(Topic ID: 271561)

Artifacts of Gene Cunningham/Illinois Pinball


By dudah

50 days ago



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#251 39 days ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

Kerry Stair with Mantis Amusement, James Loflin with Pinball Inc and Darin Jacobs with Phoenix Arcade. The three if them could write a book about dealing with Gene.

What were the names of the bearcave guys? That was something that always seemed to be some sort of unspoken thing... after their involvement with bbb blew up they seemed to disappear?

James seemed to go quiet after the legal fights started... and of course his selling of the ramp biz... but being back now, the closure of the legal fights, and genes death being a bit in the past now... hoping he would tell his full version. Kerry has been pretty tight lipped about it all once the project wrapped...

#252 39 days ago
Quoted from flynnibus:

What were the names of the bearcave guys? That was something that always seemed to be some sort of unspoken thing... after their involvement with bbb blew up they seemed to disappear?
James seemed to go quiet after the legal fights started... and of course his selling of the ramp biz... but being back now, the closure of the legal fights, and genes death being a bit in the past now... hoping he would tell his full version. Kerry has been pretty tight lipped about it all once the project wrapped...

Bob K. & Steve M

#253 39 days ago
Quoted from flynnibus:

“north amercian pinball parts alliance”... how that whole three way came together

OMG ... NAPPA !!

I had completely forgotten about that time. Memories get hazy.
In hearing those words again, I just remember bits and pieces. I recall us feeling snubbed, as CPR was not invited into NAPPA. When at the time, CPR was releasing more reproduction items than all NAPPA members - combined. And we were definitely in North America.

The "north" could have been dropped from the name. A little bit of it was kinda like a "MAGA in pinball" attitude. But even then, it wasn't *really* about geography.

It was a snub at Wayne Gillard at Mr.Pinball Australia, and anybody who made parts under Wayne's license, rather than Gene's. Gene didn't like people jumping ship, and switching to working with Wayne, to produce Bally/Williams items. So he came up with this "alliance" concept, under the theme of a type of patriotism thing - setting them apart from other producers who were thus 'foreign'. Appealing to domestic production, rather than overseas.

But CPR wasn't overseas. So it was more about labelling the IPB/Gene "family" of businesses that (at the time) still worked with Gene's license, and paid Gene a royalty. That's really all it was, regardless of the concept, or marketing. We knew that. Most knew that. But Gene ran with it anyway. He wanted to draw a line in the sand, for whatever reason, to distinguish "Wayne" producers from "IPB" producers.

I don't remember how long the "alliance" marketing lasted. But I don't think it lasted that long. I don't recall "NAPPA" doing or meaning much, as far as customers buying things, or the hobby itself caring. The hobby just wanted 'stuff' - playfields, plastics, glasses, ramps, etc. They didn't care much about where it came from, or whose license it fell under.

#254 39 days ago
Quoted from Mr68:

Another insightful question, Hilton.
I believe it did bother Gene.
Periodically over the last few years of his life, myself and others would get a phone call from Gene.
He had lost everything with the exception of his parents home that he and Georgie lived in and that house was small and run down. His calls were disguised as some type of purpose but really he wanted to talk about glory days or some fantasy scheme he had for a come back. But I could tell that his life had no direction, nothing for him to control and no one seeking his attention. He seemed desperate to be relevant again but I think he secretly knew it was over.
It's all very sad and I've reflected on that as a life lesson for my own failings as a person.

I didn’t know him and i really would like to know who he was (at the beginning of his pinball story). Distributor, employee in pinball industry ...?

#255 39 days ago
Quoted from flynnibus:

What were the names of the bearcave guys? That was something that always seemed to be some sort of unspoken thing... after their involvement with bbb blew up they seemed to disappear?

I only knew them as Bob and Steve. Never knew their last names. If I'm not mistaken, their day jobs were accountants. When they first started helping sell parts for Gene, things went pretty smoothly. By 2004 or 2005, they were getting difficult to deal with. Their communication was horrible. I think that may also be about the time they were helping Gene with BBB. Keep in mind, not only were they filling orders for individuals, but they were filling orders for vendors like Marco and others.

Purely speculation, but I can't help but think the parts selling gig started out simple enough. Gave them something to do in their spare time but I would imagine it didn't take long and it started blowing up and the demand on their time got to be too much. Hence the horrible communication towards the end.

#256 39 days ago
Quoted from colonel_caverne:

I didn’t know him and i really would like to know who he was (at the beginning of his pinball story). Distributor, employee in pinball industry ...?

Good question. Where did it all start for gene and pinball? Why pinball?

I know the guy was a hustler and always making deals in life, but how did he settle on pinball.

