PINBALL EXPO '96
(The Year of Coincidences)
by Russ Jensen
Well, the Pinball Expo - the "king of the pinball shows" -
celebrated it's twelfth year in 1996! The 1996 edition was held on
Nov 14 through 17, 1996 at the Ramada O'Hare Hotel in Rosemont
Illinois. The show activities covered four days (Thursday through
Sunday) with the first event being a tour of the Electrical
Windings coil and transformer manufacturing plant on Thursday
morning, but I decided to pass on that since I had toured that
facility two years ago and to do it again this year would have
meant flying to Chicago a day earlier and spending an extra night
in the hotel at their high room rates!
This year I was lucky to have all my Expo expenses (plane
trip, hotel room, registration fee, meals, etc.) paid from
gambling winnings at the local (well it's ninety miles away - but
there is a free bus) Indian Bingo facility. My wife and I had been
extremely lucky starting in July 1996 and, in fact, I am still
"playing on their money"! LONG LIVE INDIAN GAMING!
Even though my trip was financed by "Indian money", I was
still concerned about the way Expo expenses keep going up. The
full admission to the show this year was $100!, and has been
increasing by about $5 a year since the show began in 1985. The
same is true of the rooms at the Ramada which (including tax) are
also about $100 per night! If it wasn't for the fact that I
usually share a room that cost would be overwhelming!
This year my Expo roommate for the past several years, John
Cassidy, could not attend the show because he was attending a good
friend's wedding, so I had to make other plans. So about a month
before the show I made arrangements to share a room with my good
friend Sam Harvey (my roommate at all the early Expos) and our
friend Gordon Hasse from New York. This resulted in a very
favorable room cost for all of us.
I also got a great deal on air fare this year! About two
months before the show my travel agent secured for me a round-trip
ticket from Los Angeles to Chicago for just slightly over $200!
The only hitch was that I had to leave from the big LAX airport
(which is about 75 miles from my home) instead of the smaller and
more convenient Hollywood/Burbank Airport I had been using for the
past several years. But, there is a special bus from our town to
LAX and I was also able to get a special discount on the round-trip
On Thursday morning at 4:30 AM my daughter Cheri drove me to
the bus stop. I had mistakenly read the bus schedule and thought
that was the bus I had to take to get to the airport in time for my
9:30 AM flight - I could have taken a later bus! Well, when I
arrived at the airport a little after 7 AM I checked my baggage and
found out that I could take an earlier flight which put me into
Chicago at half-past noon, instead of about 2 PM.
The flight to Chicago was pleasant and we arrived on time.
After getting my bag I called for the shuttle bus to the Ramada.
When I got on the bus, sitting across from me was Bill Ung a user
of the "rec.games.pinball" ("r.g.p") Internet newsgroup - a person
who I had previously told via email that I would like to personally
meet at Expo after corresponding with him via email. In fact, he
and his friend were on the same flight from L.A. and I didn't
realize it. But more about "r.g.p" shortly.
After arriving at the hotel I checked in and went to our room.
Upon entering I found it to be the largest room I had ever had at
the hotel. It even had a sofa (which I found out later made into
a bed - in fact, that's where I ended up sleeping) and even a
refrigerator and a bar! I then went downstairs for my first Expo
THE BUMPER BLAST
The next event on the Expo agenda was a little "mixer" dubbed
the "Bumper Blast" by Expo producers Rob Berk and Mike Pacak. It
was held in a small room, light snacks were served, and anyone who
wished to could visit with other attendees. When I first arrived I
encountered my old "Expo friend" John Campbell from West Virginia,
who like me, has attended all 12 Expos.
Soon after John and I sat down at one of the tables and
started talking pinball, we were joined by another pin-fan, Harold
Sund from Seattle, who like John and I, really loved the pingames
from the 1940's. Harold began showing us pictures of some of his
Before long we were joined by another collector, Stan
Jankowski from Minnesota, who had a large album of photos of his
prize games. While looking at Stan's photos I discovered that he
owned a game whose artwork I "fell in love with" after seeing a
black and while photo of it somewhere in the past. The game was
Genco's SILVER FLASH from 1937 and it's artwork was very
"futuristic", similar to my Genco METRO from 1940. I asked Stan if
he could send me photos of the game and he said he would. We had
a good time visiting and looking at photos for about an hour.
THE FIRST "FIRESIDE CHAT"
This year, as has happened at the last two Expos, there was an
informal get-together (actually this year there were TWO!) which
Rob Berk dubbed "Fireside Chats". This year there was one on
Thursday night and another on Friday. The Thursday night chat was
with long-time Gottlieb pinball designer Wayne Neyens, accompanied
by his lovely wife. Wayne and his wife sat on a couch in Rob's
suite with all us visitors sitting on a few chairs, but mostly on
Host Rob Berk asked Wayne some questions about his extensive
career, Wayne also fielding questions from the audience. As I have
said in past Expo articles, the details of this session are beyond
the scope of this article, but needless to say we all enjoyed
hearing stories of Wayne's fabulous career!
THE "INTERNET GET-TOGETHER"
At the conclusion of the Fireside Chat the next scheduled
event on Thursday evening was the "Internet Get-together". Before
describing this event I would like to provide a brief explanation
of what that event was all about, and how I became involved in the
world of "cyberspace".
Among the many facets of the worldwide "Internet" computer
network, there are a multitude of what are known as "Usenet
Newsgroups". These consist of groups of people who electronically
correspond with each other on a multitude of specific topics -
almost any topic you can imagine. For pinball fans the newsgroup
is called "rec.games.pinball" (recreation - games - pinball) and is
called "r.g.p" for short. People "post" questions or comments to
the group which anybody reading the group may read and answer (or
provide comments) either to the group as a whole or privately to
the poster if desired.
Last year at the Expo the first formal "Internet Get-together"
was held, where r.g.p people and others (like myself) interested in
learning more about the pinball stuff on the Internet met for about
an hour and witnessed an actual "on-line" demonstration of the
facility. Even after attending that session last year, it wasn't
until June 1996 that I finally got "on-line".
But, I have been active in r.g.p ever since then, and as a
result have become "acquainted" with many new "cyber pin friends".
Among those is a young man named Scott Tiesma who maintains an
extensive bibliography of pinball related magazine articles - and
who has recently added all of mine. Scott was one of the r.g.p
people that I made arrangements to meet in person at the Expo.
Another was Bill Ung who, as I said previously, I met on the
shuttle bus going to the hotel.
I ran into Scott, by the way, while standing in line to enter
the "Internet Get-together". When we were all seated the "host" of
the event, Dave Marston from New Hampshire, began telling everybody
that "projects of interest" concerning the Internet and "r.g.p"
would be discussed. He then asked for a show of hands of all those
present who were active in "r.g.p" - most everybody rasing their
hand. He then asked how many had "Websites" (on the Internet
"World-Wide Web") connected with pinball? Many raised their hand.
Dave then asked what each would like to do on their site?
A fellow named Jonathan Dietch then told everybody that on his
website he is "registering" Bally's 1993 game TWILIGHT ZONE,
collecting serial numbers and locations of as many of those games
he could find. When Dave next asked what the people in the
audience would most like to see on the Internet, the almost
unanimous vote was for reactivation of the "r.g.p archive", a
database of past postings on r.g.p which had been discontinued (at
least for awhile). Dave next remarked that one of the reasons for
holding this get-together was so that r.g.p users could have a
chance to "match names to faces" of the people they had been
At that point Dave introduced a visitor, David Byers from
Sweden, who maintains the large "Internet Pinball Database" (which
attempts to provide information on all pinballs ever made) which is
part of the large website (The Pinball Pasture) which he maintains.
David told us that he would like to get more information on pinball
industry people to put in his database.
Next Scott Tiesma told of his pinball bibliography and said
that he would work in conjunction with a fellow named Doug Landman
who had just put up a giant pinball bibliography, "The Pinball
Literature Index", on his website. After that someone remarked
that he'd like to see more places to play pinball posted on the
Internet. When someone then mentioned posting images of older
pinball advertising flyers on the Internet, a brief discussion as
to copyright problems this might bring then ensued.
At that point pinball designer Jon Norris got up and told of
an idea he had for putting a "coin-op museum" on the World-Wide
Web. Jon then mentioned that one thing he might put on it were
images of game instruction cards that people could download and
print out for their games. Dave Marston then commented that
possibly much of what Jon wants to include in his "museum" may
already be available on the Web.
Jon then listed things which he thought people could use his
museum to obtain. These included: looking at pictures of their
favorite games; getting game restoration information; getting
copies of schematics; looking at some pinball price lists; and even
getting information on the proper sizes of rubber rings for a
particular game. He listed a few other items as well.
Jon next commented that he was sort of "thinking out loud"
about his museum idea. He then said that his idea for the museum
was that it also include information on other coin-ops such as
jukeboxes, slot machines, etc.. Jon then said that it would be
nice to get a "sponsor" for the museum, and that he might even have
small "shows" on different coin-op subjects at different times on
the proposed website. When Dave Marston asked for reactions to
Jon's idea, that brought little response.
After Scott Tiesma suggested that someone interview "living
legends" and put them somewhere on the Internet, Dave Marston said
that for those people who are currently not on the Internet, it
might be nice for them to know what kind of things are available on
the Net. He then passed out a sheet of paper for people to list
the "locations" of their websites. Dave then commented that
possibly next year people's email addresses could be put on their
After that different people gave more information on what they
were doing on the Internet. There is not enough space here,
however, to mention all of that. Finally Dave Marston gave a brief
summary of what went on during the session, dismissing it formally.
At that time we were free to mingle and talk with other
"r.g.p'ers". That ended the official Thursday Expo events - except
for the opening of the Exhibit Hall which will be discussed later.
Friday morning we all gathered in the seminar area for the
Expo Opening Remarks by Expo producers Rob Berk and Mike Pacak.
After welcoming everybody to the Expo, Rob said that this year they
have a special "sponsor" for the show, an outfit called Interplay
which produces computer simulations of pinball games - he then
thanked them for their sponsorship.
Rob next reminded everybody about the second Fireside Chat
that would be held that evening with pinball artist of the 1970's
Dave Christensen. He then mentioned other special events such as
the Autograph Session and the Art Contest. After mentioning the
fact that this year there would be two additional special
tournaments (in addition to the usual "Flip-Out Tournament), one
played on a 1950's machine and another of a 1960's game, Rob said
that the national PAPA tournament would be held in Las Vegas in
July 1997 back to back with Herb Silvers' PINBALL FANTASY '97
Rob then solicited donations for the Charity Auction which was
again to be held during the Saturday night banquet. After then
mentioning the fact that at midnight an "infomercial" for Todd
Tuckey's TNT Amusements would be shown for those who wished to view
it, Rob introduced his con-producer, Mike Pacak.
Mike began by thanking Sega Pinball for providing the new
games to be used for the Flip-Out Tournament. He then reminded
everybody that the Exhibit Hall would be open all night on both
Friday and Saturday nights. Mike then reminded us of the game
auction to be held on Saturday morning. After that he introduced
a young lady named Lisa who represented the show sponsor Interplay.
Lisa showed a video about her company's products. She then
said that today "entertainment software" (Nintendo, etc.) is a big
industry, adding that her company's product, the pinball simulation
software known as "Pro Pinball", was one of the best such products.
That ended the Opening Remarks.
RESEARCHING AND WRITING THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PINBALL
Rob Berk next got up and introduced the speaker for the first
Expo seminar, coin machine historian and author Dick Bueschel - a
man Rob said "needs no introduction". That brought a round of
Dick began his talk by saying "it's a joy to be here". He
then said that he wanted to share with us "the adventure of
researching his new book Encyclopedia of Pinball - Volume 1". Dick
then said that because of problems with a previous proposed set of
pinball books he had to "start all over".
After telling us that he went to Steve Young and asked him
"what'll we do" to produce a new series of books, Dick said that
Steve, Gordon Hasse, and Tim Feranti formed a "team" to help him
get the new books into publication, which he said was projected to
be a six volume series. He then asked for questions from the
Before Dick fielded the first question, however, he sort of
volunteered to pose and answer a question himself - that was "when
will work start on Volume 2?" Dick told us that as soon as the
publication costs of the first volume have been paid off work on
Volume 2 will begin immediately! Someone then asked Dick when he
does start work on the next volume, how long will it take to
complete? Dick answered approximately 12 months. He then began
listing things that are necessary to produce a book.
