Category Archives: dead brand names

Video Ezy/Your Loan Mortgage Brokers – Narwee, NSW

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I’ve written before about the legend of Video Ezy, and much has been written since about its downfall. Gather ’round, kids, and I’ll tell you a tale.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the days of the video shop are long over, with so many titans of the industry falling in recent times.

As recently as 1996, today’s home entertainment climate seemed unthinkable – an era in which an unlimited well of entertainment options is available in one’s own home. Sure, occasionally you’ll spy a lone DVD kiosk, now the pillar of the industry (an industry…), standing unloved in a shopping centre somewhere, but I’m willing to bet very few of you have ever used one.

So neglected by society is the concept of renting entertainment that few, if any, memorial sites exist today for what was once such an everyday part of life. That libraries survived the format war – and continue to thrive today – speaks volumes about how far from grace the video shop has fallen.

But here, in this dark, menacing alleyway in Narwee, the legacy lives on.

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Look up and you’ll see a typical example of the de-ezyfication process. Even before the graffiti artists got to it, a more professional job had been done on the “Ezy” part, presumably as some off-brand video shop took up Video Ezy’s old space in those dark later years.

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Around the front, you’d never know any of that. Four separate, entirely uninteresting businesses now occupy the huge floorspace you know Video Ezy would have filled effortlessly. If there’s one thing vendors of unwieldy tape-to-tape spools contained in cumbersome plastic cases did well, it’s take up real estate.

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On the west side, our quarry is left relatively untouched, and we can see that the building once housed a supermarket as well.

Just for a moment, take yourself back to one of those Friday nights, when someone couldn’t be bothered cooking and there was nothing on TV. You’d head down to the video shop, where part of the fun were the hours it took just to decide on one title (and with the prices as they were, who could blame you?). You’d grab some popcorn because you’ve been conditioned as a corny traditionalist. You’d hit up the supermarket for a bucket of exotic ice cream (which for some meant a Viennetta). And then you’d head home via the nearest fast food joint and ring in the weekend with the biggest Hollywood stars of the day.

That’s right, you didn’t ask for much out of life.

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On the back wall, however, an urban Rembrandt tells another story…

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..one of community, harmony, and happy weekends full of leftover Viennetta, when you got it the first time or got it free.

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Burgermaster/nothing – Canterbury, NSW

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A burger…master. Mayor McCheese, I presume?

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As we’ve discussed many times before, milk bars are dinosaurs: fondly remembered, but when they turn up in the wild they’re completely fossilised. Is Canterbury Road, Canterbury’s Burgermaster any different?

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No. A look inside shows the sad, decrepit remains of what was once a kitchen where dreams were made and hunger was satisfied. And it’s actively rotting. Take a look at the same view just five years ago.

But what’s most interesting about this place, particularly from a visual standpoint, are the cigarette ads plastered all over the shopfront. They built these things to last:

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As a product, Borkum Riff first appeared in the 60s, and judging by the depiction of the guy here, so did this ad.

In 1992, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act came into effect in Australia, by which point cigarette advertising on TV, radio and local print media had already been banned. By 1995, familiar phrases like “Fresh is Alpine”, “You’re laughing!” and the ubiquitous “…anyhow, have a Winfield” had been completely erased from the cultural landscape, and nobody ever smoked again.

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Perhaps aware that the end was nigh, these tobacco companies invested in some heavy duty glue for their final bombardment.

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In the case of Port Royal, a heavy duty moustache was also necessary to seal the deal. Doubtless this heroic mo has inspired thousands to roll their own in the years since.

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…anyhow, the thought of the combined taste of burgers, milkshakes and Winnie greens is absolutely doing it for me, and since we won’t be getting any here, it’s time to head off. There’s gotta be something open along here somewhere…

Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon/Derelict – Parramatta, NSW

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Say it to yourself just one time: themed restaurants. Takes you back, doesn’t it? Right back to oh, say…the long, hot summer of 1993, when Australia’s first Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon opened at this very location in Parramatta. Here’s a terrible photo:

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Lone Star Steakhouse in the glory years, 1997. Image courtesy australianexplorer.com

Dirty Dicks, Xerts, Hooters, Choys, Planet Hollywood… anachronisms all, and all either relegated to the central coast or the western suburbs, or simply wiped off the face of the earth. For some reason, the concept of the themed restaurant never quite took off in Australia the way it was hoped, and I suppose that’s one more thing separating us from Americans.

And speaking of…

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Lone Star as a brand began in 1989, in North Carolina of all places. In its 26 year history, there’s never been a Lone Star outlet in Texas. I wonder how a Parramatta-themed restaurant would fare there? Texans, would you enjoy being screamed at by mental patients while trying to hold down a cold Whopper (RIP Hungry Jack’s)? Leave a comment below.

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Apparently Parramartians (c’mon, pay it!) seemed like a more receptive audience for steak and ribs slathered in sugary sauces, and I dunno, vittles, or whatever else a Lone Star would provide.

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Time for a confession: I never went there. And it seems I wasn’t the only one: in 2000, the already illusory relationship between Lone Star and Australian diners began to collapse entirely. In three years, 21 Lone Star outlets around the country were either closed or sold off, joining so many others in themed restaurant hell (where there are napkins, dress codes, and entrees instead of starters).

If you looked toward Parramatta in October 2011, you might have spotted a falling Star. It’s been sitting waiting for demolition ever since.

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The side doors yawn open at passers-by, singing a siren song to urban explorers, graffiti artists and those in need of a quiet place to shoot up.

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Around the back, metal struts sprout from the ground like steel weeds. Perhaps they were once for outdoor dining. Doubtless it still happens there.

