Everyone has heard of Pizza Time Theatre and its mascot Chuck E. Cheese. Most people know that the chain spawned a number of imitators that combined food (often pizza), arcade games, and costumed or robotic characters. Some of the imitators, like Dave and Busters (thought they ommited the characters), everyone's heard of. Today's post is about some you may not have heard of (and one that you have).
First off, here's an interesting photo from June, 1976.
Note that at this point, the idea was in its early stages (the first Pizza Time Theatre wouldn't open until 1977) and the character (and restaurant, I believe) was called "The Big Cheese" (it was also known as Rick Rat's Pizza at one point).
Here's the one you've all heard of.
Showbiz Pizza Palace (and its relation to and dealings with Pizza Time Theatre) merits a post of its own. For now, here are some of their characters.
The "big cheese" at Showbiz was Billy Bob Brockali (named for founder Robert Brock).
Here are some more Show Biz characters.
I believe the one in the upper left is Rolfe DeWolfe, who delivered stand-up comedy with a puppet named Earl Schmerle. The house band was the Rock Afire Explosion, featuring Fats (the King Kong of the piano), Duke Larue on drums, Beach Bear on guitar, mouse vocalist Mini Mozzarella and Looney Bird - a heckler that popped up out of a stump.
P.J. Pizzazz was Sega's answer to Pizza Time Theatre. The first location opened in West Covina, CA in June of 1980.
P.J.'s mascot was a robot named P.J.
Bullwinkle Family Food 'N Fun opened its first location in Santa Clara in 1983. Characters included the various characters from the Jay Ward and Peter Piech cartoons (Bullwinkle, Rocky, Dudley Do Right, Tennessee Tuxedo, Underdog etc.). The idea for the chain came from Paul Frees (the voice of Boris Badenov). Bill Scott (the voice of Bullwinkle) and June Foray (the voice of Rocky) went back into the studio to record dialogue for the robotic characters.
John Phillip Tuba's was a Florida chain.
Sgt. Singer's Pizza Circus was founded by Craig Singer (president of the Nickels and Dimes arcade chain) in Pasadena, TX in 1984.
Characters included Dolly Porker, P.T. Barum (a bear), Sgt. Singer (a tiger), Pete and Repete (an elephant and a mouse), and Ponce de Lion.
I don't know about you, but this one is just plain creepy to me.
Sammy Sands was the mascot of a chain called Gadgets.
Tom Foolery was Bally's answer to Pizza Time Theatre but with a difference. This chain was aimed at adults with a full service restaurant and no characters. It started when Bally acquired a chain of restaurants called Barnaby's Family Inns in 1981.
Zapp's took the adult concept even further. A creation of Nolan Bushnell, Zapp's was a kind of combination singles bar and arcade. The first one opened in 1983 in Cupertino (in a converted Pizza Time Theatre). In addition to the food and games, Zapp's featured two dance floors, MTV, an "excuse booth", video tape monitors in the bathroom (Chippendales for the ladies, the choice of a topless bar or sexy aerobics for the gents), and the "tunnel of love" where singles coudl sit with member of the opposite sex while they got "zapped"
One of the more interesting sounding the The Magic Pizza, which opened in Manhattan Beach, CA on 1/29/84 (it may have been the only one). This one combined games, pizza, and magic. Attractions included Sorcerer's Screening Room (shows , movies and cartoons), Magical Sports Theatre (satellite sporting events), Merlin's Showcase Theatre (live magic shows), Wizard's Forest arcade, Merlinville USA for tots (including the House of Shadows - where you could strike a pose and see your shadow frozen on wall and Merlin's Magical Mansion - a miniature house full of dazzling special effects). Other effects included Merlin's Lightning Sphere, and a 200-year-old talking Hawaiian skull named Irving.
|Merlin's Showcase Theatre from The Magic Pizza|
Finally, a few more.