When I folded up my video store, I had no where to go. Norman asked me what my plans were. I didn’t have any. So he asked me to work for him. Being that I had no other options , I took the job.

He had this guy, Zito, running his Adults Only section. Liquidators wholesaled a lot of XXX VHS tapes. First thing I noticed was that this guy was not only lazy, he was afraid of some of the customers.

Liquidators had a lot of street hustlers come in. Mostly black guys looking for something they could peddle. Some of these guys were dangerous. Zito let them walk all over him. I just observed and did my job. Then Norman tells me that he is going to set up at the East Coast Video Show in Atlantic City. “ I want you to come along, you’ll have fun” he tells me. 

So I’m in. We drive down with a van load of tapes. We set up and try to sell. At least Norm tries to sell. Zito wanders off to ogle porn queens. I say to Norm, “ Not for nothing, what is this kid doing? He couldn’t sell heaters to Eskimos. “ Now you know why I wanted you to come, show me what you can do.” So I start hawking tapes. I have people buying them by the case. Norm is impressed. “ I want you to come in full time and sell for me.” 

Ok, but Norm has taken two federal busts so far. One for fake Rolex watches, the other for bootleg tapes. I tell him ok, but I’m not going to jail for you. “ Then you can keep me honest” he says. That would become a big part of the job. Zito’s thing was to answer the phone, take an order, but never try to actually sell anything. I answer the phone, see what they want, then offer another deal. 

So I’m selling a ton of tapes and this guy is getting pissed. He tells me to ignore Norm. I tell him you’re not the guy paying me, he is. Then he gets stupid, he makes sure I know that he has a knife. I tell Norm that if this asshole makes a move on me, I’ll put him in the ER. The end was that he cursed Norm out in front of a customer. Then the next day, he calls in sick. Norm calls me to come up front. “ I just got a call for a reference for Zito” he tells me. “Yeah? “ I say. “ I gave him a good reference, but he’s fired as of now. You have his position”. Not for what you’re paying me I don’t” I tell him. So we work out a better pay and I don’t want to pay for my stuff. I had gotten Kim’s Video as an account and they had some DVDs I wanted. “As long as I don’t lose any money, work that out the way you want.“ he tells me.

So I played with some figures and got my DVDs for nothing. My biggest problem was undoing what Zito did. I knew I was going to be tested by the customers that intimidated him. If I let that happen, I was screwed. I also had to weed out the morons and trouble makers.

Scumbags came in looking for kiddee porn. As crooked as Norm was, he stayed away from that stuff. I have a seething hated for pedophiles anyway. So a creep comes in looking for that stuff. I sell him a blank tape for $25. An hour later , he’s back and pissed. ‘ This fuckin’ tape is blank “ he screams at me. ‘ I know it is, I screwed you, why don’t you go get that nice policeman down the block and tell him how I screwed you.” I get a blank stare. “ Go tell the cops, you worthless cocksucker, then I’ll tell them what you really wanted.” the guy slinks out. 

“Pretty good” Norman says as he watched the whole thing play out. “ Yeah, I say, but I want $10 for that blank tape.” I did that act three more times. No one asked after that. We did have stuff that shouldn’t have been sold, but that stuff, 5th generation Traci Lords bootlegs and imported animal porn , wasn’t that big of a deal for me. Norm had code words for this stuff. TL was the word for Traci tapes and “A” tapes were the animal ones. 

“Problem “ customers were another thing I had to deal with. We had a VHS/TV combo by my desk to check out tapes that were returned. This guy, Bad Billy, would make Zito preview any tape he was going to buy. So he would stay there and watch tapes. He would also threaten other customers with “ I’ll cut you” if he didn’t like them. The guy was dangerous, but I wasn’t dealing with him. He started that watch the tape shit with me. 

Fuck that, I broke the machine. So Billy comes in, picks up a few tapes, then tells me to play them. The conversation went something like this:

“Put these in , I want to see the quality”. 

“Sorry man, the player is broke”

“Your lyin, put the tape in.”

“So I put it in and it won’t play.” 

“You gonna fix this thing?”

“I don’t fix shit, I just sell stuff.”

“You need to be fixin’ it” 

“Talk to Norm, it’s his machine, I just work here.” 

He gives me the “stare” like I give a shit. He goes bitching to Norm who blows him off. One problem solved. 

Another guy, Willie, changed prices on an invoice I wrote out. So I go up front and call him out on it. We argue and he storms out. Norm tells me that Willie just got out of jail on a manslaughter charge. So ok, now I’m in a jackpot. I can’t back down, I do that, they’ll walk all over me. Worse, a lot of people saw me call him out. You lose face in a situation like this, your screwed. So I think on it .

What’s the worst that can happen, I get my ass kicked? Get sliced up, and for what? So a few days later, Willie comes in. I suck it up and walk up to him. “We have a problem, we can settle it one of two ways. We can go outside and beat the shit out of each other, which ain’t going to solve nothing, or we can forget about it and I’ll show you how to make some money”. 

“You can show me how to make some money?“ “Yeah, I can , because I’ve been doing this a long time and know some tricks.“ So I showed him how to run some angles on selling that always worked for me. We became buddies and he actually bought me a bottle of hooch for Christmas. Word got out that I was a prick, but I could deal if you didn’t break my balls. So I would deal with the occasional loudmouth, then shut them down.

