Lucky Ju Ju, 713 Santa Clara Avenue,
Alameda, CA 94501, USA.
Report by Ron Chan
Date: July 2009
||The Pacific Pinball Museum/Lucky JuJu
An Arcade, Museum and Art Gallery
All Rolled Into One.
Like many people starting in pinball,
I immediately fell in love and lust
with '90s Williams and Bally titles.
Then the curse / blessing of Pinball
Multiplicity Syndrome struck me,
where after one Twilight Zone came
in rapid succession two more pinball
machines - Tales of Arabian Nights
and a Circus Voltaire; which
exponentially grew to four more
titles with Medieval Madness, Attack
|from Mars, Monster Bash and a Stern NASCAR to follow my need for more
speed. Buy an EM? You have to be kidding – they were slow, boring,
simple and to be ignored. Yep, I had become a DMD snob.
After two years of pretty
much playing just solid-state
and DMD games at shows
and friends’ homes, I was
invited to the Lucky JuJu
Pinball and Art Gallery at the
Pacific Pinball Museum in
there three epiphanies’
occurred… of sound, sight
First, I fell in
love with the sweet sound of chimes and bells. Second, Roy Parker and George Molentin’s classic artwork
Welcome to the Pacific Pinball Museum / Lucky
JuJu – Ron Chan and Dan Fontes
| impressed me with their sophistication through simplicity. Third, I
One of the few rules at the Pacific Pinball
before the great '90s designs by Ritchie, Lawlor and
Gomez, pinball celebrated the Golden Age of Pinball with Neyens, Williams and
Krynsky. At the Pacific Pinball
Museum, I had my first real
opportunity to play such a
wide selection of games.
I could not believe the Lucky
JuJu had been in operation for
7 years without me hearing
about them. What makes this
place so special?
The United Sky Raider gun game (1958) mural captures
that the 50’s fascination with space and women in short
dresses to hold a young man’s attention … and their
dimes. A 1962 Bally Spinner, a 1961 Metro owned by
the late pinball historian Russ Jenson, a 1947 Humpty
Dumpty which was first game to feature flippers the and
1957 Circus -one of the first multiball game’s- are just a
few of the historical machines in this room. Unique
machines like Hellacopters and the Visible Pin make this
one of my favorite rooms at the Museum
First off, the location.
is not on the main drag
but rather behind it,
giving it a speakeasy
feeling. That all
changes the minute
you walk in and are
greeted by the owner,
Michael Schiess or
one of the regular
staff, Jem Gruber,
John Briggs, Dan
Fontes, Julie Lucchesi
or Melissa Harmon.
This is the antithesis to
the spooky unfriendly
arcades of yesteryear
where a grouchy
attendant with an
attitude would grumpily
give you change and
tell you not to spit on
the floor or put
cigarettes on the machines.
And the sounds… when in full bloom, the glorious cacophony of chimes,
bells and knockers emanate from the JuJu’s main room, where nothing but
EMs from the mid '60s to '70s are allowed. The machines rotate a lot from
their stock of over 700 but you will usually find at least four wedgeheads,
a Wizard and other Bally’s, a few Williams and some of the best of the
European offerings like Recel, Segasa and Zaccaria.
awesomeness of everyone playing old pins in a room with the Jukebox
blaring out “Wild Thing” by the Troggs just can’t fail to put a smile on your
face. Besides being a great date place and for families, the JuJu serves its
purpose by spreading the pinball love, furthering its preservation.
Where else can you
find in one place 80
years of pinball from
the flipperless Metro, to
Humpty Dumpty the
first game to feature the
flipper, to custom one
of a kind creations like
Hellacopters and the
a dazzling shock to my
senses to see all these
together in a funky laid
back place filled with
lava lamps and a sign
on the wall that says, “No Farting”.
The Electro-Mechanical Room focuses on games
from the 60’s two-inch flipper games like Fireball
and the great 70’s games, including EM favorites El
Dorado, Wizard and Captain Fantastic. Music from
the jukebox fills the EM room, which also includes a
Majorette’s wall mural.
|Besides the EM main room, there are three other rooms, each with machines from a
The Museum Room, which is primarily '30s to '50s; the Solid State Room
with late '70s to '80s
numeric displays; and the
DMD Room being dot
matrix display games.
The last room has an Addams
Family and a Twilight Zone,
two of the most popular
games ever made.
wasn’t enough, the most
amazing feat; they all
worked and were clean!
