So, I hear that Colin Hanks’ Tower Records documentary is being screened in Los Angeles. I didn’t hear about this from the director or from the Tower brass. A former employee posted it on my Facebook timeline. I thank her for recognizing that I had a role in this company’s rise and fall.
I don’t delude myself that I was one of the top 25, or even 50 or 100, all-time MTS employees. I don’t imagine, if Tower had a Hall of Fame, that I’d be an inductee. I recognize that when I arrived on the scene, while not yet a worldwide, or even national, company, Tower Records was indeed already an iconic and revolutionary chain. Heck, that’s why I applied for a job within days of moving to Los Angeles in 1980. It’s the only place I wanted to work.
Still, I am a bit surprised, disappointed and curious that, other than a brief introductory email exchange in 2011 (“we’ll be in touch soon”), Mr. Hanks did not feel that I was worthy of even a five minute phone pre-interview by his lowest staff member. After all, I did work for Tower for 26 years. I was the Manager of Tower Sunset, “the most famous record store in the world” during its peak years. I was the pioneer of computerized inventory management for the chain. I founded Tower Israel (employee #1) and opened three stores in the Middle East. To my knowledge, I was the only person in Tower history to manage Store of the Year award winners at three different locations. And, for the last four difficult years of the chain, I was the Director of Purchasing for all US stores, overseeing $1.6 billion in sales. When they finally shuttered the place, I wonder how many staffers remained with an employee number lower than my #3047.
I look forward to seeing Mr. Hanks’ movie. I’m sure it will be glowing with well-deserved and sentimental, nostalgic praise for his hometown chain that conquered the world. I’m sure I’ll learn new things about those first ten years, gain new insight into the legends and mentors that preceded me and feel my own swell of pride for any tiny role I played in this iconic American success story. And I’m particularly interested in seeing how he portrays the demise. For long after the titans had left the building, after the passing of Bud Martin and Tony Valerio, the departures of Hopson, Sockolov (Ross and later Kenny), Barton, Viducich, Goman, Scarlett, MTS himself… and after Russ had lost all relevance, the fight went on. I wonder if this is covered in any detail. Is there mention of those who struggled through those last couple of years to keep the old gal afloat with smoke and mirrors, baling wire and duct tape? Is there any sentiment for the thousands of employees who fought on with no glory, no pay raises, no golden parachutes and, in the end, no severance packages whatsoever? Will their love, passion and selfless dedication be acknowledged?
And, will Russ ultimately take any responsibility for his epic financial blunders and loss of vision? Or will it be his usual litany of blame: Napster, the internet, downloading, record companies (that wouldn’t listen to him and produce more singles and classical records) and “those fucking banks”. Will Tower’s demise just be chalked up, like buggy whips and steam locomotives, to all things (such as record stores), must inevitably pass?
As an insider, and an eyewitness to the bitter end, I ain’t buying that story!
I recognize that this post is not likely to be embraced, but I feel I’m entitled to my point of view, my perspective, my feelings.
And, all that aside, I do sincerely thank Russ Solomon for signing my paycheck for 26 years. It was indeed, a great ride. Thank you sir.
1980-1991 Tower Sunset – W. Hollywood, CA
1991-1993 Tower Topanga – Woodland Hills, CA
1993-1995 Tower Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Israel (employee #1)
1995-2002 Tower Stockton – Stockton, CA
2002-2006 Corporate Headquarters, 2500 Del Monte, West Sacramento, CA, USA
P.S. In the Facebook post, I included a photo that I had sent to Kickstarter by way of introducing myself. I call it Hallow Ween (from Tower Sunset,1980). Facebook took it down.