There was a time, not so long ago in fact, when one could count on the Sunset Strip Tower Records store for so much good stuff: excellent in-store appearances, an incredibly deep and wide stock of CDs and hard-to-find vinyl, and a virtually guaranteed celebrity sighting each and every time you stepped inside. You’d be minding your own business, lost in the ocean of CDs, only to discover that you were standing right next to some recently deposed sitcom star desperate to fill the gaping hole in their life with something other than drugs, alcohol, or greasy anonymous sex in a grimy skid row hotel. And you’d watch as they walked out the door with a giant stack of CDs, secure in the knowledge that the magic of music had staved off yet another celebrity death-spiral.
But that was then, and this is now.
Today, Tower Records is bankrupt, liquidating their treasures for pennies on the dollar like a down-and-out Emmy winner hocking her last battered statuette for booze money. And like the store itself, its celebrity clientele are grasping at the last drops of dignity – like Debra Messing, for example. We spotted her earlier this afternoon desperately scouring the “S” section of the Pop/Rock racks, searching for something – anything – that would take her mind off the fact that she’s turned into a huge, smoldering tire-fire of celebrity flame-out. The once-glamorous star of Will & Grace has traded in her stylish red-carpet gowns for what appear to be stained thrift-store discards, and her face was awash in a fiery psychedelic sea of red splotches that would’ve made even WC Fields think twice about leaving the house without a touch of concealer. Whoever coined the term “frightful mess” did so specifically to describe this very woman at this exact moment; whatever other people and/or places it might’ve been ascribed to previously were only used to keep the phrase in the public consciousness so that when it was finally, properly used, we’d be familiar with it.
Were this another, happier time, Debra might’ve left the store with an armload of soul-satisfying CDs. Sadly, the racks at Tower are emptier than her agent’s promises of another shot at sitcom stardom, and poor Ms Messing left empty handed. Then again, so did we, so don’t make too much of it.
– Tom Wolf, as told to Chris May