In November, 2012, someone who knows me very, very well suggested that Best Video out in Hamden should merge somehow with the Institute Library in New Haven. "You could do some great stuff together," I was told. "Think of the programming potential." "You're right," I said. "That's a really interesting idea, especially because the sort of people who love the Library are basically likely to be the same sort of people who love Best Video." I know this demographic, having served on the board of the Institute Library for the last seven, nearly eight, years, and as a person who worked for Hank, when Best Video had a store in the old Yale Co-op on Broadway.
Back in 2012, encouraged by the idle conversation described above, I sent an email to a few people saying, "Hey, what if?" and heard crickets. One person said, basically, "Cute idea, but..." and nothing else. But now here it has come to pass that the Best Video Film and Cultural Center exists, with the assistance of the Institute Library, which is acting as a kind of fiscal sponsor for the enterprise. Basically, the function that the Library now serves for the New Haven Review, it's now serving for the BVFCC -- ok, there are probably some differences, but that's my sloppy shorthand for it. I leave the details to the lawyers; what I'm thinking about, and celebrating, is my sense that the dreams of 2012 can come true.
The things that the Institute Library is, physically -- a time capsule, a museum of cultural oddities, a little tiny piece of history -- Best Video has always had in its movie collection. Best Video's stock is all over the place in terms of genre and time period, but to me, Best Video was the place where I could find all the old movies I'd heard of but never had a chance to see. When I worked for Hank, which was a thousand years ago, there were a lot of hours when I was, frankly, alone in the store with no customers, and I could play whatever movie I wanted as long as it wasn't obviously going to offend anyone who came by. So I watched a lot of movies from the 1930s and '40s and '50s (in addition to the new releases of the 1980s, which were a mixed bag, frankly). Hank had VHS tapes of just about everything in the world, or at least it felt that way; and if I was reading a book that made passing reference to some old Barbara Stanwyck flick, which in those days I often was -- well, all I had to do was pull it from the cabinet. Decades later, when I first walked up into the Institute Library, I swear to God I thought it was the set of a movie I'd watched on one of those days when I was just monitoring paperwork and waiting for the late afternoon rush.
The Institute Library is in color (mostly this kind of odd shade of green), but it goes with those old black and white movies I associate so strongly with Best Video. I am ardently hoping that movie and music lovers will rally around the BVFCC and keep Hank's establishment alive. But what I really want is a movie series at the Institute Library. I mean, for years I have been dreaming about this. I want a screening of "Auntie Mame" at the Institute Library. "The Thin Man." "The Maltese Falcon." "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit." It feels like, after years of talking about it idly, this may come to pass. There is no popcorn machine at the Institute Library, and there probably will never be, but as God is my witness, this engagement is wonderful news for Best Video, for the Library, and for everyone around here.