A Sad Farewell to Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard

Yes, this day was coming, but I did not think it would come this soon. Back in 2015, Amoeba Music sold its Hollywood location on the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga to developer GPI Companies for a reported $34 million, and it is set to be turned into yet another high-rise building in Los Angeles. I read the store would be open through the end of 2020. But then we were all hit by the global pandemic known as Coronavirus/COVID-19, and “non-essential” businesses like Amoeba were forced to close the doors temporarily. There was hope Amoeba’s Hollywood location would re-open again soon, but then co-owner Jim Henderson made the following statement:

“The massive impact from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of our iconic Hollywood location at 6400 Sunset Blvd. With no reasonably foreseeable opportunity to re-open in our current location, we are instead focusing on hopefully opening in the fall in our previously announced new home at 6200 Hollywood Blvd. This situation has been forced on all of us, and we feel this decision is the most responsible and practical one.

“This is heartbreaking for us. We never envisioned not being able to give the store the send-off it deserves, to give you all a chance to say goodbye. We had so many events planned to celebrate our history at 6400 Sunset, but we are facing too many mitigating circumstances that simply won’t allow for it.”

Having read this, I understand and respect Amoeba’s decision not to re-open its Hollywood location. All the same, this is a real heart breaker for me as I looked forward to visiting this store again at least a few times before it closed, but now this will not happen. Like the Second City theatre, Amoeba Music was like a second home to me in Los Angeles which I visited frequently. Walking out of there empty-handed could feel criminal, but I could always find a certain CD, DVD, Blu-ray, cassette tape or vinyl record worth adding to my terrifyingly enormous collection (my dad says I have more CDs and DVDs than God).  

Having grown up in in Northern California, I often visited the Amoeba stores in Berkeley and San Francisco quite often, and this was back in a time where downloading music digitally was far from ever becoming a reality. Upon learning they were going to being opening a store in Hollywood, I became infinitely excited at what it would have to offer. Anyone familiar with the average Amoeba Music store knows they are far bigger than the normal record store. In fact, they are like warehouses which look to contain anything and everything you could ever hope to find. I was lucky enough to attend this store’s opening night back in November of 2001 and was in awe of just how big it was. If you were unable to find what you were looking for there, you had to wonder what was wrong with the world.

One of my biggest thrills in recent years was introducing my parents to this particular Amoeba Music store when they visited me in Los Angeles. They were flabbergasted at just how big this particular store was, and they were quick to grab their hands-on stuff like a Monterey Blues Festival t-shirt. This was also around the time of my birthday, and they got me Shout Factory’s special edition of “Creepshow” on Blu-ray, and that’s even though my dad was horrified at the price on it, and the soundtrack to “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” While I was unable to introduce my parents to New Beverly Cinema during their recent trip, I am ever so glad they got to check out this particular Amoeba store while it was still operating.

The following are some of my most memorable purchases I made at this particular Amoeba Music store.

Killing Zoe

I was lucky enough to visit this store on the day it opened back in 2001, and the DVD to “Killing Zoe” was the first thing I ever purchased there. Written and directed by Roger Avary, it stars Eric Stoltz as a safecracker named Zed who joins up with his longtime friend Eric (Jean-Hugues Anglade) in Paris to rob a bank on Bastille Day. I had just discovered this movie on IFC and was absolutely enthralled by it. The acting all around was terrific, and Anglade in particular was phenomenal as a man fully determined to go out with a bang. I also really dug the film score composed and performed by Tomandandy which proved to be as hypnotic as it was propulsive, and I have since become a big fan of their work.

But yes, “Killing Zoe” is especially worth watching for the gorgeous and beguiling Julie Delpy who wows us fright rom her first appearance as Zoe. Whether she is in bed with Stoltz or wielding a heavy-duty machine gun, you cannot take your eyes off of her for a second.

Because this was the first thing I ever bought at this particular store, I assure you I will never get rid of it.

The Best of Siouxsie and the Banshees

One time while I shopped here, this compilation album was playing on the store’s speaker system. I was already aware of Siouxsie and the Banshees thanks to their wonderfully bizarre song “Peek-a-Boo” which has an equally bizarre music video, and also “Face to Face” which proved to be a fantastic addition to the “Batman Returns” soundtrack. As this album played, I started to wonder why I didn’t give this British rock band more of my attention years ago as I suddenly became entranced by their songs “Cities in Dust,” “Dizzy” and “Kiss Them for Me.” to where I soon went over to the front counter to see what specific album was being played. I walked out with several items that day, but “The Best of Siouxsie and the Banshees” is the one I find myself still playing quite often.