#257 39 days ago

TOPcast Show 11 - entire show (MP3 audio, 27meg, 68mins).
Tuesday show 3/06/07. Special guest Gene Cunningham of Illinois Pinball Company talks about his Williams/Bally pinball asset acquisition, parts parts parts, Capcom Big Bang Bar, Kingpin, and lots of other stuff.

http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_11.mp3

#258 39 days ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

Good question. Where did it all start for gene and pinball? Why pinball?
I know the guy was a hustler and always making deals in life, but how did he settle on pinball.

Get the skinny here.....

TOPcast Show 11 - entire show (MP3 audio, 27meg, 68mins).
Tuesday show 3/06/07. Special guest Gene Cunningham of Illinois Pinball Company talks about his Williams/Bally pinball asset acquisition, parts parts parts, Capcom Big Bang Bar, Kingpin, and lots of other stuff.

http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_11.mp3

#259 39 days ago

More info on the BBB production....

TOPcast Show 12 - entire show (MP3 audio, 24meg, 60mins).
Friday show 3/09/07. Special guest Kerry Stair. Kerry talks about his restoration work using cabinet silkscreening and other products, and how he helped set up the Big Bang Bar production line.

http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_12.mp3

#260 39 days ago

And more....

TOPcast Show 15 - entire show (MP3 audio, 21meg, 58mins).
Friday evening show 3/16/07. Special Guest James Loflin of Pinball Inc, maker of replacement pinball plastic ramps and other restoration products. Talks about how pinball ramps are made, and his relationship with Illinois Pinball.

http://www.pinrepair.com/topcast/topcast_15.mp3

#261 39 days ago
Quoted from colonel_caverne:

I didn’t know him and i really would like to know who he was (at the beginning of his pinball story). Distributor, employee in pinball industry ...?

He was a real estate investor and I can only speculate on his beginnings in pinball from snippets of conversations I had with him. While I mentioned that I never saw him play a game or talk about game play, I have little doubt that at one time he did play and most likely caught the bug the same way most of us did.

I think I first met Gene in 2005-2006? He was much older than me and I was an evolving newbie. The majority of his history was long before I came along so I'm a bit reluctant to talk about some things. Others must be better qualified than me.

I also know from our talks that he use to shop his games out and he was capable in doing repairs. One of the things he and I agreed on was shopping a game out in silence with no distractions. No TV, no music, just quiet and we each found that meditative in a sense.

That said, it's my belief that he quit doing all of those things many, many years before I met him (decades?) and he took his pinball direction into simple collecting/hoarding leading up to the Williams/Capcom deal.

#262 39 days ago
Quoted from KevinCPR:

So it was more about labelling the IPB/Gene "family" of businesses that (at the time) still worked with Gene's license, and paid Gene a royalty.

If it had been as simple as paying a royalty, NAPPA may have lasted longer. With most repro deals, the vendor makes let's say 100 items and would send maybe 20 of those items to the licensor, in this case Gene, as a royalty while the vendor was allowed to sell the other 80.

With Gene, it was kind of the other way around. Most of the items were sent to Gene. Gene would pay a wholesale price for the items, mark them up and sell them at a profit. Sounds like a win for everyone. Problem was, Gene didn't have to pay for the product until he sold it. It didn't take long for Gene's payments to be late and threats would start, then lawyers got involved and everything fell apart.

I was once told, Gene spent more on lawyer fees, in one particular case, then what he owed the vendor that was suing him. Gene loved his possessions but didn't seem to have any business sense at all.

#263 39 days ago
Quoted from KevinCPR:

It was a snub at Wayne Gillard at Mr.Pinball Australia, and anybody who made parts under Wayne's license, rather than Gene's. Gene didn't like people jumping ship, and switching to working with Wayne, to produce Bally/Williams items.

Does anyone know the true story about the Bally/William split license? Why Gene had half and Wayne the other half?
For years I've heard the rumors that Bally/Williams did this intentionally in an effort to sabatose pinball from being successful after they sold out.

But that story makes zero sense to me for a variety of reasons and it seems unlikely a large corporation would be motivated by such pettiness. I've never heard an alternative theory and I've always dismissed that one as Pinside/RGP gossip. There must be another reason was it was done this way.

#264 39 days ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

If it had been as simple as paying a royalty, NAPPA may have lasted longer. With most repro deals, the vendor makes let's say 100 items and would send maybe 20 of those items to the licensor, in this case Gene, as a royalty while the vendor was allowed to sell the other 80.
With Gene, it was kind of the other way around. Most of the items were sent to Gene. Gene would pay a wholesale price for the items, mark them up and sell them at a profit. Sounds like a win for everyone. Problem was, Gene didn't have to pay for the product until he sold it. It didn't take long for Gene's payments to be late and threats would start, then lawyers got involved and everything fell apart.
I was once told, Gene spent more on lawyer fees, in one particular case, then what he owed the vendor that was suing him. Gene loved his possessions but didn't seem to have any business sense at all.

