One of my best friends in middle school was a guy named Scott. As it turned out, both of us had family in Lawrenceville, the next town over. Since “Larryville” was the largest city in the county at the time, Scott and I often wanted to go there for the better movie theatre, the bigger arcade, or the cooler pizza place. And since one of us was sure to go there almost weekly, that person would usually call the other to see if he wanted to bum a ride to (my) grandparents’ house or (his) cousin’s house.
And so it was one day back in 1983. Scott’s older sister – Theresa, a Joan Jett lookalike – was driving the two of us to Lawrenceville for some reason, and she needed to stop at Treasury Drug (how’s that for a blast from the past?) to buy some… “lady products”. Scott and I wanted no part of her tampon purchase, so we goofed around in the “general merchandise” section of the store while she did her thing. And there, we saw the coolest thing ever:
It was called the “Aromance Aroma Disc Player”, and it combined the age-old act of scenting a home with the Compact Disc, the latest and greatest music phenomenon. We were instantly hooked, and both of us whipped out the $19.99 (or whatever) to buy one.
The “player” sat on your desk and plugged in to the wall. You turned it on and inserted a “scent disc”, which was a piece of plastic slightly smaller than a CD. It had a thick piece of waffle weave fabric inside which had been doused in a certain scent. The player heated the disc, which caused the scent to emerge from the player, and a fan gently pushed the scent into the room.
The discs, which came in digipak type sleeves, had enticing names, like “Fireplace”, “Seduction”, “Mountain Top”, “A Dozen Roses”, “After Dinner Mints”, “Ocean Breeze”, “Passion”, and (to show you how non-PC it was back in 1983) “Oriental Mystery”. But my favorite by far was “Movie Time”, which smelled like buttered popcorn. I enjoyed the other scents, but went back and bought two more “Movie Time” discs, since the discs only retained their scent for a certain number of “plays”.
The device was originally developed by Charles of the Ritz back in 1982. That company was started by a hairdresser named Charles Jundt in the 1920s. In 1916, Jundt took over the salon at New York’s City’s Ritz hotel, which later became the Ritz-Carlton. In 1919, Jundt (who was known by his well-to-do clients as just “Charles of the Ritz”) began selling cosmetics. In 1927 he introduced a line of fragrances. Most have been forgotten, but his most popular, Jean Naté, is still sold today. And Enjoli, another popular brand, was created in 1978, long after Jundt’s death.
The ownership history of Charles of the Ritz is long and complex, so I won’t go into it here. But in 1972, the company was purchased for $100 million by pharmaceutical giant E.R. Squibb (now Bristol-Myers Squibb). It was during this time that the Aromance Player was developed. At some point, the product was sold to Remington. I know this because, in researching this article, I noticed that there’s a distinct physical difference between the early Charles of the Ritz models and the later Remington models. My version, pictured above, was made by Remington. Earlier models had an angled front and for some reason remind me of cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica series.
I miss my old Aromance player. It sounds silly, but the idea of sliding a disc into a player seemed so Space Age at the time. And while technology could greatly improve such a device these days, the underlying desire for what it did never really went away.