“We Are Night Sky” by Deadboy & the Elephantmen

As with any other Amoeba Music store, the Sunset Boulevard location played host to many singers and bands who performed there in support of their latest releases. I was fortunate enough to be at the store when Deadboy & the Elephantmen performed in support of their second album, “We Are Night Sky.” Led by singer and guitarist Dax Riggs who was accompanied on bass and drums by Tess Brunet, the band was often compared to The White Stripes, but they really stood out on their own. As they played songs like “Stop, I’m Already Dead” and “Blood Music” with sheer abandon, I quickly became a fan and bought the CD. Other great tracks on this album are “How Long the Night Was” and “Misadventures of Dope.”

What a shame it was that this band came to a permanent end just one year later.

“Send Your Love to Me” – a P.J. Harvey live bootleg CD

The lady at the register warned me the sound quality on this disc was not great and that it sounded like someone recorded this show from the audience. I appreciated the warning as it prepared me for a recording which was clearly not done on a professional level. Still, I found it interesting to hear Harvey’s music from this vantage point, and at one point you can even hear one audience member tell another how she is going to be playing herself in the next “Batman” movie (I’m guessing he meant “Batman Forever”). Having seen Harvey perform live years ago at The Wiltern, listening to this bootleg made me feel like I was right back there again as songs like “Meet Ze Monsta” and “Down by the Water” are so invigorating to take in with an audience of fellow fans.

“Sorcerer” soundtrack by Tangerine Dream

At my previous day job, a friend of mine named Richard shared my love of film scores and movie soundtracks. One his big favorites was Tangerine Dream’s score to William Friedkin’s “Sorcerer,” and he complained about how he could never find it at any record store in Los Angeles or any other city. Sure enough, I did find a copy of it at Amoeba on Sunset. Surprisingly, it was not in the soundtrack section, but instead in the New Age section where all the other Tangerine Dream CDs could be found. You should have seen Richard’s face when I showed him the CD. Seriously, he looked like Donald Sutherland at the end of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” as he was completely stunned to be holding any copy of this particular soundtrack. I also agree with him about how this is one of the most unique film scores ever composed, and it opened up doors for Tangerine Dream in Hollywood as they went on to create more unforgettable scores for films like “Risky Business,” “Firestarter,” “Near Dark” and “Thief.”

“Heartland” by Client

While searching in the electronic music section for the latest CD by Hybrid or Juno Reactor, I came across a sign which said, “If you like Goldfrapp, then check this band out!” The band this sign was referring to was called Client, an English electronic music group from London which had just released its latest CD, “Heartland.” Would I have bought this CD in any other store? Well, it seems a bit unlikely as other places may not have been as quick to promote a band or artist Americans were not the least bit familiar with. Thanks to this sign, I got to check out this album which contains such terrific songs like “Lights Go Out,” “Zerox Machine” and “Someone to Hurt,” and these are songs I still never get sick of listening to.

“Adventures in Babysitting” t-shirt

As soon as I saw this t-shirt which featured Elisabeth Shue’s famous line of dialogue from the 1987 teen comedy film, I knew I had to have it. However, there was one slight problem: where could I possibly where it? Any shirt which says “don’t fuck with the babysitter” is not exactly the kind you can wear it if you live near an elementary school. But with all the social distancing currently going on, perhaps I can get away with wearing it as it can be hard to make out certain words when others are six feet away from you. At the very least, it will give some a reason to laugh during a time where it feels like the world is bordering on Armageddon.

Goodbye Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard. While I look forward to the opening of its newest location, to see this one shut down sooner rather than later really breaks my heart. So much of my money was spent here, and I have long since lost track of all the CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays I managed to trade in there for store credit.

Hopefully the new store will have a bigger parking lot.

The founders of Amoeba Music, Dave Prinz and Marc Weinstein, have since created a fundraising page on Go Fund Me to help offset the costs associated with the COVID-19 shutdown. With all Amoeba’s locations currently closed, they are struggling to survive and are doing what they can to pay their bills and take care of their employees’ health insurance. Their fundraising goal is $400,000, and to date they have raised over $230,000.

Click here to learn how you can make a donation.

Scott Boliver, Gone But Never Forgotten

Scott Boliver in New York

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was originally written and published in 2013.