First he said you need research and of course an author. You
also must have a "designer" who in the case of the new books was a
young fellow from Virginia named Eric Hatchell. After mentioning
that illustrations have to be prepared, Dick said that the actual
writing of the text takes about 12 months. After that, he went on,
you need "pre-press/design" which he said takes about 90 days. And
finally the actual printing.
Dick then commented that if he got the "go ahead" for starting
Volume 2 by January 1st, the book could be ready by October 15. He
then said that he has much of the information for the next volume
stored in boxes, and that he has already "blocked out" the other
volumes as well.
Someone next asked Dick what the "date ranges" were for the
"history sections" of the six proposed volumes? He replied that
Volume 1 went up through 1933; Volume 2 will be 1934-36; Volume 3,
1937-47; Volume 4, 1947-61; Volume 5, 1962-81; and Volume 6 would
finally be 1981-2000!
At that point Dick said that he would like to tell us a little
about coin machine industry pioneer David Rockola. He began by
remarking that the United States and Canada were the only real
industrialized nations that were not devastated by World War 2. He
then commented on the many "revamped" pinballs which came out
during the war with "anti-enemy" themes, telling of a German game
called "Bombing London" - in German, of course. Dick then remarked
that you can hardly find any German pinballs these days, and only
a few made in France.
Dick then began his story of David Rockola by saying that he
was born in Canada and as a young man owned a cigar store. Later,
he went on, Dave moved to Chicago and worked for awhile at the
plants of two major slot machine manufacturers of the day, Mills
and Jennings. After telling us that Mr. Rockola was friends with
two slot machine pioneers, Charlie Fey and Jim Watling, Dick said
that by 1927 Dave was selling coin-op scales.
In the middle of 1932, Dick continued, Dave Rockola got into
pinball with a game called JUGGLE BALL which featured a rod in the
middle of the playfield which a player could use to attempt to
"manipulate the ball". He said that that game didn't do very well
and left his company $120,000 in debt. But, Dick went on, Dave
convinced his creditors to loan him even more money and he was
eventually able to pay them with profits from the very successful
games, JIGSAW, and WORLD SERIES.
Dick next told us of an interview he conducted with Mr.
Rockola around 1976 or 1977 during which Dave told him the story of
JIGSAW. Dave told him that people in speakeasies he knew liked to
work jigsaw puzzles, which gave him the idea to convert a jigsaw
puzzle into a pingame, which he did. He then told us that Dave
even advertised the game nine days before the game came out. Dick
then commented that Rockola made around $73,000 from JIGSAW and
their also successful game WORLD SERIES. He then added that he and
Dave had talked many times over the years before he died.
At that point someone from the audience asked Dick when
Rockola started contracting out the production of their pingames?
He replied "from the beginning". Dick then commented that there
were no pingames at the 1931 coin machine show, but there were
sixty at the 1932 show! He then said that the company known as ABT
sold parts to many pingame manufacturers, making it possible for
small outfits to put out games. Dick then remarked that by 1933
there was a "shakeout" of pingame manufacturers with only 40
exhibitors at the 1933 show, adding "the big got bigger and the
The next question that was asked was why did Rockola get out
of the pingame business? Dick started answering by remarking that
his researching of the coin machine industry has shown that most
companies who produced pingames also produced other types of coin
machines, many also producing jukeboxes.
Dick then commented that when Prohibition ended in 1933
President Roosevelt said "I'll repeal Prohibition and new
businesses will start within ninety days". At that time, he
continued, taverns opened up and without that pinball would
probably have "died". Dick then said that Wurlitzer got into
jukeboxes and Rockola followed and that they even at one time
produced a piano/game combination called the "Profit Sharing
Piano". He then remarked that money was important to Dave Rockola
and when he found he could make more money by selling jukeboxes
rather than pingames he got out of pingames.
Someone next asked Dick how much duplication there was between
his earlier book "Pinball 1" and the new "Encyclopedia Of Pinball,
Volume 1"? Dick said that the history section of the earlier book
was "elegant", but "somewhat naive", adding that when he started on
the new book he considered it "a whole new ball game". He said one
reason for this was that he learned a lot more about the early
history of the game since Pinball 1 came out - finally remarking
that there was perhaps "a twelve page overlap" between the history
sections of the two books, or put another way "the new book is
about 95 percent new."
When asked if there was any duplication in the "100 games
sections" of the two books, he replied there was none. At that
point Gordon Hasse asked Dick to explain how games were chosen for
the "100 games section", remarking that some people don't seem to
like his choice of games. Dick replied that if people would let
him know what games they own or like he could include them in
future volumes. He then invited people to send him pictures,
especially if the games are "not of the norm" - saying "send
Dick then began telling some stories about other pinball
pioneers. He first said that Alvin Gottlieb, son of Dave Gottlieb,
loaned him many photographs, many of which Alvin had used in his
past Expo banquet presentations - including many pictures of Dave,
flipper inventor Harry Mabs, etc.. He said that he considered
those photos as "the best bunch of stuff I've ever hit", also
showing scenes in the Gottlieb factory and the people who worked
there - adding that many of those photos will be used in the series
Next Dick started telling a little about another pinball
pioneer, Charlie Chizewar. He said that Charlie had a machine shop
in Chicago and began producing a coin-op grip tester which he
"reengineered" for a customer. They went over so well, he
continued, that the customer asked for 50 more, and later another
100! When Charlie then went on vacation, Dick went on, he returned
to discover that his customer had stolen his foreman. That
customer he then said, was none other than Dave Gottlieb himself!
Chizewar, Dick then remarked, was so mad at this that he
started putting out his own HERCULES GRIP TESTER, forming the
Hercules Novelty Company. A while later, Dick then told us, Dave
Gottlieb went to Charlie for help ("what a hell of a business!")
and the two became good friends! Chizewar, Dick then commented,
became an "original equipment manufacturer" (OEM) supplying parts
to many game manufacturers.
Someone then asked Dick if Chizewar's Hercules Novelty Company
did well? Dick replied that they did better than Gottlieb with
grip testers, doing a "raging business". He then made some
comments regarding Chicago and the 1933 World's Fair, starting with
the question "how could Chicago not make it big after the fair?"
Dick began by saying that planning for the Fair actually
began in 1929 - quipping "what could go wrong?" He then said after
the Great Depression hit, by 1932 people were saying "how can we do
the fair?" Well, Dick continued, Roosevelt won the election and
Prohibition was repealed. This, he said, resulted in there being
32 restaurants at the Fair with only one not selling beer -
resulting in a "very successful fair".
Connecting this to Dave Rockola, Dick then said he "stole" the
picture of the fairgrounds from a Chicago newspaper to use on the
playfield of his very successful pingame JIGSAW. A little later,
Dick then said, the photographer who had taken the newspaper photo
discovered what Rockola had done, but Dave offered him a "royalty"
of a penny for each game sold, over 73,000 being sold.
Someone then asked Dick about the Keeney Company? He said
that Jack Keeney, his father Bill, and another brother, started the
company and that Bill had previously operated console (floor model)
slot machines with the boys helping on the route. Dick then said
that Jack soon became proficient at fixing broken machines and
understood their mechanisms pretty well. He said that they founded
the company J.H. Keeney and Sons in 1927 and that the father died
around 1931 or 32. Dick then said that at one time they
manufactured BAFFLE BALLS for Gottlieb. He then commented that
Jack Keeney was a "technical person" and even made a few pingames
after World War II.
When Dick was next asked if legendary pinball artist Roy
Parker did art for Keeney games, he replied "I think so". When
someone then commented that "all you can do to determine that is
compare similarities" Dick agreed. He then commented that in the
future pinball backglasses might be considered "rare art".
Dick then told us that Expo exhibitor Larry Bieza had obtained
a copy of Roy Parker's Death Certificate which contained the
Chicago address where he was living . He then told us that that
week Larry was going to ring the doorbell at that address and see
if the current residents know anything about Roy.
At that point Dick began talking about Rob Berk and the
Pinball Expo and how the show has "changed things". He said that
he has been able to gather more information about the industry as
a result of the Expos than he was able to do in the past. Dick
then related something that happened to him when he was still
working in the advertising business.
He said that one time one of his associates told him about
Eddie Ginsberg who had once been associated with the coin machine
industry, whom he then interviewed. He told us that Eddie told him
that once he was asked by someone to get involved with the pioneer
pingame BINGO, but he declined. He told Dick that he later handled
Gottlieb's BAFFLE BALL. Dick said that Eddie did not drink alcohol
and really "loved the industry".
When Gordon Hasse asked Dick "are you up to doing Volume 2?",
Dick replied "Yes, I want to see what happens?" Someone then asked
Dick about the Stoner Company? Dick began by saying that the
Stoner family had been in the home building and carpentery business
before the Depression hit. He then said that the first pingame
they produced was called WALDORF which they made for Chicago Coin.
After that, Dick went on, the Stoner brothers decided to
produce games for themselves as well as contracting with other
companies. Dick then said that when Pacific Amusements (PAMCO)
moved to Chicago to manufacture Harry Williams' famous game
CONTACT, they contracted with Stoner to build some of them.
Dick then told us that Harry discovered that Stoner was not
producing the playfield correctly by not placing the pins and holes
in precise locations - then remarking how accurately this type of
thing was done on Bally's BALLYHOO. He said that Harry took the
job away from Stoner causing them to hire a game designer who
several years later designed a game for them called ZETA which was
the earliest pingame to use a "powered bumper". (AUTHOR'S NOTE:
When I was a kid I owned one of those neat games).
At that point someone asked Dick what his criteria was for
choosing the "100 collectable games" for each volume? After
remarking that there were probably over 2000 pingame models which
came out in 1932/33, Dick told of his session at the past year's
Expo in which he had the audience vote on which pins they
considered "collectable". Dick then commented "whatever you want -
we'll put it in".
The final question asked of Dick was regarding a company
called Baker who put out a game called DOUGHBOY in 1940? He
replied that they did not produce any of their games, but that they
were made for them by Chicago Coin. Dick ended his presentation by
saying that when he gets the "call" he will go forward with Volume
2. He was then given a good round of applause.
THE CREATION OF THE FIRST MICROPROCESSOR PINBALL
Rob Berk next got up and introduced the speaker for the next
seminar, Dave Nutting, who was to talk about the creation of the
first microprocessor controlled pingame. He said that Dave was an
Industrial Designer by trade and that both modern pinball designer
Pat Lawlor and artist Dave Christensen at one time worked for him.
Finally, Rob told us that Dave had created a "question and answer"
coin machine called "IQ" and that his company, Nutting Associates,
had once been involved with Bally.
Dave started out telling us that he and his wife now live in
Colorado, having left Chicago in 1985, the year Bally decided to
"get out of the arcade business". He then said that he was going
to talk about the "exciting period" from the early 1970's up to the
early 1980's - a period he said of "technical advances we'll never
We were next told that his company created the first solid-
state pingame around 1973 and that they were also involved in
developing video games for Bally/Midway, also developing the "Bally
Arcade" home system. Dave then said that his company "played a
major role in Bally's success".
At that point Dave started telling us a little of his
background. He said that he was an Industrial Designer by trade
and at one time was involved with the design of the "Jeep Grand
Wagoneer" vehicle which was in production for over 25 years! Dave
next told of being involved with a coin-op "IQ" game which was his
brother's idea - saying that he redesigned it and got it into
production. He then said that his brother also built COMPUTER WHIZ
the very early video game.
After that, Dave told us, "I found myself in a business I knew
nothing about" - adding that he thought at the time "how can we
compete with the big companies?". He then told us that he hired
a young engineer named Jeff Fredrichson to help him, giving him the
task of developing a solid-state pinball system.
