Apparently, it was just twenty-five years ago that a Chicago native took the world by storm, altered the perceptions of a generation, and, incidentally, had some small effect on our little world here at the Book Fair. Every artist dreams of being that annoy…that influential.
I have actually heard people refer to Celtic folk dancing by the generic term “riverdancing”. This is all because of a little stage presentation brought to the world in 1994. Riverdance began as an interlude on European television in 1994, and was expanded into a full-blown (and occasionally quite loud) production the following February. Michael Flatley, the lead male dancer, was for a time the most famous dancer in America (his parents were Irish immigrants who settled in Chicago, and enrolled him in the Irish School of Dance at 11—they told him he was probably starting too late to be much good.)
I don’t recall seeing any of this in the Newberry’s Dance exhibit, but then, I’ve been through it just the once, and there’s too much to see on one visit. In any event, Riverdance did change the world of folk dancing, and may well have had an impact on dance productions around the world. If you have not seen this mighty production, you COULD watch it on YouTube, or download it, or even buy a DVD. But why not take yourself to the thrilling days of yesterday and buy a videocassette? I have plenty.
I was pricing videocassettes last week. Yes, we are going back to our full display of VHS this year: you asked for ‘em last year and, what’s more, actually bought a bunch from the small assortment we set out in response to demand. (It’s one of the truths of life: demand is important but sales are MORE important.) And I can report that we have a bunch of the bestselling videocassettes of our time: I think I priced four copies of Riverdance in its classic clamshell case. (Most videocassettes were sold in thin cardboard sleeves—early ones were elaborate, with extra padding and a cover that opened—but Disney, among a few other companies, preferred a more elaborate plastic case that opened like a book…and was really liable to damage as the plastic bits broke off. We LIKE videos around here but we hate clamshell cases.)
Among other perennials that we will probably have for sale every year until videocassettes finally lose all desirability, are all those three-tape sets—the Godfather movies, the Star Wars movies—and the two-tape movies: Gone With the Wind,. The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady. Would some technically-minded soul care to explain how La Traviata fits on one tape but My Fair Lady takes two? AND we have plenty of those movies that everybody HAD to buy: Something About Mary, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and so on. And then there are the fitness videos: we have plenty of these, a LOT of them still shrinkwrapped. I believe these are going to be collectible one day, because only a few were ever transferred to DVD, and some of these instructors have their fan following. (Again, to those Cynthia Kereluk fans in the audience, NO, I have NONE of her tapes so far this year. I PROMISED I’d tell you if they came in. Get off my back: it makes push-ups so much more difficult.)
I do have some rarer items for those of you who want something special. I doubt anyone has bothered to remaster these official highlights reels for the 1984 and 1988 Olympics. I am not familiar enough with the world of martial arts instruction tapes, but these certainly LOOK scarce. And for those of you hunting for a musical which is not quite so omnipresent as My Fair Lady, I can offer you this tape of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Yes, I know, but I bet you haven’t seen THIS production. This is a 2005 videocassette of a presentation of that play by the Middle School at the Chicago Lab School. It is unique in my experience as in featuring an entirely different cast for Act II than for Act I. It will be for sale as soon as I’ve had a chance to check online and make sure none of the cast members starred in a remake of Riverdance.