Around the Playfield with Jack Danger
The Start Button: How did you first get into pinball?
That is a story I’ve told a couple of times so I don’t want to bore anybody, but – when I was the owner of an animation studio in the west loop of Chicago, I was building out this space, and my buddy Brad Stark, one of the original Dead Flip guys with me – he bought a Lord of the Rings pinball machine and had no where to put it. So I was like, we got room bring it on by, drop it off, it is what it is. We plugged it in, played it for a little bit – I wasn’t really sold on pinball, it was still just like electronic furniture. Like a week passes, and Brad hollers at me and says he brought another pinball machine. I was like, alright, these are big and I don’t have room for this stuff, but we did have room. It was a Judge Dredd pinball machine that we brought in, and from the moment we lifted the head on that thing and plugged in and turned it on, I was sold on that game. Pinball was like – I need to know everything. The animations were great, the art was awesome, the shots were fun, and I needed to know how to beat pinball. Come to find out you can’t, but that is how I got into it. Brad Stark, this is your fault.
The Plunge: What was the first pinball machine you bought?
I’ve had a lot of pinball machines in my collection, all of them have been donated by viewers temporarily – the only permanent donation we’ve received is the Capcom Breakshot… The only machine I ever purchased was a Williams Cabaret that is over in the corner. I bought it for $200 and we’re retheming it right now. Great EM, if you haven’t played one go check it out. But I really only have two pinball machines.
The Skill Shot: What is your best pinball achievement or favorite pinball moment?
There is too many to count. Way too many to count. Off the top of my head, things I can think of…when I first met Zach Sharpe and he taught me how to play pinball, he taught me to play one handed. And I thought he was trolling me. It seemed like some stupid Mr. Miyagi stuff, like wax on wax off – you can only play with one hand, close your eyes – that kind of thing. But it really does transform the way you play – it teaches you how to read the ball sooner and trust your dead flips more. There was a Metallica launch party that I was going to go to, I was out with my buddy Nick, another Dead Flip guy, we’re having a good time and on my way home I was on my bike, and some van flung open their door and I ran into it and caught myself on both my arms and broke my left elbow. I’d never broken a bone before in my life…and I really wanted to go to this launch tournament. So I go to the launch event for Metallica at Emporium in Wicker Park, and I’m standing in line and people in line are like “oh Jack, sorry to hear about your arm, you holding a spot for somebody?” My left arm is in a sling and I’m like, no I’m here to play…I was about three people away to go play and Zach walks up and says “are you kidding me, you broke your arm?…You’re going to murder everybody” (laughs). And in the tourney I beat more the half the people including both Sharpe brothers. That was a great moment. There have been plenty. One time before I knew Bowen he gave me half of his donut at PAPA.
Good Shots, Bad Bounces: What is your favorite and least favorite pinball machine?
I’m sure you’re going to get this a lot from everybody but I don’t think there is an answer to favorite pinball machine. All I can say is my favorite machine is the one I’m currently playing. Pinball is pinball, even if it is the worst machine you’ve ever heard of, pinball is still pinball. I don’t know. My least favorite pinball machine – I don’t think it’s been made yet. Because at the end of the day and you’re on a desert island – we have a little bit of a meme in my chat that Data East Simpson’s is the worst pinball machine, but there are definitely worse out there – but if that is the only machine and you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere you’re going to play the game.
The Wizard Mode: What is your dream theme you’d like to see made into a pinball machine?
For a music pin, I think the Beastie Boys would go a long way. There is a lot of iconography there, great music, everyone knows the Beastie Boys. I think the world needs a little bit of a break on music pins, but I think the Beastie Boys would go a long way. Maybe PeeWee Herman – no what is the movie with Keanu Reeves and that dude from lost boys? (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
The Tilt: What is the dumbest mistake you’ve made in pinball (mishap moving a machine, messing up trying to fix a machine, etc.)?
Gavin exploded a sound board live on my show, that was pretty cool. But I would say my most embarrassing moment was – I was competing in PAPA four or five years ago, and my nerves were starting to get ahold of me…and my buddy Nick who was with me at the time pulls out some headphones and says “try listening to music, some people play better when they listen to music”. So I put the headphones in – and for the life of me can’t remember the song – but I was grooving so hard. Crank the volume up and I’m killing it, killing this game, I think it was High Speed…and I’m doing flourishes…I was in the zone. And then in the middle of my ball my flippers died. And I look up and I tilted. And I turn around and I look at a sea of people…you can’t vocalize, you can’t coach when you’re playing. But everyone was just like “calm the frick down”, I was just grooving so hard I was shaking the machine and did not even notice that I was getting tilt warnings. That’s the last time I’ve played with music going on. You need to be aware of what’s happening.
The High Score: Describe the pinball hobby in one word.
Match – Next Game: Where do you see the pinball hobby in 5-10 years?
That also is a tough one because pinball is a physical, tangible game and things have been moving away from that for a long time. And it will continue to get more and more digital as things go on. Pinball will always be here. Absolutely. And I think with advancements in technology and the prices of technology going down, we’re going to see so many new innovations coming out in pinball machines. Like P3, it is like half digital and half physical. I think we’re going to see a lot more of that type of thing happening. More magnets. (Laughs) I don’t think pinball is going to go away. I do think we’re going to see a much larger surge of the fully digital stuff. I’m actually surprised you don’t see virtual cabinets on location because there is almost no maintenance there. Also, Dead Flip, when I am mayor of Chicago and then progress on to be the ruler of the United States, pinball is going to be enforced in every household where you have to play 15 minutes a day, much like Stern does now. And it’s going to be great.
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