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Play pinball, live to a hundred

Steve Kordek, widely credited as the Godfather of Pinball, died last week, aged 100. He didn’t invent the pinball machine, but he came up with many of the innovations that make the modern pinball machine familiar.

Dual flippers. Multiple balls. Pop-up targets. He designed hundreds of the things.

But not the one in the picture, Jungle Queen. That was my machine.

I mean, I played it a whole bunch. The four or five months between the time I turned 18 (and thus could legally go into bars) and the time I went away to college, that was my passion: a brandy alexander, a roll of quarters and Jungle Queen. With bonus games, that could last me a whole evening (or until the third brandy, which stole my superpowers).

See those triangular things near the top? Those are two rows of five drop-targets with monkeys on them. If you caught the ball on the flipper and held it to a standstill, then slowly let it fall and popped the flipper at JUST the right picosecond, you could sling the ball down a whole row of monkeys and take them all out in one move, pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.

God, I loved those monkeys.

The last time I saw Jungle Queen — actually the two-player variant, Jungle Princess — was in a fairground in Rhode Island. It was like bumping into my best friend from High School (what the hell – Jungle Queen was my best friend from High School). I had spent a quarter and won a free ball on the first go and I was feeling fine, when a young man with Down’s Syndrome pushed me away and started playing. My bonus round.

I stood there a moment calculating how bad it would look if I got interrupted in a shoving match with a handicapped person, and then I walked sadly away.

sock it to me

Comments


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 27, 2012, 11:12 pm

I did have human friends in High School, honest. I’m not quite as Aperger-y as I make myself sound. It’s just, somehow that last Summer, when we knew we’d be going away soon…it was sort of crabby and awkward.

Give me pinball.

 


Comment from Mono The Elder
Time: February 27, 2012, 11:32 pm

Pinball. I’m not bad at it. Not particularly good, but I’d like to think I could hold my own.

 


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 27, 2012, 11:50 pm

From the spec, Jungle Queen was a brand-new table when I played it. It had just come out the year before.

Some years later, I tried playing the modern ones and they were *awful*. So much of the mechanical parts had been replaced with electronics, there was none of the thumping and clanking that made the old tables come alive. As a result, the balls whizzed around too fast for any of my old moves :(

 


Comment from David Gillies
Time: February 28, 2012, 12:05 am

Having an extra chromosome doesn’t entitle you to be a douche. But probably best to leave it because of, you know, tard strength.

 


Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: February 28, 2012, 12:14 am

… you could sling the ball down a whole row of monkeys and take them all out in one move…

Wow. You rule! I never mastered any play as cool as that – I never even saw anyone pull such a stunt, even the pinball masters of Chambana. (Pinball had a lot to do with my flunking out of U. of Illinois three times in four semesters.)

 


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 28, 2012, 12:50 am

I’m not sure I got all five monkeys more than once.

 


Comment from Oldcat
Time: February 28, 2012, 1:23 am

Rich – these days they probably have a degree in Pinball Studies.

 


Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 28, 2012, 1:37 am

Plus, you get a supple wrist, according to Pete Townsend, who ought to know.

 


Comment from Spad13
Time: February 28, 2012, 2:14 am

The kid didn’t look sort of furry and ewokish did he? Those kind can be dangerous. They run in packs.

 


Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: February 28, 2012, 2:21 am

My favorite machine was a Gottlieb called “Cross Town” . There was one in the Frat house I lived in. The big feature of Cross Town was if you could hit the right bumper, little mechanical subway car doors would open showing you a lady doing a “Marilyn Monroe” with her skirt. It was kind of daring but not too racy. Just the thing to keep drunken frat boys pumping quarters into the machine. We all got pretty good; learning to do a ball full stop on a flipper and also a “Gobagus Pass” which is tossing the ball from the left flipper to the right or vice versa. The name comes Gobagus who perfected it…and yes the origins of his nickname do involve alcohol.

Anyhow, when pinball machine started to react to video games they lost what made them special

 


Comment from Pupster
Time: February 28, 2012, 3:01 am

when a young man with Down’s Syndrome pushed me away and started playing.

Stoaty, I’ve got to tell you…you have the best stories ever.

 


Comment from Sockless Joe
Time: February 28, 2012, 3:08 am

“Congo”. Mediocre movie, awesome pinball game.

 


Comment from Mr. Dave
Time: February 28, 2012, 2:19 pm

I never got any flashbacks like they said I would (dammit I want my flashbacks!). But the mere mention of Brandy Alexanders induced a momentary hangover pang.

 


Comment from Stark Dickflüssig
Time: February 28, 2012, 4:33 pm

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: February 28, 2012, 1:37 am

Plus, you get a supple wrist, according to Pete Townsend, who ought to know.

Yup, stuck in my head too. Might have to irritate my wife with some “Substitute” to get it out.

 


Comment from nightfly
Time: February 28, 2012, 5:07 pm

But how do you think he does it? What makes him so good?

Darned if I know. I have the Wii simulation of classic Williams pins – stuff like Taxi and Funhouse and Pinbot. They are astoundingly faithful recreations, though without the actual feedback of the physical machine. Still a fun way to kill a half-hour.

I can always go to the local Pinball Museum and plunk down actual coin to play the real thing, though. The temptation is just to wander around with a dopey grin and forget to actually play any of the darned things.

 


Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: February 28, 2012, 6:40 pm

But probably best to leave it because of, you know, tard strength.

Indeed. That extra chromosome is packed to the brim with strength. Plus they have hands like ham hocks. Down Syndrome people will stove your head given the slightest opportunity.

 


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: February 28, 2012, 9:51 pm

My spam bucket sure am weird sometimes.

Very cteraive! And once you start thinking about the possiblities, wow! I bet it would be difficult to dry off all of those little peas after an accident by the baby though She sure looks happy and comfortable.

Dry off all those little peas? Accident? Baby?

 


Comment from who cares?
Time: February 28, 2012, 10:06 pm

An extra chromosome does not a badge make.

That said, give the protected status of moomins (Tove Jansson’s stuff) and their hippo like strength, wit and nuance there is only one way to deal with a mongoloid. Scream that you’ve been felt and probed and you are pressing charges. Hopefully the moomin is attended by an adult guardian. Sadly, the ones that prowl the YMCA constitute a safety threat and fart loudly. I have not seen the moomins to be allowed into the pool. Thay probably drink the water and dispense the waste directly.

Is Elena Kagan a moomin?

 


Comment from geoff
Time: March 6, 2012, 6:09 am

Big time pinball fan – I own a Flash machine (designed by Steve Ritchie, another huge name in pinball).

If you caught the ball on the flipper and held it to a standstill, then slowly let it fall and popped the flipper at JUST the right picosecond, you could sling the ball down a whole row of monkeys and take them all out in one move, pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.

Love shooters’ games where you can do that sort of thing. The best is when you relax the flipper as the ball comes down, so it stops dead on the flipper. Then you zing it.

 

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