Scott Boliver was a great person on top of being a superb marathon coach. During the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon, he made sure we had what we needed to cross the finish line, and he always greeted us with a big smile and a warm demeanor. The past year or two had him dealing with two different types of cancer which threatened to get the best of him physically and financially, thanks in large part to our still deeply flawed American health care system, but he fought against this indiscriminate disease long and hard and eventually beat it. We all got wristbands which had Scott’s nickname for his cancer fight written on them: “Slay The Dragon.” As a result, he became one of the most inspirational people we had ever hoped to meet in our lifetime.

Slay The Dragon armband

So, it was an enormous shock when we got the news Scott died on January 3, 2013. I had last seen him only a few days earlier while training for the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon, and he appeared to be in good spirits and still had that great smile of his for all to see. While had been to the hospital a few days earlier due to some swelling in one of his legs, a runner in my pace group had been in contact with him and said he was feeling fine. Even as we ran 12 miles in the rain and freezing wind, Scott was with us and keeping an eye on what we needed work on. At the end of the run, he made sure we didn’t stay outdoors long because we were all soaking wet and didn’t have much of an excuse to deal with hypothermia or pneumonia.

The word of Scott’s death spread like a wildfire on Facebook, and I remember staring at the screen in sheer disbelief and saying, “No, no, no, no, no!” Two other people who played a big part in my life, Jim Kirkwood and Grant Martin, had also died from cancer, but their deaths were not a surprise. They had fought their own fights against this indiscriminate disease, but it eventually took a huge toll on their bodies to where the damage was irreversible. When the end came for them, it was very sad but also kind of a relief. Although we missed them, we took comfort in the fact they were at peace and no longer suffering.

While I wanted to weep for Jim and Grant, I never shed tears when learning of their passing. I wanted to, but the tears never came for some odd reason. But the news of Scott’s death reduced me to a total wreck, and I was crying like never before. How could this man who had inspired so many with his constant slaying of the dragon that was cancer leave us so suddenly? Scott seemed to be in such great shape even after all he had been through, and yet fate proved to be unforgivably cruel in taking him away from us. Leonard Cohen said it best: “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”

I cannot even begin to imagine what Scott’s family is going through right now, and they have my deepest sympathies. He leaves behind a loving wife, wonderful children and his parents who have just endured one of the worst things any parent can ever experience, outliving their child.

Scott Boliver Coach

Those who have trained with Team to End AIDS have had the opportunity to meet Scott’s family, and his parents have been especially wonderful to hang out with these past few months. They have spent so much time preparing snacks for us to consume during our training and always have plenty of water and Gatorade for us to refill our water bottles with. Remember, these are the same people who introduced us to the delicious peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers, and we all live for those now.

I read a blog by Sara Catania entitled “Week 34: The Scott Boliver Experience,” and she shared some things about Scott I didn’t know about until now. He worked as a prison psychologist and lived in the city of Brea out in Orange County. The marathon training for Team to End AIDS takes place at Griffith Park in Burbank which means he has to make a round trip of 80 miles by car. Regardless of the distance, he still made it out to Griffith Park and typically got there before anyone else did, and we started running at 6 a.m. on certain mornings. I used to make a 70-mile round trip to and from Disneyland when I worked there, but I got nothing on this guy!

I also remember him putting together games and contests for the longer runs which had us guessing what songs came from which musicals, or what foreign country a certain kind of chocolate came from. This made our training all the more entertaining, and this was especially the case if you had those people in your pace group who could actually answer those questions without a doubt (I’m at a loss when it comes to musicals and chocolate). The winner of these games got a breakfast or some other special meal courtesy of Scott who paid for these wonderful prizes out of his own pocket.

Looking at this kind of dedication makes me admire Scott all the more because it seemed like he spent all his free time outside of his day job doing things for other people. Nothing seemed to bring him down even as the cancer diagnosis caused him a number of headaches which would have driven anyone else to insanity. Catania said it best:

“Coach Scott exudes empathy. When runners would ask him about every little pinch and blister, he’d take it all as seriously as the questioner required. He never talked about his own aches and woes. When the wildfires last fall came within a few feet of his home, he didn’t mention it to the group and didn’t miss a training.”

One of my favorite memories of Coach Scott came during the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon as I ran up San Vicente Boulevard. Now those familiar with this marathon will know San Vicente is the part of the run which lasts far longer than it has any right to. You are running up a nice street filled with beautiful houses you can’t possibly afford, and it feels like you will never reach the end of it. Just when you think you’ve reached the corner which leads you towards the finish line, you haven’t. That darn boulevard goes on forever, and it feels like it is designed to torture you psychologically more than anything else.

