I believe Showbiz Pizza for me as a child was much like an opium tent for Ralph Dunning. When I was there time flew by so fast because it was like a system overload. It was just too much for a 7 year old to digest when placed in an environment that had pizza, video games (they were new back then), a pool of plastic balls, skee-ball, and tickets to trade for things like this. There was, however, an animatronic band that I was less than enthused about. The Rock-Afire Explosion.
I can remember a specific birthday party and sitting at the table closest to the stage. While all the kids were busy drinking cups of suicide soda and shoving pizza in their face I was keeping a suspicious eye on the animatronic rock band. Perhaps I was too close to the stage because I heard less music and more of hydraulic hissings and the metallic hurks and jerks. The smell of the electronic heat from the cyborg-like apes and bears over powered the smell of pizza and sweaty kid. After the ten minute show was over and the curtain closed, curiosity over powered me and I crept to the stage to peer behind the curtain to make sure they weren’t taking a five minute smoke break. But what I saw was just eerie.
Behind the curtain the band stood silent with their eyes open, staring straight a head at the closed curtain. The dim lighting and the motionlessness of the characters gave me an uneasy feeling much like sleeping in a room with a three foot doll. In the background the sounds of screaming kids and the bells and whistles of the games were heard but I was fixed on the duality of life and death represented between what happens when the curtain opens and closes. Then it happened.
Before the curtain opens the band starts to move. While I was deep in thought about the eeriness of the lifeless band the hydraulics kicked in with the “pfffftts, screeeeee, weeeng” and they began to move. I can’t recall how it happened but before I knew it I found myself in the ball-pit with my shoes on. This terrified me to no extent and I didn’t even mind getting yelled at for wearing my Keds a “no shoe zone”. For the rest of the day I stayed close to the front, skipping the birthday cake and present opening. At the end I grabbed my parting gift bag and was all too happy to leave.
That night I had a terrible nightmare that Fatz Geronimo, the ape keyboardist, jumped over his keyboard and chased me around Showbiz.