From what I understood from Gene, he preferred working with third parties that would manufacture new spare parts. As a royalty, let's say 10%, Gene didn't ask for money, but he wanted 10% of the products made. So if someone was making 100 cabinet decal sets for a certain game, he had to send 10 sets to Gene, who would then be able to sell them. I found that an interesting concept.

#265 39 days ago
Quoted from Mr68:

But that story makes zero sense to me for a variety of reasons and it seems unlikely a large corporation would be motivated by such pettiness.

WMS Gaming is/was a publicly traded company and Neil Nicastro would have had his head served on a silver platter by the stockholders if a new owner made a go of the pinball division after the realization that more profit could be made by keeping the division intact instead of decapitating the operation and splitting it up so that it could never be put back together.

#266 39 days ago
Quoted from Ballypin:

WMS Gaming is/was a publicly traded company and Neil Nicastro would have had his head served on a silver platter by the stockholders if a new owner made a go of the pinball division after the realization that more profit could be made by keeping the division intact instead of decapitating the operation and splitting it up so that it could never be put back together.

Hence the reason things were sold to Gene? They knew he'd run things into the ground? I was aware at the time, of at least one other offer for roughly twice what Gene paid. It was not excepted.

#267 39 days ago
Quoted from unigroove:

From what I understood from Gene, he preferred working with third parties that would manufacture new spare parts. As a royalty, let's say 10%, Gene didn't ask for money, but he wanted 10% of the products made. So if someone was making 100 cabinet decal sets for a certain game, he had to send 10 sets to Gene, who would then be able to sell them. I found that an interesting concept.

That may have been what Gene told you but I'm aware of one vendor that had to sue Gene for into 6 figures, which is what Gene owed him at the time.

#268 39 days ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

I only knew them as Bob and Steve. Never knew their last names. If I'm not mistaken, their day jobs were accountants. When they first started helping sell parts for Gene, things went pretty smoothly. By 2004 or 2005, they were getting difficult to deal with. Their communication was horrible. I think that may also be about the time they were helping Gene with BBB. Keep in mind, not only were they filling orders for individuals, but they were filling orders for vendors like Marco and others.
Purely speculation, but I can't help but think the parts selling gig started out simple enough. Gave them something to do in their spare time but I would imagine it didn't take long and it started blowing up and the demand on their time got to be too much. Hence the horrible communication towards the end.

I purchased a few things from Bearcave back in the day and it always took weeks and multiple e-mails to get your item. One thing in paticular I remember was a NOS EATPM translite, must have taken at least 2 months. Reading here that they would take orders, then head over to Gene to find the parts, it makes sense why it always took so damn long, I never knew that. I eventually stopped ordering from them even if they had something I wanted, simply because it became such a pain in the ass.

This thread is funny because the newer Pinside crowd has no clue how nutty this hobby was during the 2000's. Lots of crazy personalities and parts drama, nothing like it is today.

16
#269 39 days ago
Quoted from unigroove:

From what I understood from Gene, he preferred working with third parties that would manufacture new spare parts. As a royalty, let's say 10%, Gene didn't ask for money, but he wanted 10% of the products made. So if someone was making 100 cabinet decal sets for a certain game, he had to send 10 sets to Gene, who would then be able to sell them. I found that an interesting concept.

Sounds good on paper, but it rarely ever worked that way. Gene would figure out a way to f**k you if he could, and he never stopped trying. Even as far back as 2002 it didn't take much digging to find out Gene was not someone you wanted to do business with, be partners with, or make handshake deals with.

When I first started considering pursuing PBL as a full time occupation in 2002, the first thing I needed to establish in my mind was whether or not it was 100% doable without the involvelment of IPB/Gene. Was there enough meat left on the bone after removing playfields, cabinet decals, plastic sets, translites, patented parts (which have all since expired), etc.? I decided there was, simply because the common *boring* parts that actually made machines operate were largely being ignored. So my focus became that, and largely still is today.

If Gene ever managed to make any parts (and he made precious few for the first 5 years or more), it was always highly visible *brag* parts like cabinet decals, playfield plastic sets, or the like. He rarely, if ever, manufactured things like a flipper pawl, a rod and ring assembly, rubber rings, leg bolts, etc. Where was the glory in that? Gene wanted attention, respect, and adoration. Would a V-crank assembly bring him that? No.

#270 39 days ago
Quoted from unigroove:

From what I understood from Gene, he preferred working with third parties that would manufacture new spare parts. As a royalty, let's say 10%, Gene didn't ask for money, but he wanted 10% of the products made. So if someone was making 100 cabinet decal sets for a certain game, he had to send 10 sets to Gene, who would then be able to sell them. I found that an interesting concept.

So did the irs it seems...