But eventually I did see Coach Scott on the side of the road, and seeing him was a huge relief as I was seriously on the verge of going completely mental. He was waiting for us all with that wide smile of his, and he picked the perfect place to meet up with us. It didn’t matter how many hours it took for us to finish the marathon because he was always there to make sure we had everything we needed. Seeing him there to greet me and give me a hug was exactly what I needed to cross that seemingly elusive finish line.

Now he’s gone and I just don’t get it. Perhaps his body was irreparably weakened from all the surgeries and chemotherapy treatments he was forced to undergo. His death feels so unfair, so unwarranted, and if there is a God I want to verify with him, or her, if they got the right person because I feel he, or she, made a serious mistake.

In his passing, however, we have come to see how far the love for Scott goes, and it goes an infinitely long way. His friend Larry Jacobson set up a memorial fund on Go Fund Me to help out Scott’s family who has suffered financially in the wake of his cancer fight and various medical bills which are far more than any family should ever have to pay off. Before Scott’s death, his family had to move out of their house and into an apartment, and now his wife and children find themselves with little money for food and rent.

The goal for the memorial fund was $20,000, and this amount was raised within the first 24 hours after it was set up on the internet. In the next couple of days $30,000 was raised. 11 days later, over $66,000 was raised. If this doesn’t show you how deep the love and respect for Scott goes, nothing will.

Here’s to Coach Scott Boliver. We all hear about these inspirational people in the news and we get a little cynical about them because we’ve become conditioned to believe no one can ever be that good a person. Scott, however, was the real deal, and the way he lived his life will continue to inspire every single person who ever knew him. No one who worked with him will ever forget the effect he had on their lives. There’s no doubt in my mind everyone loved him.

The Boliver family

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SCOTT BOLIVER MEMORIAL FUND AND TO MAKE A DONATION.

Here’s another article written about Scott Boliver:

“Goodbye, My Friend” by Michelle Gottlieb

 

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Gino England (1967-2015)

Gino England 1

Writer’s note: This article was originally written and published back in 2015.

I woke up this morning, had breakfast and checked out social media like I always do, and one post by John Massey caught my eye instantly:

“I lost a good friend this morning. RIP, Gino England.”

This had me in a state of shock and left me deeply saddened. I had the pleasure of working with Gino England for a few years at the Innoventions attraction in Disneyland, and I know he had spent the last year or so battling cancer. From all the pictures of him going through what he went through, his smile was always there to where it honestly looked like he had this merciless disease licked. But sadly, his body gave out and he passed away this morning at 10:00 a.m.

Gino England 2

Gino’s passing is another reminder of just how much I hate cancer. Like many diseases, it doesn’t care how old you are or how well you take care of yourself. And believe it or not, it doesn’t care if you are a smoker. People get cancer for many different reasons and it doesn’t always come down to how many Marlboro Light cigarettes you suck on. What enrages me is that it takes away some of the nicest and kindest people I have known in life at far too young an age. It robbed me of my friends Scott Boliver, Jim Kirkwood and Grant Martin, people who I believe still had a lot more to give. Gino was one of those people, so it is utterly devastating that he was taken away from us in this way. I don’t know his exact age, but I assure you that he was still a young man.

Cancer fucking sucks, there’s no doubt about that. Fuck cancer and the camel it came in on!

There are many people out there who can and should write a better eulogy for Gino. The last time I saw him was a few years ago when he and his wife were hosting a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. It was great to run into these two again as they are such wonderful souls, and seeing Gino there quickly reminded me of what a wonderful guy he was to be around.

Gino really was one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet, and it was great to know that people like him could still exist in a world that keeps beating everyone down in different ways. Life in the real world seems destined to wipe the smiles off our faces, but that never ever happened with Gino. I guess that’s the thing I remember about him the best; he was always smiling no matter what life threw at him. I love that people like Gino existed because it’s far too easy to become such a complete cynic in this lifetime, and Gino never became that kind of person.

Gino England 3

Just look at the things said about Gino in light of his passing:

 

“Gino, I can’t believe you are gone. You were one of the greats. Thank you for being in my life. RIP.

                                                                                                                            -Erin Renee Scabareti

“What can I say about my friend Gino. He will be greatly missed. Always funny always giving and always punching you if you looked at his thumb and forefinger in a circle. So sad that he is gone. So thankful that I go to know him and act with him. Here is just one of the best bits the two of us got to do together. ” I say who on first, what on second, I don’t know is on third.” Don’t forget your part my friend will perform that routine again someday.”

