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Posts Tagged ‘carnival

“Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left”*…


The modern claw machine typically stands vertically, lit from the inside with eye-searing brightness, and can tempt passersby with everything from cheap plush toys to Beats headphones or iPods. For 20 or 30 seconds, the user is in charge of operating a motorized trolley with the potential for reward; to see the multi-pronged claw scrape the sides of a stuffed panda, its grip strength too weak to snatch it from its Plexiglas prison, is to know true disappointment.

The components may have changed, but that hypnotic interaction between player and claw has been going on for nearly 100 years. Some amusements historians believe the machines existed as early as the 1890s, mechanical dioramas that were built to entice people fascinated by the machinery used in constructing the Panama Canal.

But the first mass-produced unit didn’t arrive until 1926. That’s when the Erie Digger began inhaling the spare change of players.

“It’s a very complex little machine,” says Roller, who worked in carnivals from 1960 to 1977 and now restores antique diggers for collectors. “It took skill that had to be taught and demonstrated”…

Stroll down the midway at “Dime After Dime: A Gripping History of Claw Machines.”

* Victor Hugo


As we hold out for the toy dinosaur, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956, at the Heidelberg Race Track in Pittsbugh, Pennsylvania, that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus ended its season early, when President John Ringling North announced that it would no longer exhibit under its own portable tents, but (starting in 1957) would exhibit in permanent venues, sports stadiums and arenas that had the seating already in place.



Written by LW

July 16, 2016 at 1:01 am

No Joy…


For over half a century, from 1949, Joyland was Wichita’s family fun park… Toddlers could ride one of the oldest miniature steam trains in the U.S.; grade school kids could bring their reports cards and trade A’s of B’s for ride tickets; and teens could get an adrenaline rush in the Whacky Shack or on “Nightmare”– an H.P. Schmeck-designed wooden roller coaster, one of only 44 original coasters designated as an ACE Coaster Classic… it was central Kansas’ Xanadu, its Oz, its… well, its Joy-Land.

But Joyland is no more; in 2003, it closed for the last time.

Photographer Mike Petty returned recently to the park; the resulting montage is an essay on the fragility of fantasy and the inexorable erosion of time.

The history of Joyland and photos of the park in its prime (and after) are here.

And for a different kind of desolation on the midway, readers should check out Carnival of Souls, a 60s masterpiece that is available in the Criterion Collection (and thus streaming on Hulu Plus and Amazon– and for free here).

As we make sure that we keep our heads down and our hands inside the cart, we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that The Pinky Lee Show aired for the last time.  Lee, a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, had parlayed a career as a “baggy pants” burlesque comedian into a brief 1950 run with a variety show on NBC.  He returned in 1954 with the children’s show that made him famous (he was the lead-in for Howdy Doody).  But Lee’s success was short lived:  he collapsed on camera in late 1955.  The show continued without him, but was never the same; it was cancelled on this date the following year.  Though his abrupt disappearance spawned wide-spread rumors of his demise, Lee returned to television in 1957 as the host of Gumby.  And of course his influence stretched well into the future, helping set the tone of, for example, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

    Yoo hoo, it’s me,
My name is Pinky Lee.
I skip and run with lots of fun
For every he and she.
It’s plain to see
That you can tell it’s me
With my checkered hat
And my checkered coat,
The funny giggle in my throat
And my silly dance
Like a billy goat.
Put ’em all together,
Put ’em all together,
And it’s whooooo?
(Audience): Pinky!

– Pinky’s opening song

Pincus Leff, aka “Pinky Lee” (source)

Boys and Girls of All Ages!…

With a caveat to sufferers of the previously-explored affliction Coulrophobia, and as a kind of companion to the earlier-featured “Dictionary of Carny, Circus, Sideshow & Vaudeville Lingo ,” a collection of vintage circus and carnival posters and photos– one wonder after another!

These and many more at “Le Cirque” and “Bread and Circuses,” Flickr sets from gifted collector DoubleM2 (whose other groups of similarly fascinating designs from other corners of the human experience are also eminently worthy of a wander).

As we choose between an extra-large and an extra-extra-large popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1992 that SummerSlam was held At Wembly Stadium in London.  With paid admissions of 80,355, it was certainly the largest ever professional wrestling crowd outside the U.S.  It may indeed have been the largest wrestling crowd ever:  the WWF reported that attendance at Wrestlemania III, held in Pontiac Michigan in 1987, had attendance of over 93,000; but many writers present believe that the WWF materially “overstated” the gate (and that the figure was more like 78,000).  In any case, no other pro wrestling event, before or since, has been so well attended.

Promotion for the broadcast, two days later

For video of SummerSlam 1992, click here.

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