(Topic ID: 271561)

Artifacts of Gene Cunningham/Illinois Pinball


By dudah

20 days ago



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Post #1 2020 photos of what’s left of Gene’s place. Posted by dudah (20 days ago)

Post #8 Dougram’s first installment of their part of Gene’s story. Posted by dougram69 (20 days ago)

Post #14 Dougram part 2 Posted by dougram69 (19 days ago)

Post #19 Link to an article about the history of Big Bang Bar. Posted by WODKA (15 days ago)

Post #28 Dougram part 3- some inventory arrives. Posted by dougram69 (14 days ago)

Post #41 Description of some video game related items obtained from Gene. Posted by vidgameseller (14 days ago)

Post #83 Link to TOPcast episode 11, interview with Gene. Posted by wallybgood (13 days ago)

Post #87 Dougram part 5- musing about Atlas memories. Posted by dougram69 (13 days ago)


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40
#1 20 days ago

Being based out of Chicago, the history of pinball in the area has always intrigued me. I'm on the younger end of the spectrum here (34 years old) and the story of Big Bang Bar/Gene Cunningham always stuck out as a very cool one. I've followed the story over time and thought it was so cool that such an ambitious project was happening right in my backyard. At the same time, sad that Gene had such a passion for this hobby and industry only to be defeated and lose a bunch of money on the project.

In a recent work trip to central Illinois, I was in Bloomington IL and decided to see what was left of Gene's legacy.
I googled some addresses and checked out a few spots.
The roller rink was still there (under new ownership).
The address for IPB was a nasty old building that was all boarded up and no evidence of previous tenants.
I was specifically looking for the overspray where they painted the #BBB cabinets.
Knowing that Gene had many warehouses, I gave up.
I didn't poke around too much as there were plenty of cars driving by and an occupied house adjacent.

pasted_image (resized).png
pasted_image (resized).png

Then I found his house.
I recall an article where the warehouse behind his house burned down, the article was still up - https://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/cause-of-warehouse-fire-under-investigation/article_c4135de5-633a-5eff-92dc-a9846ed24c5b.html
I looked it up on maps first and saw the warehouse on there! Let's go visit.

cunninghouse (resized).JPG

I get there and it's a pretty big house from the street. I pull in back to find a little lake, a good amount of land, and a huge concrete pad where the warehouse used to be.

pasted_image (resized).pngpasted_image (resized).pngpasted_image (resized).png
The house itself is pretty strange, it looks like a few additions were put on over the years.
I wasn't sure it was the right house. I was surprised for a fire there was no charred remains, everything was cleaned up.
I walk along the concrete pad looking to find some remnants of what used to be there.
While I find some broken glass (not from a backglass) the only artifact was one very rusty pop bumper plunger.
pasted_image (resized).png

Again, it's a residential area and I didn't want any trouble so didn't stay long.
Looking the house up on Zillow - https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1409-Butchers-Ln-Bloomington-IL-61701/105639708_zpid/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=emo-propertyalertnew&rtoken=0651dc5d-7a3f-4ff7-a2a9-b119df107024~X1-ZUzjjglkyzhvk9_aau4d&utm_term=urn:msg:20200622172940043522bb87c5c8af&utm_content=image
Despite being on the market for over a year, the bank just accepted an offer on it.
It's INSANE inside.
I can only imagine the great times Gene shared with his kids and grandkids in this great home.
pasted_image (resized).png
More-so, what cool and rare games once lived here.
pasted_image (resized).png
I joke with my girlfriend that this is a sweet cheap house that would be cool to update, she humors me and says no.

It felt strange walking these grounds knowing what used to be here.
I was saddened that I never got to meet Gene or experience what he brought to this hobby.
Having learned that he recently passed, it was also a humble reminder that life is short and to stay motivated to get what you want out of it.

#2 20 days ago

I have some old videos from just before rick the &$&$@ came in and took everything from him. I went through the whole warehouse and helped a local collector load up 14? games from the horde.

That was before I had much expendable cash. Every game was a round number. 1000 for this, 2000 for that, 3000 for that.

In hindsight I should have taken out a loan and bought a bunch.

Fun trip eve though I left with nothing.

#3 20 days ago
Quoted from dudah:

