If you were a child during the 80’s, you had to have at least attended a birthday party at ShowBiz Pizza Place.
A one of a kind facility, it had food, a huge arcade, and a stage show all under one roof. It’s where parents got the worst headaches from the roar of children shouting with excitement, but was paradise for all the kids. By 1992, all ShowBiz locations (including Dayton's ShowBiz Pizza in Miamisburg and the Springfield location) were either closed or transformed into Chuck E. Cheese’s, which is similar but still not the same.
The pizza was just a small part of the dining experience at ShowBiz, which was likely evident by its taste. As a kid there is no such thing as bad pizza, including what we served in the school cafeteria, but I seem to remember the adults comparing it to cardboard. Of course, the parents were there mostly serve as quarter dispensers for all the arcade games, not to have their pallets satisfied with flavorful pizza. The featured attraction while eating was the…who remembers the name of the band?........The Rock-afire Explosion. A group of robotic animals would perform a concert, playing their own instruments and get the crowd into a frenzy. For its time, it really was a state of the art production. In today’s world of heightened technology, the animatronics probably wouldn’t be enough to entertain a pre-teen but I used to be mesmerized. I used to think that there had to be a person inside of their suits, as the characters were life sized and every part of them moved, including their eyes.
Rock-afire Explosion consisted of Billy Bob Brockali, the leader and mascot for Showbiz, a bear who wore overalls; Fatz Geronimo, a big gorilla who played the keyboard; Dook Larue, a spacesuit wearing dog on drums; Beach Bear, a ‘surfer’ polar bear that played guitar; and Mitzi Mozzarella, a cheerleading mouse who provided vocals. There was also Looney Bird and Rolfe de Wolfe, who added some comic relief. Rock-afire Explosion played medleys of classic rock, pop, and country, as well as some original music. I can’t recall a single one of their songs, but remember being thrilled when the curtains would open to start the show.
Regardless of its taste, the pizza at ShowBiz was always scarfed down fast, because valuable time was being missed in the arcade. Before the days of X-Box and Playstations, when hours can be spent playing games in the comfort of your own home, Showbiz is where an endless amount of fun could be had. Your skills were awarded by being given tickets, based on your score on the games, which could be turned in for prizes. A wide assortment of prizes were available to choose from, like a remote controlled car for 5,000 tickets to a pencil for 5 tickets. I collected a lot of pencils from ShowBiz.
There was always at least one in every party, the kid who accumulates more tickets than he can even hold. How they did it? I still don’t know. Meanwhile, Lindsay Lohan gets more traffic tickets in a year than I ever got after spending hours in the arcade at ShowBiz. I at least would have liked to earn enough to pick out a bouncy ball, but was never fortunate enough.
A major source of tickets for many was skee- ball, but I never mastered that either. I spent most of my time chasing after the balls that got away from me than anything, which partially explains my low ticket total. Others would have long lines of tickets coming out of their machine and from mine would be one, “It must be stuck,” I’d say.
Despite my inability to score big on arcade games, I was still always thrilled to go to ShowBiz Pizza Place and it brings back lots of fond memories. I have not been to a Chuck E. Cheese’s in the last 15 years, I should go and try my hand at skee-ball again, I might be able to pick out more than a pencil. Does anyone even use pencils anymore? There are two former area Showbiz locations that are now Chuck E. Cheese’s, in Miamisburg and Springfield.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.