pinball: the dirty little secret

By BillVolckening

October 11, 2021

53 days ago

There were several long periods of time in my life when there was no pinball to be found. There was no pinball in college, and I lived in New York City for four years and never saw a single pinball machine. In 1998, I moved from New Jersey to Oregon. At the time, it was several years since I'd seen a pinball machine.

I lived in Portland for almost a year before a friend told me there was a pinball machine at a seedy adult shop, Fantasy on Sandy Boulevard. It wasn't at all where I wanted to play pinball, but seeing no other options, I went. There was a Hook machine, and that's when I first heard "Bangarang!" I never saw the movie, but felt like I knew it from the pinball machine. 

Eventually, Hook was replaced with Cirqus Voltaire. When I saw it, I thought, "What are YOU doing here?" I remember the haunting circus music as much as the sticky floors.

A couple other machines came and went, kind of like the shady people coming and going. It was before sanitary wipes were a thing, but you best believe I washed my hands after playing there. Apparently, Portland was about to experience a huge pinball renaissance, but I wouldn't discover that whole scene for years and years. In my experience, pinball was still alive, barely. I had no idea!

Story photos

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