Being based out of Chicago, the history of pinball in the area has always intrigued me. I'm on the younger end of the spectrum here (34 years old) and the story of Big Bang Bar/Gene Cunningham always stuck out as a very cool one. I've followed the story over time and thought it was so cool that such an ambitious project was happening right in my backyard. At the same time, sad that Gene had such a passion for this hobby and industry only to be defeated and lose a bunch of money on the project.
In a recent work trip to central Illinois, I was in Bloomington IL and decided to see what was left of Gene's legacy.
I googled some addresses and checked out a few spots.
The roller rink was still there (under new ownership).
The address for IPB was a nasty old building that was all boarded up and no evidence of previous tenants.
I was specifically looking for the overspray where they painted the #BBB cabinets.
Knowing that Gene had many warehouses, I gave up.
I didn't poke around too much as there were plenty of cars driving by and an occupied house adjacent.
[quoted image][quoted image]
Then I found his house.
I recall an article where the warehouse behind his house burned down, the article was still up - https://www.pantagraph.com/news/local/cause-of-warehouse-fire-under-investigation/article_c4135de5-633a-5eff-92dc-a9846ed24c5b.html
I looked it up on maps first and saw the warehouse on there! Let's go visit.
[quoted image]
I get there and it's a pretty big house from the street. I pull in back to find a little lake, a good amount of land, and a huge concrete pad where the warehouse used to be.
[quoted image][quoted image][quoted image]
The house itself is pretty strange, it looks like a few additions were put on over the years.
I wasn't sure it was the right house. I was surprised for a fire there was no charred remains, everything was cleaned up.
I walk along the concrete pad looking to find some remnants of what used to be there.
While I find some broken glass (not from a backglass) the only artifact was one very rusty pop bumper plunger.
[quoted image]
Again, it's a residential area and I didn't want any trouble so didn't stay long.
Looking the house up on Zillow - https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1409-Butchers-Ln-Bloomington-IL-61701/105639708_zpid/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=emo-propertyalertnew&rtoken=0651dc5d-7a3f-4ff7-a2a9-b119df107024~X1-ZUzjjglkyzhvk9_aau4d&utm_term=urn:msg:20200622172940043522bb87c5c8af&utm_content=image
Despite being on the market for over a year, the bank just accepted an offer on it.
It's INSANE inside.
I can only imagine the great times Gene shared with his kids and grandkids in this great home.
[quoted image]
More-so, what cool and rare games once lived here.
[quoted image]
I joke with my girlfriend that this is a sweet cheap house that would be cool to update, she humors me and says no.
It felt strange walking these grounds knowing what used to be here.
I was saddened that I never got to meet Gene or experience what he brought to this hobby.
Having learned that he recently passed, it was also a humble reminder that life is short and to stay motivated to get what you want out of it.

Was that an old Playboy Mansion he was living in? Disco ball above the pool takes the cake!

14
#4 20 days ago

Just 3 pictures I have handy.

Videos seem to have been lost to technology.

916DAEDC-59B7-43C5-B58A-E4D85A3D836A (resized).jpegC65392A1-F2EE-485E-B0F0-6770D9907EA1 (resized).jpeg

#5 20 days ago
Quoted from vdojaq:

Was that an old Playboy Mansion he was living in? Disco ball above the pool takes the cake!

It would appear that Gene fucks

Quoted from Whysnow:

Just 3 pictures I have handy.
Videos seem to have been lost to technology.

Thanks for sharing what you have!

#6 20 days ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

Just 3 pictures I have handy.
Videos seem to have been lost to technology.
[quoted image][quoted image][quoted image]

Do you have more of Wizards Blocks? That's the best picture I've ever seen of the playfield.

11
#7 20 days ago
Quoted from TreyBo69:

Do you have more of Wizards Blocks? That's the best picture I've ever seen of the playfield.

on an old camera somewhere, I have video of every single game in the multiple warehouses at that time.
I volunteered to go along for the ride, help pick out and load games, and hoped I would get something for the troubles along the way.

I got some cool memories and a bunch of pics/vids.
I should dig them up and post at some point.

54
#8 20 days ago

This topic hits home so closely, I am compelled to post. Some may find this interesting. It’s a walk in time from Gene’s purchase of Williams rights to production of Big Bang Bar and after, from my experiences with him. His struggles, his genius moments, his sad but funny moments, and the moments of a guy who was in over his head, but pulled through. He used misdirection at times to buy more time from pin community, to the legal folks at Williams, his competitors and others. He tried to do a lot of horse trading to get by an succeeded. I will try and write this in installments as it spans from January of 2000 to 2008. In the end you may not respect how he conducted himself, or his motives, but he did get some things going and reproduced BBB in the end.

My brother and I got into the pinball hobby in November of 1999. We met some real great folks and local pinheads in Chicago. Some great guys like Chris W., Terry and Dave N., Brad C., John “It’s Money” K. and others. Even associated with Pat C. for a time. Miss the late night pin sessions and greasy pizza. In January of 2000 I met Gene and his stepdaughter Kim at some pin show. I got to be friendly with them both, and Kim started to reach out to me and others for pin advice and technical advice at times. Just kind of worked out that way. I don’t remember the month but later that year, Gene announced he was the one who purchased the Williams rights to produce parts and games. Williams and others will dispute he had game building rights, but it was unclear. At this time, he was awaiting the arrival of two semi trucks filled with the remains of the Williams parts inventory. Kim reached out to me and my brother and a few other persons to come down to Bloomington, and help with sorting the inventory. I had no idea what an event this would be. From the amount of NOS parts to the massive bins they were stored in. We were completely unprepared for this task. In the next entry I will go through what arrived, the months it took to inventory everything, and realizing how much more than just parts were received. Williams just dumped everything into this trailer, parts or not. Will also talk about the super hot and freaky A frame building where all the Capcom stuff was stored. Holy cow there is a lot to cover. More to come.

Note, I want to go on record right now that the one person who was with us during inventory, found all the BBB artwork, mechanical drawings, parts inventory list (with parts cost and vendor who produced the prototype parts), manuals, schematics for playfield, color charts, everything you would need to go into production by accident. He was in the Capcom building and found this in a drawer. This individual can remain anonymous if he desires, but it was his pressing and suggestion to re-build BBB. Gene at the time was more consumed with the Williams inventory task ahead, and money he laid out. He didn’t have the heart or cash to tie up into another big project. He thanked this fellow for his insight and tabled it for a later discussion. I and my brother were totally disappointed he did think it was worth the effort at the time, but it did come true in the end. More on this later.