When four months had passed, Dave told us, Jeff thought he had
it, but it didn't work right. Then one of their vendors told them
about the new "microprocessor". So they went to seminars to learn
more about that new technology. In 1970, Dave continued, his
company became a consultant to Bally, and at that time he only had
his engineer Jeff and one technician. He said they started
designing games for Midway while watching the development of the
By mid 1973, Dave went on, the Fairchild Company announced a
new microprocessor product in the form of a "development system"
which he bought. But, he then told us, we didn't have a computer
which was necessary to program the microprocessor. Dave told us
that they found a "specialty computer" which cost $150,000! He
next told us that Jeff had some teletype machine repair experience
- which he said was a "4 bit digital system". So, he continued,
they purchased a teletype machine and Jeff interfaced it with the
Fairchild microprocessor system.
We were then told by Dave that at one point Bally sent them
some pinball machines to work with and Jeff decided to try and use
a "multiplexing matrix" to decipher playfield scoring. He then
said that Jeff put printed circuit (PC) boards on the underside of
the playfield. For lamps, Dave went on, Jeff used "snap-in"
automotive lamps which he purchased from a local Ford dealer.
Dave then told us that Jeff used a test program to "cycle" his
system for testing and the system appeared to work fine. But, he
continued, when you hit a bumper there were problems! Dave then
told us that Jeff tried to solve the problems with both hardware
and software - trying to "address each problem separately" even
getting a $5,000 oscilloscope from Bally to help in his
The problem, Dave commented, was that of "two worlds" - the
"electro-mechanical world" where things occurred in tenths of a
second, and the "digital world" where things occurred in
microseconds. He said that Jeff solved the problem of "switch
chatter" using "software timers" and "optical isolators" and
finally got things working. Jeff, he then said, went on to program
the game, and to work on the displays.
As far as displays were concerned, Dave then told us, NIXIE
tubes were too expensive to use, and LEDs (light emitting diodes)
were not bright enough. To solve this problem a "7 digit, 1 1/2
inch readout" was devised and wired up.
Dave then said that in August 1973 the Bally representatives
were invited to come over and see the new system. But, he then
told us, when the system was "fired up" it didn't work because
there was a circuit missing. When they finally got it to work,
Dave remarked, the Bally people were amazed! They could see
something for the idea in their future.
So, Dave went on, they next got up a meeting with the "Bally
brass", including CEO Bill O'Donnell, who all arrived in a limo,
also bringing a "computer expert" with them. Dave said that they
gave them a presentation which included playing the games and also
showing them the insides. Dave said that one of the Vice
Presidents couldn't believe what he saw, even looking into a closet
to try and find "the computer running it". He just couldn't
believe a little "chip" could do all that! The executives, he
said, went back to Chicago and had to decide "what to do next"?
Dave then told us that his company continued designing video
games for Bally/Midway, always updating their circuitry as new
technology evolved. Then in 1976, he went on, the first commercial
"microprocessor pinball", SPIRIT OF '76, was released by a small
Arizona company, a company he said who went out of business shortly
Bally, Dave then said, put out their first microprocessor
controlled pingame in 1977 - adding "when Bally came out with a
solid-state pingame the industry could see that electro-mechanicals
were out". But, he then told us, shortly after that a "patent war
erupted over microprocessor controlled pingames".
There was a lawsuit, Dave told us, pitting Bally against
Williams and Gottlieb, with Bally claiming that the other outfits
stole their idea. Atari, he then said, had also developed a
microprocessor pin around 1974 and had patents on it, but, he
continued, they gave up trying to enforce them. Dave then said
that both Williams and Gottlieb copied Bally, deciding to "worry
about patents later". But it turned out that in a surprise
decision the judge ruled for the defendants stating that "the
design was obvious".
Dave then commented that at that time Bally's "main thrust"
was to get into the New Jersey casino business and decided not to
appeal the decision in the patent case. Our company, he then said,
"went on with videos". He then remarked that in 1983 Bally came
out with the pinball/video combination game BABY PAC-MAN and after
that the pinball market started to decline.
At that point Dave said he was going to give us a few brief
"notes" regarding himself and his company. First he told us that
in 1975 Bally hired a "financial expert" whose name was Rom. He
said his name often got confused with a "solid-state term". Dave
said that once when he was overheard making the remark "go blast
that ROM" he was later told that Rom was a bit concerned about
"being blasted" by Dave.
Later, Dave then told us, game designer Pat Lawlor will speak,
saying that Pat came to Dave's company years ago wanting a job
designing games. When Pat was asked what experience he had he told
them he had worked in a tire store, but Dave said they gave him a
job anyway. He then asked for questions from the audience?
When someone asked what games they were given by Bally to
experiment on in 1972, Dave answered that he could not remember the
names? When someone then made the comment that "video modes" in
today's pingames should be capable of being turned off by a player,
that drew a round of applause. When a question was then asked
about a legal problem involving a company known as Universal
Research Labs, Dave said he knew the people in that organization,
but was not involved with them.
At that point my friend Sam Harvey asked Dave about the home
model of Bally's FIREBALL, and other Bally "home versions", and
whether Bally put out brochures for them? Dave replied that they
probably did. Someone else then remarked that at least one of the
"home games" was also put out as a "Heathkit" do-it-yourself kit.
The final question Dave was asked was "who first decided to use the
6800 microprocessor in pinballs?" He answered that it was Bally.
That ended Dave's presentation and he received a round of applause!
WHAT'S HAPPENING AT SEGA PINBALL
Rob Berk next introduced the speaker for the next seminar, Joe
Kaminkow, who's topic was "What's Happening At Sega Pinball" Rob
said that in 1987 Data East Pinball started in business with just
two people - Joe and Gary Stern - remarking that that company
"started from scratch". After 1987, Rob continued, Joe went
"behind the scenes", helping to make the company "a driving force
in the industry".
After that Rob told of Joe's participation at past Expos,
including his actual building of the BABY IN THE HOLE game (the
idea for which came from old-time pinball designer Harvey Heiss) to
display at the show. Rob then remarked "Joe makes things happen".
He then told us that Joe has been responsible for innovations in
the industry, including "digital sound", the "solid-state flipper",
dot-matrix displays, etc.. That brought a round of applause!
Joe then got up and began by saying that when asked to talk
this year he had to come up with a subject. He then said that he
was going to tell us some "fun stories". Joe then said he brought
a video to show which, among other things, showed company President
Gary Stern "bunjee jumping".
After telling us that he also brought some games which were
never produced, Joe told us that he would be unable to attend this
year's Expo banquet due to other commitments. But, he went on,
Sega did contribute an item for the banquet charity auction which
had been autographed by NASA astronaut Jim Lovell. That elicited
a round of applause.
Joe then told us that they have "lots of fun in their
business", then mentioning that they have even manufactured special
pin games with "wheel chair access" - and also with "sip and puff
control", including one for disabled actor Christopher Reeve. He
then said he was going to ask the audience some "trivia questions"
(regarding their games over the years) giving the people with the
correct answers prizes. That then followed.
After that Joe started talking about some games that never got
into production, showing some of the artwork, etc., which might
have been used. First, he told us, they almost did a game with a
Mad Magazine theme, saying that they got "cold feet", then showing
the proposed backglass. After telling us that they almost did a
"Crash Test Dummies" game, Joe told a little of their experiences
with "Slash" of the Guns'n'Roses rock group. He next showed the
promised video which promoted some of their games, but also showed
Gary Stern "bungie jumping".
At that point Joe handed out a little gift to everyone in the
audience - a "power prism" which contained many small round
candies. This was followed by another round of "trivia questions"
and the awarding of small prizes. He then told the story of
producing a special "custom game" for the wife of TV producer
Aaron Spelling to give to her husband for his birthday - a game
costing her $175,000, a price which he said she had no trouble
with! He then showed both the playfield and backglass for that
Getting back to "unusual stuff" which they never produced, Joe
told of a PULP FICTION game which was never produced - only a
backglass. We then saw the first prototype of their JURASSIC PARK
backglass, followed by the original art for their LAST ACTION HERO
game, which Joe said Arnold Swartzenegger wanted changes made to.
After showing a "mock up" of another idea which was never
produced, DEATH BALL 2000, we were shown the original glass for
their TOMMY pin. Joe then showed a "proof" of the art for PLAYBOY,
and told a little about the making of their TOTAL RECALL pin - then
telling of his company's "can do attitude". He then asked for
questions from the audience?
When someone asked Joe how many of their STAR WARS games were
produced, he answered "10,400". He was next asked "who makes the
decision to 'pull' (not produce) a game?" Joe answered "me".
Someone then asked if they came close to producing the OPERATION
DESERT STORM game? Joe answered "not at all!" - then adding that
that artwork was done as a "test" drawing of an artist who was
applying for a job with the company.
When Joe was then asked if they were going to produce an X-
FILES game, he replied "yes". When next asked why their KING KONG
game was "pulled", Joe replied that it didn't make much money "on
At that point someone asked Joe about the cost of "licensed
games"? He replied that it was "expensive to very expensive", but
that he couldn't say precisely, adding that Roger Sharpe who is
directly involved with that would know better. He then said that
JURASSIC PARK was their most expensive license. Someone then asked
if a licensed game's characteristics are closely related to it's
theme, Joe replied "almost always".
Joe was then asked if they can use actors or other celebrities
to promote their games? He answered "occasionally". He then
remarked that many of their games are shipped overseas and that the
U.S. is a small market today because in this country "so many
things are pulling people in many different ways and there's no
time to play pinball". He then added "nobody cares about pingames
and video games nowadays - home games are more popular" - then
remarking "young people are not our market".
When someone then asked Joe if they had ever considered doing
a "home game', he answered "no". He was then asked which of their
past games he would have "pulled" if he had known ahead of time how
it would do"? Joe answered "TORPEDO ALLEY". The final question
asked of Joe was regarding the "cost factor" involved in producing
games? He replied that their company tries to keep costs down, but
that he doesn't think that's what hurting pinball today.
Joe ended his talk with some brief remarks regarding the new
backbox design they had recently introduced, telling us that a game
using it would be on display in the Exhibit Hall. He said they
refer to is as the "showcase", then commenting that they hoped it
would increase earnings from their games.
Finally Joe said that they were going to get back to lower
score numbers (instead of the "billions", etc., they were now
using) and that they were trying to "save pinball by giving it a
new look". That ended Joe's presentation, him drawing a round of
SHIPPING A PINBALL MACHINE
At that point Rob Berk introduced the next seminar speaker,
collector/dealer Herb Silvers from California, who was to talk
about how to ship a pinball machine. Before Herb started his talk,
Rob mentioned the new pinball show in Las Vegas that Herb puts on,
"Pinball Fantasy", the first show having been put on in July 1996.
Herb began his talk by saying that "pre-planning" was required
before shipping a game, and also some "pre-packing". He then
remarked that if the game is damaged in a shipping accident there's
not much you can do to replace it, but insurance sometimes helps by
providing some monetary compensation. In that regard, Herb then
commented, before choosing a trucking company you should call
several and inquire about insurance and how much extra it costs.
Regarding types of trucking companies, Herb said that
there are "personal carriers", which are usually one or two person
outfits, who drive around the country. When using one of those for
shipping a pinball, Herb said that the game should be first
"blanket wrapped" and tied. The balls, etc., he went on, should be
placed in a separate box and all legs should be packaged separately
Herb next told us that larger freight trucking companies were
usually fast and reasonable. When using one of these, he went on,
you must put your game in a box, crate, or strap it to a shipping
pallet. He then said that he had with him a game box which he had
obtained from a game dealer. If you use a pallet, Herb continued,
it is nice if the game can be attached to it by a "professional".
He then pointed out that a palleted game should be strapped
carefully so the glass doesn't get broken, again suggesting that
this be done by a "knowledgeable person".
At that point Herb gave a brief demonstration of how to pack
a game in a box using the box he had brought. He then remarked
that the boxes used for new games are somewhat larger than older
machines. Herb next told us that both the head and the body of the
game should be wrapped in "bubble wrap", then strapped and put into
the box. The rest of the box, he went on, should then be filled
After commenting that the legs should also be "bubble
wrapped", Herb said that you should either tape the top of the box
or strap it. He then reminded us to mark the top of the box "TOP
SIDE", and also label it with "DON'T FORKLIFT!". Finally, Herb
said, you should fill out the paperwork and put it in the box.
