Monday, January 31, 2011

Minding the Snow.

As Chicago prepares itself for blizzards and blowing and "b-r-r-r-r-r"s, I'm reminded that at Santa's North Pole Workshop in Colorado, every day embraces the white stuff. Except for that time when an enormous amount of snowfall DID close the park. I mean, the elves can only shovel so much.

Here's a great image I found of a vintage postcard from the park. No snow on that day and the people look pretty happy.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!

Mary Blairifficness!

Some great concept art from Mary Blair for Disneyland's ride, "It's a Small World". I'm posting this today because my birthday's two days away, I'm the owner of this blog, and it makes me feel zippy.

Happy, cheerful Sunday!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thanks,Walt. (that one was from my mom)

Walt Disney once said, "Disneyland is often called a magic kingdom because it combines fantasy and history, adventure and learning, together with every variety of recreation and fun designed to appeal to everyone."

I just read this on Facebook, as I've "liked" Disneyland and they post interesting factoids and fun stuff every day. But none of the posts have moved me enough to repost them, or write about them in my blog even! But this one hits.

Forty years ago this July, my mom took me on our first-ever (and only) girls' only trip. It marked a turbulent time for my mom, having just lost her own mother the year before. I remember watching the ambulance pull up, I remember saying good bye to Baba (hey, we're Czech, it's okay) and I remember the interminable hours spent at the wake, chewing on sugar cubes and running in circles in the basement area reserved for family only.

But what I remember most vividly, and what still makes me shudder, was the despair, the sadness, the greyness that hovered over my mom like a damp fog.

I'm sure my mom needed a great get-away; kudos to her for making it a girls' only trip, even after my sugar cube-fueled scampering freakfest. You'd think she'd want to have some quiet time away from Little Miss Frenetic, or alone time with my dad. But no -- it was Bea (my mom) and the Peanut (that would be me).

Perhaps it was more important for my mom to make sure she and I had a trip so memorable, so special, that bonded us in a way that she and her mother never were. Our trip marked a turning point for my mom. She never spoke of it, but looking back now, after going through my own chrysalis stages and rebirths, I can see that the mom I left home with and the one I returned with were different. I trusted her more. I loved her more. Plus -- she was my new-found playmate (though very nicely dressed and most often with a cigarette perched between her fingers). And much of it was due to what we shared at Disneyland.

We dove into a world of fantasy that both of us reveled in and learned from. We wandered through a mainstreet from another time and embraced its slow, steady sweetness. And we giggled like the little girls we both were.

In my office, on top of my white bookcase is a straw hat, a child-sized "Mary Poppins" hat, complete with silk daisy and plastic cherry, a treasured souvenir from our trip. It reminds me that at Disneyland, dreams do come true.

See you in my dreams, Mom.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm sick. Of being sick. Poo.

You won't get much more than that out of me today. Actually, this flu-ish thing hit about 24 hours ago and is lasting a bit longer. Achiness. Sluggishness. Not much good to find in the experience.

I was thinking about this yesterday; I tend to get sick near my birthday. A lot. I don't know if the excitement I feel upon nearing my natal day makes me lose all focus and do stupid things, like not wash my hands enough or sit next to sneezing, coughing people. Do I let my guard down, thus letting down my immune barrier in some way?

Or is it simply due to the fact that I'm born in the Armpit of the Year, when many a cold and flu fester? Well, in any case, I hate it. I do apologize for not writing anything pithy, fun, or amusing. That's just how it is, for right now.

This is a picture of me as a baby. Because all I want right now is to be babied. Waaaaaaa...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Disney almost did WHAT?

Did you know the future of Disney's atmosphere characters was in peril? Apparently it was. In an effort to hold down costs, the parks were planning to do away with the atmosphere characters, instead only having the "meet and greet" photo ops, where families wait in line to be photographed with their favorite characters.

How many different ways would this absolutely suck? Several, in my book.

One of the main ways California Adventure just didn't work in the beginning was that there were very few characters inhabiting it. We walked through the park and Ben, especially, was struck by the lack of character, which adds a special level of magic to a Disney park.

"I mean, how can this be Disney without at least a few Fab Fives walking around?" queried Ben, referring to Disney's five main characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Pluto.

When you visit Disneyland, you expect to see the characters walking about, waving at the kids, posing for pictures and occasionally receiving a kiss from a cute little girl in pigtails (well, it's been a while since I've worn pigtails, but...). To see Minnie and Mickey walking down Mainstreet is to know that's where they live. Having atmosphere characters adds a certain layer to the space, creating more of a sense that you're in their particular world. You're in a place of wonder, where the fantastical can be found around every corner.