The Solid State Room
To top it off, in every room there is a backglass mural on the wall. 2001,
Majorettes, Sky Raiders, Scuba and my favorite; Double Up. These are
hand painted 8x10 feet by mural artists Dan Fontes and Ed Cassel. They are
amazing to behold!
“The idea of pinball pinup
photography was born out
of a desire to juxtapose the
images of the idealized
women used as adolescent
male bait on the back
glasses of pinball machines
with the genuine McCoy
posed with the machines.
At the same time, it is a
way to pay tribute and
homage to multiple forms
of Americana simultaneously. The
relationship of pinball and
pop art is fundamentally
intertwined and should not
be isolated in appreciation”.
Jem Gruber, 2009
Besides pinball, the Lucky JuJu crew also
presents a new art show each month. These
attract a different crowd with each new show
spreading pinball love even further. Previous
art show subjects vary from retro toys, vintage
playfields and backglasses, custom guitars
and photographs. My personal favorite is the
showing “Pinball Pinup Girls”, by Jem Gruber.
A coming attraction at the art gallery is Steve
Ritchie's "Pinball Design as Art" which starts
November 2009. The exhibit chronicles
Steve's three-decade career as a pinball
designer working for Atari Games,
Williams/Bally/Midway, and Stern Pinball.
Steve will display historical mementos and art
pieces he created from designs ranging from
his early 70's games to drawings of his never-released
On the business end, the Lucky JuJu works
with a paid admission, all machines are then set on
A flat $10 fee allows you to play any
pinball machine or jukebox.
pinball at one price makes this cheap
entertainment, but it takes away from the total
pinball experience, as games won are now
worthless. I miss the adrenalin rush of hearing
the sweet sound of a knocker "pop" awarding a
However, not being a good player, I like the free play model as it allows me to experiment with shots and
really getting to know a game without costing me a bundle.
The museum’s lineup rotates regularly from over 700 machines from their
inventory,which includes its recent
acquisition of every single-player woodrail
pinball machine manufactured by the
Gottlieb Company of Chicago from 1945
through 1961 from pinball historian and
collector Gordon Hasse. Even Gottlieb Co.
itself did not retain a collection as
Right now, the current lineup of EM games
is quite unusual as it is composed of a
special exhibit honoring the backglass
artwork of Christian Marche. Marche, who
passed away December 2008, is
responsible for an incredible portfolio of
150 backglass art ranging from his “pointy
people” angular art to the more realistic
portrayals on Bow and Arrow. His career
spanned over 11 years working for Bally,
The Visible Pin project started
as most do; out of necessity.
Michael Scheiss was teaching
classes in Interactive Kinetic Art
(pinball) and I had to show
students what was happening
inside the machine while it was
running. It was difficult to prop
the playfield up and trigger
various switches on the
playfield to simulate play.
The first thought was a clear
window on the side would be
nice but it seemed so “hacked”
so he then thought of making a
totally see- through machine.
That way you could see the
mechanical board and the
scoring in the head.
A Gottlieb “Surf Champ” was
chosen because it had almost
every feature you could want on
a '70s Electro Mechanical Pin;
Spinner, Bumper, Drop Targets,
Rollovers, Slingshots, Kickout
Hole, Bonus, Extra Ball and
Specials. In addition to that, it is
a very fun and challenging
game with nice graphics and
The Visible Pin took more than
a year from inception to
creation. Since its release, the
Visible Pin has won Blue
Ribbon awards at the 2009
Maker Faire and featured at the
Bedford Gallery’s “Illuminated
Sculptures” exhibition. It is a
prime example of how pinball
stimulates interest in Science,
Electricity, Physics, Math and
Chicago Coin, United, Midway and
Williams and is only behind George
Molentin and Roy Parker in his prolific
career in pinball.
Today’s pinball and
mural lineup includes:
Big Ben, Shangri-La, Star
Pool, Time Zone, Moon Shoot, Gulfstream,
Paddock, Rocket III, Swinger, Big
Valley,OXO, Spanish Eyes, Bow and
Arrow, Pat Hand, Hokus Pokus, Aladdin’s
Castle, Strato-Flite, Klondike and Action.
Jukebox: AMI Model H.
