Since 1997, the tiny but intrepid army of men and women of Lost Weekend Video in the Mission have warred against the glut of technology invading every corner of our lives and robbing it of meaningful human connection. So far, it's survived the twin behemoths, Blockbuster and Netflix, and staunchly remained a vibrant community gathering spot – so successfully that couples have fallen in love, gotten married, and had babies, all thanks to first spotting each other at Lost Weekend. Alongside its impeccably kept shelves, the video store's magnetism in this age of instant play springs from the people behind its counter.
Lost Weekend’s founders Dave Hawkins, Christy Colcord, and Adam Pfahler each spent years in the music industry: Dave played in San Francisco-based bands Engine 88 and Smoking Section; Christy hung out with U2 before they were famous and was a tour-booker in the UK; and Adam was the drummer in epic ’90s tastemakers, Jawbreaker. Then “it all fell apart, like it always does,” explained Dave with an eye roll. Fed up, Christy opened 12 credit card accounts, Dave opened 10, and a few hundred CDs-traded-for-movies from Amoeba later, their brainchild – the rare store with nary a porn video in sight – was born.
Everyone they’ve ever hired comes from the same hybrid movie-music junkie ilk, including Ed Rodriguez of Deerhoof, Lance Hahn of J Church, Mick Barr of Orthrelm, Richard Baluyut of Versus, and Bianca Sparta of Erase Errata. At one point, four different employees at the store were signed to Kill Rock Stars.
“The store is a way to support our fellow musicians and artists,” says Adam. “The crew that we have now is the craziest.” And their movie knowledge is vast and deep. Without further ado, here’s the team at Lost Weekend Video:
Dave, the slender, bespectacled ex-drummer of Engine 88, is the most intensely philosophical about life at the video store. Lacking a TV growing up in Berkeley in the ’60s, he spent his formative years browsing the dusty racks of record stores and honed his taste for classic movies at rep theaters. After almost getting signed to RCA Records, he put down the sticks and started working at the music-centric Cahn-man Management.
Everything exploded when Dave scouted Green Day and got them signed. That band is also how he met Christy, who booked tours for them in Europe. When Dave talks softly in between drags of his cigarette in the back of the store, you can hear worry and sadness in his voice. “If you don’t drink, where do you go to have a conversation?” he says. “Outside of barbershops, this is about it. Often we’ll engage you in a conversation whether you want to or not. That’s part of the fun; you get to know all these people.”
On his Staff Pick shelf: The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola: It’s the greatest movie ever filmed in San Francisco. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.
Adam has movies in his blood. His aunt cast Hollywood films like Ghostbusters, and his brother’s a method actor. A laidback SoCal native, he studied film production at UCLA and took footage while on tour with his bands, yet was always more interested in playing music and touring. His Jawbreaker bandmates were also into films: “When you’re in a tour van with no air conditioning on a pleather couch in Alabama in July, your downtime is going into movie theaters,” Adam says, referring to real on-the-road days. Between thoughts, the drummer in him comes out as he taps beats on the counter.
Now, he’s got a main gig as a father of two girls – the older one was actually born the same week Lost Weekend opened. If you drop by and Adam’s not busy, ask him for one of his killer card tricks.
On his Staff Pick shelf: Lost in America, Real Life, and Modern Romance, Albert Brooks: “He’s hilarious. You don’t get any better than that, comedy-wise.”
Christy is one of the biggest reasons Lost Weekend exists; she’s the person who brought Adam and Dave together and had the idea to start the video store together. “When we didn’t want to be in music anymore,” Christy says, “we became professional film fans. We don’t have to know how horrible the director is or if the star’s a jerk.” Even though everyone in the store deeply respects Christy’s taste, she says she’s not a movie snob at all: “I like terrible Syfy channel movies and obscure Asian films or hyper-artsy movies without dialogue.”
On her Staff Pick shelf: Innocence, Lucile Hadzihalilovic: “The director’s married to one of France’s most controversial filmmakers, Gaspar Noé. It’s about a girls school in the middle of a forest, where little girls show up alive in coffins and start an underground performance theater. It’s a metaphor for girls coming of age.”
