20 YEARS OF RATS and PIZZA
photograph (c)2002 "Silver" from
SA Forums, used with permission
I haven't been to Chuck E.
Cheese's since 1982, so when my 3 year old daughter asked to go there, I
thought, "Why not...how bad could it really be?" I had the day off
work, and we'd had a lot of fun so far, so a visit back to one of my favorite
80s video game hangouts seemed like it'd be a great way to end the day.
Chuck E. Cheese was founded in
1977 by Nolan Bushnell (the same guy who invented Pong and Atari). Apparently he
was quite a LSD freak, because there's no other explanation I can come up with
to justify anyone's dream to eat pizza with crazy robot mice and dogs yakking at
Rats and Pizza go togehter like Biscuits and Gravy
What made Chuck E. Cheese's
great back in the day was the kickass arcade game collection they had. CEC was THE
place to go to play the latest stuff. The first times I ever played Pac-Man and
Donkey Kong were there.
After some bitter competition
from a rival ripoff restaraunt chain, "BILLY BOB'S SHOWBIZ PIZZA
PALACE" (which they eventually merged with), and a massive decrease in
arcade game popularity in the mid 80s, the Pizza Rat was nearly exterminated.
But they survived, remarkably, to this day, over 23 years later.
We arrived at the Chuck E.
Cheese on Arden Way in Sacramento, California. The first sign that things had
changed was right at the front door. As Sierra and I walked in, both of our
hands were stamped with flourescent ink. I thought it was clear that she was too
young to buy alcohol (yes, the actually serve beer and wine at CEC, one of their
few redeeming qualities), but I was told it was for security reasons, so nobody
else would walk out with my kid. I'm convinced it's either genetic ink that
forever labels you as stupid white trash, or a taste bud desensitizing drug to
make you think the pizza tastes good.
Guitarist Jasper T. Jowels may not draw the crowds he once did, but the sex
with animatronic groupies backstage makes it all worthwhile
As we waited for our pizza in
the famous "Show Room", we were entertained by creaky crappily
animated robots that make the decaying puppets in Disneyland's "It's a
Small World" ride look like C3PO. This seemed pretty magical to me when I
was a kid, but Sierra seemed pretty unimpressed. What you get is these
animatronic overgrown Teddy Ruxpin toys "putting on a show" that
consists of parody cover tunes that would make even Weird Al wince (instead of
"Copacabana", you get a hilarious "Pizza-Cabana"). To keep
the moldy plush covered robots from overheating (and perhaps going on a human
killing spree) they "take a break" after every song and hide behind
retractable curtains for about 5 minutes before they sing again.
"I am looking for Sarah Conner!"
Then came something they called
pizza for us to eat. I forgot how truly shitty this stuff is. You could
microwave a frozen Celeste pizza (Abondonza!), leave it in your backyard for a
week and reheat it again, and have a better tasting pie than this Alpo and
spaghetti sauce monstrosity. I had about a slice, and Sierra 2 bites before we
decided that filling our stomachs wasn't important, if spending the next two
days with violent stomach flu was the consequence.
Disappointing, but pretty much
the quality you'd expect from a restaraunt with a giant rat as their mascot.
But going to Chuck E. Cheese to
eat good food is like watching wrestling for the fine acting. You go there to
And play Sierra did. After
climbing around in some crazy network of tubes and slides that resembles a giant
hamster habitrail set (or Richard Gere's house), Sierra was ready to make use of
the big cup o' tokens we had bought. The massive amounts of arcade games from my
youth had largely been replaced by "games of skill" that let the kids
win tickets that could be redeemed for "prizes". After about an hour
of whacking alligator heads, stepping on spiders, and shooting rubber balls at
clown teeth, Sierra and I had amassed about 140 tickets.
So it was time to bring them to
the prize center (kind of like a welfare version of the Wheel of Fortue
merchandise gallery) to cash them in.
It turns out there was quite a
crowd there gathered to witness an amazing spectacle. Some 8 year old girl had
saved up a humoungous trash bag full of tickets and was cashing them all in.
After talking to the fater, I learned that this was no one day haul, but a
collection of 2 YEARS worth of tickets that the girl and her cousins had
As you would expect, the crack
staff at Chuck E. Cheese's was barely equipped to handle this sort of volume.
Their normal process of taking a small metal bowl and weighing the tickets was
taking forever with a large line growing behind the girl. Though I was impressed
that the girl had saved up so many, I was getting frustrated at this horribly
inefficient counting method, so I suggested that the employees merely weigh the
entire trashbag full at once.
"We can't do that",
the genius replied, "becasue the bag has weight, too. It'll give the wrong
"Don't worry, I may be infested with lice and bacteria, but I won't
touch your food...honest!"
Amazed by her stupidity, I told
the employee to just deduct the weight of the empty bag when they're through,
but I could tell by the glazed look in her eye that figuring that out would be
akin to have her explain the Theory of Relativity, so I just shook my head in
The girl ended up having about
130,000 tickets by my estimation, and with the most expensive prize being about
5,000 tickets to get, she was clearly going to clean ol' Chuck out a few times
After a mysterious silence
where the total was taken to "the backroom" to officially add up, this
large fat black woman, who looked like Momma from "What's Happenin'"
came out and pulled the father and girl aside to a table.
Intrigued, I walked over there
to find out what was going on (and everyone else was very interested in the
official count as well), and she asked quite rudely, "Excuse me sir, can I
help you?" I told her "No, I'm just eavesdropping.", and she
grumpily went about her business.