Herb ended his presentation by handing out to everyone a list of
shippers he has used with good results.
MEET THE PINBALL ARTISTS
Rob Berk then introduced the next seminar, a panel discussion
titled "Meet The Pinball Artists", briefly mentioning each of the
guest artists. Kevin O'Connor, he said, did the art for such
classic pingames as Bally's STAR TREK, KISS, and FLASH GORDON, and
many, many more. John Youssi, he then told us, was responsible for
GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, FUN HOUSE and many more. After telling us that
Greg Freres did the art for many games including ROLLING STONES,
FATHOM, and PARTY ZONE, Rob said that Kevin O'Connor would start
off by telling of his background.
Kevin began by telling us that early in his career he did
video game art. Later, he went on, he went to Data East for
awhile. He said he then went to Williams, working with game
designers John Popaduik and John Trudeau, doing such games as JUDGE
DREAD, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and THE FLINTSTONES. Kevin
then told us that he was currently working on a new game (the name
of which he could not reveal) with designer George Gomez.
At that point John Youssi got up, and started by telling us
that he'd been in the "pin business" for a relatively short time.
In 1971, he then told us, he did some game art, then going into his
own business as an illustrator for awhile. John then said he got
back into pins doing the backglass art or Williams' 1990 game
WHIRLWIND, then naming some more of his games. One of his other
games he said was HURRICANE, adding that he also does art for new
video games and even slot machines.
Next up was Greg Freres. He began by saying that he started
working for Bally in 1978 and that Kevin "got him in". He told us
that he brought a "portfolio" to show at his Bally interview and
was interviewed by veteran Bally artist Paul Faris. Greg then said
he did a painting for his "try out" and it ended up being the art
used on Bally's 1980 pin SKATEBALL. He then told us he had done
the art for about 20 games, and also works in management. Greg
then said his last project was SCARED STIFF, and is currently busy
on another game.
At that point John Youssi told of also doing music album
covers, including some Country & Western albums for Mercury
Records. We were then asked if we had any questions?
The first question asked was what pinball artist Dennis
Nordman was doing? One of the panelists answered that he was
currently working on "novelty games", but was hoping to get back to
pinballs. Someone then asked the artists who influenced their
work? Kevin answered that for him it was probably "movie poster"
or "fantasy" artists. John Youssi answered "adventure artists" and
illustrator Charles White. Greg then said that he agreed with the
others, but was also influenced by the artists who did Mad
Magazine. Finally, Kevin said that he was also influenced by Dave
Someone next asked Kevin about his musical background? He
replied that he "moonlights" playing guitar and also singing in
night clubs. Rob Berk then asked Kevin about his use of
computers"? He replied that he uses them more as a "tool",
commenting "I can get a better flare with my hands", but that they
were great for "typesetting".
Kevin was next asked how much influence the members of the
"Kiss" rock group had in the Bally game of the same name? Kevin
said that they only supplied them with reference material,
remarking that it's not like doing a "license game" today. He then
said that he did the artwork more or less "by the seat of my
pants", adding that seeing the group perform was a big influence to
him, but he never met them in person.
When Kevin was then asked if he did any of the changes to the
KISS game requested by the German distributors, he replied that
only his painting was used, and others made any changes to the
final glass. When someone then asked the panel who gets what
projects at the company, Greg replied that in the old days the
game designers usually chose the artist, but nowadays it's "whoever
is ready to work".
Rob Berk next asked the panel how much influence the artists
have on the game designers? The answer given was "none at all".
Rob then asked the artists who "oversees" their work? One of the
artists answered that they have pretty much of a "free hand", but
that if the designers choose to get involved "you have to make them
Continuing his questions to the panel, Rob asked when the
score numbers were still part of the backglass art was it harder to
do the art? John Youssi answered "yes, it was". Rob then asked if
the European market had any influence on the artwork? One of the
panelists said that it really didn't, the art being really a "theme
When someone next asked if any of the artists ever tried to
"personalize" their work, the answer was that "we all do that in
some ways". The artists were then asked about their favorite
pinball art - both of their own work and that of others? Kevin
began by saying that "your latest is always the nicest", naming his
last game, CONGO, as an example. As far as his past art was
concerned, he said it would probably be Bally's 1976 pin MATA HARI.
John Youssi next answered saying of his own art his favorite
was probably TWILIGHT ZONE. As far as others work was concerned he
named Kevin's CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and Greg's LOST WORLD.
Greg said that of his work he liked SCARED STIFF and STAR TREK -
THE NEXT GENERATION. For others work he named CAPT. FANTASTIC,
MATA HARI, SILVER BALL MANIA, and TWILIGHT ZONE.
The panel members were next asked if any of them had any
enthusiasm for pinball before getting into the industry? Kevin
said that he just answered an ad from a large coin-op manufacturer.
John Youssi told us that he always has been "mesmerized" by the
arcade scene, and that it was more than just a business to him.
Greg then told us that he grew up in Chicago where pinballs
were not allowed. But, he continued, on family vacations in
Wisconsin he saw a baseball machine and thought it was "cool".
When he later went to college, Greg said he began a rapport with
pinball, playing such games as WIZARD and SPANISH EYES.
When someone next asked if the game PARTY ZONE was a "license
game", the answer given was "no". Rob Berk then asked Kevin about
his miniature toy collection? Kevin said that he started
collecting antique toys years ago, adding that he also has an
extensive library of books.
At that point Greg said that he wanted to tell something about
late game artist/sculptor Jerry Pinzler. He told us that Jerry had
worked for Bally for seven years, doing things for many games
including their 1990 pin DR. DUDE. Prior to that, he went on,
Jerry had been a toy designer. Greg then said that Jerry died
while working at Williams. Finally, he talked about Jerry's great
character and aptitude, adding that he worked on 34 pingames over
a period of seven years!
Someone then asked the artists if they had any games at home?
Kevin began by saying he has WORLD CUP SOCCER, and THE FLINTSTONES.
John Youssi then said that he owned a couple pins including
WHIRLWIND. Greg then told us that he has a "long list" of games at
One of the artists then began talking about some people
"behind the scenes" at Williams. He first mentioned a Paul Barker
who works on dot-matrix displays, and acts as "production/art
coordinator". The next person mentioned was a lady named Linda
Deal who also works behind the scenes, the person speaking
remarking "we don't do everything ourselves - we try to have one
person accountable for the 'entire look' of the project". Then it
was said that artist Margaret Hudson does their "color
Rob Berk then asked the artists if paintings exist for all the
game art? One of the artists answered "yes - all of the paintings
do exist, although some are 'layered' in pieces". He then added
that paintings for some of the older games are in an "archive". At
that point some of the artist's artwork was displayed.
Kevin showed his art for CONGO and THE FLINTSTONES game,
including the cabinet art. John Youssi displayed his art for
WHIRLWIND, and his sketch for FUN HOUSE, followed by the art for
JOHNNY MNEMONIC, the "first rough" for TWILIGHT ZONE, and finally
SAFE CRACKER, which he said was the last game he worked on.
Rob Berk then asked the artists' opinions of 1950's and 1960's
pinball art? Kevin was first to reply, saying that the early
pinball art was more "stylized", where today there is more
"realism", the abstract not being too acceptable. John then
remarked that he loves the art of Roy Parker. Greg then told us
that he had learned a lot from past art, adding that it "set
precedents for what's expected of pinball art today".
Someone next asked the artists if there ever was anything they
had wanted to do, but were not allowed to? After Kevin said he
couldn't think of anything, Greg said that he "agonized" over Data
East's decision to use "photographic backglasses" rather than
drawings. John Youssi then replied that with him "it happens every
day with small things".
Rob Berk then thanked the artists for appearing on the panel,
that drawing a round of applause. After that there was a short
period when people took pictures of the displayed artwork. Then we
broke for lunch!
THE REPRO-PARTS TRUTH IS OUT THERE
The first Friday afternoon seminar featured Steve Young of The
Pinball Resource, a major supplier of parts and literature involved
with repair/restoration of pinball machines. The title of Steve's
presentation was "The Repro-parts Truth Is Out There".
Rob Berk introduced Steve, first saying that Steve has been a
big part of Pinball Expo since it's beginning. After remarking
that Steve is involved with publications and parts, he commented
that reproduction of pinball parts was Steve's "forte".
Steve then began his talk by welcoming everyone to the Expo.
He then thanked all the people "behind the scenes" at his outfit
The Pinball Resource. Steve then began to present a slide show
depicting what they do. He first showed pictures of some of the
reproduced pinball items they provide including: flipper linkages,
Gottlieb front and back doors, bell assemblies, and rebound
We next saw some views of their parts and storage area, their
UPS shipping computer, and bumper cap storage. This was followed
by some scenes illustrating the reproduction bumper cap production
process which was done at Donal Murphey's Electrical Windings plant
in Chicago. After that we saw where reproduction bumper bodies and
Gottlieb and Bally drop targets were produced. Steve then asked
for questions from the audience?
The first question Steve was asked was if there ever was any
"waste" when more items are made than are subsequently ordered?
Steve answered that as orders increase making extras of an item is
best. He then said a little about how they try to eliminate "big
color variations" in the parts they reproduce - adding that their
products have to pass the "buyer test", which he remarked was more
stringent than the tests the original manufacturer put them
through. Steve then told of various people/collectors all around
the world that have helped him with some of his projects.
Some one then asked Steve if he has any trouble with current
game manufacturers objecting to him reproducing pinball parts?
Steve answered "no, they're actually 'endorsing' it". He then
commented that Premier was great while they were still in business,
and that Williams is a little harder to deal with, but are "OK".
Steve was then asked how he "breaks even" in his business? He
first replied jokingly "I have lots of cheap help". Steve then
said that his parts reproduction partner, Donal Murhpey, tries to
keep from using his paid employees and often works on their parts
during his lunch hour. He then commented that customer gratitude,
and orders (of course) really help! Finally, he added "if demand
gets too heavy in the future for Donal we might have to go
Next someone asked Steve if he was considering doing pinball
cabinet decals? He answered that others have done a little of
that, but he didn't see his outfit getting into stencils or decal
production, but that he could direct people to those that do that
kind of thing. When someone then asked how many orders he receives
in a month, Steve replied "approximately 700". Five years ago, he
went on, I was doing this only part time and processed only about
40 orders per month - adding that his business has had "very
Steve was next asked if he planned on reproducing "deco bumper
caps"? He replied that currently there was a "hold up" on that
because they were trying to figure out how to produce "marbleized
plastic" - adding that their initial discussions on that subject
brought up several questions which still needed to be answered.
Steve then commented that it would probably cost 10 to 15 thousand
dollars to come up with the special molds required.
At that point Steve said he wanted the audience to vote for
what they would like him to produce in the future? The three most
voted for items were: Bally "door skins" (which Steve said would
sell for $70); BLACK KNIGHT 2000 targets (which he said might cause
a copyright problem); and spinner targets (both metal and plastic).
Regarding the latter, Steve said that he could do the plastic ones
without much trouble, but for the metal ones they might need to use
a decal rather than paint them.
Steve then thanked everyone and said he wanted to wrap up his
seminar by recognizing four people who help him a lot in his
endeavors. Those people he said were Donal Murphey who helps
produce parts in his factory, Gloria Puller and Tim Ferrante who
work for him, and Gordon Hasse. That drew a round of applause.
Finally, Steve said he would also like to praise the
collectors who have collaborated with him, as well as the collector
community in general who purchase his products, then asking and
receiving a round of applause for them. The seminar then concluded
with a round of applause for Steve.
THE PAT LAWLOR SHOW
The final Expo seminar was a little "fun thing" put on by
modern pingame designer Pat Lawlor, assisted by some of his cohorts
from Williams. Pat called it the "Pat Lawlor Show" and patterned
it after the popular TV show "Let's Make A Deal".
Rob Berk began his introduction of Pat's presentation by
saying "you've waited a year to see him - and now he's back". He
then named some of Pat's designs, ending by saying he wanted to
introduce "an Expo favorite - Pat Lawlor", drawing a round of
Pat began by thanking Rob for his "build up" which brought a
round of applause. He then said that his presentation this year
would be "close to last year's", adding "the views expressed will
be ours, and not the company's."
