A family travels through Arizona and New Mexico in August of 2000. In a manner befitting Clark Griswold, dad brings adventure to this middle American family as they travel to the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest and other points of interest.
This home movie was found in a Garden Grove thrift store.
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.
A recent trip to a thrift store in Garden Grove, CA, offered quite the bounty. Among the dozen VHS tapes I had to grab, I did find one unlabeled tape. It was about halfway in and not rewound. Clearly, not a blank tape, but was it just another taping of daytime television or my prized thrift store jewel: a discarded home movie?! Only one way to find out.
The unboxing video is available on our Instagram @thriftshopvids. It was a very exciting moment to see that it was, in fact, a home movie!
Now the fun begins! What were these videos?!
In high school, my mother told me I should study Spanish. Living in California, she said, will be useful. I took German. Other than understanding the Nazis in the Indiana Jones movies, that choice has not been as fruitful as I had hoped. It’s moments like this video where I wish I could speak Spanish. A couple words here and there I get, calling a woman crazy, for example. However, the majority of the first part of the video is in Spanish. The last couple chapters have some English, but nothing of great detective value. Hopefully, my legion of… fan… could translate and leave comments below as to what they are talking about.
What I believe is going on, however, are family gatherings centered around the little girl. She appears to grow quite rapidly between segments, so either I’ve uncovered the scientific documenting of a freakish growth hormone, or this video takes place of over a couple years. Songs are played in the background (on what appears to be a portable tape player that I had as a kid) and Shazam has tagged them to be from an album released in 1988, and later the Bobby Brown theme song from Ghostbusters 2 (proud to say I quickly identified that myself), from 1989.
The husband and wife gain some weight throughout the video, another indication time is passing. I’ll be honest. There’s some very unflattering shots in swim wear. God bless them and their inappropriate crotch grabbing for throwing caution to the wind! I believe a slightly more blonde woman is doing most of the filming (possibly a sister of the wife). However, when the camera zooms into boobs and crotches, it’s pretty clear the macho mustachio wearing swinger is on the job. At the end, they are driving around Anaheim, CA, and drive past Disneyland.
It’s amazing to see the cars on the road, but more impressive to see the lack of buildings around what is now a very built up section of properties around the mouse’s park. Amusingly, I was able to use Google Maps to find the street they turned on during one segment. Gilbert and Ball still has a 7-Eleven and McDonald’s on the corner.
I’m very tempted to see if I can retrace their path and film a modern version of their journey driving along the same streets. I’d love the see the two side-by-side to see how the area has built up.
Please enjoy a Garden Grove family from the late 1980’s in southern California.