Candid Cameras

The Huntington Beach City Council voted unanimously last night to add seven cameras on the pier so Hollister clothing can beam “surf culture” images into their stores across the nation. The Abercrombie N Fitch Co. brand already has two cameras under the pier, and under a new 25-year contract Surf City gets just under $5 million and $370,000 in marine safety equipment for allowing the recorders to stream scenes onto 5-foot-wide flat-screen TVs in Hollister stores, including a new multilevel, flagship about to open in NYC.

Um, not to urinate in anyone's espresso, but if I'm ambling along the sand in my Guido Speedo (shown here), does the city of Huntington Beach really own that image? Should I not get a cut of the loot? A free Hollister T-shirt, at least?

Worry not, informs today's Register story, “The wide-angle cameras can't swivel or zoom, and shoppers won't be able to identify faces on the beach.” After all, we in the newspaper biz snap identifiable photos of people – ladies struggling to lug all their shopping bags across the street during the holidays, kids sipping from public park drinking fountains on hot summer days, war dead in flag-draped coffins coming off military planes – in public places and splash them across our pages all the time. OK, maybe not that last example.

But those images are not used as direct advertising vehicles, and in this case an in-store gimmick to boot. Hell, Hollister is cutting out the traditional advertising vehicle altogether, going straight from the source to screens mere steps from where you'll be handing them your hard-earned plastic. Does anyone else not see this as hinky? Hinky indeed, sayeth ye from OCW's ivory tower!

Far less chagrined, my Trendzilla'ing work station mate Vickie Chang wonders why the images beamed into stores will come from Huntington Beach at all.

“Shouldn't they come from Hollister?” she asks. As in Hollister, the Central California town known for moo cows, earthquakes and the 1947 motorcycle gang riot that inspired The Wild One. I can see it now, shaky-cam shots of fat, leather-clad bikers atop heifers beaming into the Bumfuck, Iowa, Hollister outlet store—you know, the one next to the Indian casino (any Indian casino), where a different type of heifer tries to squeeze into a 14 sizes too small teeny weeny bikini in the fitting room. A girl can dream, can't she?

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