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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Bankrupted Hastings the latest chapter in unrequited love

Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Clark (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

One day in 1996 my son, Ben, came home with stars in his eyes and poetry in his soul.

He’d been hanging out in his favorite haunt, the South Hill Hastings store, when a fetching blond-haired counter girl caught his teenage attention.

A beautiful “Video Girl,” he told me.

Those were the pre-DVD days, of course, when movies for rent or purchase came in chunky videocassettes. So moved was Ben by this vision of feminine loveliness that he took out some notebook paper and began writing a love song.

“I went down to the video store.

“I went down aisle number four …

Ben’s passion for singing and songwriting would one day take him to Seattle where his band, The Lashes, would land a recording deal with Columbia Records.

But back then Ben was honing his rudimentary musical skills with The Stoics, a spirited Ferris High School punk band where all the members dressed up like Pee Wee Herman. Really.

This memory tugged at my heart the other day when I passed the familiar Hastings Entertainment outpost at 2512 E. 29th and took in the yellow, black and red signage.

“Everything Must Go!”

“Entire Store 10% to 40% Off.”

“Going Out Of Business.”

The sad news broke last month. Hastings is bust. All 123 outlets of the Texas-based company are closing, including three stores in Spokane and one in Coeur d’Alene.

Bankruptcy. Liquidation. News reports say the once-lucrative chain will belong to the ages on Oct. 31.

This is no mere business failure for many members of Spokane’s 30-something generation. Like Mel’s drive-in in “American Graffiti,” Hastings was a magnetic landmark that represented their coming of age.

“The Facebook of our generation,” Ben said of Hastings when I called him Thursday.

“There was no social media back then. So we’d go to Hastings and hang out. We’d see each other and socialize outside of school and on the weekends.”

Hastings was also the place where Ben and his pals practiced the nocturnal art of dumpster diving.

The South Hill Hastings started out in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center. According to Ben, the dumpster behind that outlet was easier to access than when Hastings moved to its current location.

The third floor of our home was soon filled with treasures scrounged from Hastings garbage: dozens of posters and large cardboard standup advertisements for movies like “12 Monkeys,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “The Terminator,” and assorted Adam Sandler yuck fests.

Motivated by nostalgia and curiosity, I went into Hastings to check out the big sale.

The liquidators had been busy. Everything was tagged and placed and ready to go:

Movies, music and books, of course, but myriad other merchandise (skateboards, games, action figures, guitars, turntables, T-shirts …) that Hastings got into over the years in a probable attempt to counter the evolutionary shift in how consumers satisfied their entertainment cravings.

On demand movies. Services like Netflix. Kindle. Amazon. iBooks and iTunes, oh, my!

The online shift in our culture has taken its toll. (Tell me about it, I’m in the newspaper business.) There just wasn’t as much reason to go to a store like Hastings anymore.

Pawing through some of the sale items I did find something to take home. There in the used CD bin under “Lashes” was a single copy of “The Stupid Stupid,” a four-song CD that Ben’s band released when it was on the Berkeley-based Lookout Records label.

A bargain at $1.49. But with the Hastings “Going Out of Business” discount: 97 cents.

Sold. I paid the checker – no beauty for me, just an average-looking dude – and headed for sunshine.

And as for that song that Ben started 20 years ago?

Well, the day after his video vision, I found the first four lines that he had written discarded on a table.

“This is cool,” I told him. “You gonna finish it?”

Ben said he didn’t think so and told me to have at it. So I pulled out my guitar and came up with a melody and enough words to fill up a song.

A year or so later, my own band recorded “Video Girl,” and we’ve played it ever since. You can hear the result here.

Or just read the lyrics and make up your own farewell tune to Hastings and that long-gone Video Girl who briefly stole my son’s young heart:

I went down to the video store.

I went down aisle number four.

And as I stood at the checkout line,

There she was, she looked so fine.

Well, my brain was feeling sort of hazy.

I asked her if she liked Martin Scorsese.

She smiled as she rented me the box.

Said, “That ‘Taxi Driver’ rocks.”


True love at the video store.

Each night coming back for more.

Rentin’ movies that I never see.

Video Girl gotta hold on me.

Hangin’ out at the parking lot.

Eatin’ dinner from a box of Dots,

Oh, Video Girl, you’re such a fox.

Video Girl.

Yeah, Video Girl.

Well, it may be wrong, but my heart belongs,

To a Video Girl.

Well my friends tell me I’m a fool.

They say that Video Girl’s too cool.

I’m a loser with no career.

She’ll be assistant manager next year.

I’m in love, and I gotta dream.

I see it all like a movie scene.

We’d go drivin’ in a big fine car.

With a built-in VCR.


I went down to the video store.

I went down aisle number four.

As I stood at the checkout line,

There she was, she looked so fine.

Doug Clark can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or

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