Sounds like a classic approach to getting stuff with fuzzy values, records, etc

10
#271 39 days ago
Quoted from Skeets:

Lots of crazy personalities and parts drama, nothing like it is today.

Instead they follow podcasters as prophets... ones without any clue ... sad isn’t ?

#272 39 days ago
Quoted from Bryan_Kelly:

I'd like to think there's something good in everyone, but it's hard to say that about Gene. The man just seemed to want to screw every and anyone he dealt with.
Some say he was such a wonderful guy to be able to make BBB and he must have lost thousands doing so. I call bullshit. I've talked with some who were involved in the process and they say it wasn't anywhere close to as bad as Gene claimed. And most of why it cost him extra was because of himself. He took for granted he could just go to suppliers and they would make him the parts he needed. With some he could but with some others, they basically told him to go fly a kite. They may have told him to go do something else to himself, but I'm trying to be polite. They knew of his reputation and refused to work with him no matter what he was willing to pay.
Here's another story, if you really want to know what the guy was like. Once Gene had most of the BBB parts he needed, he was ready to start assembly. Problem is, he had no idea how to do that. He then hired a very prominent individual in the pinball community to help with this. This guy set up various assembly stations and told Gene he would hang around and help until 10 games were made. In return, this individual was to get a BBB for free. I forget the exact details, but after 8 or so were made, Gene told him he wasn't needed anymore. When asked about the free BBB, Gene said sorry, you only helped with 8 not 10. This individual did eventually get a game at maybe half the cost.
And trust me, this individual isn't the only one to get screwed by Gene while making BBB.

True story. There were so many moving pieces with everything involved with Gene and BBB. "It takes a village" is true when it came to production and even then it nearly didn't happen. And when you evict some people from that village, burn bridges, etc. it only makes the job more difficult.

flyingpig (resized).jpg
#273 39 days ago
Quoted from pinballlife:

If Gene ever managed to make any parts (and he made precious few for the first 5 years or more), it was always highly visible *brag* parts like cabinet decals, playfield plastic sets, or the like. He rarely, if ever, manufactured things like a flipper pawl, a rod and ring assembly, rubber rings, leg bolts, etc. Where was the glory in that? Gene wanted attention, respect, and adoration. Would a V-crank assembly bring him that? No.

Agree!

I always stayed away from ordering from them because i knew it was this people chain of “maybes...” hunts... time... i’d see ipb and mikeP at allentown... but that was enough contact for me to see what those two groups could possibly do.

Luckily for me in those years i didnt have big need for parts as my games were complete and I wasn’t refurbing stuff. When marco opened their e-commerce site with photos of most parts that was game changer... and when you started it was a great addition as you had the great products, great prices, and your amazing personal involvement in any question or concern. I always turned to pbl if it was kit you carried.

Looking back now, and the photos, ipb looks far more organized than i even thought they were. It seemed like at the time they didnt have a clue what they had... just you could make a request and theyd go hunt. Maybe they had no real inventory stuff.... but at least it’s organized on shelves and maybe separated

#274 39 days ago

This whole thread is amazing. Thanks to those of you who were close to the situation for sharing your thoughts - fuzzy memories or not. I've been in the hobby since the mid-90s and was a sideline spectator of the whole BBB/ IPB situation. Reading these stories about the BBB announcement, the WMS licensing fiasco, Mr. Pinball, etc. etc. is really bringing back some memories. Those were crazy times in the hobby.

My small add to this is that I acquired a BBB some years ago which was missing the manual and the engraved plate with the game number. I called IBP am pretty sure I talked with Kim about getting replacements. We talked for about 20 minutes and I remember her being really happy to know where my game had landed. She said they kind of considered the BBB games their kids (her words) and were always wondering where they were in the world. They had their engraver make me a new plate and I got a copy of the usual, photo-copied manual that everyone else originally got with their game (for a price, of course).

I only met Gene once at an early Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown but honestly don't remember much about our conversation. I think this was after BBB and possibly when there was talk about Kingpin. I asked him about KP pre-orders and he said they were working on getting parts reproduced, etc. but were not ready to start taking any orders yet.

Keep the stories coming everyone. This is great stuff.

#275 39 days ago
Quoted from Ballypin:

WMS Gaming is/was a publicly traded company and Neil Nicastro would have had his head served on a silver platter by the stockholders if a new owner made a go of the pinball division after the realization that more profit could be made by keeping the division intact instead of decapitating the operation and splitting it up so that it could never be put back together.

I don't wish to be seem argumentative but that is exactly the rumor I was talking about. WMS Gaming has and still generates income from the licensor, now Planetary Pinball, and only their success would continue that money stream. And to your point about never putting the licence back together, Planetary has done just that and fairly simply.

Sorry but it just doesn't make sense and I highly doubt that Neil Nicastro has ever indicated those were his reasons.