Thanks
Dougram

#9 20 days ago
Quoted from dougram69:

This topic hits home so closely, I am compelled to post. Some may find this interesting. It’s a walk in time from Gene’s purchase of Williams rights to production of Big Bang Bar and after, from my experiences with him. His struggles, his genius moments, his sad but funny moments, and the moments of a guy who was in over his head, but pulled through. He used misdirection at times to buy more time from pin community, to the legal folks at Williams, his competitors and others. He tried to do a lot of horse trading to get by an succeeded. I will try and write this in installments as it spans from January of 2000 to 2008. In the end you may not respect how he conducted himself, or his motives, but he did get some things going and reproduced BBB in the end.
My brother and I got into the pinball hobby in November of 1999. We met some real great folks and local pinheads in Chicago. Some great guys like Chris W., Terry and Dave N., Brad C., John “It’s Money” K. and others. Even associated with Pat C. for a time. Miss the late night pin sessions and greasy pizza. In January of 2000 I met Gene and his stepdaughter Kim at some pin show. I got to be friendly with them both, and Kim started to reach out to me and others for pin advice and technical advice at times. Just kind of worked out that way. I don’t remember the month but later that year, Gene announced he was the one who purchased the Williams rights to produce parts and games. Williams and others will dispute he had game building rights, but it was unclear. At this time, he was awaiting the arrival of two semi trucks filled with the remains of the Williams parts inventory. Kim reached out to me and my brother and a few other persons to come down to Bloomington, and help with sorting the inventory. I had no idea what an event this would be. From the amount of NOS parts to the massive bins they were stored in. We were completely unprepared for this task. In the next entry I will go through what arrived, the months it took to inventory everything, and realizing how much more than just parts were received. Williams just dumped everything into this trailer, parts or not. Will also talk about the super hot and freaky A frame building where all the Capcom stuff was stored. Holy cow there is a lot to cover. More to come.
Note, I want to go on record right now that the one person who was with us during inventory, found all the BBB artwork, mechanical drawings, parts inventory list (with parts cost and vendor who produced the prototype parts), manuals, schematics for playfield, color charts, everything you would need to go into production by accident. He was in the Capcom building and found this in a drawer. This individual can remain anonymous if he desires, but it was his pressing and suggestion to re-build BBB. Gene at the time was more consumed with the Williams inventory task ahead, and money he laid out. He didn’t have the heart or cash to tie up into another big project. He thanked this fellow for his insight and tabled it for a later discussion. I and my brother were totally disappointed he did think it was worth the effort at the time, but it did come true in the end. More on this later.
Thanks
Dougram

Looking fwd to you sharing. I love this lore of the hobby!

#10 20 days ago

That rusty pop plunger in the gravel was amazing - too perfect has to be a plant

It’s like, Mother Nature - fire, storm, snow - can’t completely wipe the earth of the pinball that once was!

Some planet of the apes shit there !

#11 20 days ago
Quoted from dougram69:

This topic hits home so closely, I am compelled to post. Some may find this interesting. It’s a walk in time from Gene’s purchase of Williams rights to production of Big Bang Bar and after, from my experiences with him. His struggles, his genius moments, his sad but funny moments, and the moments of a guy who was in over his head, but pulled through. He used misdirection at times to buy more time from pin community, to the legal folks at Williams, his competitors and others. He tried to do a lot of horse trading to get by an succeeded. I will try and write this in installments as it spans from January of 2000 to 2008. In the end you may not respect how he conducted himself, or his motives, but he did get some things going and reproduced BBB in the end.
My brother and I got into the pinball hobby in November of 1999. We met some real great folks and local pinheads in Chicago. Some great guys like Chris W., Terry and Dave N., Brad C., John “It’s Money” K. and others. Even associated with Pat C. for a time. Miss the late night pin sessions and greasy pizza. In January of 2000 I met Gene and his stepdaughter Kim at some pin show. I got to be friendly with them both, and Kim started to reach out to me and others for pin advice and technical advice at times. Just kind of worked out that way. I don’t remember the month but later that year, Gene announced he was the one who purchased the Williams rights to produce parts and games. Williams and others will dispute he had game building rights, but it was unclear. At this time, he was awaiting the arrival of two semi trucks filled with the remains of the Williams parts inventory. Kim reached out to me and my brother and a few other persons to come down to Bloomington, and help with sorting the inventory. I had no idea what an event this would be. From the amount of NOS parts to the massive bins they were stored in. We were completely unprepared for this task. In the next entry I will go through what arrived, the months it took to inventory everything, and realizing how much more than just parts were received. Williams just dumped everything into this trailer, parts or not. Will also talk about the super hot and freaky A frame building where all the Capcom stuff was stored. Holy cow there is a lot to cover. More to come.
Note, I want to go on record right now that the one person who was with us during inventory, found all the BBB artwork, mechanical drawings, parts inventory list (with parts cost and vendor who produced the prototype parts), manuals, schematics for playfield, color charts, everything you would need to go into production by accident. He was in the Capcom building and found this in a drawer. This individual can remain anonymous if he desires, but it was his pressing and suggestion to re-build BBB. Gene at the time was more consumed with the Williams inventory task ahead, and money he laid out. He didn’t have the heart or cash to tie up into another big project. He thanked this fellow for his insight and tabled it for a later discussion. I and my brother were totally disappointed he did think it was worth the effort at the time, but it did come true in the end. More on this later.
Thanks
Dougram

Oh wow. This is exciting.
You know, with all the stories and all the people involved, someone could probably exclusively write an entire book about how Big Bang Bar came to be, and how Gene got absolutely way over his head and somehow came out on top.
Absolutely wild.
One hell of a businessman. Regardless of where he ended up, the fact that BBB happened at all and he didn’t go bankrupt till well after all this was said and done is just astonishing.