Then getting to the "rules of the game", Pat said that we were
allowed to ask them questions and that they had "a lot to give
away". He said we could even ask about how bad the industry was
doing, but could not ask "personal" questions, adding that they
could not, however, talk about other companies. Pat then asked for
a show of hands of how many "new Expo attendees" were present -
quite few raising their hands.
Pat then introduced his cohorts, who he said covered all the
"major disciplines" in the business. First was artist John Youssi,
followed by game designer George Gomez. He next introduced their
Head Of Software, Ted Estes, and Mechanical Designer John Crutch.
Pat then introduced their ace marketing man Roger Sharpe, who he
called "Mr. Pinball", who was in charge of their game "licensing".
Finally, he introduced a "newcomer", Louis Koziarz who he said
would help him distribute the prizes, and also Head of Engineering,
Larry DeMar, who was in the audience. Each person Pat introduced
drew a round of applause.
At that point Pat said "let's make a deal", telling the
audience "you can ask us questions, and we can also ask you
questions - it's all meant to be fun". He then asked for the first
The first question was for Roger Sharpe and was what was his
all-time favorite pin? Roger answered that he was influenced in
his earlier designs by Gottlieb's 1974 games FREE FALL and SKY
JUMP, but that his personal favorites were that company's
MAJORETTES (1964), COW POKE (1965), and HURDY GURDY (1966). Pat
then told the questioner that he could choose as his prize either
what he had in his pocket or what was on a card held by one of his
cohorts. The person chose the card and received a sketch by artist
Someone then asked the Williams guys why their new game SAFE
CRACKER was made smaller than other pingames? The answer given was
that the General Manager of the company asked them to try
"something different", so they modeled the game after smaller
European games, adding that they tried to make it "stand out".
When offered the choice of what was in Pat's pocket or on the card
in front of George Gomez, the questioner chose the latter,
receiving a SAFE CRACKER backglass.
Continuing with SAFE CRACKER questions, someone asked if they
had had any trouble with local authorities because the game
dispensed tokens? The answer given was that the company lawyers
checked the laws of various jurisdictions, and found that in most
places they were "OK". The person asking that question decided to
take what was in Pat's pocket, but after some "trading" ended up
with a Williams tee-shirt.
The next question asked was whether it was easier or harder to
design "licensed games", versus those done "from scratch"?
Designer George Gomez answered that it was sometimes "each way".
The "good thing" in favor of licensed games, he went on, is that
everyone is exposed to the same "vision". On the "bad side", he
continued, your implementation is "scrutinized" by the licenser,
giving as an example his game CORVETTE. The person asking that
question had a choice between Pat's hat and what was on a card in
front of George. When he selected George's card he still got a
Someone then asked Pat how he convinced Williams to produce
their 1988 game BANZAI RUN? Pat answered that he first built a
working prototype which he showed to company personnel. After
seeing that, he went on, they decided to build it. When a question
was then asked about the material used in the "power ball" used in
their game TWILIGHT ZONE, it was answered that it was made of "a
highly ground and polished ceramic" which was quite expensive and
had the properties of being non-magnetic, light weight, and the
same size as a standard pinball. When given the choice of a hat or
tee-shirt the questioner opted for the shirt.
When Pat was next asked if there was a chance of a game
similar to BANZAI RUN being made in the future, Pat answered
"probably not in the foreseeable future" - the questioner then
receiving a mouse trap as a prize. Roger was then asked if he
thought it "ironic" that after helping to re-legalize pins in New
York (showing they were not "gambling devices") that he now works
for Williams who also produces slot machines? Roger answered "I
guess it is". The prize offered for that question was either what
was in Pat's pocket or on the card in front of Roger - he choosing
Rogers's card and receiving an "eagle" from the top of Williams'
1993 game JUDGE DREAD.
Someone then asked, considering the current state of the
industry, will Williams produce more "licensed games"? Roger
answered that it was not "cost prohibitive" to use licenses, but
they are not the only types of games they will do. The questioner
ended up with some "stand-up" plastics from the game ROAD SHOW.
Somebody next asked about an "upright, 3-D, circus motif"
game, asking what it was? The answer given was that it was "Top
Secret"! That person's prize ended up being a backglass from NO
FEAR. The next question was when trying to get a license do you
ever get into "bidding wars"? Roger answered "sometimes, but we
try to get out there early enough to prevent that. He then
remarked that they had "sometimes gotten a license for less than
their competitors because the license owner "likes us". When
offered either a hat or what was on a card, the questioner opted
for the card and received a CONGO backglass.
When the mechanical designer John Crutch was then asked if the
design team has ever asked him to design something very difficult,
John replied "not yet". The person asking that question receiving
a nice coffee mug. When someone then asked when the playfield
coating "Diamond Plate" was first used by williams on their games,
it was said that it was on their 1988 game BANZAI RUN, the comment
then being made that it "works great, and playfields made with it
never go bad"! When the person asking that question was given the
choice of a hat or Pat's pocket, he chose the pocket, receiving a
At that point Roger Sharpe was asked about the rumored
"reprinting" of his classic pinball book of the 1970's, "PINBALL!"?
He re[plied that he was "thinking about it" and had two choices -
to either reprint the original version or "revise" it. Roger said
that was a "tough call", adding that he might just reissue the
original version, possibly next year. That questioner ended up
being awarded a Williams "fun box" (containing plastics from two
games), plus a coffee mug.
After that a few more questions were asked, and prizes
awarded, but I think the above gives probably a good idea of how
Pat next started talking about the question "where do you see
pinball in the next four years?" Historically, he began, the
industry has always experienced "peaks and valleys" - commenting
that "games conform to current surroundings". Pinball, he then
remarked, is not "revolutionary", it's "evolutionary". We were
then told by Pat that he thinks the current "valley" has "bottomed
out" and there are signs of recovery. He then said he believed
that now the industry has a "chance to catch up", then adding that
"games are a form of entertainment".
After commenting that some of the nicest people in the
industry are "not hear anymore", Pat remarked that when people stop
playing pinball, they won't need us" After telling us that there
is new technology all the time, Pat remarked that the question for
pinball is "is it a 'buggy whip' or a 'money making device'"?
On that theme Pat remarked that for pinball to survive
operators need to get a return on their investment. Some
operators, he then said, love the games and have faith in them.
"Nobody knows the answer", Pat went on, then saying that the
current mandate at Williams is "build the neatest pins you can to
show the operators that pingames can be profitable".
"What will there be in 2000?", Pat then said, "I can't tell
you now". That ended the seminar, Pat receiving a good round of
applause. That also ended the Pinball Expo '96 seminars.
And that also ends Part 1 of my coverage of Pinball Expo '96.
You'll have to wait until next time for Part 2, describing the
second "Fireside Chat", the game auction, the autograph session,
the Saturday night banquet, and the Exhibit Hall. You'll also have
to wait to find out why I call Expo '96 "the year of coincidences"!
PINBALL EXPO '96
(The Year of Coincidences)
by Russ Jensen
Last time I described all of the seminars at Pinball Expo '96.
This time I will conclude my coverage of the show by briefly
describing the second "Fireside Chat", followed by descriptions of
the Game Auction, Autograph Session, Saturday Night Banquet, and
the Exhibit Hall (including a list of all the pingames that were
THE SECOND "FIRESIDE CHAT"
As I said last time, this year there were two "Fireside
"Chats" scheduled. The first, which I told about last time, was
with veteran pingame designer Wayne Neyens and held on Thursday
evening. The second chat was held on Friday evening and was with
a great pinball artist of the past, Dave Christensen. who did much
of the art for the Bally games of the 1970's.
As with all these "chats", it was held in Rob Berk's suite.
When the guest of honor arrived it had been after a session at the
hotel bar with friends, Dave arriving "a few sheets to the wind".
This affected his answers to questions at the beginning of the
session, but after awhile he sobered up pretty well.
Also, last past "chats", Dave was asked some questions by Expo
host Rob Berk and some examples of his great artwork were
displayed. A little later former Bally employee and Dave's friend
Jim Patla joined in, reminiscing with Dave about their years at
Bally. As I have said in the past regarding these chats, a
detailed discussion of what went on is beyond the scope of this
article. Anyway, hearing from this great artist was indeed a
THE GAME AUCTION
This year, as has happened at Expo's in the past several
years, there was a game auction conducted on Saturday morning by an
auction outfit that specializes in amusement machine auctions. The
auction room was literally loaded with games - mostly pinballs,
plus a few video games, slot machines, etc.. There were also a few
pinball backglasses and playfields offered for sale.
Two interesting things occurred in connection with the auction
that were connected with me personally. First, there was a game
offered for sale, Bally's BLUE BIRD, which was manufactured in the
month and year I was born (October 1936). Secondly, another of the
old games offered for sale was Pacific Amusement's CONTACT (a game
I currently own) from 1934. I noticed while looking at this
machine that the auction people had attached to it in a plastic
holder an article written by me several years ago describing the
The auction was quite well attended. The following is a list
of some of the older pingames (in chronological order) and the
prices they brought.
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF OLDER GAMES IN EXPO '96 AUCTION
GAME MANUFACTURER YEAR PRICE
CONTACT Pamco 1933 170
BEACON Stoner 1935 235
LUCKY STAR Genco 1935 310
BLUE BIRD Bally 1936 295
CAROM Bally 1937 435
HI-BOY (P/O) Mills 1938 1550
ROTO POOL (BAD GLASS) Gottlieb 1958 375
HULA-HULA Chicago Coin 1966 360
JOUST Bally 1969 450
VAMPIRE Bally 1970 350
CHAMP Bally 1973 165
FLICKER Bally 1974 330
PLAYBOY (SS) Bally 1976. 400
6 MILLION DOLLAR MAN (SS) Bally 1977 400
STAR TREK (SS) Bally 1978 310
THE AUTOGRAPH SESSION
Another annual Expo event, which has been occurring for
several years now, is the pinball designers, artists, and author's
"Autograph Session" which was held on Saturday afternoon. This
year, like two years ago, your's truly was one of the participants,
displaying my book "Pinball Troubleshooting Guide". I was sure
among great company with the wonderful pinball designers and
artists, in addition to author Dick Bueschel!
Now it's time to tell you why I call Expo '96 "the year of
coincidences". The first coincidence occurred while I was sitting
at the autograph table. A fellow came up to me and we started
talking. When he told me he was from New Hampshire I remarked that
there was another "New Hampshirite" at the show, Dave Marston, whom
he said he would like to meet. Well, in less than a minute who
should wander over to the table but Dave himself! I introduced the
two and they left talking to each other.
The second coincidence also occurred during the Autograph
Session. This involved Dave Marston telling me that he saw that I
was doing pretty well in the "1950's game pinball tournament" being
held in conjunction with the Expo. This came as a surprise to me
because, as I told Dave, I had not even entered! Well, I sort of
forgot about it until Sunday morning when Dave and I were visiting
in the Exhibit Hall. When we looked at the bulletin board showing
tournament standings we saw the name "Russell Jensen". We then
went to the lady who had the show attendance records and she
confirmed that there were indeed two Russell Jensen's registered at
The other Russell Jensen turned out to be from East Lansing
Michigan. We next had him paged in the Exhibit Hall, but there was
no response - I guess he had probably already left for home.
Anyway, one of these days I'm planning to call him on the phone and
talk to him.
The final "coincidence" actually had nothing whatever to do
with the "autograph session", but since I'm on the subject I'll
tell about it now. On Friday evening several of us were up until
around 2 AM, and ended up conversing while sitting on some couches
in the hotel lobby, The next morning, when I was ready to leave my
room, I discovered that my "10th Anniversary Pinball Expo jacket"
(which I, and others, were given a couple years earlier for
attending all of the first ten shows) was missing. The only thing
I could figure was that I had left it in the lobby the previous
Well, my roommate Sam and I decided to go to the lobby and
check "Lost and Found". When we went downstairs we decided to
first check the area where we had been sitting the previous
evening. After discovering that the jacket was not on any of the
couches, we turned to go to the front desk and ask about "Lost and
Found". At that very moment one of the bellhops just happened to
open the door of a small storage room across the lobby and Sam saw
my jacket hanging up there!