#276 39 days ago
Quoted from unigroove:

From what I understood from Gene, he preferred working with third parties that would manufacture new spare parts. As a royalty, let's say 10%, Gene didn't ask for money, but he wanted 10% of the products made. So if someone was making 100 cabinet decal sets for a certain game, he had to send 10 sets to Gene, who would then be able to sell them. I found that an interesting concept.

If anyone at a show saw Chris selling parts for Illinois Pinball, it nearly cost him to do so. His commission was so small, it was only worth his time to help others, which he did for some time. Gene wanted to cycle-count the inventory piece-by-piece. Chris had the idea if they knew the weight of a part, let's say a bracket, they could grab a box to throw on a scale and determine how many they had. Gene was too cheap to buy a scale to do this, so I believe Chris did himself.

#277 39 days ago
Quoted from flynnibus:

It seemed like at the time they didnt have a clue what they had... just you could make a request and theyd go hunt. Maybe they had no real inventory stuff.... but at least it’s organized on shelves and maybe separated

They had no website until ~2005 (my memory for exact years has never been good, so someone please clarify it they remember the year better than I). IPB sold through distributors; first only Bearcave (IIRC), then after that venture fell apart reselling went to places such as Mazzco, Marco, BAA, etc. Gene dropped by my house unannounced at some point wanting to make one of his hand shake deals concerning the reselling of his parts and I politely told him that this was not part of my business plan. I had seen way too many of his dealings end in tears.

When the IPB website did finally appear, it was very rushed and thrown together looking (uh, that horrible welcome page with the pinball sounds). Most parts didn't have a picture or a description. My two favorite categories were *Metal Parts* and *More Metal Parts*. Classic.

#278 39 days ago
Quoted from RandyV:

This whole thread is amazing. Thanks to those of you who were close to the situation for sharing your thoughts - fuzzy memories or not. I've been in the hobby since the mid-90s and was a sideline spectator of the whole BBB/ IPB situation. Reading these stories about the BBB announcement, the WMS licensing fiasco, Mr. Pinball, etc. etc. is really bringing back some memories. Those were crazy times in the hobby.
My small add to this is that I acquired a BBB some years ago which was missing the manual and the engraved plate with the game number. I called IBP am pretty sure I talked with Kim about getting replacements. We talked for about 20 minutes and I remember her being really happy to know where my game had landed. She said they kind of considered the BBB games their kids (her words) and were always wondering where they were in the world. They had their engraver make me a new plate and I got a copy of the usual, photo-copied manual that everyone else originally got with their game (for a price, of course).
I only met Gene once at an early Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown but honestly don't remember much about our conversation. I think this was after BBB and possibly when there was talk about Kingpin. I asked him about KP pre-orders and he said they were working on getting parts reproduced, etc. but were not ready to start taking any orders yet.
Keep the stories coming everyone. This is great stuff.

BBB #25 ?

#279 39 days ago
Quoted from pinballlife:

When the IPB website did finally appear, it was very rushed and thrown together looking (uh, that horrible welcome page with the pinball sounds). Most parts didn't have a picture or a description. My two favorite categories were *Metal Parts* and *More Metal Parts*. Classic.

The website was a joke and even the phone ordering service was bad. It was easier for me to drive 13 hours from Colorado to Bloomington and pick through their warehouse. Which was disorganised and they didn't even know where stuff was. But I always enjoyed road trips and Easter Egg hunts.

#280 39 days ago
Quoted from Mr68:

The website was a joke and even the phone ordering service was bad. .

LOL I had forgotten about that. If I remember correctly, you wanted to call before noon? It seems Kim did a lot of the parts picking in the afternoon?

Funny thing is, Kim was aware of how pissed people were. She followed that on RGP. Yet every time you were able to get through, it would be a 20 minute conversation. Two minutes to place your order or ask questions and the remaining eighteen minutes was her telling you about how her day or week was going.

#281 39 days ago

Yep. Assume you were the original owner that put the Capcom coin door on it? I think we emailed when I first got the machine ...

#282 39 days ago
Quoted from RandyV:

Yep. Assume you were the original owner that put the Capcom coin door on it? I think we emailed when I first got the machine ...

No. I never owned it. I went to a pinball party and saw a #25 engraved plate hanging on the wall.

#283 39 days ago
Quoted from Mr68:

Periodically over the last few years of his life, myself and others would get a phone call from Gene.
He had lost everything with the exception of his parents home that he and Georgie lived in and that house was small and run down. His calls were disguised as some type of purpose but really he wanted to talk about glory days or some fantasy scheme he had for a come back. But I could tell that his life had no direction, nothing for him to control and no one seeking his attention. He seemed desperate to be relevant again but I think he secretly knew it was over.

It's all very sad and I've reflected on that as a life lesson for my own failings as a person.

I remember you telling me about one of those phone calls when I showed up to buy CV. Sad Story.

