Lucky Ju Ju, 713 Santa Clara Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501, USA.

Report by Ron Chan
Date: July 2009

The Pacific Pinball Museum/Lucky JuJu Arcadeum –
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 Alameda, California.

It was there three epiphanies’ occurred… of sound, sight and selection.

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 discovered that

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?

Museum Room
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.

It 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.

The shear 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 Visible Pinball?

It was 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

different era.

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.

If that 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 game, Avatar.

On the business end, the Lucky JuJu works with a paid admission, all machines are then set on free play. A flat $10 fee allows you to play any pinball machine or jukebox.

All-you-can-eat 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 free game.

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 complete.

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 theme.

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 Art.

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:

EM Room:
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.
Mural: Dan Fontes, Majorettes.

Christian Marche Exhibit illustrates the range of his artistry from his pointy people to conventional art

Solid State and Dot Matrix Display Rooms:
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.
Jukebox: Seeburg LPC1 1964.
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.
Jukebox: 1956 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.

Most 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.

Arcade Novelties. The Pacific Pinball Museum is now offering museum-branded merchandise featuring classic
Gottlieb pinball back glass art on T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs and many
other gift items. These items are
available at:

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 collector.

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 machines.

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 speed, NASCAR, was traded for…. a two-inch flipper 1967 Sing Along.

In 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.

I have 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: 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

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 of the
Pacific Pinball Museum


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