dispatches from the pop scene...minus the corn syrup.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

R.I.P. Virgin Megastore, Los Angeles

My pal Mike and I went to the Sunset Blvd. Virgin Megastore today for the last time and shot this clip. It's closing this weekend after 15 years.



I have a lot of good memories of shopping there and then hitting the Laemmle Sunset 5 movie theater, which is in the same shopping center, on Friday nights over the past decade.

This was the first Virgin Megastore I'd ever been to. I was visiting L.A. before I moved here, back in March of 1998, and I walked through the doors for the first time and bought Kylie Minogue's Impossible Princess on import that day.

A year later I'd moved here. In June 1999, probably the second week I was living here, I went up and met Sarah Cracknell and Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne, who were signing the Places To Visit EP. I've seen Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Minnie Driver, Josh Brolin, Donald Faison and the Pet Shop Boys shopping in the store over the years, on just random visits. Virgin was always the place I bought all my imports in the old days, and even this past November I picked up Kylie's X there.

To give an idea of the utter decline of the record industry just within the microcosm of this particular store, in 1999 and 2000 you'd walk into Virgin on a Friday or Saturday night and there would easily be 125 people or so shopping at any given moment. By contrast, I was in there on a Friday night in the fall and saw maybe 7 customers total.

There's still a Virgin Megastore at the Hollywood & Highland complex, next to Mann's Chinese Theater. It opened two years ago, and it's always booming because of the sheer volume of tourists that swarm that area. But this was like the Virgin Megastore here in L.A.

Sidenote: I wrote an article for a local magazine in 2005 on the six best record stores in Los Angeles. After this weekend, only one of those will still be open.

Watch other clips on the Chart Rigger YouTube channel!
New Towleroad column up now!

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22 Comments:

  • At 9:55 PM, Blogger Dan said…

    This is really sad. Not that this is even on the same scale, but when I was in college in Iowa City, IA, there were about 4 or 5 record stores downtown, mostly of the mom and pop variety, but a couple chains as well. Anyway, all but one of them are gone as well.

    And in a real sign of the times, I went to Best Buy tonight looking for the Olivia Newton-John DVD that came out this week. I was amazed at how few CDs are there anymore. Only about 4 aisles of CDs.

    In any event, I couldn't find the DVD, so what did I do?...I bought an iTunes gift card. :(

     
  • At 10:09 PM, Blogger xolondon said…

    I can't even walk by the empty Tower in DC without getting all misty.

    Meanwhile Robbie, are YOU also 50% off? If so, I'll take two, wink wink.

     
  • At 10:32 PM, Blogger M. G. said…

    Geez, sorry for the shaky camera work! I've got the hands of an alcoholic!

    Yeah, the old joint is closing down. I won't really miss the bad parking and all the freaks coming in and out of Crunch, but ahhhh the memories. Here's a few:

    #1 This is the place where I met BOTH of John Lennon's sons. Sean was a bit curt, but I had a nice long conversation with Smokey Hormel, the most excellent session guitarist who's played with Sean, Beck, Tom Waits, Johnny Cash... oh wait, sorry, this is Chartrigger -- I should be mentioning that he played on Justin Timberlake's "FutureSex/LoveSounds." And thanks to my penchant for taking the stairs, I was lucky enough to slip into Julian's entourage as he made his way up to his in-store performance, hearing one of them tell him "Cheer up, Julian," which gives one an impression of his personality.

    #2 The closest I've ever come to meeting one of my idols, Kurt Cobain, was meeting another one of my idols, Dave Grohl. I was slightly annoyed (as I always am) by the Foo Fighter's drummer Taylor Hawkins (who was smoking and talking to some idiots about some Chinese restaurant) as I was waiting in line, and when I finally got up to Dave, I lost all ability to speak. I just kind of stared at him, and he finally smiled (maybe a little nervously) at my state and say "Hi." I just kind of nodded at him, he looked at me for another moment, then signed my cd "Hi! Dave."

    #3 And on a non-celeb note-- wait, I'm sorry, D'Luv IS a celebrity-- let's not forget that night years ago when someone almost had you paged at the store because you'd left the apartment without saying where you were going for the evening... like any normal adult. (And of course the other desperate late-night phone call months later where I brought that up as a joke...)

    There's many more memories, many bands and albums discovery, lots of money spent. I guess we just have to hold our heads high and forge ahead into the digital age without looking back (speaking of which, I ordered a MacBook from Amazon.com today).

    Adios, Virgin!

     
  • At 10:47 PM, Blogger Yuяi said…

    Man, that does suck. So I'm guessing not all Virgin stores are closing? The one in Orlando that I go to everytime I'm there is sooo overpriced and snooty. But it does get a heckuva lota traffic. I normally pick up a few imports, pricey imports, that is.

     
  • At 11:38 PM, Blogger Mike said…

    It's very unfortunate but to a certain extent we have ourselves to blame with the rampant illegal downloading that goes on. It's really sad because there's nothing better than flipping through a stack of CDs - iTunes just doesn't have the same appeal!