Christian Marche Exhibit illustrates the range of his
artistry from his pointy people to conventional art
Solid State and Dot Matrix Display
Freedom, Lucky 7, Disco Fever,
Tri Zone, Flash Gordon , Xenon, Pinball
Magic, Twilight Zone, Addams Family,
Dracula, Pinball Magic, Orbiter 1, Cyclone,
High Speed, Laser Cue and a Phantom gun game.
Murals: Ed Cassel - Scuba and 2001
Pacific Pinball Museum Room:
The Visible Pinball Machine,
Hellacopters, Circus, 1956 Bally
Spinner, ’36 Bumper, Genco Metro,
Gottlieb Humpty Dumpty, and ’63
Bally Moon Shot.
Seeburg Custom Library Unit.
Murals: Dan Fontes - Sky Raiders,
Ed Cassel - Double Up.
United Orion puck bowler with Volunteer Staffers Dan Fontes and Julie Lucchesi; Michael Schiess Museum Executive Director
What is exciting is the Pacific
Pinball Museum will double in size
by the end of the year so you will
see even more exhibits, more
games and have even more
selection. The museum expansion
includes a gift shop where they will
sell pinball machines and a small
selection of parts as they are often
requested by patrons.
exciting is with their new
partnership with Gottlieb
Development LLC and
Hellacopters Artist Dirty Donny and
Pinball Artisan Wade Krause re-themed
a vintage pinball and reproduced a new
playfield, cabinet and backglass with
their own custom artwork to create a one
of a kind, interactive kinetic art piece.
Hellacopters made its debut at the Lucky
JuJu in 2007 and is available for play
only at the museum.
Novelties. The Pacific Pinball Museum is now offering museum-branded merchandise featuring
Gottlieb pinball back glass art on T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and many
other gift items. These items are
available at: www.arcadenovelties.com/pacific-pinball
The Pacific Pinball Museum is also responsible for hosting the Pacific
Pinball Expo - the world’s largest pinball exhibition.
At the Pacific Pinball
Expo, there will be 350+ machines, seminars and tournaments celebrating
the art, science and history of pinball. If you are out in the San Francisco
Bay Area on October 2 - 4, 2009, you should definitely plan to attend their
third annual exhibition. (Pinball News will be reporting live from the show - Ed)
The focus of the first show was on the science of
pinball with the debut of the Visible Pin. The second featured art with
multiple mural displays and a custom pinball from renowned artist William
Wiley (based on a Gottlieb North Star) which sold for $125,000 to an art
This year there will be the celebration of pinball’s history with
seminars from pinball historians and an exhibition of some of pinball’s rarest
|It really is cool that the Pacific Pinball Museum wants to keep pinball alive
and make a museum about it. "We intend to be the Smithsonian of pinball
museums," said Michael Schiess. "This is an important part of American
culture we'd like to help the public appreciate."
The majority of my collection
still consists of DMD
machines, but the very pin
that represented adrenalin pumping
was traded for…. a two-inch
flipper 1967 Sing Along.
succession came an EM
acquisition parade of a 1972
Fireball, Lucky Hand,
Buckaroo, Cross Town, Sky
Divers, Solar City and a Twin
Rife gun game. Lucky JuJu
with its sights, sounds and
pinball selection has been
the revelation for me to take
the approach of creating a
collection spanning decades rather than the most popular titles.
been to many museums in many countries, but the Lucky JuJu was the
first to define an obsession that has
Pinball as Art, the Art of Pinball exhibit in PPM’s
art gallery. In keeping with the laid-back vibe of
the Lucky JuJu, the white bucket on the table is
where patrons drop in their $10 admission.
taken over my living, dining room and
garage with wall-to-wall pinball.
If you are ever in the San Francisco Bay area, the Lucky JuJu is worthy of
a visit and your ongoing support. Check the Lucky JuJu’s reviews on Yelp: www.yelp.com/biz/lucky-ju-ju-pinball-alameda and you will find
another 128 five star reviews.
Check the Pacific Pinball Museum website for more information on the
upcoming Pacific Pinball Expo 3 on October 2 – 4, 2009 at www.pacificpinball.org.
A wide view of the first Pacific Pinball Exposition, in 2007, where 350+ machines were available for
play. The silver van in front is the Lil' JuJu, which is a 1947 Spartan Manor Travel Trailer, a mobile
museum with pinball machines and a
juke box which goes to special events and schools, and is part
Pacific Pinball Museum
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© Pinball News 2009