Now, that room is not opened often (and not all of it's
interior is visible from the outside when the door is open). But
it just happened that the door was opened at the precise moment Sam
turned toward it, and the jacket was hung at such a place that it
was visible through the open door! So, these are the reasons why
I called Expo '96 "the year of coincidences".
THE SATURDAY EVENING BANQUET
Saturday evening, as it has been for all the past Expos, was
the time for the annual Expo banquet. And this year, like the past
two or three years, the banquet festivities began with a small
auction, the items to be sold being donated by various Expo
attendees and companies, with all the proceeds going to charity
(The Make-A-Wish Foundation). The auctioneer for this event was
the professional auctioneer who had conducted the game auction
earlier that day. Well, after Rob Berk introduced the auction and
auctioneer and gave the "rules", the auction began.
The following is a list of the items auctioned off, and the
prices they brought for charity:
book - Pinball Art $60
Congo backglass, plus 5 game posters $55
bricks from demolished Bally plant $45
admission package to Pinball Fantasy '97
show in Las Vegas, plus video tape
and T-shirt $175
6 Liz-Tech solid-state maintenance manual
3 CONGO backglass plastics $25 each
Rocket from APOLLO 13 game, autographed
by astronaut Jim Lovell $400
signed playfield from Capcom's PINBALL MAGIC $75
10 pinball and video game posters $60
2 signed copies of ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PINBALL
Vol 1 by Bueschel $65 each
pinball art sculpture $50
VOLTAN backglass - signed by artist
Dave Christensen $375
signed and framed ELVIRA photo $225
ATTACK FROM MARS jacket - signed $260
2 sets PINBALL MAGIC "high end brochure"
and T-shirt $40 each
Bally T-shirt $40
2 "Absolute Pinball" video tapes $35 each
selection of Bally/Gottlieb coils $65
2 Canadian pinball backglasses $65/$35
Pro Pinball CD $45
SCARED STIFF T-shirt (signed by Elvira) $100
"Golden Gate" art glass by D. Christensen $150
Capcom FLIPPER FOOTBALL & PINBALL MAGIC
"lock-down bar" end pieces for old
Gottlieb game $45
Pinball Expo '97 entry $85
3 ATTACK FROM MARS plastic sets $85 each
The "best" of the auction were, of course, saved for last.
Someone from Williams (I believe it was Steve Kordek, - but I'm not
sure) donated copies of some old original drawings from the company
files - they even had handwritten notes and initials of company
founder Harry Williams!
The first drawing to be auctioned was the playfield layout for
Williams' 1947 (drawing dated 3/17/47) game CYCLONE, the first
pingame to use "wire forms" on it's playfield, it bringing $200.
Next was the drawing of YANKS (dated 1/23/48) which was designed by
Harry Williams, it also bringing the same price.
The final drawing auctioned was for CONTROL TOWER (dated
1/12/51) which had handwritten notes of Harry Williams to chief
engineer Gordon Horlock regarding the design. That brought the
final auction bid of $265.
Next on the banquet agenda was a short "fun game" conducted by
Philadelphia game dealer Todd Tuckey, similar to a game he did last
year. Todd showed slides of pictures of the playfields of some
solid-state pingames, the audience guessing which games they were
Next up was the "feature event" of the banquet - but nobody
knew what that was because Expo host Rob Berk had kept that "a dark
secret". Historian/author Dick Bueschel first came up to the
speaker's stand and began by saying we were going to "roast" long-
time pingame designer Steve Kordek who had been in the pingame
industry for 60 years! Dick then began reciting a long poem
chronicling Steve's long career.
Rob Berk then got up and told us that tonight we are going to
pay a tribute to Steve for his 60 years in the industry. The first
tribute to be given, he went on, was from Japan. Rob then
introduced Masaya Horiguchi to give his brief tribute to Steve.
Masaya first told us that he was representing a Tokyo pinball
players' organization and was there to celebrate Steve Kordek's
sixty years in the pinball industry on behalf of the pinball lovers
of Japan. He then told us that he started playing pinball about
fifty years ago and never dreamed that he would be able to meet an
actual pinball game designer in person!
He then told of first meeting Steve at an Expo several years
back, remarking how Steve warmly welcomed him and the other pinball
players that had come over from Japan. Masaya ended by saying that
he was very happy to give congratulations to Steve on his 60 years
in the industry!
After Masaya completed his tribute, Rob read two letters from
two of Steve's good friends. The first letter was from a gentleman
named Don Curnew. He began by saying "hi" to Steve and
congratulating him on his 60 years in the industry. Don then said
that he had recently seen Steve on TV and that he still "looks like
a young fellow". He then said that he had enjoyed the years he
worked with Steve at Williams. Finally, Don remarked that he
wished Steve continued good health and told him to go on designing
The next letter was from Steve's long-time friend and co-
worker Norm Clark. Norm began by saying he was sorry he could not
attend the Expo this year and help celebrate Steve's 60 years in
the industry. He then commented that he and Steve worked side by
side for many years and had a terrific relationship as co-workers,
and an even better one as friends.
Norm then remarked that over the years they had traveled
together and played golf together - quipping that Steve never gave
him any "strokes"! He then said the he, Steve, and their wives had
also taken vacations together in past years. "Until I left in
1975", Norm went on, "Steve and I were the only game designers at
Williams". After saying those were great years he'll never forget,
Norm ended by wishing Steve many more years of turning out great
After that, Rob played a video tribute to Steve from pingame
designer Steve Ritchie who was currently working in California.
Mr. Ritchie began by saying "hi" to Steve and hello to all his
"Expo friends". He said that he also was sorry he could not attend
the show but that he had a new job with a new company and that was
"demanding all his attention". Steve then also congratulated Steve
Kordek on his 60 years in the industry.
He next remarked that Steve's stamina, grace, and strength
made him both a "great role model" and a "great man". Steve then
commented that he and fellow game designer George Gomez often
talked about what they called "pinball dads". This, he said, was
the guy who "shows you the ropes" by telling you things nobody else
can. He then remarked that when he first saw Steve's game SPACE
MISSION he knew Steve Kordek would be his "pinball dad"!
After saying that other people at Williams also thought of Mr.
Kordek as their "dad", Steve said he missed a lot of things not
being at Williams anymore. He then said, for example, he missed
having Steve's office just down the hall from his, remarking that
the 10 minute talks he often had with Steve in the mornings almost
always resulted in him learning something new.
Mr. Ritchie then commented that he often thought about asking
Steve's bosses to transfer him to California. He said that if
Steve moved west he could play golf all year round! After then
commenting that "he never understood the 'magic' Steve found in the
'little white ball'", Steve quipped "but I guess you never cared
much about dirt bikes (Steve Ritchie's personal pastime) either".
After then remarking that the game "keeps Steve in great
shape", he said that he wished Steve "many more years of playing".
Steve then said there were two golf courses within a three mile
radius of him, and he expected Mr. Kordek to come visit next
Mr. Ritchie then said that the pinball industry owes Steve a
great amount of gratitude for the "thumper bumper" and "thousands
of other devices, production tricks, and ideas, as well as complete
game designs". He then commented that Steve had "accomplished so
much more than most people in the business" - adding that he didn't
see how anyone could surpass Steve's accomplishments"!
After commenting that he will always admire Steve's loyalty to
Williams, Mr. Ritchie remarked that Steve would "always speak out
when the time was right". He ended by saying "the coin-op
amusement business is a better place due to Steve Kordek's
contributions to it". Finally, he offered his "heartfelt
congratulations" to Steve, adding "God Bless you Steve". That drew
a round of applause!
When the video ended Rob Berk asked Dutch pin-fan Henk DeJager
to come up to honor Steve. Henk began by saying that when he was
a small boy he began putting his "pocket change" into pinball
machines at a local hamburger shop. He then said that he first
played Williams' 1965 game BIG CHIEF which he said "got me hooked
After that, Henk went on, I started looking for more places to
play pinball and "met my favorites - APOLLO, CASANOVA, STUDENT
PRINCE, etc." Years later, he continued, I became a pinball
operator by profession and also bought for myself the games I
enjoyed such as JUBILEE, HONEY, SKY LAB, and SPACE MISSION.
Henk then remarked that he saw something in the design of many
games which indicated to him that they should "make money". "I
didn't know the man behind these game ideas at the time", he went
on, "but later I met him - Steve Kordek"
"I am sure the industry would never have been what it is
today", Henk then commented, "without the innovations and ideas you
brought to it - thank you". He then said that it was a great honor
for him to be able to congratulate Steve on his 60 years in the
Henk ended by saying that on behalf of the thousands of Dutch
pinball players who have enjoyed Steve's games over the years, and
those who like to play and collect them today, that he wanted to
ask everyone in the room to recognize Steve for his many
accomplishments of the past 60 years. He then thanked Steve again,
drawing a round of applause.
At that point Rob Berk came back up and showed a chronological
"slide show" of the brochures for the games Steve had designed over
the years. The list contained 89 games, beginning with Genco's
TRIPLE ACTION from 1948, and ending with Williams' 1978 game
After the slide show ended Rob said that some other important
people in Steve's life had come to share the evening with him. He
then invited Steve's daughter Donna and his son Rick to come up.
Donna began by saying "hi dad" and then saying how she wished
her appearance at the banquet could have been kept a surprise, but
that Steve had seen her earlier out in the hall when he was on his
way to the Men's Room. She then said that she first wanted to read
a couple notes to him she had recently received.
The first note Donna read was from Steve's other daughter
Kathy who lived in California. The note began with Kathy saying
that it was difficult to find words to accurately describe their
feelings for "the man known as Steve Kordek" for his many years of
service and dedication to the pinball industry where he "offered
all his fire, talent, and love for the industry and his fellow
man". Kathy ended by congratulating her father for "55 years of
dedication to his wife, children, grandchildren - and now his
Donna next read a short note from Steve's son in Michigan,
Father Frank. He began his note with "God bless you dad for all
that you have done and all that you are". "You're Gods gift to a
lot of people", he went on, "to your friends, family, and everyone
who knows you". Father Frank then congratulated Steve on his 60
years in the pinball industry, adding "I know it's been very
special to you - love you a lot - your son Father Frank".
The last "note" Donna read was a FAX she had recently received
from her nephew (Steve's grandson) Mark from California. Mark
began by saying "congratulations gramps on 60 years in the
industry". He then remarked that that was "twice as long as I've
been alive!" Mark then remarked that Steve has "offered me a lot
to think about", adding "I hope I can stay in my teaching career
for 60 years". After commenting "I've learned a lot from you", he
ended by saying "congratulations again - your grandson Mark". That
drew another round of applause.
At that point Donna gave her own personal tribute to her
father. She began by remarking that when she was invited to speak
at the banquet she was asked to talk about her first memories of
her father's involvement with the pinball industry. She then said
that probably her earliest such memory occurred when she was about
seven years old and in the Second Grade at Catholic school. Donna
then said that her teacher had asked each student to get up and
tell the class what their fathers did for a living.
She said she thought for a moment, and when it was her turn
she got up and told the class that her father "made adult toys"!
Donna told us that after that the Sister asked her to have her
parents come to school to see her. She then said that her parents
did come and explain to the teacher what Steve did. This brought
a good laugh from the audience!
Donna next commented that her dad was always happy with his
job - then, as well as now - adding that she thought it important
for people to enjoy their work. She then remarked that often at
home when her dad would hear or see something (like on TV) he would
often grab a pencil and paper and start designing a game.
The next memory Donna related was a few years back when she
was looking for a gift for her father. She said she went to a
bookstore to look around and spied a book on of all things the
pinball industry. Upon leafing through it, Donna continued, she
saw her father's name mentioned and excitedly purchased it for him.
When she got home she said to her father "you won't believe it, but
I found a book with your name in it!" But, she told us, her father
told her that he "knew all about it".
After remarking that her father seldom talked about being
interviewed for books, etc, - even when his picture once appeared
in an article in LIFE Magazine - Donna began telling how proud she
was of his accomplishments. She said it was amazing to her to
think of him being in the industry for 60 years, which she
remarked, was more years than the age of most people in the room!