     
  • At 12:02 AM, Blogger El MarvelOso said…

    sad. I felt that way about Tower Records here in NYC. I hate thinking about going to Target or Wal-Mart for music.

    On the other side, I'm more than happy to buy music directly from artists and cut the record companies completely out of it.

     
  • At 5:05 AM, Blogger DanProject76 said…

    Awwww....Virgin Megastore!

    The main London one is no more too. Well, it's been rebranded by Virgin as some weird new word which I forget on purpose, but it had been shabby for a few years. That Oxford Street branch used to have a comic shop in it in the 1980s/early 90s, it was where I famously collapsed in the video section after not feeling too good, where I bought way too many records over the years, and where I first met my husband (well, by the entrance where I had arranged to meet him but it still counts) so I shall join you in shouting "damnit!" over and over again.

     
  • At 7:03 AM, Blogger Adem With An E said…

    So very sad. Happened here in my hometown 2 years ago, the record store I practically bought all my records and then CD's from as a child through to adult years was closed down and I didn't even get to say goodbye. :(

     
  • At 10:33 AM, Anonymous shanaynay lachild said…

    da mega sto used 2 be my CRIB! I used to shop...lift there all the time. Once the crowds thinned out and it was easier to get caught my da man i just started 2 do like everyone else - steal, i mean download, mp3s. sorry virgin megastore - u was da only virgin i eva knew!

     
  • At 10:43 AM, Anonymous numbfromdrugs said…

    Awww... someone told me they were putting in a Trader Joe's in its place?

    btw, love the Austin cap.

     
  • At 12:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey DAN.....D'Luv is gonna HURL when he sees there's another Livvy fan on the board! Both the dvd and cd are in full stock at WalMart...and the dvd is only $11.88....it's amazing...you MUST get it!

    Back on topic...the Virgin Megastore in Boston (which has actually taken Tower's real estate when they closed) closed two years ago...used to love making the trip from RI to shop for all the latest imports...

    It's a VERY sad sign of the times, and I, for one, can't stand downloads...I want physical product...

    ..and D'Luv......next video blog, we wanna see you shirtless...got that? ;-)

    Mark

     
  • At 2:13 PM, Anonymous seanti said…

    I was saddened to see that the Virgin in downtown Chicago was closed the last time I was in town there, too. It really is a dying breed. (And now that neither of the stores here in NYC are bothering to stock a singles section, I find myself going to them less and less...)

     
  • At 2:19 PM, Blogger duanemoody.com said…

    I wish we had a Virgin Megastore here in ATL; but it would probably close too. We did have a Tower records, but it closed last year; and it made me really sad. When they were having the closing sales, I literally went once a week. I really hope that digital downloads don't kill all of the record stores.

     
  • At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was there the day it opened - with Richard Branson giving away trips to London and Steve Winwood performing in the courtyard.

    I got a tshirt!

    Long live the Virgin Store.

     
  • At 3:35 PM, Blogger Joe B. said…

    Where am I gonna go to listen to albums I don't own drink coffee and look at men?

    This sucks.

    Are there any CD stores now on Sunset between Doheny and LaBrea anymore? Because I can't think of one, at least not a mainstream store.

     
  • At 4:10 PM, Blogger Aman Chaudhary said…

    I can't believe it's closing! At least Amoeba Music is still open. :)

     
  • At 6:08 PM, Anonymous David B. said…

    Sorry, Virgin was always ridiculously overpriced and after my car was hit in the garage, for the SECOND time, while I was at the theater two years ago, I never went back. I feel the same way about the complex as when it went up, it's an affront to the neighborhood and way too big and disruptive for what it ever delivered.

    I miss Tower, even with their insane parking, much, much more...

     
  • At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was once browsing at the virgin megastore on sunset and I looked up and Morrisey was in the next aisle, searching the bins. Enough said!

     
  • At 11:50 PM, Blogger D'luv said…

    Thanks, all, for your two cents and memories, thoughts, etc.

    Here's the Los Angeles Times article on the closing of this particular store.

     
  • At 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for reminding me. I need to swing by one last time tomorrow. VERY sad. But at least there's still Amoeba... for now.

     
  • At 2:46 AM, Blogger Kenneth Walsh said…

    Wow, it really is the end of an era. When I lived there in the early '90s it was Tower Records (below the original Spago) all the way. But in more recent years I've always stayed at the Standard on Sunset and Crunch, Buzz Coffee and the Virgin Megastore were always on the sked. Very sad to hear.

     
  • At 4:44 AM, Blogger Daft Monk said…

    I shopped at that Virgin once about a decade ago and remember the place being packed even seemed allot bigger than the San Francisco one. What a shame to see another record store, and a great place to find imports, close it doors.
    On a different note cheers to making three years with such a consistently awesome blog.

     

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