#12 20 days ago

This should be a awesome thread!

30
#14 19 days ago

Installment 2

Before I write about the Williams inventory and BBB, I wanted to lay out what the IPB compound looked like and the “New Building” layout that housed most of the Williams parts. (With and add on in 2006, it became the BBB assembly area.). Gene and Kim called it the new building so that’s what we all called it. This helps with the discussion later on.

Overview of Gene’s property & New Building Layout for Williams Parts Inventory (As I remember it.). See pics.

Also Gene’s house was about 5 miles from IPB. It was an older small house that had been added onto many times with no thought or plan. A hallway would end and you turn and it’s a giant room, then again and again. All crazy layout. My brother called it the Franken House. By his house he had another building that was his gym. In the gym is where Gene had a workout room, the other three Pin 200 prototypes, and a locked room. The pin 200 prototypes. One was Magic Blocks and the other was Playboy. The third was a hodgepodge of parts and assemblies that looked like a rough test machine. No playfield or artwork. Just mechs. Lastly the locked room was his personal office with real abstract paintings.

Pin2000
The Magic Block game had a wizard, and some Tetris like block holograms that would fall and be bashed by the ball. Real simple oval geometry to the game. Had real cool miniature melange lights on top of the flasher domes giving a great light effect. Was about 85% complete for mechanics, but only 20% for software. Didn’t do much.

The Playboy pin 200 had a splash page that was killer. I would have bought one if they had ever made it. Envision a hologram of the word Playboy across the screen. A playboy bunny laying on top of the letters from P to Y, facing downward, hand under chin, one leg bent up at the knee. Classic Playboy pose. She was semi cartoonish with pronounced features, and her leg dangled back and forth. She winked and giggled every few minutes. Super awesome to see in person. Someone else has game play and some of the hologram girls for each month. The splash page as I recall had the most detailed graphics.

The last component of his compound was a set of metal corrugated shacks near his house. They were real rough structures made of thin metal. No windows and all the roofs leaked. In side was his big collection of pins from all periods. Many in super rough shape, some nice and some in between. Buckets were all over on games, on floor, everywhere collecting rusty rain water. Didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. Why have such a huge collection you can’t play or even admire. I felt like I was looking at one of those harder episodes. Just strange but he did have the largest personal collection of pinballs.

More to come
Dougram

E2A99CE0-78D4-431E-8169-0D8ED251895B (resized).jpegC5AEECBF-D596-4394-91F9-7E4A3D8C234E (resized).jpeg793BE929-9EC8-4DE0-A302-E374861A2712 (resized).png
#15 16 days ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

Just 3 pictures I have handy.

Thank you, Whysnow, for your permission via PM to let me post any/all of the three images into the IPDB.

Once I do that, I was hoping to note each image with the year, or month and year, when the images were made, and where. I like to do that, if I can, for the unique pieces that make rare appearances. I assumed they were somewhere at Gene's house or compound.

You did not recall when, but said those pics "were all in the main 'house warehouse' (what most would refer to as the weight room)"

Can anybody help us, to come up with the year (if not month and year) when Whysnow would have taken those pictures? I presume, Whysnow, that they were made all in the same visit and probably during some open house event?

10
#16 16 days ago
Quoted from I_P_D_B:

Thank you, Whysnow, for your permission via PM to let me post any/all of the three images into the IPDB.
Once I do that, I was hoping to note each image with the year, or month and year, when the images were made, and where. I like to do that, if I can, for the unique pieces that make rare appearances. I assumed they were somewhere at Gene's house or compound.
You did not recall when, but said those pics "were all in the main 'house warehouse' (what most would refer to as the weight room)"
Can anybody help us, to come up with the year (if not month and year) when Whysnow would have taken those pictures? I presume, Whysnow, that they were made all in the same visit and probably during some open house event?

Not during any open house.
I believe that Gene was Already in legal trouble, pinball Ramps Guys and PPS/rick were closing in on him for funds. My guess/assumption/understanding is that he was looking for quick cash to hide away before the impending PPS storm.

He was just starting to bring in some of the bigger collectors looking to buy a load of games for quick cash.

A somewhat local collector to me was invited to come buy games. I was invited along for the trip. We drove down in a huge Penske type truck.

We spent and entire day at the compound BSing w gene and the guy I went with bought something like 14 games. The only other people there were Gene and one of Gene’s helpers.
It was a super long day but quite the experience.

I am pretty sure I was one of the first people allowed in before the unloading of games really started hard core.

All the main warehouses were still full.

The best part for me was that I got about 1.5hra alone with all the games. I spent a good amount of time taking videos and just enjoying the hoard of Gene and pondering how it all got to that point. The end of his reign was near and it was ominous.

I need to find the old camera with video walk through I took to show buddies.