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Message to developers Dyldam (you don’t wanna know what that autocorrected to): when your derelict site has been broken into and abused this badly, you’re taking too long.

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The Parramatta chapter of the Lone Star story may have ended, but the saga continues. Today, the brand sort of carries on under the name Lone Star Rib House. I…I don’t know how lone that star would really be. I’m no expert, but I think the steak and rib galaxies are pretty close.

Also, here’s a fun game to play: go to the Lone Star Rib House ‘About Us’ page and try to decipher the alien language used there. If you can work out what the hell they’re on about, you’ve done better than I.

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By resisting the bulldozers for so long, Australia’s first Lone Star has become an anomaly in this part of Parra, a lone star if you will (clean out your desk – ed). Soon it’ll be just another block of units, but until then it’ll remain…remarkable.

DESTRUCTIVE UPDATE: Or will it? No sooner had this post gone up did the bulldozers awaken and make short work of the Lone Star. Look everyone, a falling star…

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Where Are They Now? 2015 Edition

As the sun sets on another wonderful year of staring longingly back into the past and more often than not wondering “why?”, it’s time to turn our attention to some of the places previously featured on PLOTNF. In the twilight of 2015, this terrible trio (or terrific trio, if you work there :D) are of interest entirely because they’ve all lost reason for being interesting.

Yes, if they’d have made these changes from day one, we might never have known the surprisingly philanthropic tale of Australian Plastic Fabricators…

THEN

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We were attracted by its charitable red nose, and certainly not by its colour scheme. Perhaps sensing this, the APF crew sent around a collection jar of their own and coughed up for a new coat of paint.

NOW

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They’re really married to that colour pairing, aren’t they? I wonder how it went down as they rediscovered the red nose during the painting. Did someone recognise it? Was there anyone left from 1995’s management team to say “Oh, that bloody thing’s still up there”? Did anyone make a joke about the boss having a redder nose than the building? Only the building knows for sure, and walls can’t talk – especially when they’re covered in a new coat of paint.

We might never have gone from A to…A with A Helen and her Pavalova Palalice…

THEN

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Helen bought too many vowels.

NOW

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For reasons we may never know, although perhaps tied to some kind of customer service trouble, Helen has decided to call it a day. Well, actually, if Helen was calling it, it’d be A A Day, wouldn’t it? Or A Aday. Or Daay. Hee hee, I could milk this all daay.

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Props to you for finally showing some restraint, Helen, but alas, it’s too little too laate.

And perhaps saddest of all, we may never have known the story of the suburban movie house that became a…suburban movie house.

THEN

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Formerly the Padstow Star, a cinema dating back to the early 1950s, Civic Padstow and its team of minimum wage teens serviced the entertainment needs of the area for over 30 years before finally shutting its doors last month.

NOW

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The closing down sale was so drastic that even the shelves were cleared out.

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Seeing this sad, empty lobby makes you wonder about the thousands of people who would have made their way up those steps over the decades, eagerly anticipating a few hours lost in a celluloid world of fun and excitement. And now that feeling will never exist there again.

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Put your hand up if you’re the reason they had to add those disclaimers down the bottom. C’mon, you know who you are. Oh yes? You? Congratulations, you’re an idiot.

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The light’s off, the plug’s been pulled, the register’s empty and overdue fees will be waived.

Goodbye 2015, hello 2016 and all the wondrous stories of past livin’ ahead of us. Happy new year, folks.

Beverly Hills Squash Courts/Leisuredome Gym – Beverly Hills, NSW

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Nestled in amongst the melting pot of businesses at Beverly Hills, the Leisuredome Gym has become a local institution since it opened in 1985.

The Leisuredome prides itself on being “one of the very few real gyms Sydney has to offer”, and I’d believe it. The exterior is unpretentious, lacking all the condescending trappings of the modern influx of gyms. What’s interesting is that the gym’s opening times – 6am-9:30pm Mon-Thur, 6am-9pm Fri, 9am-2pm Sat and 4pm-7pm Sun – seem to be frowned upon by a world of gym junkies spoiled by the new 24 hour centres. I can’t help but wonder if the more specific hours would translate into a more focused workout? But I digress…

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The Pleasure Dome also prides itself on being able to “transform” bodies (presumably only for those who found enough keys), but it’s not just the beefcakes who underwent a transformation here…

If you go around the back (and why would you?) you’ll find a dirty little secret beyond Thunderdome:

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That’s right, sometime before 1985, Beverly Hills’ squash courts felt the burn and pumped iron, turning from zero to hero in just six weeks or its money back. Meanwhile, anyone in need of a game of squash (I’m…almost certain they’re still out there) had to rack off to Roselands.

Can I just say, is there a more 70s sport than squash? It’s hard to know exactly when this squash court was built (but if you do, get in touch), but it’s safe to say it was around for the 1970s, an age when fashion at times took lessons from the squash scene, and squash itself was a fitness fad not unlike planking or zumba. Would this particular court have been a major player on the Sydney circuit? Were tournaments held here? Did hoop dreams live and die at this very location? It’s easy to imagine any number of marriages driven to the brink over a spirited game of doubles squash. Perhaps there are still bitter exes in the neighbourhood who still seethe when they spot the Leisuredome logo that disguised the secret location of their heartbreak…until now.

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When the large, mysterious building next door was built, the sign was hidden from the world, and wasted away into its deplorable current state. To have a sign here at all suggests that once upon a time, this wall faced the world and attracted squash fans passing via either King Georges Road or the East Hills train line.

The ‘dome may have been flexing here for 30 years, but it may soon have some competition. Someone’s finally decided to put Large Mysterious Building to use, and I don’t think the location is a coincidence…

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