The news about this plan found its way to the Internet and the blogosphere and people went wild. Apparently many a well-placed post and email found its way to the suits at Disney and the cutback plan has been scrapped. Hopefully for good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Thanks God, for cameras with nighttime fireworks functions!! This glorious bouquet was taken in November at Walt Disney World, during a visit we had planned for almost a year to celebrate Ben's birthday. We had dinner at Cinderella's Castle immediately prior to the 'works. We almost didn't make it back to view the display in time as we decided we wanted to go back into the Castle to take a photo of the bathroom. Because when would be the next time we'd ever get to do that (Note: the photo didn't really turn out but that's okay because the bathroom is just, well, a bathroom).

Luckily, we did get back in time, and parked ourselves right in front of said castle.


WDW will turn 40 later this year; I can't completely include it in my book as one of the forty parks, but I can still tell you about it, by gum.

Monday, January 24, 2011


The following blog entry has nothing to do with amusement parks, but it has everything to do with blogs.

So I'm a blogger. Over the past year (I began blogging in January, 2010), I've learned that the title is, at times, equally respected and reviled. Now, I couldn't get why someone would have an issue with a blogger, but then I read a blog yesterday that made me want to throw a shoe through my terminal.

I refuse to mention the blog by name, but it's a theatre-related blog, wherein the blogger reviews plays. No problem there; I've read a number of such blogs where, while I may not agree with said review, I do respect the blogger for their voice, for their passion and for the apparent skill they bring to their chosen forum. But yesterday changed my perceptions.

I did a Google search for a review for a show at a local theatre. One lone review came up and it was from a blogger. A blogger who had absolutely no command of the English language, or any other language for that matter (Note: if there was an attempt to create a new language, THAT would've elicited a soupcon of respect from me. But no.) This person had no grasp of grammar, couldn't spell (attention all bloggers: there IS a spell check. Please use it. I'm a notoriously poor typist, so Mr. Spell Check is like a little Speedy AlkaSeltzer friend, always at the ready to get me out of scrapes), and couldn't even form sentences properly. I mean, this person's sentence structure was pretty much like a Jackson Pollack painting. If Pollack was high on mescaline.

Yet a Google search lead me to this blog. So this person's opinions are, in some hysterically painful way, held with some sort of significance. This thought made my brain hurt.

Oh, in case you were wondering, this person's critical writing skills were basically non-existent as well. If you're going to write a review, please don't have it come off as a bitchy, drunken tirade. Saying someone's wig was just horrible does not add up to true, objective, thoughtful, well-considered critique.

So okay then. I'm off my soapbox. Give bloggers their due, but if they have the grammatical and spelling skills of an empty box of Tic Tacs, please reconsider giving them your respect.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!

From Memphis Kiddie Park in Cleveland, OH. A nifty little horse drawn carriage kiddie ride. You don't see many of these at any parks, let alone in such grand condition.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Warning: this is really depressing.

When Katrina hit back in 2005, it drowned Six Flags - New Orleans. Drowned it completely, ruined 80% of the buildings and irreparably damaged all the flat rides. Some rides were rescued and taken to other parks, but others are sitting and rotting where they were left.

Six Flags - New Orleans is considered an abandoned park.

I was doing some research on abandoned parks recently -- there are dozens listed on Wikipedia alone. I can't think of many things that are more depressing.

I'll be visiting NOLA in April and spending time at Carousel Gardens; can't wait. Part of me feels like taking a taxi out to the graveyard of Six Flags. But I just don't think I see the point.

Katrina impacted so many people and changed the lives of those who live in the area for ever. I honor the survivors and hope this abandoned park can either be re-opened or that the land can be used as a fresh green space, a new source of life for the Crescent City.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pardon me for the schadenfreude...

but I'm not going to miss this Disney World attraction. Not too much. No, sir:

When we visited WDW in November, I made a remark to my hubby after leaving this attraction that it was, oh, pretty much an abomination and should be stopped. The original Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland dates back to 1963 (just like yours truly; it's a good year). Some folks felt its twin at the Magic Kingdom was dated, so they gave it a facelift back in the 90s.

Well, by adding in the wise-cracking Iago character from "Aladdin" and utilizing period music,like "Hot, Hot, Hot", what ended up happening was this "new" version felt even more dated. Because the original is a Disney classic, directly overseen by Walt himself. And you don't mess with what Walt himself hath touched.

