austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

So make life worthwhile, come on and smile, darn ya smile

Quick digression now to the contemporary world which, as ever, is dismal. Then I'll get back to October and Halloweekends. After maybe something else tomorrow. We'll see.

Marvin Yagoda has died. He was the proprietor and mad genius behind Marvin's Marvellous Mechanical Museum, an impossibly packed collection of video and pinball and redemption arcade games and amusement-pier gimmicks and model airplanes and circus posters and a carousel horse(?) and a tic-tac-toe chicken and a mechanical striking cobra whose status I kept chefmongoose ever-updated on.

He opened the place a quarter-century ago because, he said, he ran out of room at home for his vintage-stuff collection and his wife insisted he do something with it. As a place it's spectacular, an overwhelming spectacle that seems infinite. Every time you figure you've seen it all you notice another something in your line of sight. It might have an obvious purpose, like, a stereoscopic viewer for the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It might be obscure, like a mechanical reproduction of the Egyptian afterlife in which your heart is weighed against a feather. It might be weird considering this is in the Detroit suburbs, like the English monkey-in-a-sailor-suit puppet that wants to tell you a joke. It might be bizarre, like old airplane nose art left over from World War II. And then they have P T Barnum's Fake Cardiff Giant. They say. They insist it's Barnum's Fake Cardiff Giant to the best of their knowledge. Could that be just ballyhoo?

I only saw Yagoda a couple of times, at the Marvin's Pinball League; his office was just off the too-tight corridor next to The Addams Family and the joke-telling monkey puppet. And he was working then, so looked distracted and vaguely worried, the way I probably do when I'm working. I remember smiling to him and saying his place was wonderful; smiling is what all evidence suggests he wanted out of life, and it's easy to tell someone whose place is wonderful that it is.

What I don't know, and am not connected enough to the gossip networks to say, is how this will affect practical matters. Like, will the museum stay open? Vague, never-sourced rumors said the place was of marginal business sense and propped up by Yagoda's wealth from his pharmacist career, and nobody was sure who would take it over. Other unsourceable rumors say the place had a rough patch there but was looking pretty good now. I imagine it should stay reliable if nobody moves a Dave and Busters into the area; what child wouldn't want to have a birthday party in a place packed with so many coin-operated attractions in such a labyrinth that up to two-thirds of your party could go missing before any adults could even tell?

And similarly there's no telling what'll happen to the pinball league there. bunny_hugger and I missed the league meeting last week, the last one held while he was alive (though he wasn't always present for them). We were visiting my parents, story to come someday. At the start of next month should be league finals. Conceivably people who'd drifted out of the league might show up to pay a kind of respects. I don't know.

But everybody certainly loved his work, and seems to have loved him as a person, where they knew him. That's a good way to live.

Trivia: One of P T Barnum's earliest ``humbugs'' was the 1835 exhibition of Joice Heth, allegedly 161-year-old nurse to George Washington. Among his last was the 1889 presentation (in England) of ``supernatural illusions'' including a creature with a woman's head and a peacock's body. Source: No Applause - Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, Trav S D (D Travis Stewart)

Currently Reading: The Values Of Precision, Editor M Norton Wise.


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