After then commenting that serving for 60 years in any
industry was something anyone could be proud of, Donna ended by
telling her dad she was proud of him and "loved him a lot"! She
then thanked Rob and Mike for asking her to speak about her father.
Donna then drew a good round of applause.
Donna's brother Rick next said a few words. He began by
commenting that if his father was considered to be "the father of
pinball", the we (not only he and his sister, but all who have
enjoyed Steve's contributions to the industry) must be "the
children of pinball". He then remarked that his father has been
"father of pinball" for sixty years, yet he himself was only fifty
years of age!
Rick then told us that he not only wanted to thank his father
for his contributions to the industry, but also for his
contributions to God and his family! He ended by saying "thanks a
lot dad; I'm proud of you and of being under the Kordek name"!
That drew a found of applause.
At that point another video tribute to Steve was presented,
recorded by several of his cohorts at Williams.
The first speaker on the video was Williams' current Director
of Marketing, and former pinball author, Roger Sharpe. Roger began
by saying that Steve was a "beacon" for him, then commenting it was
lucky for him to have gotten involved with pinball in the early
1970's when he did. He then said that he thought it "most
miraculous" to him for a man like Steve (who was old enough to be
his father - or even grandfather) to have known exactly what he
himself would like in a pinball game!
Roger then remarked that it was Steve who gave the game
"personality" and a "humanistic quality". He then commented that
Steve was also the person responsible for providing "endless hours
of entertainment" to millions of pinball players by knowing what
they would like - not only once, but repeatedly! "His zest,
vitality, and passion", Roger went on, "have been embodied more
than once in his games."
Roger next mentioned his own personal experience while writing
his 1977 book "Pinball". He said he was glad to be able to capture
these people's (the designers such as Steve) personal histories, as
well as to "popularize the art form" they were responsible for.
After again remarking that he was fortunate to get involved
with pinball when he did, he said he was also fortunate to have
lasted as long as he has. Roger then told us that he was "blessed
to have my life enriched by Steve Kordek and others like him". He
ended by saying that he felt that Steve was "truly a marvel and an
Next up on the video was Williams' Vice President of Sales Joe
Dillon. Joe began by saying that he thought Steve Kordek's biggest
contribution to the industry was the "level of integrity" he
brought to the games. He then said that Steve had always "taken
the high road" as far as the themes for his designs were concerned
- keeping them "above reproach".
Joe then commented that working with Steve was like working
with a "master of the trade", adding that Steve's wealth of
knowledge and experience enabled him to tell those at Williams if
they were "heading down the wrong path". He ended by complimenting
Steve for being a "resource they could always call on, whether it
came to history or guidance."
Next up was a gentleman named Marty Glazman. He first said
that when he met Steve for the first time he was in "awe" of the
man! When he called Steve "Mr. Kordek", he continued, Steve told
him to just call him "Steve". After that, he went on, Steve tried
to get his ideas, rather than he getting ideas from Steve. He then
said "he wanted my opinions".
Marty then remarked that you always felt comfortable around
Steve, and that he was a person who gathered other people's ideas
and then communicated them to others. After again emphasizing how
Steve was always looking for new ideas from others, he ended by
saying that with Steve "it's awesome" - "it's incredible".
A Brian Eddy was next to speak on the video. He began by
commenting that Steve "almost created the industry himself", and
that he was with the industry "almost since the beginning". He
then told of Steve putting flippers "at the bottom of the playfield
where they belonged" - adding that he thought of Steve as "a living
legend in pinball terms!"
Brian then called Steve "an amazing historian of everything",
adding that there was probably no one in the industry today who has
been around as long as Steve. He then commented that Steve has
seen the industry through it's "ups and downs" and "knows
"If you have questions regarding almost any game from the
past", Brian went on, "all you have to do is ask Steve and he'll go
to the files in his office and pull out a copy of the brochure!"
"It's great to have such a knowledgeable person", Brian then
commented. He ended by saying that Steve had "incredible energy"
and is still "gung ho" when it comes to the industry after all
these years. "He's great" was his final comment.
Next on the video was Larry DeMar, long-time Williams
designer, now executive. Larry began by saying that he has been in
the industry for 17 years (which he thinks is a "long time"), but
that it's short compared to Steve's years. "One thing that has
always amazed me", Larry said, "was the 'little kid' inside Steve".
He is "always energetic", he went on, "coming to work every day on
some 'new mission'".
Larry next said that Steve was a "role model" to him, teaching
him to make sure he doesn't "take things too seriously", and to
also make sure "I never grow up". When Steve started in the
industry, Larry then remarked, there were no such things as
flippers, sounds (except bells), microprocessors, special effects,
speech, ramps, etc., yet today he understands how to use the latest
technology to "advance the product".
After commenting that Steve has "seen just about everything",
Larry said that he has seen many "ups and downs" in pinball over
the years. "But", he went on, "even through lean times in the
industry Steve 'stuck with pinball'". Larry then said that he
himself had been through three "drops in the pinball market". He
ended by saying that in the early 1980's when the company shifted
to an emphasis on video games, Steve "kept focused on pinball" and
"helped to bring it back"!
Next we heard from current Williams pin designer George Gomez
on the video. George began by commenting that there were probably
hundreds (maybe thousands) of things that Steve contributed to the
industry over the years, saying he was "definitely one of the most
influential people in moving pinball in the direction it has
taken". "Definitely", he went on, "a key player in the evolution
of the game".
George then told about working on the design for his recent
game CORVETTE and having trouble figuring out how to arrange the
rubber rings in a certain area of the playfield to accomplish a
particular result. He said Steve walked up and within minutes told
him what to do - and it worked! George ended by remarking that a
lot of times we think we're doing something new and come to find
out that it has been done thirty or forty years ago - and "Steve
can show you how!"
The final person to speak on the video was Williams designer
Pat Lawlor. Pat began by commenting that Steve was a perfect
example of how one man's life teaches many people without them ever
knowing, meeting or seeing him! He then said that Steve epitomizes
what he likes to think all designers do. "When we design a game",
Pat went on, "it goes out and is seen by tens of thousands of
people in a lifetime, yet they don't know who designed it?"
Pat then continued, remarking that it's important for game
designers to realize that their designs can affect other persons'
lives. "Think of the blue-collar guy", he went on, "who goes out
in the evening thinking he is going to have a little fun, going
into a bar, playing a game, and maybe meeting the girl he's going
Steve's work, Pat went on, over a period of years has touched
people who he'll never meet. He then said "we affect people in
ways we can't possibly dream of - we are in the 'entertainment
business', and it's important to know that the 'end user' is the
one you're trying to entertain".
Pat then remarked that Steve's career started when games were
still powered by batteries, and he later was the first to put
flippers at the bottom of the playfield where they belonged. He
then commented that 'relay logic' was used in electro-mechanical
games to create 'rudimentary gates', similar to the logic of
today's computer-controlled games. From there, he continued, he
went through the "era of transistors" into the "microprocessor age"
with it's complicated game rules.
Three years ago, Pat then said, Steve put a computer on his
desk. "Just think about it", he went on, "over his life Steve has
gone from batteries to 'Autocad' designing, staying involved
through 'sheer will'". He ended by saying that Steve "treats the
world as a big wonderful toy - a great way to look at it!"
When Pat had concluded his remarks, Roger Sharpe came back on
the video for a final tribute to Steve. After thanking him for the
memories he had given him, Roger again thanked Steve for his
enthusiasm, commitment, and passion he had for the pinball
industry. He then commented that Steve "has brought so much joy to
the incredible world of pinball".
Finally, Roger thanked Steve again, then remarking that he
"hoped to be around for the next 60 years to see what happens in
the industry", and also said he wanted to play more golf with
Steve, Roger ended by saying that Steve was a "personal
inspiration" to him, then thanking him one more time!
The video ended with each of the previous speakers giving
their final tribute to Steve. After that Steve was given a
At that point the guest of honor came up, first telling us
that on December 26 he would be 85 years old, bringing on a big
round of applause. He then remarked that the pinball industry is
responsible for "the way I am today". Steve then thanked the
people who had paid tribute to him. That brought on a long
Rob Berk then got up and presented Steve with a diamond.
After Steve thanked them for the gift, he was given still another
Rob Berk then introduced the people sitting with him at the
"head table". They included his wife Brigitt, Mike Pacak, and a
lady named Jan Holmes. He then did a slight variation on what has
become an "Expo tradition" for the past several years.
The "first timers" attending the Expo were asked to stand up,
they receiving a round of applause. Rob then asked all of us who
had attended all thirteen Expos to stand up, we also received a
round of applause. Finally, he asked all foreign visitors to the
show to stand. They were also given a round of applause. Rob then
began presenting some awards.
The first award given was a plaque given to Donal Murphey of
Electrical Windings Inc. in appreciation for letting the Expo
visitors tour his plant this year. Next the award for the "best
restored pingame" at the show was presented to Herb Silvers of
Fabulous Fantasies in southern California - Herb accepting the
award and then telling about his pinball show "Pinball Fantasy
'97", which was to be held in Las Vegas on July 18 through 20,
1997. Finally, Rob gave out the award for "best exhibit" to Jim
and Judy Tolbert of For Amusement Only of Berkeley, California.
Rob then asked former Bally game designer Greg Kmiek to come
up front. Greg said he was there to disclose this year's nominee
to the "Pinball Hall of Fame", a tradition started at Pinball Expo
several years ago. After reading the list of past "hall-of-
famers", Greg said that this year's inductee was none other than
famed pinball artist Dave Christensen (the guest of honor at Friday
night's Fireside Chat). That brought a good round of applause from
Next Rob presented a plaque to Sega Pinball for their loaning
of the new pingames for use in the Flip-Out Tournament. A Sega
representative then accepted the plaque, thanking Rob and Mike for
it. At that point the lady named Lisa, who represented the
"sponsor" of this year's Expo, Interplay, came up to tell a little
more about her company.
After thanking Rob and Mike for producing such a great show
(which got them a round of applause), Lisa began telling about the
computer pinball simulator Interplay produces. She then showed a
video telling about their "Pro Pinball" game. When Lisa finished
Rob Berk presented her with a plaque - that also drawing a round of
applause for her and her company.
After Mike Pacak presented Jim Schelberg (publisher of the all
pinball publication Pingame Journal) an award for being the Expo's
"official, unofficial photographer", Mike asked John Wyatt of the
British Pinball Owners Association to present that organization's
award for the "best pingame of the past year".
John began by giving his personal tribute to Steve Kordek and
telling of Steve giving him a personal tour of the Williams factory
in 1991. He then said that the game they had chosen for their
award was Williams' ATTACK FROM MARS which brought on a round of
applause from the audience, the award then being accepted by
someone from the company.
At that point Rob Berk came back up and mentioned that at the
Thursday evening Fireside Chat it was brought out that designer
Wayne Neyens had designed a total of 158 pingames during his
illustrious career! Rob then presented Wayne with a plaque for
being the "most prolific pinball designer". Wayne accepted the
plaque bringing on a round of applause.
Richard Shapero from Louisville, Kentucky next got up and
thanked the instructors from his "learn to play pinball" session
held Thursday afternoon, naming each individually - each of them
being given a round of applause. Rob Berk then announced the
winner of the "Pinball Art Contest", a young man named Rod winning
it for his piece titled "Fantasy Pinball".
Rob then thanked his Expo staff and his wife's parents who
were also given a round of applause. He then thanked his co-host
Mike Pacak who was also applauded. It was then time for the annual
The pinball machine to be given away this year was a 1980
Williams BLACKOUT - the first time a new game was not donated by
one of the manufacturers, I believe. Rob then pulled out five
tickets in order, remarking that if the owner of the first ticket
did not claim the game then the second one could, etc. There was
some confusion over who got the game and I was never sure who ended
up with it?
At that point Dann Frank from Arizona came up to talk about
his forthcoming pinball show, The Wild West Pinball Fest, to be
held in Scottsdale, Arizona the first weekend in May, 1997. After
announcing his show, Dann gave his own personal thanks to Steve
Kordek for his contributions to pinball over the years, eliciting
still another round of applause for Steve!
After Rob Berk announced that the finals of the Flip-Out
tournament would be held Sunday morning in the Exhibit Hall, he
told us that Pinball Expo '97 had already been scheduled for
November 13 - 16, 1997. He then asked Steve Kordek and Wayne
Neyens to come up front.