#284 39 days ago
Quoted from Skeets:

I purchased a few things from Bearcave back in the day and it always took weeks and multiple e-mails to get your item. One thing in paticular I remember was a NOS EATPM translite, must have taken at least 2 months. Reading here that they would take orders, then head over to Gene to find the parts, it makes sense why it always took so damn long, I never knew that. I eventually stopped ordering from them even if they had something I wanted, simply because it became such a pain in the ass.
This thread is funny because the newer Pinside crowd has no clue how nutty this hobby was during the 2000's. Lots of crazy personalities and parts drama, nothing like it is today.

Yeah, I quit ordering from them too. And Gene would only fill orders for distributors once a month (if I remember correctly), which definitely caused delays in getting parts.

12
#285 38 days ago
Quoted from colonel_caverne:

I didn’t know him and i really would like to know who he was (at the beginning of his pinball story). Distributor, employee in pinball industry ...?

Quoted from Whysnow:

Good question. Where did it all start for gene and pinball? Why pinball?

Best answer I can find is in this excellent Polygon article by Brian Crecente: https://www.polygon.com/features/2017/3/21/14937540/history-of-big-bang-bar-pinball

Cunningham's interest in pinball started when he was a kid, he says, but it didn't become a serious thing until he owned the skating rink.

Like a lot of rinks, Cunningham had a company providing games for his business. One day, the vending machine people came out to switch out a few of the games and he asked them what they'd be doing with the pinballs they were taking out. They said they would fix them up and sell them.

"I said, 'Well just take them to my house,'" he tells me. "Next thing they did was take the jukebox. I said the same thing, 'Bring the jukebox to my house.' So I had two pinball machines and a jukebox. That went on. Every time they would change one, I would buy it or go over to their shop and buy it, so I got up to six or seven of them. I don't remember the exact count."

Over time, Cunningham began to develop particular tastes in pinball and soon found himself collecting them, then attending auctions, first in Indianapolis and then all over the country.

Very well researched article, with good old fashioned boots on the ground journalism. Not a quick read, but worth every minute.

#286 38 days ago

This thread should be a mandatory read for new pinsiders wanting a history lesson of the 2000s period in pinball.
This whole Gene et al history is like peeling an onion - lots and lots of layers.

#287 38 days ago
Quoted from DennisK:

I don't have any direct Gene Cunningham stories to tell. However, I will pass on a couple that Keith Johnson shared during the charity stream Special When Lit ran a few months ago as they were pretty entertaining and I've not seen them mentioned in this thread.

Saved me from typing it up, thanks!

#288 38 days ago

Fantastic article.

#289 38 days ago
Quoted from pinballlife:

They had no website until ~2005 (my memory for exact years has never been good, so someone please clarify it they remember the year better than I).

Looking at my records, my first order from Pinball Life was October 26, 2005. Flasher bulbs, Novus and yellow post sleeves.

Those years when Gene and then Wayno had any control over parts supply were some dark years for sure. Thanks so much for Pinball Life. As you mentioned, it allowed us to at least keep the games going whether the cabinets were faded or they needed new plastics or translites or not!

#290 38 days ago

In episode 59 of the Head2Head Pinball Podcast Wayne Gillard talks about how he struck the deal -> http://www.head2headpinball.com/2018/09/11/episode-59-wayne-gillard-pinball-distributor-and-millionaire/

#291 38 days ago
Quoted from ausretrogamer:

This thread should be a mandatory read for new pinsiders wanting a history lesson of the 2000s period in pinball.
This whole Gene et al history is like peeling an onion - lots and lots of layers.

No kidding... I left the hobby in 1996. Actually it was more of a business at the time for me, as I ran a small arcade. I didn’t come back until 2014. I completely missed the fall of Williams and the Gene saga. This thread has been very educational.

26
#292 38 days ago

Next Entry

I will try and clear up some things because I feel enough time has passed and I can say these thing with a clear conscience. Will try and touch base on some common threads / questions above.

Williams Inventory
Gene got a ton of highly desirable parts in the Williams parts purchase. In addition to the parts received at delivery, Gene showed up at Bloomington one day with four added pallets of parts. These pallets contained lots of highly desirable game specific parts. According to Gene, this had something to do with finding additional warehouses and parts inventories from manufacturers who wanted the stuff out of their way. Gene elaborates some on the podcasts previously posted. Anyway, my point being that at one time, stuff just started showing up. One example is when Gene bought TAG. After Gene bought TAG, he got a lot of the tooling, and paint equipment to produce playfields, etc. A stack of playfields showed up one day on a dolly cart. (Cart you use to move a fridge or a couch.) Kim says to me and my brother, can you look through this and tell me which playfields look good and which can be sold right away. We dig in.
Top of stack has about 25 NOS TOM playfields. OMG.
Next stack of 20 are NOS T2 playfields. (15 are perfect / 5 have some registration issues but very slight.) OMG
Last 10, were RFM playfields. All perfect. Sweet.