She starts grilling them with
suspicions that they may have stole those tickets from their trash, or perhaps
found a secret way to cheat at Skee-Ball. You could just look at the little
girl's eyes and tell there wasn't anything funny going on.
Then things got evil...
Momma" tells them that she can't accept the tickets, they'd have to bring
them back next week when the official manager is in, and she would only let them
spend 500 tickets that evening until things got straightened out. 500 tickets
barely would get you a Chuck E. Cheese rubber ball.
The crowd got pretty upset and
were shouting that they should let her spend her tickets.
I even shouted, "THIS
SUCKS, DON'T RIP HER OFF!" But "What's Happenin' Momma" was set
in her ways.
So many tickets...so much crap to choose from
How fucking lame is that?
Though I have to admit, I'm not sure what's more pathetic, the face that Chuck
E. Cheese wouldn't let her cash in her tickets, or that she actually saved them
for 2 years straight so she could buy toys so shitty, I would barely accept any
of them in my house for free.
At least Sierra was oblivious
to all of the fuss, and with her 140 tickets, picked out 2 lovely pens in the
shape of a fish, and some green vampire teeth. $10 worth of tokens to buy about
58 cents worth of crap.
It's sure going to be a lot
longer than 20 years before I go back there again.
Over at the forums in
Silver (who also took and is in the photo on the top of this article), posted a
wonderful cool story about his time actually working as Chuck E. Cheese in one
of their restaurants.
I was Chuck E. Cheese. I worked
there for about 1 year and 8 months way back in the day when I was 18. I worked
in the kitchen, the showroom, the game room, and even the ticket counter.
Stories, well I have a few. I apologize in advance if my story telling abilities
are not up to par.
There are a few different types of children that frequent CEC. You have your
absolute hoodlum, whose only goal in life is to grab Chucks nose and wrench on
it for all their little muscles are worth. There are those that are kind and
sweet, and just want a hug or some tokens and leave happy. Then there are those
that will scream so loud, everyone’s ear drums in a 10 foot radius should
explode. These kids act like Chuck is about to rip their moms head off with his
2 fucking teeth, then stuff them inside and kick them out the door. BTW this
only happened once and it was a really bad day for me (not really).
We will start with the little bastards. Parents, the man inside the Chucky head
is strapped in. Its like a football helmet, you have your head piece so it
doesn’t flop around, and you have your chinstrap so that it doesn’t fall off.
When you see your child violently grab chuck’s nose and start wrenching it back
and forth, please call a face mask penalty and put them in timeout. Now being
Chucky I have seen these types of kids more then I wish to count, I can see it
in their eyes, the way they look at the nose, like its their end all be all, and
if they can grab it their life will be complete. Its fucking scary. Think of a 3
and a half foot tall person, coming at you with crazy wild eyes. Breathing as
such that it sounds like “heee, heee, heee, heee, heee, hoooo” in a rapid
staccato that never stops. Now think of this little person grabbing your nose.
Squeezing, twisting, and wrenching it back and forth. Welcome to my world. I am
Chucky Mother Fucking Cheese,
and my nose is a magnet for wonton destruction.
Now most of the nose grabbers I can avoid, I see the eyes, I know what is coming
and I stay away. Only one time have I gotten sweet sweet chucky justice. This
little fucker I could not stay away from for anything. Anytime I bent down to
see another kid, there he was, holding onto my fucking nose. Now in other theme
parks, and even in Chuck E. Cheese’s now, the guys in the stuffed suits will
have body guards. A showroom person looking out for Chuck’s well being, and
little rat bastards that will twist your fucking nose. Not in my day, it was
fend for yourself. Every now and then a showroom person would walk by “aww be
nice to chucky” they would say. As they walked away though, the torture would
continue anew. Now this little shithead had been following me around for 20
minutes or so, with a few show people telling him to leave me alone. Finally I
took matters in my own hands. Literally. As I was bending down to hand out some
tokens or pat some kid on the head, here he came again “heee heee heee heee
hooooo” and latched onto my nose. Now I did something most Chuckey’s should
never do, I reached up and grabbed the hands holding my nose, and I squeezed,
hard. I heard the most satisfying sound, it went something like “OW! YOU
DUMMYHEAD” then he hit me on my chucky snout, and I never saw him again. I win
you little fucker. With any luck, from that day forth he was nice to Chuckys all
over the world, as well as taught his children to be the same.
One other story, this didn’t happen to me but to a friend. He was walking around
in the Chucky suit one day, and unfortunately this Chucky head did not have a
chin strap. He approached what he thought would be a nice kid, looked sweet,
eyes looked ok, but no. This kid was one of those late screamers with a fight or
flight reflex of amazing proportions. As he bent down to wave and say maybe give
a hug, this kid let loose with the most fierce uppercut that any 5 year old has
ever unleashed. The kid got Chucky right in the nose and the helmet popped up so
high that my friend said he could see the bottom of the mask at eye level. Then
the kid went nuts screaming and crying and chucky ran away.
I hope that kid became a boxer, as his uppercut at 5 years old was amazing.
-Silver (c) 2002, reprinted with
late great Doris Wishman, the Queen of Exploitation films,
and boobie pioneer
BLOW ME DOWN
looks at the history of hair dryers with this fun gallery of
From Fisher Price
Little People to Lawn Darts, we remember the dangerous toys
A fun look at the
greatest superhero figures of all time, with the worst
HERE for the Complete Archives