#17 16 days ago
Quoted from I_P_D_B:

Thank you, Whysnow, for your permission via PM to let me post any/all of the three images into the IPDB.
Once I do that, I was hoping to note each image with the year, or month and year, when the images were made, and where. I like to do that, if I can, for the unique pieces that make rare appearances. I assumed they were somewhere at Gene's house or compound.
You did not recall when, but said those pics "were all in the main 'house warehouse' (what most would refer to as the weight room)"
Can anybody help us, to come up with the year (if not month and year) when Whysnow would have taken those pictures? I presume, Whysnow, that they were made all in the same visit and probably during some open house event?

Is there any EXIF metadata on the photos you have?
http://metapicz.com/#landing

#18 16 days ago
Quoted from dudah:

Is there any EXIF metadata on the photos you have?
http://metapicz.com/#landing

Cool link. The three pics in Post #4 above came up with no EXIF, but maybe pinside alters it?

Whysnow, can you try your originals using that link? Also, I forgot to ask if you have additional images of each game from that visit which may allow me some choice of what to show?

#20 15 days ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

Not during any open house.
I believe that Gene was Already in legal trouble, pinball Ramps Guys and PPS/rick were closing in on him for funds. My guess/assumption/understanding is that he was looking for quick cash to hide away before the impending PPS storm.
He was just starting to bring in some of the bigger collectors looking to buy a load of games for quick cash.
A somewhat local collector to me was invited to come buy games. I was invited along for the trip. We drove down in a huge Penske type truck.
We spent and entire day at the compound BSing w gene and the guy I went with bought something like 14 games. The only other people there were Gene and one of Gene’s helpers.
It was a super long day but quite the experience.
I am pretty sure I was one of the first people allowed in before the unloading of games really started hard core.
All the main warehouses were still full.
The best part for me was that I got about 1.5hra alone with all the games. I spent a good amount of time taking videos and just enjoying the hoard of Gene and pondering how it all got to that point. The end of his reign was near and it was ominous.
I need to find the old camera with video walk through I took to show buddies.

Looking back, don’t you wish you went to the bank, brought a huge wad of cash and bought as much as possible? I mean, damn, King Pin and everything!

That was one incredible, once-in-a-lifetime chance. I can’t wait to see your photos!

#21 15 days ago
Quoted from Isochronic_Frost:

Looking back, don’t you wish you went to the bank, brought a huge wad of cash and bought as much as possible? I mean, damn, King Pin and everything!
That was one incredible, once-in-a-lifetime chance. I can’t wait to see your photos!

I did not really have any spare cash at that time. TBT I kind of hoped/figured the guy I was helping would toss me a bone for breaking down, packing , and loading 14 games

I really wanted a few things but Gene was a stickler on price of some. Everything was in 1000 dollar increments.

$1000 centaurs, $2000 DMDs, etc.

I remember a few very good deals that were passed up. EM matahari, a few of the one off oddballs, the wizard blocks pf (he wanted 3k for that one).

Reality is that a bunch of games were just junk to start with. I mean in current world they were all still good projects and mostly fixable, but they mostly needed love. Many were games he had bought in auction and never even turned them on. They were set up and balls never put in.

I should have bought BBB original and BBB remake number 001 (or maybe it was 000). He wanted 20k for the pair. Probably was worth it.

Big picture reality is that I have a much better collection now any way.

Gene had a bunch or repeats and classics from the 80s but also a bunch of complete crap that nobody likely would want.

It was a surreal experience.

I never once got to hang out with the collector that was buying the games. In effect those games appear to have left Genes hoard and moved about 2 hours to another hoard.

#22 15 days ago

I love this thread so far. Thanks for sharing guys.

#23 15 days ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

I did not really have any spare cash at that time. TBT I kind of hoped/figured the guy I was helping would toss me a bone for breaking down, packing , and loading 14 games
I really wanted a few things but Gene was a stickler on price of some. Everything was in 1000 dollar increments.
$1000 centaurs, $2000 DMDs, etc.
I remember a few very good deals that were passed up. EM matahari, a few of the one off oddballs, the wizard blocks pf (he wanted 3k for that one).
Reality is that a bunch of games were just junk to start with. I mean in current world they were all still good projects and mostly fixable, but they mostly needed love. Many were games he had bought in auction and never even turned them on. They were set up and balls never put in.
I should have bought BBB original and BBB remake number 001 (or maybe it was 000). He wanted 20k for the pair. Probably was worth it.
Big picture reality is that I have a much better collection now any way.
Gene had a bunch or repeats and classics from the 80s but also a bunch of complete crap that nobody likely would want.
It was a surreal experience.
I never once got to hang out with the collector that was buying the games. In effect those games appear to have left Genes hoard and moved about 2 hours to another hoard.

He invited you along yet never let you come over and play?!? What a tool!
That’s practically common courtesy!
I get most my muscle to come along for any pinball picks up merely on the promise that we will spend the rest of the day in my arcade playing my collection after pickup!

Added 14 days ago:

Edit: I guess this isn’t entirely true!

Continue reading for the full story.

#24 15 days ago

Love this thread, thanks for the stories.

#25 14 days ago

So did the whole collection just go up and get sold to another buyer? A Single buyer, I mean?

#26 14 days ago

Majority went to Rick PPS
Several semi truck loads.

#27 14 days ago
Quoted from Rdoyle1978:

So did the whole collection just go up and get sold to another buyer? A Single buyer, I mean?