When Steve and Wayne came up Rob said that not only were we
celebrating Steve's 60 years in the industry, but also Wayne and
his wife's 50th Wedding Anniversary! He then said they had a cake
to celebrated both events.
Finally, Rob reminded everybody that the Exhibit Hall would
again be open all night for those who wished to play pinball in the
"wee hours". That ended the banquet and brought forth a final
round of applause!
THE EXHIBIT HALL
As I have always said in past Expo articles, the Exhibit Hall
is really "the heart of the show". It is the place where a good
part of the "visiting" is done between the pinball fans attending
the show - at least I know it is for me. It is also the place, of
course, where all of the pinball playing is done, and that is why
many of the Expo attendees come to the show. Finally, it's the
place where all the buying and selling of games and associated
parts and literature takes place - another reason many attend.
This year, as in most of the past years, the Exhibit Hall
consisted of two rooms filled with pinball machines (both old and
new) and dealer's booths selling games, parts, and literature.
The front area of the hall was also the location of the long line
of INDEPENDENCE DAY pins used during the "qualifying rounds" of the
Flip-Out pinball tournament.
The first booth when you entered the hall was that of Expo
Exhibit Hall Chairman Mike Pacak, selling mostly pinball
advertising flyers, plus miscellaneous books, etc.. There is
always much activity at Mike's booth as many people collect these
Two of the major game dealers at the show were Herb Silver's
Fabulous Fantasies from the Los Angeles area, and Jim and Judy
Tolbert's For Amusement Only outfit from the San Francisco area.
The Tolberts also sold parts and literature.
Probably the largest dealer in pinball parts (including their
fine reproduction parts) and literature (other than flyers) was
Steve Young's Pinball Resource. This was also the place where Dick
bueschel's newly released pinball book, Encyclopedia of Pinball -
Vol 1, was for sale - in fact that was the first thing I picked up
the moment the Exhibit Hall opened on Thursday evening!
In addition to the larger dealers, which also included Steve
Engle's Pinball Supermarket which sells a lot of parts, there were
many smaller outfits and individuals selling games, as well as
parts and literature. Expo "sponsor" Interplay also had a booth
where you could try out their excellent pinball simulator Pro
Pinball, and it was busy most of the time.
Now for a rundown of the pingames available for sale and/or
playing this year in the Exhibit Hall. There were 8 games from the
1930's, 7 from the 1940's, 21 from the 1950's, and 29 from the
1960's. From the 1970's there were 44 electro-mechanical pins and
14 solid state. There were 34 games from the 1980's, and 38 from
the current decade.
The following is a chronological listing of most of the
pingames in the Exhibit Hall:
GAME MFG. YEAR PRICE
FIVE STAR FINAL Gottlieb 1932
AIRWAY Bally 1933
JIGSAW (WORLDS FAIR) Rockola 1933
SKY RIDE Genco 1933
WORLD SERIES Rockola 1933
KELLY POOL Gottlieb 1935
THREE IN LINE Bally 1935
RED SAILS Pamco 1936
CHUBBIE Stoner 1938 350
CAPTIAL KIDD Genco 1941
HUMPTY DUMPTY Gottlieb 1947 800
BALLERINA Bally 1948 495
TROPICANA United 1948 450
YANKS Williams 1948 450
GOLDEN GLOVES Chicago Coin 1949
BUBBLES Genco 194?
NIFTY Williams 1950 400
BOMBER Chicago Coin 1951 950
GLAMOUR Gottlieb 1951
CHINATOWN Gottlieb 1952 700
QUARTETTE Gottlieb 1952 650, 750
SLUG FEST (BB) Williams 1952
C.O.D. Williams 1953 NFS
QUINTETTE Gottlieb 1953
LOVELY LUCY Gottlieb 1954 700
STAGE COACH Gottlieb 1954 450
JUBILEE Gottlieb 1955
DELUXE FOUR BAGGER (BB) Williams 1956 995
DERBY DAY Gottlieb 1956 800
RAINBOW Gottlieb 1956
CROSSWORD Williams 1959 450
DELUXE PINCH HITTER (BB) Williams 1959 895
HI DIVER Gottlieb 1959 950
LIGHTNING BALL Gottlieb 1959 650, 750
STRAIGHT SHOOTER Gottlieb 1959 750
TIC TAC TOE Williams 1959
UNIVERSE Gottlieb 1959
BIG STRIKE (BOWLER) United 195?
CRISS CROSS HOCKEY Chicago Coin 195? 695
MIDGET ALLEY (BOWLER) Williams 195? 3295
BALL PARK Bally 1960 350
KEWPIE DOLL Gottlieb 1960 500
OFFICIAL BASEBALL (BB) Williams 1960 1500
BIG CASINO Gottlieb 1961 200
BOBO Williams 1961 300
FLIPPER FAIR (AAB) Gottlieb 1961
TEN SPOT Williams 1961 450
FLIPPER CLOWN (AAB) Gottlieb 1962 800
TROPIC ISLE Gottlieb 1962 900
MAJOR LEAGUE (BB) Williams 1963 850
SLICK CHICK Gottlieb 1963 950
NORTH STAR Gottlieb 1964 575, 650,
WING DING Williams 1964 300
WORLD FAIR Gottlieb 1964 625, 1250
COWPOKE (AAB) Gottlieb 1965
ICE REVIEW Gottlieb 1965 625
SKYLINE Gottlieb 1965 750, 900
CROSSTOWN Gottlieb 1966
HURDY GURDY Gottlieb 1966 1095
APOLLO Williams 1967
BLAST OFF Williams 1967 400
DIAMOND JACK (AAB) Gottlieb 1967 400
MAGIC TOWN (AAB) Williams 1967 600
SURF SIDE Gottlieb 1967 650
AIRPORT Gottlieb 1969 395
MIBS Gottlieb 1969 1500
MINI POOL Gottlieb 1969 400
SPIN-A-CARD Gottlieb 1969 400
AQUARIUS Gottlieb 1970 400
BATTER UP Gottlieb 1970 400
CRESCENDO Gottlieb 1970 450
FOUR MILLION BC Bally 1970 695
STRAIGHT FLUSH Williams 1970 400
FIREBALL Bally 1971 595
FOUR SQUARE Gottlieb 1971 425
PLAYBALL Gottlieb 1971
HONEY Williams 1972 395
KING KOOL Gottlieb 1972 595
MONTE CARLO Bally 1972 500
TIME ZONE Bally 1972 450
CIRCUS Bally 1973 450
HI-LO ACE Bally 1973 400
UPPER DECK (BB) Williams 1973 695
BIG INDIAN Gottlieb 1974 495
BOW AND ARROW Bally 1974 395
DEALER'S CHOICE Williams 1974 495
MAGNOTRON Gottlieb 1974 595
SKY JUMP Gottlieb 1974 350
TWIN WIN Bally 1974 425
WIZARD Bally 1974 550
BLUE MAX Chicago Coin 1975 250
CAPT. FANTASTIC Bally 1975
FREEDOM Bally 1975 395
KICK OFF Bally 1975 500
PAT HAND Williams 1975 395
PIN UP Gottlieb 1975 250
SATIN DOLL Williams 1975 395, 400
STAR POOL Williams 1975 175
TOP SCORE Gottlieb 1975 495
TOP TEN Chicago Coin 1975
AZTEC Williams 1976 595
BLACK JACK Bally 1976 495
BLUE CHIP Williams 1976 400
FREEDOM (EM) Bally 1976 200
HANG GLIDER Bally 1976 425
PLAYBOY Bally 1976 575, 800
ROYAL FLUSH Gottlieb 1976 695
SURE SHOT Gottlieb 1976 495
SURF CHAMP Gottlieb 1976
BIG DEAL Williams 1977
CARNIVAL Playmatic 1977
LIBERTY BELL Williams 1977
STRIKES AND SPARES Bally 1977 250
DOLLY PARTON Bally 1978 500
HIT THE DECK Gottlieb 1978
KISS Bally 1978 900
NUGENT Stern 1978
PARAGON Bally 1978 995
STAR TREK Bally 1978 595, 650
BUCK ROGERS Gottlieb 1979 550
CHARLIE'S ANGELS Gottlieb 1979 375
GORGAR Williams 1979 795
HERCULES Atari 1979
SPACE INVADERS Bally 1979 450
TRIDENT Stern 1979 125
XENON Bally 1979 795
ALIEN POKER Williams 1980
BLACK KNIGHT Williams 1980 850
BLACK OUT Williams 1980 500
FATHOM Bally 1980
FIREPOWER Williams 1980 500, 595
FLASH GORDON Bally 1980 575
FLIGHT 2000 Stern 1980 750
PANTHERA Gottlieb 1980 500
SEA WITCH Stern 1980
BLACK HOLE Bally 1981 295
CAVEMAN Gottlieb 1981 295
JUNGLE LORD Williams 1981 450
SPECTRUM Bally 1981
VECTOR Bally 1981 750
BABY PACMAN Bally 1982 795
EIGHT BALL DELUXE (LTD EDITION) Bally 1982 695
FIREBALL CLASSIC Bally 1982 799
MR. AND MRS. PACMAN Bally 1982 795
ORBITOR 1 (CUSTOM) Stern 1982
RAPID FIRE Bally 1982 695
SPEAKEASY Bally 1982 550
GRAND SLAM Bally 1983 625
GRANY & THE GATORS Bally 1983
EIGHT BALL CHAMP Bally 1985
GAMATRON Pinstar 1985 525
HIGH SPEED Williams 1986 800
PINBOT Williams 1986 600, 700
BIG GUNS Williams 1987 850
SPRING BREAK Gottlieb 1987
SPACE STATION Williams 1988
TAXI (LOLA) Williams 1988 995
BIG HOUSE Gottlieb 1989 600
EARTHSHAKER Williams 1989
JOKERZ! Williams 1989 600
BUGS BUNNY'S BIRTHDAY BALL Bally 1990
FUNHOUSE Williams 1990 1000
NIGHT MOVES Int'l Concepts 1990
RADICAL Bally 1990 775
RIVERBOAT GAMBLER Williams 1990 1200
ROLLER GAMES Williams 1990 900
BATMAN Data East 1991
HOOK Data East 1991
TERMINATOR 2 Williams 1991 1300
FISH TAILS Williams 1992 1350
LETHAL WEAPON 3 Data East 1992 1250
STAR WARS Data East 1992
SUPER MARIO BROS. Gottlieb 1992 1500
WORLD TOUR Alvin G. 1992
DINOSAUR EGGS (REDEMPTION) Alvin G. 1993 495
FREDDY'S NIGHTMARE Gottlieb 1993
LAST ACTION HERO Data East 1993
POPEYE Bally 1993
STAR TREK - THE NEXT GENERATION Bally 1993 1995
TWILIGHT ZONE Bally 1993 1300
TWILIGHT ZONE (PROTOTYPE) Bally 1993 1600
DEMOLITION MAN Williams 1994
DIRTY HARRY Williams 1994 1500
ROYAL RUMBLE Data East 1994
BIG HURT Gottlieb 1995 1800
WATER WORLD Gottlieb 1995 1995
ATTACK FROM MARS Bally 1996
BIG BANK Capcom 1996
BREAK SHOT Capcom 1996
CONGO Williams 1996 2100
FLIPPER FOOTBALL Capcom 1996
INDEPENDENCE DAY Williams 1996 TOURNY
JOHNNY MNEMONIC Williams 1996 1500
SAFE CRACKER Bally 1996
SCARED STIFF Williams 1996
SPACE JAM Sega 1996
TALES OF THE ARAIBIAN NIGHTS Williams 1996
TWISTER Sega 1996
This concludes my description of the Exhibit Hall.
Well, like I said earlier, Pinball Expo '97 has already been
scheduled for November 13 through 16, 1997. I hope I will be able
to attend for the fourteenth year, but I don't know now what my
"financial situation" will be at that time (especially considering
the constantly escalating cost of attending the show), but only
time will tell? Anyway, I had a great time attending Pinball Expo
up 'till now, and if I am able to again attend in 1997 I will again
report on the show.