So I'm sitting here, sipping some tea, trying not to feel too giddy about the news that a fire has closed the WDW attraction indefinitely. Apparently, the damage was pretty severe. And that severe damage included Iago, who's gone on to animatronic heaven (or elsewhere that's, um, a little more on the "Hot, Hot, Hot" side, where irritating cartoon sidekicks are sent).

I say bring back the classic version and let Iago and his sassy face go down, along with the horrific Superstar Limo ride from California Adventure, as the things Disney really shouldn't talk about in pleasant company.

Monday, January 17, 2011

That is all for today.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” ---------Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

"Zombie Jamboree"

Don't get it. No, sir. Try as I might, I don't get the attraction that the media and pop culture in general have recently adopted for All Things Zombie. To briefly summarize for those of you who might've been holing up in a storm cellar: zombies are usually the result of some strain of deadly virus which kills perfectly good, loving, productive members of society, turning them into a flesh-eating, menacing corpses which feed upon other perfectly good, loving, productive members of society, thus turning them into zombies. And so it goes. I don't get the entertainment value in this.

But apparently America does. You've got "The Walking Dead" a mini-series which is poised to possibly take Best Drama at the Golden Globes tonight, besting the far superior "Mad Men". Dozens of zombie novels line the book shelves, including the new genre of mash-ups, like Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion, an alternate history novel in which The Beatles (except Ringo Starr, depicted as a ninja) are zombies, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is pretty much self-explanatory. And scores of zombie-themed video games give anyone the chance to be their own one-person zombie militia.

To illustrate how zombies have taken a bite, if you will, into the zeitgeist, I offer the topic of our summer party. Every year we host a carefully-planned summer party, detailed to the nines, which inevitably results in at least one of our friends labelling us "the Gatsbys of the Chicago Western Suburbs". This year, we just can't seem to come up with a good theme we both like. We've done movies, 60's and hippies, beatniks, tiki, Western, and more. Jokingly, I said to Ben, "Why don't we host a 'Zombie Jamboree'?", liking the title more than the actual theme. But Ben thought it was brilliant (Note: the party theme is still in flux as of this blog post).

So it was under the influence of a good Polish vodka and apple juice cocktail that I acquiesced and watched "Zombieland" last night. And, to my delight, I finally found a zombie film I could cuddle. Yes, cuddle.

Starring the brilliant Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg (a young, quirky, charming and affable actor I adored in Adventureland), the film takes you through a zombie apocalypse in a fresh, irreverent and achingly funny way. The screenplay is riddled with memorably quotable lines. And the main characters are drawn to a mecca of sorts, a place they hear is uninfested with zombies: Pacific Playland (thought to be California's Magic Mountain, but actually filmed at Wild Adventures Theme Park, in Valdosta, GA.)

Our heroes ride the rides to escape the zombies. Zombies amble aimlessly into rides in motion, to zombie-flattening results. There's even the dreaded Zombie Clown.

But perhaps I've given too much away already.

Rent it, see it. Trust me -- it'll change the way you look at zombie films forever.

And please, have some Twinkies on hand. Believe me; you'll be jonesing.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Someone just bought an amusement park...

A real estate trust from Florida just bought Pacific Park for $34M, the amusement park that resides on the Santa Monica Pier. The park which will be #27 on my Cotton Candy Road Trip. The park brings in lots of money, but is also expensive to maintain, with paint alone costing $200,000 a year.

I know the park will continue to be run by Santa Monica Amusements so I'm not worried. But the sale brings with it just another reminder as to why I'm doing this book: these parks and their spirit are more important than the almighty dollar. If the money was right, if the new owners, CNL Lifestyle Properties Inc, thought they'd like to go in "a different direction" with the property, the park and it's rides could all be sold and the Pier could turn into a modern day "Pottersville", complete with strip clubs and juke joints and shady women.

Think about it; it really could. Sometimes a park comes very close to becoming a plot of land used for condos (almost Arnold's Park's fate) or a shiny new Costco (Kiddieland's sad fate.)

So I'm relieved this park will carry on. And not just because I'll be visiting it within the next month or so. Imagine if it didn't survive and I pulled up to the gates and had a Wally World moment...

Friday, January 14, 2011

My most recent Kickstarter update

Back in mid-November, the universe beckoned and I was granted my Kickstarter goal. I leave updates from time to time for the backers. This is my most recent update.

Friends, I bet you've been wondering, "What will that Pam put our pledged money toward? When will she conquer her next park? And when do I get even more swag?" Come on, you know you have. Well, let me amaze you with the details!