No matter what day it is, you’re likely to catch Jeremy behind the counter. He’s like a cartoon character with mischievous eyes and a smart-ass demeanor – not to mention he carries a ukulele with him wherever he goes – and is the longest-employed, non-founding employee. This Bay Area native is unironically devoted to laser discs and if you ask, can tell you they’re better than DVDs. He seems to know every customer by name or face, and whenever a kid comes in, he’ll get on his knees to say hello. He got into playing songs (most of them new wave) on ukulele by twanging on his grandmother’s old four-stringer. “It’s like a virus that goes from person to person,” he deadpans.
On his Staff Pick shelf: Used Cars, Robert Zemeckis: “If I were about to die in the hospital and the Make A Wish Foundation was on the phone – it depends on how medicated I was – I would probably want a visit from Kurt Russell. I’m half-joking but I do admire him.”
Dan is that tall, red-bearded, wild-haired blond guy who looks like a Viking. Hailing from upstate New York, Dan came to the city three years ago after a short stint in LA as a buyer for a film distribution company. He’s played acoustic guitar alongside a clarinet in death metal folk duo Noise Violation and recorded EPs with drone metal band Lahar. When he’s not punctuating every sentence with sarcasm, he gets serious about the store. “We all come from equal levels of nerdom about this stuff. It’s like a home for me.”
On his Staff Pick shelf: The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Werner Herzog: “Herzog goes beyond his normal aesthetic and shows a side of himself that’s a little more gentle. It’s borderline hallucinatory.”
Ben is a native of Maine who’s been at the video store for three years, sports a five o’clock shadow, and looks like a permanently on-tour member of a weed smoke-cloaked psychedelic band from the ’70s – except for the skinny jeans. Ben used to be in Citadelle, a heavy psych outfit laced with organs that disbanded last year. Now he does music on his own terms, piecing together songs and getting friends to come around and help. “I’ll never be in a band again. I’ll depend on myself to get shit done, and not other people – especially in California,” Ben declares with only a hint of bitterness.
On his Staff Pick shelf: Tideland, Terry Gilliam: “Everyone shits on Terry Gilliam. I never heard anything good about this. Then I decided that I like all his other movies, so why shouldn’t I watch it? And lo and behold, it was amazing.”
Hannah is the bassist of local female post-punk trio Grass Widow. She and her curly burst of dark brown hair have been at Lost Weekend for four years and she got the job through her friend Bianca from Erase Errata. She’s the only filmmaker at the video store, and in a perfect synthesis of Lost Weekend’s two major themes, makes music videos for local bands like Hunx and His Punx and Shannon and the Clams. “I don’t have the desire to make features right now,” she says, because as a musician, it’s easier for her to think in three-minute increments. Still, movies influence her songwriting. “We have a song that’s about Star Wars. It’s called “Green Screen” about George Lucas’ bad use of CGI!”
On her Staff Pick shelf: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, Lou Adler: “This has members of the Clash and the Sex Pistols in it. It’s a cool female-protagonist movie that’s really for women.”
Jared works at Lost Weekend only a couple times a month and holds court at a Marina liquor store the rest of the time. Dressed in a black Spinal Tap hoodie with neck tattoos peeking out, he admits that he came from the South Bronx only a year ago. In the ’90s and early 2000s, he screamed for a sludgecore band from Rochester, New York, called Snaggletooth. Jared was a drum tech in the Bronx for Ted Nugent, Neil Diamond (“He paid me with a sandwich.”), and countless others. He befriended Christy through mutual friends in a punk band, and when seeking a job, impressed the owners by asking for a documentary they didn’t have.
On his Staff Pick shelf: Beastmaster, Don Coscarelli: “It’s about a dude who talks to animals, fights with swords, and kills stuff. It’s awesome.”
Hanging out by the counter at Lost Weekend, I was reminded of something: Maybe it’s not so obvious in a town like San Francisco that hasn’t been paved over with strip malls, but there was a time when video (or record, or book) stores were as indispensable to a neighborhood as a hardware store or a place to buy milk. Ditch Netflix and open up an account with Lost Weekend; it’s so easy you have no excuse. All you need is a picture ID and a credit card. From there, just push play.