Wowza, Dave M. checks in with a good State Fair story...good timing, since many Fairs are visiting towns near us at this time of year- thanks, Dave!
I wanted to tell you about another State Fair promotion we did in the late ‘70’s. It was called SHOCK THE JOCK. It’s absolutely hilarious, and if anyone tried this today, the lawyers would be lined up three deep and four across at the front door. But we did it and it was a HOOT!
Here’s the setup- - State Fair comes along once a year. In the late ‘70’s we had a tent on the midway, and we parked the Funmobile next to it, and broadcast from there every night, 8-11pm as the lead-in to Beaker Street. Big promotion. Lots of people.
I think it was Dave Hamilton that brought the idea to me. He wanted me to build a “Shock the Jock” machine that would be used at remote broadcasts and especially the State Fair. He explained his idea in some detail - We talked it over and came up with a concept that was eventually built and then used on the State Fair midway. Here’s how it worked.
Picture this. There were two chairs, placed about 6-8 feet apart and facing each other, and a small control box on a pedestal between them. The “control box had three large light bulbs on top, one RED, and the other two green. One of the green light bulbs had a random flasher module in it so that it would flash on and off at a rate of about 1-2 times a second. The box also had a small control panel with a couple of switches on it that made a very loud CLICK sound when they were moved – creating an “audible” signal that something was happening. The DJ controlling the box could switch from a “steady green” to a flashing green, or a steady red by simply flipping some switches.
The two chairs were rigged with auto ignition coils on the underside, which were connected to small electrodes the chair seats, and also back to the “control” box. The chairs were “hot” and sparks would jump the gaps – there was no way you could sit idly by - it was jump up in the air “hot”. We quickly found out we had to screw the chairs to the floor to keep them from being knocked over when people would “fly” out of them.
The DJ would ask for volunteers from the audience to come up and sit in the chairs, facing each other. Each volunteer was given a small hand-held pushbutton switch and told – “Watch for the RED light to come on. If you press your button first, after the RED light comes on, you’ll shock the other guy in his pants. But if you press your button too soon, you’ll shock yourself in the pants!”
There were a couple of “fake outs” built into the control box. One was – when the RED light came on (controlled by the DJ) there was also a very loud buzzer in the box. So you had the effect of psyching out your opponent, watching for the RED light to come on, and being the first one to press your button to burn the pants off the other guy. BUT – the buzzer also had a “fake” switch that would just make the BUZZ sound but NOT the RED light!
There was also the continuously flashing GREEN light. The contestants knew that the moment the GREEN light went OFF, and the RED light came ON, it was time to press the button.
So you get the picture? In each chair you have a couple of “bullet proof” State Fair partiers who think they can beat the Jock to the switch. The DJ is in full control of the lights and buttons that enable the two contestants to either shock themselves or the other poor doofus. I have to tell you, we never laughed so hard for so long at the knuckleheads that WANTED to sit in those chairs!
Like they say on Mythbusters – “Don’t try this at home. We’re whatcha call experts.”
(I wonder how those fared when wearing dungarees with copper rivits? bs)
(A "P.S." from Dave:) "The State Fair is fertile ground for “midway heroes”, what with beer being served, and plenty of knuckleheads out to impress their dates….We clearly took advantage of this – Sometimes we would have a guy and his date zapping each other. Funny?! I can’t even begin to describe the delight a young damsel takes in giving her date the hot seat. And the tent crowds cheered ‘em on!
Yessir, times never change...they get ten feet tall and bullet-proof when they get a few in 'em, don't they? I wonder how many relationships broke up because of this- and other similar things? HAH!
Bud S. (firstname.lastname@example.org)