There was a sale or two. Pinball Spare Parts in Australia bought what was left ? Then PPS bought remaining assets in the bankruptcy sale. They left Gene keep the pallets of toilets.

LTG : )

37
#28 14 days ago

Installment 3

It’s the summer of 2000 and the weekend is arriving when the two semi trucks will show up containing all the Williams parts inventory. Some environment background to give the new folks some understanding of the parts desert we were experiencing at this time. William has closed it’s doors. Parts availability is non existent. Some distributors have small amounts of parts left in existing inventory. Game specific parts are getting grabbed up fast. Common parts are becoming hard to find and people are buying them up in fear they won’t parts to keep games running. Pinball Machines exist out in the wild and are also getting scooped up fast. The dilemma is you find a beat game, needs game specific parts, and the decision to buy or not to buy rests on what parts you can get. A common practice of parts hoarding begins to emerge. The only way to get precious game specific parts is to barter with other hard to find parts. People start buying up parts for games they don’t have just to have barter strength. This worsens the parts availability and things are tough and cut throat in order to survive this hobby. Friendships develop, but many become strained over everyone trying to grab the same nut. It was crazy and not a good time. This went on well into 2002 as Gene ran into delays in getting pats made. More on that topic later.

We agreed with Gene and Kim we would arrive on Friday and work all weekend to get the tucks unloaded. It’s a hot, not summer and this won’t be fun. We arrive in Bloomington in the morning. Gene buys us breakfast while the trucks arrive. We join up at the “new building” and the semi trucks are waiting. In attendance are five of us who were asked to help, Gene, Kim, Georgianna and three of Gene’s workers. Some paperwork is completed and the doors to the truck opened. Right at the back of truck one are two RFM pins. One is a prototype, no serial number, lots of color and mechanical notes on it. Second is a fully built and working RFM, looked brand new, with no serial number. Working non documented game. Both are unloaded and taken into building. As we progress, the trucks were filled with pallets shrink wrapped with stacks of parts. Probably 30 plus pallets. Some metal bins, drums, stacks of glass, two giant iron bins of legs and some shelving. Also lots of big boxes filled with rubbers, flipper bats, five playfield racks with playfields, stacks of translights, architecture cabinets with large drawers, tons and tons of heavy metal parts like screws, rivets, gates, ball guides, pcb boards in electrostatic bags and bare non populated boards, power supplies (heavy pallet), ramps. Ramps were both populated, partially populated and bare plastic. Takes us all day Friday and half of Saturday to get trucks unloaded with a forklift. Pallets wear dropped in roughly the areas near the shelves they were to go on. Raw materials or big items were placed in the middle of the overflow building for later determination of where to go. Some interesting things I saw in bulk.

1. Stack of pin 2000 glass. Stack was chest high, with black tar covering each piece of glass.
2. Williams pcb test machines. Many.
3. Two wooden coffins filled with two fully populated NOS MB playfields. They were fullY populated assemblies pulled right off the production line and put into these Williams chests.
4. Cases of NOS TAF ramps un assembled. Just the dark smoked plastic but separated by craft paper.
5. Tubes and tubes of artwork in half barrels.
6. Every metal part ever made for a pinball machine.
7. Barrels of rubbers black and white.
8. Lots of legs, various sizes and a large bin of rejects.
9. Stacks and stacks of translights.
10. A full upright T2 machine gun game.
11. So many rivets, bins of rivets, barrels of rivets, boxes and parts trays of rivets.
12. Pallets of Williams labeled boxes saying packed sub assemblies.
13. Playfield racks with RFM playfields, Dirty Harry playfields, Flintstones, T2, Party Zone (1), Junkyard, CC (1), and others.
14. Open barrel filled with plastic artwork screens of cabinets, playfields, everything screened on a game. All the TAF artwork was banded together saying orig and gold.
15. More ramp full assemblies in long half boxes. Lots of SS boneY beast ramps, WW spine chiller ramps, Roadshow ramps, and others.
16. A giant box with a complete NOS metal supercharger ramp from The Getaway.
17. Some work benches and storage racks.
18. Lots of super “Im loosing my shit” views of parts through the pallet wrapping. More in the next installment.

To end this installment we finished up on Sat unloading. We then took a break, and started later that day. We started the process of unpacking pallets, and counting inventory of parts. Gene wanted us to count the parts by hand. One guy said it’s gonna take me three months to count 10 million rivets. Let’s weight one rivet, then the container and divided by the individual weight to get a count. Gene said ok, so we went out to rent some scales. We’re beat at this time and really haven’ even discussed how we are to get compensated at the end of this. By the t8me we come back, it’s lat3 so we decide to grab dinner and regroup the next day. We wind up sleeping in Genes screened in poach with a noisy ceiling fan that kept us up all night.

As we unpack pallets, it becomes clear there are a lot of highly desirable parts here. I don’t think they realized what they had. I was really trying to keep my excitement inside which was hard to do. More to come on the next installment. I will detail out the unbelievable finds next.

Thanks
Dougram

#29 14 days ago
Quoted from dougram69:

Some environment background to give the new folks some understanding of the parts desert we were experiencing at this time. William has closed it’s doors. Parts availability is non existent. Some distributors have small amounts of parts left in existing inventory.

When Williams shut down. A 30 page fax of parts went to distributors. A lot of parts were sold then. Prototype Safecracker playfields, etc. etc. You can read about some of it on Rec Games Pinball.