So one day I get an odd phone call. The guy claims he was referred to us by Rob Black. Black was the owner of Extreme Associates, a video company that specialized in porn that went a little too far. He also owned a wrestling company XPW that specialized in bloody, violent matches. So this guy is looking for animal porn and says Rob Black told him about us. Ok, we never did business with him, at least as far as I know. 

I tell the guy to call me back in an hour. I go talk to Norm. “Do you know Rob Black?” I ask. “No”, he tells me, why ? “A guy just used his name asking for “A” tapes, he claims Black told him about us.” “ Think there’s a problem ?” he asks. “Well, I say, “I do know that he got busted for shipping some questionable stuff to Pittsburgh. I know that he got busted by the same woman DA who had Tommy Chong busted for selling bongs.”

“What do you think?” Asks Norm

“I think we are being set up.”

“What do you want to do?”
“He wants tapes with animals, so I’m going to sell him tapes with animals.” 

Norm gives me a WTF look. I go pick out tapes like The Black Stallion, Milo & Otis, Lassie’s Big Adventure, Big Red and 6 other regular movies featuring dogs and horses.

The guy calls back. “How many do you want?” I ask. “ How much are they?” he asks. “Ten dollars each.” I tell him. He orders ten. He pays for them and I pack them up. About a week later , I get an irate phone call. 

“What is this shit you sent me?”

“You said you wanted tapes with animals, so that’s what I sent you.” 

“I wanted tapes with people fucking animals, not this shit.”

“Sir, we are a family store, what ever gave you the idea that we would sell something that illegal?” 

“You smart mouthed little fuck, you’re dead.” he hangs up. Strangely he never called back.

It was obvious that Black was in serious trouble and he was throwing people under the bus. I told Norm that we should get this stuff out of the store just in case we got a ‘visit.” 

It was no big secret that the mob controlled all the porn in the area. Norm would have ‘conferences” with guys and I would make myself scarce. But it wasn’t only porn, they had their fingers in a lot of pies. Norm would introduce me to people that I later found out were “retired” hit men. We got truckloads of tapes and DVD from a place in California that were supposed to be destroyed. 

Then he makes some deal with a guy in Canada. We get a truckload of stuff. It was slow on my end, so I volunteer to count the DVDs. Actually I was counting and shopping at the same time. All those cool MGM Midnight Movies, Sopranos Box Sets, all kinds of great stuff. I count over 5000 DVDs. I tell him the count. “You never told me that” Norm tells me. The invoice was for 3000. 

So Norm is out and I take a call from Canada, a guy named Vito. He asks me how I like the goods, are they selling well, ect. So we chatted for a bit and he asks me to have Norn get in touch for another truckload. Now Norm’s accountant, Mark , asks me how the hell we paid for 3000 DVDs but got 5000 ? I say “The guy’s name is Vito, he owns a “container” company in Toronto, do you now get the picture?” Finally, he did. 

Another thing about Liquidators was you never knew who just might walk in. We were close to Madison Square Garden. One morning, a couple of guys were browsing. Albert, who ran the martial arts section recognized them as one guy’s face was on the box for a VHS tape. So I struck up a conversation as I had been watching the newer films that were coming out of Hong Kong.

Once these guys realized that I knew my stuff, they got real chatty. They told me stories about Jackie Chan, Samo Hung and other guys. We shot the shit for a couple of hours until I got busy. One day I was working the front counter when Mel  Brooks walked in. I said “aren’t you.. He shushed me. “Can I get that DVD of Gung Ho that you have in the window?” he asked. I picked it up, rang up the sale and bagged it. Mel left. Norm said “ Hey, some guys just want their privacy.“

Another time, Norm tells me to stay home. “Why?” I ask. Chris Rock is shooting a movie here tomorrow and needs to use the Adult Section. “Are you paying me to stay out?” I ask. I get a “no”. “Well fuck that, then I’m coming in.” “Ok, I’ll pay you,” he bitched. I never found out what the movie was .

Abel Ferrera came to the store as he was looking for a store that had a window where he could shoot a street scene. Our store had display windows that two people could fit in and shoot from.
So I show him the window, he takes a couple of measurements and leaves. He never came back.

Norm’s son in law worked on the set of Law and Order, the long running TV show. He was the one who sent Ferrera to us. Law and Order used a lot of locations though out the city. Porn people like nasty old Ron Jeremy would stop in as Ron ate in the resturant close by. Also black porn queen , Menage, who had a very large tongue.

Then there was Ox Baker, sorry The Fantastic Ox Baker as he told me. Ox was selling stuff out of the trunk of his car on the corner of 27th Street and 8th Avenue. He had just got over colon cancer. Feeling bad for the guy, I called Chiller Theatre and got him a table at the next show. Ox would drop in from time to time and terrorize the store. Once he took his teeth out and put them on the counter. As crazy as he was, Ox was a good guy and I miss him. 

Other regulars were guys like Frank Henenlotter , who stopped in every so often. Chuck Zane from Zane Video. Plus what was left of the old porn guard in NYC. New York City Liquidators was notorious and a reality TV show could have been filmed there. The store was a stop off for fans attending any Fangoria Weekend of Horrors . They would spend hours going though boxes of VHS tapes. These same fans cursed me out when I got Norm a table at the Chiller Theatre Convention.

I was a customer there for over 10 years. I became friends with Norm and he gave me a job that lasted until his death at age 61. I learned from him and he learned a bit from me. It was the end of an era when the place shut down. There was no other place like New York City Liquidators. 

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