                                                                                                                                              -Karl Jaecke

“Hey Gino remember the time I went to see your Special FX show at Universal Studios? We waited to see you show stop your own damn show. ::Sigh:: I’m going to miss you man. Love you lots!”

                                                                                                                                    -Esteban Ramirez

“We always said that Innoventions was a family. Today we lost Gino England to cancer and I feel like he was always one of us. Having lost my own mother to cancer, I can honestly say that I HATE CANCER but I am glad that Gino was in my life from the first day I hired into Inno(ventions). In fact, he was the greeter cm on the day I found I was transferring in. He called me Marcie from peanuts, and I would always respond with, “Yes Sir.” And he would always laugh. I am glad that Craig Smith brought Gino some comic relief because the newer kids all got to hear stories about him. We are a family. Any one of my Inno friends that I’ve upset in the past I apologize from the bottom of my heart because I honestly don’t want to lose any of you before I have to. RIP Gino.”

                                                                                                                                       -Robyn Gleason

 

“At (Knott’s) Scary Farm…

*Monster jumps out*

Monster: “Arrrgghhh….oh, hey Gino, I didn’t realize it was you. How the hell are you?”

Jess: “Damn it Gino, nobody is scaring us cuz they all wanna talk to you!!”

                                                                                                                                         -K.J. Van Nevel

“Gino was one of my favorite co-workers when I worked at Disneyland. He was always quick with a joke and could turn anyone’s bad day around. He was always kind to everyone. Lost children seemed to flock to him and I often remember him walking around with a tiny child by his side while he looked for their parents. You will truly be missed Gino. The world is a lot less funny without you.”

                                                                                                                               -Tricia Stahly Asbra

“My friends and family, today I lost my best friend and the best father, Gino England. He fought hard and was telling jokes until the end. He was one the funniest, bravest and generous people I ever knew.”

                                                                                                                       -Lisa Klubniken England

“Stunned…saddened…Reading this news put a pause in my heart. Whenever I think of Gino, it is always Joy and Laughter. Every single day I had the honor and privilege to work with this extraordinary person, I knew that I would smile and laugh. Every single time. I never knew a bigger heart, and all that goodness followed him. Rest in peace dear, dear soul. From now on whenever I hear thunder, I know it’s you laughing and making everyone with you laugh along.”

                                                                                                                                    -Drew Hayashida

 

“Why do we keep losing all the good ones to cancer? You will be missed, Gino England.”

                                                                                                                                              -John Collin

“’Gino, Gino…get a burrito!’

‘No thanks, Jess. I’m not mad at my ass today.’”

                                                                                                                                        -Jessica Balicki

“I can’t believe it, buddy. Just thought you’d make it through. Dammit…. I’ll never forget that time I ushered your Animation Academy show: a little girl in the audience held up her drawing mid show and you said, “Bitchin’!” We exchanged a quick look and then you went on with the show as if nothing odd was said. Or that time you recognized Eve Plumb after academy. Eve freakin Plumb! You’re the only person that would’ve recognized that Brady bunch gal. She was flattered to be recognized. Or that time you told Jamie off during Home rehearsals. Ohh good times. Or your general jolliness, talent and humor. That time we BOTH screwed up during the Home press opening haha… I’m so sad to hear of this, my thoughts are with your fam, RIP, say hi to my Mom up there.”

                                                                                                                                       -Carlos Campos

 

Gino England 4

Some of us can only dream of getting those kinds of notices when we pass away, and it should give you all an idea of just how appreciated Gino was while he walked the earth. We should all feel fortunate to have known somebody like him in our lifetime because most of the time we come to know people who are the exact opposite.

It’s been a long time since I have sighed so much and so deeply in a day, and that shows how saddened I am that Gino left us. Such wonderful souls like him deserve a longer stay on this crazy planet we reside on. But while his body has left us, his spirit remains as strong as ever. As long as we remember him, he will never be dead to us.

I am so sorry you had to depart this world the way you did Gino, but I will never ever forget you. How could I?

Rest in peace my friend.

Gino England 5

A memorial fund for Gino England has been set up on GoFundMe.com and I encourage you to make a donation. Even if you can only donate $5, that will still go a long way to helping his family deal with his tragic loss. Trust me, he is worth your effort. Click here to find out how you can donate.