The news of beloved Maui DJ, artist and musician Ged Bryant’s passing from cancer is a shock for so many. Fewer men seemed so fully alive, so soulful, wise and aware during their life. Ged was always modest about how much he did for me, but he was a mentor of mine as a young man and had a profound influence.
In 1987, I met Ged when he was the manager of Videoland & TV, a video rental store within the Pukalani Shopping Center. I was ten years old and, while my mother was signing the slip to ensure we would return our rented videocassettes, he and I began to talk story. Ged was struck by my knowledge of movies and I was kind of amazed that he was impressed. Coming from a family where my Mother acted in Japanese B-movies in the 1950’s and my father was a passionate cinephile who got me into Kubrick films in grade school, movie obsession was not an atypical thing. Ged asked, “Would you like to work here? I couldn’t pay you, but if you help out and do some cleaning, I can give you one free rental an hour.” I said yes before my mother even had a chance to say the same thing.
Over time, my tab of one-free-movie-for-every-hour-you-work became forgotten and I just borrowed what I wanted. Videoland & TV became my film library- the catch was I had to return every new movie the following morning. Hours of cleaning the thick glass shelves, vacuuming, dusting, garbage removal and assembling cardboard movie promos led to eventually being behind the counter. Ged would toss me a hollow video box (often playfully bouncing it off my head) and I’d replace it with the movie, encased in a transparent shell from one of our massive, Fort Knox-worthy drawers.
Ged would always have a movie playing to draw customers, though he’d cleverly keep the volume low so he could crank up his tunes as we worked. Most wouldn’t imagine dancing while working in a video store on a busy night, but that’s what most weekends were like when I worked with Ged. It was like having an impossibly cool older brother as a boss.
We had a team of co-workers who were consistent and became like family. Ged was the anchor, a warm, always approachable figure whose good sense of humor, and patience gave him the ability to keep on top of every situation. I learned so much watching him.
Ged provided me with a profound introduction to Reggae Music; I’d heard it on the radio before but Ged, who had spent time in Jamaica, was a passionate lover of the music and prided himself in educating me. He introduced me to Bob Marley and the Wailers, as anyone could expect, but it was Jimmy Cliff and “The Harder They Come” that never left me. Ged used to play Reggae-themed movies like “Countryman” and “Club Paradise” during store hours. In fact, he would admit with a blend of pride and embarrassment that his favorite movies to watch during work were “dumb comedies” like “Club Paradise,” John Candy’s “Armed and Dangerous” and Richard Dreyfuss’ “Let It Ride.” On the store’s TV, he would often play recorded episodes of “Beavis and Butthead” (his impression of them was better than anyone else’s). We would cackle insanely while customers wondered what was wrong with us.
Ged got me into club music, particularly Stereo MC’S and some of Prince’s lesser known albums. Over time, he’d loan me his latest CD purchases, which is how I got to hear Prince’s “Love Symbol” album on the day it was available.
Ged encouraged me to talk to the customers and give them daily recommendations. He even allowed me to print a newsletter, “Barry’s Picks,” which I printed up at home on my father’s old school printer (the kind that emitted slashes of noise with every inch of paper dotted with color). I did this for years. Ged used to love asking me about a random title in front of customers, just so he could beam with pride when I always knew the answer. I recall being in the store’s claustrophobic attic/second story closet space, where I melted the plastic over the video boxes with a hair dryer- Ged knocked on the door and yelled up, “Hey Barry, what’s that movie with Mark Harmon, where he’s dating all those hot chicks?” I thought for a second and yelled back, “Worth Winning!” Before I turned the hair dryer back on and continued my work, I heard him boast to someone standing next to him, “See, I told you he’d know!”
Ged’s advice on women (an extremely valuable commodity for a young man who lacked the internet in his teen years), life choices (“Be open,” he once told me, “to everything”), music (“don’t just listen to what’s on the radio”) and so many other topics stayed with me, like lyrics doing an eternal somersault in my mind.
The shop closed in October of 1995 and I moved to Colorado the following year for college.
For years afterward, I had dreams about Videoland & TV re-opening. These dreams would come to me at least five times a year, where I would be strolling across Pukalani Shopping Center, pass the storefront and realize Ged was back and the shop was open. I would wander in, tell him how thrilled I was to see him and would immediately get back to work, stocking shelves and cleaning the back rooms. I wondered for years why I had such dreams- my college literature professor told me it was likely because “Ged gave you a purpose and was the first adult to trust you with a great responsibility.” Despite this observation and how much sense it made, I never stopped having those dreams.
When I came back years later, I had the chance to reconnect with Ged while he was spinning tracks at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center; we reminisced about the good times and he made sure to play a trance tune that lasted at least fifteen minutes to give us time. It was a source of joy to visit him while he managed Pau Wela Video in Haiku, one of Maui’s last video stores. Seeing Ged behind the counter and being able to have long chats with him while he worked was like a do-over, or even a version of my recurring dream somehow materialized. By this time, so many on Maui knew him for his art, his wizardry at mixing audio soundscapes and for his natural charm and kindness. I will forever remember him as a man who showed an uncanny amount of faith in me at a young age, a gatekeeper who opened the door for me at a pivotal time in my life.
I’ve never had a job I loved more than Videoland & TV and that’s because of Ged Bryant.
Ged showed me the possibilities of art and how compassion and understanding towards those in need of guidance and inspiration is the greatest thing you can offer.
His song forever plays on…