The weekend of the parts move, I couldn’t come back and stay all day Sunday. In addition some of the inventory process occurred during the following weeks. Took some time to get everything unpacked. Upon going back and helping throughout this process, I ran into the following cool stuff / OMG moments.

Walking near the pinball legs one day I see a stack of white plastic headers, a stack of decals, and a shiny NOS Whitewater header!!!!!! I nearly shit myself. There was a stack of white bare plastic WWH2O headers. (20) Next to them was a stack of NOS WWH2O header decals. They came on a thick cardboard stock, with a perforated edge. Peel and stick the cardboard decal onto the header. These were the subcomponents to make the header. Next to that was about 5 or 6 completed headers, mint, perfect NOS. I put this in memory because I had recently purchased a routed WWH2O that needed this. I was away for a week. When I got back to Bloomington, they were mostly gone. All went to one distributor. Not sure who. I was able to get one of the last ones before they were gone. Oh man.

I’m digging in overstock one day. Overstock were the parts sub-assemblies that went out to companies and came back with something added to complete to the assembly. Painted artwork, airbrushing, assembly required. Boxes were all sealed up with shipping tape. Kim says see what’s over there that we can sell. I open a box with four NOS Scared Stiff aprons. Prototypes from what I am told. Artwork was different. Open another box and four NOS Monster Bash aprons. Another box, Fishtales mini playfields. (Boat) Another box, WWH2O mini playfields. Another box, NOS Borg ships. Another box, Boom Balloon assemblies. Another box, JY car wall assemblies. One real long box, NOS NBA Fast Break linked games Header, small board and wiring kit to link up two NBAFB games and play against each other. Another day I find NOS TZ clock boards bare. Cherry DMD displays in anti static wrap up the wazoo. I told Kim they have a shelf life and should be sold right away. They sat.

Ok, my point being is that most of these highly desirable parts went to the big distributors spending lost of cash with IPB. Individuals, or small distributors didn’t have a chance. If you were lucky and could talk to Kim and they knew they had something in stock, they would sell it to you. Or if the BC guys could get it and sell it to you, you got it. It was literally like trying the lottery any time you called. Hit or miss. But when you hit, it was big. The added problem is that Kim was running parts, but was getting pulled in many different directions. Gene says he let her run this division, but you have to know that Kim had to justify about every move she made to Gene. He was on top of her at all times, inserting his opinion and telling her to do things differently. Lots of moving targets, attempts at reproducing parts, and Kim had to be the quality control person for parts that came in. This was a daunting task. If she missed something, people screamed then Gene screamed. In addition, when you found something wrong, you got screamed at. Why didn’t you catch this in production? Send it out as is. Kim all the time trying to satisfy collectors high standards. (Example, TAF playfields are run. No one notices the red rug pattern screen is missing. Hundreds of playfields screened and clearcoated.) Now what. OMG there was a lot of yelling for a week.

Backstory of the Bear Cave guys. As the BC guys started to insert themselves into the mix, I had started removing myself from helping IPB. At that time I wasn’t there in any frequency, had less and less time as my family grew, and the vibe was getting bad. The BC guys had an accounting background but were heavy into the pinball hobby. I think they lived in Saint Louis MO. One of the guys got friendly with Kim, and suggested they work and help Kim going forward. They stayed at one of Gene’s slums while they were there. They were there a week or two on, then went back home for a week. So they were on and off. Probably why it took them lots of time to get parts back to anyone. Once they got themselves in place, I got a real strange vibe from them. Maybe it was me being too sensitive, but I felt like they were pissed I was there. They didn’t seem to like it when I cam down to help Kim with her projects. They were also real interested on my compensation structure. Later on I found out their relationship with IPB was terminated. I heard from Kim and Gene some of that story. Since it is hearsay, leave it be that they were promised an exclusive distributorship with IPB, and the terms of this didn’t work out. They say one thing, Gene says something else. Didn’t work out.

At this time BBB was getting up and running. I did see lots of BBB parts in the added on area connected to the parts wearhouse. Gene and Kerry do a good job of explain that whole thing in the podcast. I did know Kerry prior to him going down there from the Chicago scene, and was glad he went. Please don’t forget that his friend Brian also went down there and did a lot of the process work too. He buddied around with Kerry a lot and was a super nice guy. I really liked him. Used to see him at shows and such. Don’t recall his last name but pics of them out there while building BBB.

Thanks
Dougram

#293 38 days ago

Gene bought what was left of TAG a company Williams owned that made playfields, Williams was still finding pinball parts almost 10 years after they closed, we were told come and get them or they were going to the tip.

Some were tooling we didn't work out what part the tool made and others were parts like blank non populated circuit boards etc.

