Originally published in Skill Shot issue 8, April 2009

Tragedy struck the Seattle pinball community on February 25th when a fire devastated the Hooverville bar and its collection of pinball and arcade games. According to the Seattle Fire Department the fire was caused when a ceiling fan on the second floor mezzanine overheated. While the fire was contained to the second floor, the smoke and water damage to the bar and its contents was extensive, causing an estimated $400,000 in damages.

The four pinball machines located at Hooverville at the time of the fire were Spider-man, The Getaway: High Speed 2, Twilight Zone, and Centaur. Although the fire was on the second floor, the mezzanine was directly above the pinball area which resulted in a lot of water pouring down on the games as the Fire Department extinguished the blaze. Besides the water, the smoke damage to the machines was considerable. According to Avout of Shorty’s who owns the games, it looked as if someone had spray painted the machines black, both inside and out!

The extent of the smoke damage to the games is still unknown at this point, because while the soot can be wiped away on the metal and glass parts, the plastic pieces of the games have a tendency to suck it up. Besides making everything stink, smoke also has a corrosive effect on the parts and Avout is unsure whether he will be able to coax any of the games back to life.

Although the destruction of any pinball machine is sad, it is the loss of Centaur that has hit Seattle the hardest. Not only is Centaur a rare machine, Hooverville’s was the only one available to the general public and helped make that bar a destination for many of the area’s pinball players. Manufactured in 1981, Centaur is a great game to play with its “orb” multi-ball feature that is both challenging and fun (if you can get it), but it is the artwork on the machine that is its most striking feature. Like the name implies, a centaur is the main focus of the backglass art, except instead of half man and half horse like a mythological centaur would be, the pinball Centaur is half (monster) man and half motorcycle, with the predictable “babe” along for the ride. The playfield art is also memorable and details of it were featured on the two different covers to Skill Shot #6. (Amazingly, un-burnt copies of Skill Shot #6.5 were discovered in the ruins of the bar later in the week. Thank you Jesus!)

Although unconfirmed at this time, according to posts on The Stranger’s SLOG, owners Todd and Billy plan on rebuilding and hope to have Hooverville reopened in the near future.

Pinball machines to be announced…

The 1st Annual Georgetown Pinball Tournament happened on Sunday February 22 and was a success with 56 contestants and almost as many onlookers attending. This tournament was set up much like the Annual Shorty’s Tournament (with the exact same rule sheet) but went quite a bit smoother due to the fewer number of contestants and the fact that it was spread out among three bars (Jules Maes, Calamity Jane’s and The 9LB Hammer).

9LB Hammer had recently enlarged the game room section and added two more pins for the event (The Getaway: High Speed 2 and Monster Bash). The expanded room is sweet and we enjoyed the time we spent hanging out there talking to members of Dead Baby Bikes and Kelsey from Tacoma who was competing to be the most drunken contestant.

At Calamity Jane’s we lusted over the Jack-Bot pin we couldn’t play (since we weren’t contestants), and marveled that Avout switched the Hurricane pin for Junk Yard which was the second one in the tourney. We’re happy that this Junk Yard has found a new home after being bumped from Shorty’s, but since there was already one nearby our excitement was a bit restrained.

Most of the Skill Shot staff made an appearance and we spent much of our time handing out copies of our zines Skill Shot, Chicken With Penis and stickers/lighters. A side trip took us to Stellar Pizza where we were determined to actually play some pinball, but were deterred due to a broken Indiana Jones (which ate our money) and the lack of quarters from the staff (a waitress changed a dollar for us after we begged)! Didn’t they realize that there was a big pinball thingy happening just a block away?? Ouch! Maybe we should have walked to the Georgetown Liquor Company instead.

Jules Maes was ground zero for the tournament and was where the scores and announcements were done. The open performance room gave extra elbow room for everyone, including customers who weren’t there for the pinball. Many pinball regulars attended, along with those we don’t see very often, including Zak who once co-owned the Hi-Score arcade on Cap Hill and the incomparable Tim Smith who was working to retain the most drunken contestant title. (He won!)

While we didn’t stay till the end we were there long enough to see Nycole Hyatt once again become the highest scoring female player. Some time after 10 PM Jeff Groper and Jason Hatch had a legendary battle on Elvira’s Scared Stiff, in which Jeff rose to the challenge and made it to the Scared Stiff mode on his second ball, winning the Tournament and the grand prize: a keg of beer!

Later in March, Jeff and his keg of beer were the guests of honor at a house party in South Seattle which had a lot of cool pins including Xenon, Laser War and many others. We practically forced people to compete in an impromptu Half and Half tournament (a game described last issue). Rod the host was super cool and didn’t seem to mind very much when our party stayed long after everyone else had left. Thanks for the ride, Maka!

In other tournament news: The First Annual Ground Kontrol Pinball Tournament is in Portland OR on Sunday April 19th. Ground Kontrol has the most pinball machines in the region (26!) and this event is sure to attract many excellent players, especially since this is the home turf of the Crazy Flipper Fingers pinball gang. On Sunday May 17th the semi-annual Seattle Powderpuff Tournament happens at Shorty’s which is sure to attract all the best female players in the area. See our back page ad for more details!

Breaking News: There is now circus music in the bathrooms at Shorty’s! The Evel Knievel pinball machine featured on the cover and list page of this issue can also be found there. Timmy recently broke his foot kicking the game while trying to save his ball. Haw haw. Speaking of classic games, Add-a-ball Amusements in Fremont is due to open soon and will focus on EM pinball machines. Dominique from Silver Age Silver Ball is locating some of his games there which so far include Jumping Jack, Space Mission and Surf Champ.

Another upcoming event is the 2nd Annual NW Pinball and Game Room Show at the Seattle Center June 12th – 14th. Last year’s show was awesome and had over 100 pinball and arcade games all set to free play (with the price of admission). We had a great time last year and have taken the whole weekend off from work for this year’s show in order to attend. If you like pinball you won’t want to miss it!

Stern Pinball released their latest game 24 recently to mostly good reviews. Seattle should see one at Shorty’s in the next month or so, which then raises the question of which game is getting bumped? (Our vote goes to Indiana Jones.) Big Buck Hunter and NBA are rumored to be the next two Stern releases, and speculation is that the company is trying to break into the Asian market, particularly China where anything NBA is extremely popular. Bola Salvada!