Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Memories Of Tower Greenwich Village Part 7

This is the seventh and final installment in a series of articles I have written about the time I spent at Tower Records in Greenwich Village. The chain was sold to a liquidator back in October, and the store is closing on Friday, December 22nd for good.

Last night I was in Greenwich Village and stopped by the Tower Records store to see if it was still open. It was, and as soon as I walked in I saw a sign on the right side behind the cash registers that said, "CLOSING DECEMBER 22." It was beyond surreal to see it. I felt so bad at that moment. I just didn't want to see Tower Records come to an end this way.

A part of my past is going away forever.

I decided a short time ago that Part 7 of this series would be the final installment of this series. It has been a pleasure to write this series, and of course, a bit painful. It brought back a lot of happy memories, and a few bittersweet. I've gotten some wonderful feedback from many people out there, some I hadn't heard from in many years. I put the entire series up on the TowerReunion.com message board, and it was nice to hear from many of the nice folks over there.

I had been debating to myself what to write in this final part, but after being in the Tower store last night, I decided to dedicate this final installment to the memories of the people I knew through Tower who have left this world. At TowerReunion, there is a thread dedicated to those Tower employees who have passed away, and I left a couple of messages there for nine special friends (from the Village and elsewhere) who have died. So I have decided to write about all nine of them, sharing my favorite memories of them.

Kevin Woosley was originally from Iowa, and was the head supervisor in Tower's cassette department. I'll never forget Woos' hearty laugh and crazy sense of humor. And I will truly never forget him for one night: October 25, 1986. We were the closing supervisors at the store that night, and for many of you baseball fans, that date should strike a chord. It was Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, and the Mets pulled off the miraculous comeback in the 10th inning against the Red Sox. I was simply in a daze after it happened, and I was around Woos for the next 30 minutes after it occurred. We talked about it, and Kevin was very sympathetic to me, as he was a Cubs fan. I'll never forget him telling me about going to Wrigley Field as a kid on class trips. Kevin left us in 2000, and I'm sorry he never got to see his Cubs win it all. But thanks for being with me that night, buddy.

George (Jet) Watley was another friend of mine with a very biting sense of humor. He was originally one of my clerks and my CD assistant for a time. I loved his little digs at people. They were funny but never vicious. Jet was part of our crew that hung out at The Cactus Cafe, where we'd go after work (and of course, many days during work) and knock a few back. It was always fun to be there to see what would happen, and many Tower legends were born there. But unfortunately, Jet had a terrible smoking habit, and he died of lung cancer in 1989.

Jack Pires worked downstairs in the store, in the mail order department. Jack was a truly a nice guy and a big music fan. He was even a roadie for the Grateful Dead for a time, and I loved his stories of being on the road with them. Jack was another friend who died very suddenly, in the mid-1990s. I always think of him whenever the word "Deadhead" comes up.

B.J. Moore and I had a lot in common. We were both huge sports fans, but he was a Yankee fan, and I, of course, was a fan of their main rival. We used to take little digs at each other as far as our teams went, but it was always good natured. B.J. was a big, husky man, and he had an incredibly big heart and always had a smile on his face. We became even better friends when we both discovered that we were both alumni of Brooklyn Technical High School, about 6 years apart. Unfortunately, B.J. suffered a fatal heart attack in July 2002, at the young age of 35.

Matt Ryan worked for Bayside Distribution in Sacramento, and I got to know him first over the phone with ten million questions about the company after I took over as a sales rep in 1993. I'll never forget Matt's patience in answering all my queries, and I really got to like him a lot when he told me he was a Mets fan. I got to meet him on my first trip out to the company HQ in 1994, and I'll never forget him taking me and my buddy Greg on a tour of Sacramento in his pickup truck. I sat in the back of the truck and it was a blast. Matt died in 1999, in his early 40s. Bayside was never the same after his loss.

Dave Nives was a sales rep for Rounder Records during the days I was the CD buyer. He was another Yankee fan who used to give me crap about the Red Sox, but he was one of the team's more intelligent fans. I'll never forget Dave's really bad and sometimes dirty jokes, as they always seemed to make my day. Dave always had some really good promos from his company, and I'll never forget his stories about the days he was at Boston University at the same time that Howard Stern was a DJ there. Dave died very suddenly this past summer of a heart attack, in his early 50s. I just found out about it from the TowerReunion message board earlier this month, and I'm still in shock over his passing.

Jimmy Brannan was a sales rep for RCA in the 80s who I got on with very well. We were both Irish Catholics from Brooklyn, and Jimmy was a Mets fan/Yankee hater like Yours Truly. I remember going to a Red Sox/Yankees game with him and two other friends in 1986 at Yankee Stadium. Jimmy and my friends got really drunk, and demanded to go into Stan's Sports Bar after the game (which was a Sox win). Jimmy and my friends seem to make it a point to tell the whole bar I was a Red Sox fan, and those Yankee fans gave me hell. We laughed about it later, but I've never stepped foot in the joint since. Jimmy died many years ago, and like Dave, I'll never forget those great promos he'd get me from his company. But more importantly, I'll never forget his warm friendship.

Joe Miller was the record store manager at Tower Records in Massapequa, Long Island. It was one of my accounts as a sales rep for Bayside. I immediately bonded with Joe as friends, and he always had a smile for me and a "Hello my brother!" greeting for me. He trusted me as a sales rep and let me write my own orders for the store, which was a rare thing, and I never violated his trust. Joe was also a ballboy for the Knicks at MSG for many years, and I'd even see him on TV occasionally. But in the late 1990s, Joe had kidney problems, and eventually needed a transplant. He eventually developed lymphoma, and on the morning of September 10, 2001, he died at the very young age of 32. His friends later told me of the terrible struggles he had in his last years, but didn't let on because he didn't want anyone to worry about him. I'll never watch another Knicks game again and not think of him.