Gene paid $300k for 300 pallets of parts from Williams

#294 38 days ago

Great info on the TAG acquisition there dougram69. It sounds like Gene got the lion's share of Williams inventory.

52
#295 38 days ago
Quoted from dougram69:

TAF playfields are run. No one notices the red rug pattern screen is missing. Hundreds of playfields screened and clearcoated. Now what.

Yikes. This hits the gut hard. In hearing of this error, I can reveal EXACTLY what happened to them - and how easily that error was made.

Since we ran hundreds of TAF playfields a few years ago, I have first-hand experience using the original films (the exact films Gene owned). Side note, the TAF films came to us from PPS, where PPS had gotten them in the IPB estate. Just so people understand the provenance...

Anyway, I feel bad for the silkscreener that Gene had outsourced to. I'm sure Gene simply gave them a stack of woods, the TAF film positives, and said "silkscreen that artwork onto these boards". One may think it would be easy as that. But it's never that easy. Even if you have the complete stack of original film positives, and follow the Pantone colors noted on each layer... there is a little more to it than that, when it comes to TAF.

This is where some intimacy with the project is required. That poor screener didn't stand a chance. He did exactly as he was told - and that is where the error comes from. You have to know how the Addams Family playfield is supposed to turn out - and why it looks the way it does. Gene dropped the ball in simply handing over woods and films. So unfortunately Gene got the predictable results I would expect, knowing the structure of that artwork.

So what happened?

Nobody missed a screen. A film wasn't missing. Nobody forgot anything. The screener printed everything correctly. I know this is true.

BUT - the way Williams made the TAF layout - there was a distinct layering "trick" in play... that you'd have to recognise and know about in advance. It's not noted on the films. This is why you have to be intimate with the final look beforehand, to know what you were trying to achieve.

The trick with the rug pattern is that it's not a discrete layer. Wrap your mind around this -> All of those botched playfields DID have the rug pattern! The problem was, the flowery pattern was hidden under the red layer. So the actual ink was there... and the screener did his job... but the final look was wrong.

HOW !! ??? (Pic below)

The key is that the red layer HAS TO be about 20% see-thru. BAM.

Without that - the playfield is going to have a failed print. There had to be a level of transparency in the mix of the red ink (couldn't be standard opaque). The film for red simply says "Pantone 200C" ... but it says nothing about opacity. Yikes.

The rug pattern is part of the DARK BLUE layer. All those little flowers go down when the dark blue screen is printed (which comes before red, in the sequence). Then when red comes, the red rug ink goes down OVER TOP of those dark blue flowers... and voila... you can see the muted flowers in the red ink. It looks like another off-red color was used... but no... Williams didn't add another screen to the layout... they utilized what they already had... saving a whole screen.

And get this -> the rug pattern isn't the only thing on that playfield that used that trick. Yikes. There are shadowing effects in *several* more places in the red layer. Look at the "GREED" book. There are dark blue patches hidden under the red there too... giving depth/contour effects to the binding of the book. So if Gene's playfields didn't have the rug pattern... that means they were also missing all the shadowing effects all over the playfield too. So it was more than just a rug pattern problem.

So the poor screener did the printing with normal all-opaque inks (I mean, they wouldn't have known) - and Gene got exactly what he told them to do. I can only imagine the tussle when it came to paying the bill. I'm sure Gene fought tooth and nail... might have even gotten the job for free (refused to pay?). When it wasn't the fault of the silkscreener at all.

Sorry if this may be off-topic in this thread. I just read the TAF PF anecdote and cringed "I know EXACTLY how that f*cked up" heehee

Layering tricks on the TAF playfield

10
#296 38 days ago
Quoted from KevinCPR:

Yikes. This hits the gut hard.

Fascinating! Thank you for posting this.

#297 38 days ago

Imagine this, again from a consumer point of view. It's the mid 2000's. Parts are nearly impossible to find except for like eBay. Say you needed 1 broken playfield plastic, for sure this was going to cost like $50 for 1 dumb plastic, but you'd pay it because it was a miracle you found the part you needed. Then it gets revealed that IPB has this HUGE stockpile of parts. Finally. Parts will be plentiful So what happens? You hear that containers full of parts are being shipped...to Australia. WTF.

18
#298 38 days ago

Ahhh... a breath of fresh air. This is what the hobby used to be. People sharing insights, help, howto... leads etc. Not the biggest noise being about rankings, loud mouths, and narcissistic insignificant people.

Keep it coming!

Now i need to go back and listen to some of these offbeat podcasts

#299 38 days ago
Quoted from Whysnow:

attempt 1 for first video

It seems that your videos put to private. It would be very great to put to them back public!

#300 38 days ago

Did anyone made some photos and videos from the Pinball 2000 Playboy?

And the „third“ whitewood for testing purposes.

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