem of low-budget films whose economic stability was grounded in the store’s need to fill their empty shelves. The 1980’s and early 90’s were a treasure trove of pop-culture Americana. However, as technology “progressed” and distribution channels formalized and consolidated, much of this ecosystem dwindled away.
On the home movie front, people have continued to make home movies, now digitizing them onto YouTube directly from their cell phones. However, you can see a radical change in content format. People know, or hope, their content will be viewed by others and produce exhibitionist content that strives for attention. There is something to be said for the home movies of the 80’s where the viewer was limited to the people filming it, or possibly an audience of just a couple family members. The “actors” were themselves, not trying to entertain and get likes on their page, but simply living and being within the moment.
“The Scherzi in NY” is quite possibly the most extreme example of being themselves and in the moment. From a historical and anthropological stand they are curiously horrifying. I dare you to find a modern home movie with the volume of smoking and shirtless lounging around small children. One of my favorite moments in this video is when they encourage the baby to slap the raw turkey sitting on the counter. I cringe at the thought of food poisoning, yet at the same time am saddened by the realization that the modern poultry industry has perverted their markets to such a degree that having a bacteria free product is something we here in America aren’t accustomed to and find unnatural to contemplate.
These moments of cultural snapshots of past Americana is why I created this website and why I seek out home movies at thrift stores. Equally strong is my wonder for the story of this tape I now hold in my hands… how did it come to be in a thrift store?! Many of them I suspect were owned by family members who passed away, their memorabilia cleaned out in haste. The tape holds a fascinating story I’m sure, but even more enjoyable is the detective work of unraveling the mystery within. Many tapes do not have digitized timestamps. One must delve deep within the memory of fads and trends to date the visible contents. The very act of watching, and placing context to, the discovered home movie offers as much fun as the content itself.
The combination of all of these factors is what drives me to find, digitize, promote and cherish these gems. They are a moment in time that we have forgotten. A moment of Americana that existed in the utmost serious manner at the time, but has since degraded to dream-like recollection. Foggy and hazy, we look to the 80’s as gaudy and hilarious, yet fail to connect the simple truth: our present only exists as a direct result of this past, and in many ways is just as hilarious now as we will reflect upon in the decades to come.
I invite you to step out of your present. I challenge you to step into the past, into another’s life, and to witness a moment in humanity that will never exist again. Join me as we tumble down the rabbit hole of being Human and embrace the absurdity of honest Americana.
This is The Scherzi in NY.