Joyce Carpeneto, as many of you know from many of my previous posts, was a dear friend of mine since she started at Tower in 1985. We worked together on the Tower rock floor, and later Joyce moved downstairs to the cassette department. By 1990, Joyce had become a rep at TRIP, and I followed her there in 1991 as her loyal inventory person. We worked together at both places for over 6 1/2 years, until the Bayside merger, when she was unceremoniously let go. She landed at the Village Art department, where she showed off her tremendous skill as a store artist. We'd always run into each other when I was a sales rep, usually on Fridays renting videos in the video store. In 1998, Joyce left Tower for a "real" job, and I'll never forget how sad she was on her last day when we took her out for drinks that night. On the morning of September 11, 2001, she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and was lost in the World Trade Center disaster. No other person in my life who's passed away has had more of an impact on me than Joyce's tragic death. I will forever miss her warmth, kindness, bright smile, and how much she helped me in my move to TRIP in 1991. I'll never see a woman dressed in black, hear an Alice Cooper or Allman Brothers song, or see a Godiva chocolate bar and not think of her.

I'll miss them all forever.

And I'll miss Tower Records, of which I spent six years of my life at. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and I'll treasure the great memories I have of it. It probably won't sink in that it is indeed gone until I pass the corner of E. 4th Street and Broadway and see the store locked up, and then gone.

I'll be there on Friday to officially say goodbye to her.

Here are the previous six installments of the series:

Part 1: http://quinnmedia.blogspot.com/2006/10/memories-of-tower-greenwich-village.html Part 2: http://quinnmedia.blogspot.com/2006/10/memories-of-tower-greenwich-village_13.html
Part 3: http://quinnmedia.blogspot.com/2006/10/memories-of-tower-greenwich-village_17.html
Part 4: http://quinnmedia.blogspot.com/2006/10/memories-of-tower-greenwich-village_26.html
Part 5: http://quinnmedia.blogspot.com/2006/11/memories-of-tower-greenwich-village.html Part 6: http://quinnmedia.blogspot.com/2006/12/memories-of-tower-greenwich-village.html


Peter N said...

And music too? Everything you write is music to my eyes, my brain...all that stuff. Thanks....

The Omnipotent Q said...

Thank you, Peter, for the kind words about my writing, as always.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Your words make me cry...and smile and think back to all the wonderful people, times and opportunities Tower Greenwich Village brought to my life. I was there with Matty and Randi and Steve and Dave as managers...oh and Heddi. I was the regional marketing person at the time...I set up the grand opening for this grand store and to see it go away is painfull. Andy Warhol was at the opening party. What a store. One of my fondest memories was coming into NY, staying at the condo, of course, getting there late at night from CA and being able to just go down stairs and wander around the store. I loved walking into that first floor and looking up and taking it all in. I love the signs on the windows. The front display window. The Pulse magazines stacked on the left..and the people working and shopping in the store. Did you know James, Mattys assistant? I will never forget setting up and working the David Byrne and Robert Rauchenberg instore. That was one of the top experiences for me. I got to meet Robert over at his brownstone, just a block away and see the Warhol paintings he got in a trade with Andy. He talked about designing the Speaking in Tongues cover. This instore was right when we opened as I recall. Rauchenberg designed the ad that ran in the Voice for the instore. I went on to do many things and worked at Tower for 26 years. I miss it like I have never missed anything in my life. Thank you so much for writing your memories of Tower Greenwich Village.

The Omnipotent Q said...

Thank you for the very kind words, Terri.

Yes, I knew James Ward very well. He was one of the first people I knew at Tower, and I remember him calling me into the office during my first week at Tower to go over all the medical insurance and stuff. I also remember him giving me the very first copy of Spin Magazine, which I still have.

Thanks for sharing you memories of Tower. I remember you when I worked there, more by name than meeting you actually!

It's a terrible sad week for all of us who have good memories of the store.

Soon all we will have is just our memories.

james ward said...

John - FA - it's taken me awhile to get back to posting a comment back to you. Proust apologized for writing a 30 some-odd page letter to a friend because he didn't have time to write a shorter one. Count me in Marcel. So much to say. Even after having left Tower about 1000 years ago it still stabbed to see the ship go down. So many stories, so many faces - yup - I did the benefits orientation for all of them in our lovely leviathan on B'way. And btw - believe that Spin mag probably had a sports article I had written for them. I will give you a secret as to how I landed my job working for Mathew (where is he anyway - still in Hawaii being chased by Steven with a frying pan??). Marshall - you wouldn't remember him - others will - had Ruby - oops another you wouldn't know - post help wanted notices around NYU (I was a student running an equipment locker) looking for someone to videolog the reno of 692 Bway as they readied the first store east of Mississippi. I followed Ruby around and took down all the index cards & turned-up for the interview. Funny - no one else applied for the job! Therein I met Mathew and our dysfunctional duo was born! Hey - gotta go - family calls - as I say - much more and love to get to it sometime - and what's a Mets link doing on your site? You of the ne'er removed BoSox jacket?? james ward

The Omnipotent Q said...

Hey James
Great to hear from you! Tower's ending brought a lot of great memories back to me, and I wrote a seven part series about some of mine in the blog. I hope you had a chance to read the other six. Drop me a line at my email address if you get a chance: jbq1462@hotmail.com. I'd love to catch up with you properly. BTW, the Mets were always my NL team. But I'm still wearing my BoSox jacket these days, and with whole lot more pride!!

PS I would bet Mathew's still in Hawaii. With Steven still loyally by his side...with frying pan in hand...