Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies, duh. I can’t imagine that I’ve seen it anything less than a hundred times.
Yesterday was one of those days when the only thing that seemed right with the world was my couch, so that’s where I lived, searching for shows and movies that would require absolutely none of my brainpower. Goodfellas got the nod.
Near the end of the film, I noticed something. I already knew that parts of the movie were filmed on Staten Island, but assumed that they were the run-of-the-mill “suburban home exteriors” that people so often come here to shoot. Somehow, it wasn’t until this latest viewing – the last of over a hundred – that I noticed a clear-as-day shot of the Pergament Mall on Richmond Avenue.
It’s in the scene that leads up to Henry Hill’s arrest. You know, when the helicopter is trailing him all over the place? He and Karen make a quick stop to use a payphone, and holy shit, they’re at the same goddamned strip mall that I go to at least once a week. The same strip mall that I’ve been to more than a thousand times over the years. (To give you an idea of just how often, any past article that referenced “my local Toys ‘R’ Us” was referring to the one in this strip mall. I go there a LOT.)
Here’s a screencap from the scene in question, along with a comparison shot taken this afternoon. Yes, I really went all-out for this one:
Goodfellas was filmed in 1989 and came out a year later. Incredibly, even after more than two decades, that portion of the strip mall hasn’t changed much. Some of the same stores still stand in the same places!
I know this won’t seem like a big deal to a lot of you, but I’ve lived on Staten Island all of my life. As any Islander will tell you, this place is always changing. Longtime residents tend to cling to the tenured establishments, even if they’ve never had a reason to go inside of them. We fear change and we like old wallpaper, I guess.
Course, not every store remained the same, and seeing some of my fallen favorites brought on a serious rush of nostalgia…
My biggest thrill came from seeing that tiny glimpse of Crazy Eddie – a glimpse so tiny that you’d never be able to tell that it even was a Crazy Eddie unless you’ve been there.
Since it only operated in a few states, most of you have never heard of the Crazy Eddie electronics store chain. The most memorable thing about it was the TV commercials, starring DJ Jerry Carroll as a motor-mouthed nutjob who promised us that Crazy Eddie’s prices were “insane.”
As I remember it, the store was complete chaos. Stuff was just everywhere, with no rhyme or reason. Random stairwells led to what I cannot accurately call a cohesive “second floor,” but rather several “platforms” where even more electronics were thrown with reckless abandon. Nothing made sense, but the place was always packed. I admit that my memories are foggy, but as a child, I distinctly recall being totally overwhelmed by that place.
This Crazy Eddie store was also where I finally found Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! — the one that came with a printed letter from Kid Dynamite.
Crazy Eddie cashed out years ago, and over the years, other retailers came and went. Currently, the building is being utilized as a Magic City Super Store, which is a hilarious title for what’s actually the lowest of the low-rent closeout stores, where you can buy everything from fishing lures to foreign breakfast cereals at competitive prices.
Petland is still there, in the same spot. Staten Island has gained plenty of pet stores over the past few decades, but this was one of the “big ones” during my youth. Mainly because it was one of the only ones. Pretty much all of my long-dead hamsters came from this Petland. (RIP, Cyrano Magnus Maximillion.)
Jennifer Convertibles is also still around. It’s a place to buy sofas. As a kid, it really confused me. I had no idea that “convertible” also meant “sofa bed,” and thus assumed that this “Jennifer” character was also selling cars. Since the store obviously had no cars inside, I imagined people flipping through fancy albums, choosing their rides and picking them up at some nearby factory. I truly believed this, and figured that the whole “couches” thing was just a side deal so they wouldn’t waste so much floor space.
Kids are dumb. I was, at least.
Before the shot pans over to Karen and gives us that great look at the strip mall, we see Henry making a phone call. The payphone he uses is in front of what I’m pretty sure was McCrory’s, a store that is really difficult to explain. I guess you’d call it a cheap and tiny department store – kind of like a miniature K-Mart, with the same level of trashiness. As I recall, this one had a lunch counter that took up practically a third of the store.
(Disclaimer: I could be messing this one up, because part of me thinks that McCrory’s is too ancient to have still been standing by 1989. But let’s go with it until someone tells me differently.)
The original building was demolished. The one that took its place currently plays home to Michaels. When I want to see Halloween stuff in July, that’s where I go.
This weird article is being published in the nick of time. I won’t be able to make this particular photographical connection for much longer. In 1989, the last joint on the strip was Bella Vita I, a pizzeria. Between then and now, it became Bella Vita II. I feel like there’s some grand story hiding beneath the surface here, but as of this writing, I do not know it.
What I do know is that Bella Vita II recently closed down. I’m lucky that the sign was still up. I feel like such a historian. I want glasses.
There’s the entry sign for the Pergament Mall, as it looks today. Half-destroyed by Sandy.
Incidentally, this post helped me solve a mystery. I’ve long been confused by the strip mall’s name, because “Pergament” was actually a home improvement store that hasn’t been a part of it since like, forever. But according to Wikipedia, the chain’s owners got out of that business and focused on real estate, and they really do still own the land.
All this time, I just thought everyone was too lazy to change the sign.