Obsessive Nostalgia Disorder Monday: ShowBiz Pizza Place

I was 6 once. Or did I turn 7 here? I'm not even sure.

Happy Monday, good readers!  I hope all of my Halloweeny buddies had a safe and fabulous Halloween. Saturday, All Hallows Day, was Little Sis's birthday, although we won't have a party until this coming Saturday. Instead, we went to a little boy's sixth birthday at Chuck E. Cheese's

If you aren't familiar with Chuck E. Cheese's, it's a themed pizza restaurant featuring animal robots and video screens, where the kids can run around and play games for a token per game, winning tickets to exchange for cheap prizes. The girls usually have a blast, but every time I step into a Chuck E. Cheese's, I cannot help but remember its predecessor, ShowBiz Pizza Place.

ShowBiz Pizza Place was originally Chuck E. Cheese's main competitor, and while it eventually bought out Chuck E. Cheese's, it was the Chuck E. characters and less elaborate staging that won out.

ShowBiz was bigger and better. Its main star was Billy Bob, the big band was called the Rock-Afire Explosion, and when you had a birthday party there, you were given an actual record album, or in my sister's case a couple years later, a 45 single.

Yep, still have it!

They always had those infamous ball pits to play in, too. I had a couple of birthday parties there in the '80s, my sister had one (where she cried, cried, cried - Billy Bob scared her!), we attended a few others, and sometimes, my dad would take us there just for fun. I had a stuffed Billy Bob (that, sadly, is no more) that an uncle bought me at an Oklahoma City location. The pizza was nothing to write home about, but my sister and I have very fond memories of ShowBiz.  Although we had outgrown it, we were sad when the Wichita locations closed. By the time my little brother was five or so, we had our Chuck E. Cheese's. He had a birthday party there, but it was clearly not the same.

A few years ago, when we first got Hulu Plus, Mr. B and I watched a documentary about ShowBiz Pizza and the creator of the original animatronic characters, called The Rock-Afire Explosion. My husband did not grow up near a ShowBiz, so he has no memories of the place, but even he found the film interesting, and in the end, a little sad. You can read the synopsis here.

It is no longer on Hulu, but you can rent it through Amazon Instant, or there's a link through the website. Here's the trailer:

Spin did an article about the ShowBiz superfan who purchased a band from the original creator and set it up in his shed. There are videos on YouTube of the Rock-Afire Explosion performing newer songs.

The band has also made appearances in some official music videos.

Thanks, internet, for keeping my fuzzy memories well-fed.

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  1. Thank you for this interesting travel to the past! I did not know the history behind Chuck E. Cheese. I have been there for a few birthday party for my son's friends. I think the ShowBizz Pizza Place seems a lot better. I wonder sometimes why great places go out of business. I think sometimes it's not that it was not successful but because of bad financial management.

    1. Well, according to the documentary, the man who created the ShowBiz animatronic characters did not want to sell the rights to the ShowBiz company, so the ShowBiz company, having just bought Chuck E. Cheese's, switched the remaining ShowBizzes to Chuck E. Cheese. ShowBiz Pizza Places were bigger and better, though. Loved getting to go as a kid.

  2. I loved show biz pizza!! loved. and you're right, chuck e. cheese is a sad substitution.

    1. It really isn't the same. It's smaller, the animatronic characters aren't as cool...


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