In mid-February, Ben and I will take off to ports south and west, Southern California to be exact. And there I'll visit a total of five parks! We'll begin our sojourn in San Diego at Belmont Park, an eighty-five year old waterfront pier park, one that's recently declared bankruptcy. I've emailed back and forth with the PR director and he assures me the park will be open when I visit. But beyond February, it's future is dubious. Consequently it's SO important for me to make Belmont a part of my RoadTrip.

My next park will be the Santa Monica Pier, so that makes two oceanside parks in one trip. And what will the last three So Cal parks be? The Holy Triumvirate of 1971, the three places I visited with my mom forty years ago this upcoming summer: Universal Studios, Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. You may ask, "But Pam, they're all so well-known!" Yes, they are, but they're also all over forty and, more importantly, that 1971 trip made such a huge impression on me, forming me into a Mid-Century fan even at a tender age. And it was the only "girls' only trip" I ever took with my mom. Mom's been with me in spirit during every single Cotton Candy park I visit, so I can only imagine her input while I revisit "our" parks a scant few weeks from now.

Your generous donations are making this five park journey possible, and will continue to aid me in April when I take in the park that withstood Katrina. But more about that later.

For those of you who pledged the amount that entitles you to postcards from three parks, be sure to check your mail in latter February!

Peace to all -- Pam

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Visited Dad yesterday and noticed a book on one of his sheelves: Riverview: Gone but Not Forgotten 1904 - 1967 Chuck Wlodarczyk. Paged through it for a bit, reminding myself of the magic of the long-gone park. It closed before I had a chance to ever visit it, so all I know baout the park I've learned through my parents' stories -- and this book.

There's a selection of photos of the Shoot the Chutes, a log flume-liek ride. Truly, I feel I have seen this ride in person, when I visited Kennywood Park. I remarked at that time tht the ride was so very similar to photos I'd seen of the Riverview ride. What makes the comparison even cooler is that Mr. Wlodarczyk mentions Kennywood in his book, about how it's a great traditional amusement park.

So enjoy the photo above, confortable in the knowledge that Riverview's spirit, maybe just a ltitle of it, is alive and well in Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Nutria... for those who like them

At Storybook Gardens and Timbavati Park in Wisconsin Dells, WI, you can get up close and personal to some nutria. I've always liked these little rodents. I came upon my first nutria at the Berlin Zoo when my friend Marie squealed, "Look! Nutria!" and I thought she was hungry and saw a snack stand for the creamy yogurt-covered Nutria bars sold in Germany (Note: there are no such things as creamy yogurt-covered Nutria snack bars, nor are they sold in Germany).

Anyway, I just learned that these seemingly gentle creatures are a blight on the Gulf Coast, eating crops and generally getting in the way.

Doesn't seem fair; they are so darned adorable.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Everything old is new again...

Tomorrow I start work on a new v.o. demo. Much needed -- I won't even mention how old my current one is. It's still a good representation of what I do, but I've grown a lot in the last fjkaieowhfl years and I'd like my new demo to reflect that. Plus, I want to connect with some new agents, so a fresh demo is always a good thing.

I'll probably use a few pieces from my old demo, because they still show off a certain facet of my v.o. work magnificently. Got me thinking about old and new, reworking the old into the new, and creating, through a certain type of alchemy, something even grander.

Which brought me to Knoebel's Amusement Park in PA. Where they take old rides and rework them. Or utilize vintage blueprints of rides to create something that's akin to stepping into a time machine.

Witness the above photo. this is the "new" Flying Turns ride, still under construction at Knoebel's, based on the famous Flying Turns ride from the 1920s which used to thrill visitors to Chicago's defunct Riverview Park back in the day. Including my parents.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!

While heading up to Hoffman's Playland, Seabreeze and Darien Lake parks in New York, we stayed the night at Kate's Lazy Meadow. Kate Pierson owns the venue. She's the Mid-Century Goddess of Fun.

This is one of walls that divides the room we stayed in. That's my head among the pieces of brick-a-brack.

Friday, January 7, 2011

From under the giant duvet...

Sometimes it would be nice to just find an extra big, extra fluffy duvet, full of a down-like substance, and bury one's self underneath it for a day or two.

I mean, some folks hop a plane to get away from it all. Others might get in their cars and simply point it in one direction and say, "I'm going to travel for 100 miles and wherever I end up, that's where I'll stay the night."

Those are both really good options. But what's drawing me right now is a giant comfy blankie full of a down-like substance.

I might bring some hot tea with me, for extra coziment. Or not -- cuz then I'd have to get up and pee.