LTG : )

#30 14 days ago

Gene was about as technology averse as it got. You had to email his wife to ask him something. LOL, I also remember his "fax me" sheet for BBB interest. And then Kingpin there at the end.

#31 14 days ago

I went to one of Gene's open houses around 2007. Gene gave a tour of all the sheds and shared stories about how he obtained a lot of the pins. He also gave us a tour of his home ( which seemed odd) and a gym area with a bunch of Pin2K stuff. I played Wizard Blocks, but there wasn't much to it. There must have been 400 pins in the shed, but most were non-working and it was really humid. The games all had a heavy musty, mildew smell. I asked Gene about buying one of the Medusa pins, but passed based on the stink. All of the pin2k playfields had surface rust on all exposed metal. It seemed like Gene enjoyed the fact that he had stuff that others wanted. After the tour, we went to the warehouse where we could browse and buy parts. No prices were listed, you had to ask Gene's family for prices. Most stuff was expensive, but I bought some TZ NOS plastics for a dollar each. I wish I bought more. Overall, an interesting experience.

#32 14 days ago
Quoted from Eric_S:

It seemed like Gene enjoyed the fact that he had stuff that others wanted.

That's his mindset in a nutshell from all the stories I've heard.

#33 14 days ago
Quoted from yancy:

That's his mindset in a nutshell from all the stories I've heard.

I really think it was more about “just having”. Gene claimed he just liked to be surrounded by his machines. I believe him. 1 part hoarder and 1 part hustler.

#34 14 days ago

Loyd is right. I found one specific vendor out west somewhere who seemed to have lots of Addams parts. He even had a NGG nos playfield I bought from him. This one specific vendor hand picked the lot and knew what parts went bad. He had many things everyone was looking for. His prices escalated weekly as his inventory eventually dried up. These distributors were far a few though. Locally, Romero at Mazco had some decent inventory for a short time. American vending had some stuff as well but was hard to get Robert at the parts counter to just look for stuff. He had to pull parts so he couldn’t waste a lot of time. About a year into this and those inventories dried up fast.

Thanks
Dougram

#35 14 days ago

I can’t wait for Ace Pinball to weigh in on this thread. But if he’s smart he’ll publish a book, he has some amazing stories.

#36 14 days ago

Love hearing the Gene stories here. My buddy and I would always stop by his “pinball show” down the street from expo at the executive hotel every year. Always cool to talk to him and buy parts from. Everytime my buddy bought something Gene would charge him the exact amount posted but anytime I bought something he would always add a dollar to the price for “tax”. Guess I looked gullible or something but I always paid it so maybe I was...haha.

#37 14 days ago
Quoted from swampfire:

I can’t wait for Ace Pinball to weigh in on this thread. But if he’s smart he’ll publish a book, he has some amazing stories.

There are a LOT of people that dealt with Gene that could publish a book in regards to their dealings. I doubt much would be positive.

#38 14 days ago
Quoted from dougram69:

About a year into this and those inventories dried up fast

Pinball like life is not about hoarding, it's about people and helping others. Get a deal, give a deal, gain an experience. Great thread, keep it going.

#39 14 days ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

There are a LOT of people that dealt with Gene that could publish a book in regards to their dealings. I doubt much would be positive.

I have seen a lot of positive stories about Gene in this thread and I imagine there are many more. Every time I met him it was positive, and to top it off he never once charged me tax. Keep the thread going!

11
#40 14 days ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

There are a LOT of people that dealt with Gene that could publish a book in regards to their dealings.

Those books already exist in several Illinois courthouses.

#41 14 days ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

There are a LOT of people that dealt with Gene that could publish a book in regards to their dealings. I doubt much would be positive.

I was at Gene's many times, and bought from him over the years. At the time, i wasnt into the rarity of games like I am now so i really messed up passing on lots of the games. I bought over 100 pins from Gene before all the BBB stuff happened. But it was always common collectibiles like Kiss, playboys, Capt Fantastics, etc.

I also got involved with James when He and the Pinball Spare parts Australlia guys were there, they were some great guys. I bought all of the video game parts since they didnt want stupid video games stuff, lol I also was able to get plenty of pinball parts. Some of the coolest things i was involved in was there were pallets of films, drawings, blueprints for tons of video games, literally several pallets, 6 foot tall. These wre the original films to make things like marquees, sideart and control panel overlays. I took those and eventually sold them all. In the A-Frame building was the capcom stuff, and that also included capcom video game stuff. There was a stack of NOS marquees that was taller than i am, it was unreal. Was able t buy them in bulk for about a buck a piece. sold them on ebay for 25-50 a piece over the years.

Gene had so much value there that it could have saved him from bankruptcy if he would have tried. I spent a ton of money there, and i made even more, I seriously believe that he would not have had financial issues if he would have actually sold stuff, not just take a truck to a show to sell what he thought was valuable. I remember buying a NOS Crate of Jurney monitor bezels, I paid 100 for the crate, and it was 20 pieces of glass that sold for over 100 each.

Gene had his flaws in other areas to. I bought the stuff that i got parts wise from pinball spare parts and Pinball Inc, and as i was loading up, Gene would come over and try to sell me a stack of stuff, and it was stuff that i had already bought, he was just trying to make a few etra bucks on deals

I remember at one time offering Gene 5k for a room of video games that he had, he wouldnt take it, a year later he had a auctionat the Beer Nuts center, and all the video games were there. I bought i bought all but i think 2 of them, and i paid under 1k for what i bought.