No, just the duvet, extra large bed, and me, curled up underneath the quilty like Miss Suzy the squirrel (Google it; it's a kid's book from the 60s).

Why am I retreating? Well, I had a great day with two v.o. sessions, so that's not why. No, I'd like to retreat, just for a bit, before launching my next phase of Cotton Candy details to the world.

It's also nice to find yourself enveloped in flannelly-warm goodness when you think you may have let down someone. Or when you made a decision that is just no fun any way you slice it.

That's all you need to know right now.

(yawn.....) off I go.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Separated at birth??

From the "Too Scary for Words" file: a photo of myself in front of "Laughin' Sal", part of Santa Cruz Boardwalk history.

You tell me..... just a little too eerily similar? I'm shuddering as I write this.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ah me... no deposit of $355M into my checking account today...

Guess I'll have to go back to actually watching how I spend my money for my Roadtrip.

Which brings to mind the fact that a couple of my next venues are oceanside parks which are essentially free! I'll be visiting Belmont Park in San Diego and then wending my way up to the Santa Monica Pier. If I choose to not ride a ride I spend nothing; the walk through each park is free. The atmosphere doesn't cost a penny. The spray of the ocean, the warm breeze in my hair: priceless.

So there is more to life than a winning lottery ticket. I'm five dollars poorer than I was yesterday due to the purchase of said tickets. But I guess it was worth it, for the sheer thrill of it.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Powerball Lottery is up to around 350 million dollars!

No, this has nothing to do with my book. But if I win tonight, it'll have everything to do with my book. Man, it would feel great to send abundant checks to the parks that are in need...

I hope thousands of people win and the wealth is shared!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Cotton Candy Goes to Whole Foods

Odd that. Or even blasphemous, right?

It started out when I learned I had four hours to burn in Chicago. I'd heard the new Lincoln Park Whole Foods is a sight to behold, a sensory overload experience for any health-conscious foodie, so I figured I'd go and get some badly-needed hand cream and see what was hopping there.

Welcome to Whole Foods, the Dino DeLaurentis production version, in Sensurround and Smell-O-Vision. It's easily the largest one I've ever been to, bright and shiny, spacious and airy. But it has something that other Whole Foods stores don't: eateries. Not just "grab 'n go" ones, but sit down stands offering everything from sushi to wine and cheese pairings, coffee to beer to gelato.

And blue plate specials. Hot dogs. Soda fountain service. This particular stand looked like a retro diner, so I checked it out more closely. It's themed, you see. And this is when my Roadtrip pulled up and Cotton Candy took over the store.

The diner area is themed after Chicago's legendary Riverview, complete with a mural featuring various rides, including the iconic Aladdin's Castle funhouse.

So you can wipe out an amusement park masterpiece, but its spirit will seek you out and show up in the most unlikely of places. Sometimes over forty years later, right between the gourmet olives and the Mrs. Meyers' cleaning products.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Where Walt hung his sweater...

I'm so anxious I can hardly bear it. Just learned a bit ago that my trip to Disneyland for the book will have a very special element: a visit to the exclusive Club 33. Now, for those of you who don't know, Club 33 is a members' only dining experience, housed in what was formerly Walt Disney's very own apartment inside Disneyland. Part of New Orleans Square, it's located near the Blue Bayou restaurant. There's just a tiny sign outside that tells you where it is, otherwise you'd miss it. This fantastic opportunity is possible through the generosity of a friend of mine who knows one of the Club's members. Yes, this person will receive great honors and accolades in my book, you can bet your bippy.

This is the stuff of legend, "once-in-a-lifetime" stuff. We'll have brunch there, an "all you can eat" buffet of scrumptiousness unrivaled anywhere else at Disney, then explore the park. I've been to Land many times, but this visit will be very special; I'll only focus on the rides and attractions that were there at least forty years ago (following my book's criteria). More specifically, I'll focus on the things that were a part of one of my most memorable trips ever: my girls' only trip taken with my Mom back in 1971. Yes, 40 years ago.

Would Mom be jealous of my venture into this elusive venue? Of course she would be. But as I'm 100% certain she'll be there in spirit, I say bring on the grandeur. Mom would like ti that way. (They'd better have daiquiris with real lime, or she'll cause a fuss...)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!!!

Daniel Tiger's clock from the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ride at Idlewild Park. For no other reason than it makes me smile; Daniel Tiger makes me think of gentle humor, childhood excitement and the thought that every new day brings tremendous promise and possibility. I think every New Year's Day should be like that.