Troy

#42 14 days ago
Quoted from mjsbowl:

I have seen a lot of positive stories about Gene in this thread and I imagine there are many more. Every time I met him it was positive, and to top it off he never once charged me tax. Keep the thread going!

You must be talking about a different Gene Cunningham than I knew.

#43 14 days ago

I grabbed a little piece of that history in an eBay auction: the BOM for Algar, a fat binder of green bar paper printed on a dot matrix printer. It hits both my nerd and pinball nerd pleasure centers. I really appreciate James for saving that stuff from the dump. So much great history.

28
#45 14 days ago

Some more interesting tidbits. Some may know this and some may not so I will try and provide some clarity and events as I remember them. Gene had a ten year exclusivity on producing Williams parts from Williams. At year seven years, Williams could extend the contract for another ten years, let his contract expire, or extend parts rights to others if they weren’t happy with Gene’s fulfillment of his end. Gene’s lawyer was smart enough to work in a clause where Williams legal team was required to pursue violators. Williams had to spend legal resources to stop people from violating Williams copyrights and court costs if it came to suing. Gene just needed to identify and call out to Williams who were to be shut down.

At year two, Williams approached Gene about buying the pinball game rights to remanufacturing games. Gene had no excess cash and couldn’t leverage himself any further. He and Kim approached myself, my brother and one other individual in manufacturing, to try and form a separate corporation to produce games. He would provide the parts, and we would work on the manufacturing aspects. I asked him how much. He said 2.2 million. Possibly we could negotiate to 2 million, possibly a bit less, 1.8M best case scenario. We met several times to see if it could happen. Talked to some banks and were able to get some small loan commitments. With a lot of leveraging, homes, 401ks cashed out, etc, we could come up with the 2 million, but left us nothing else. We figured we needed another million to get up and running with assembly lines, people, small facility, tooling, etc. We told Gene it was a no go and thanked him for the opportunity. He then shopped it out to his lawyer and then his doctor friend. Both turned him down, so the Williams offer died on the vine.

By year seven, Williams started re-negotiating his contract. By this time, 2007, I had been removing myself from the situation as my family got larger, I moved, and started a new job. Regardless, Kim started letting me know that negotiations were rough. Williams wanted to let other legitimate manufacturers start making parts. They licensed the ramps guy to officially make ramps and molded parts with Williams licensing. Gene was ordered by Williams to start sharing films, molds and the like to the ramps guy. The ramps guy paid a lot for his license as I recall. In the interim, Gene got a call from the plastic injection molding company saying they had hundreds of Williams molds in their storage area. The company was downsizing and Gene should come and get his molds. Gene got his truck, ran to IL the next day, and loaded up his truck with every mold imagine able. I know cause I saw them at Gene’s facility. The truck was so heavy it broke down twice on his way back to Bloomington. What a complete stroke of stupid luck. Instead of calling Williams to find out where molds should go, they called Gene cause they thought he had the only rights. Let me just say that the next few years Gene shared NOTHING with the ramps guy. Not molds, decals for ramps, artwork, nothing. Everything needed was there in Bloomington, but this was Gene’s way to fight back cause he was pissed. He felt he should have the only rights toe everything Williams. This is what got Him in big legal trouble. Laughlin kept paying his monthly contractual payment to Williams and later sued Gene for millions in lost revenue, penalties to a Gene for him not complying and Gene trying some shady tactics in the end. This was the start of Gene’s demise. He let his ego get in the way of business. The other sad aspect is Gene had difficulties producing parts, cause of many reasons to be discussed. He had all the films and molds needed, others who wanted to produce parts, but he wouldn’t play nice. The pinball community suffered in the end.

Thanks
Dougram

#46 14 days ago

Sorry. One correction to the post above. Didn’t mean to say Laughlin above. It wasn’t him. It was the ramps guy, Rick, who later sold to starship fantasy. Assuming this is the Rick at planetary but not sure. Gene just called him the ramps guy and at times Rick. Maybe someone could clear this up if it’s the same Rick.

Thanks

#47 14 days ago

Thank you for sharing your experiences Dougram.

#48 14 days ago
Quoted from dougram69:

Sorry. One correction to the post above. Didn’t mean to say Laughlin above. It wasn’t him. It was the ramps guy, Rick, who later sold to starship fantasy. Assuming this is the Rick at planetary but not sure. Gene just called him the ramps guy and at times Rick. Maybe someone could clear this up if it’s the same Rick.
Thanks

Pretty sure it's James Loflin at Pinball inc, not Rick. James sold the ramps to starship

#49 14 days ago

This is an awesome thread! Thanks to all knowledgeable participants for sharing the history.

12
#50 14 days ago
Quoted from Isochronic_Frost:

and moved about 2 hours to another hoard.

He invited you along yet never let you come over and play?!? What a tool

Hilton tends to get selective memory for reasons still unknown... Luckily he documents it on pinside so you can get the full story. He went with Tom (roc-noc) because Tom got the invite from Gene, and Hilton offered up free services to get to see the collection. Tom is a really good guy who wouldn't give anyone the short end of the stick.

Here is the original thread discussing the auction of the remaining IPB inventory-

https://pinside.com/pinball/forum/topic/180-pinball-machine-lot-50000?tq=&tu=Whysnow

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