Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Today's Recommended Daily Allowance of irony, courtesy of Chuck E. Cheese

A Chuck E. Cheese Pizza in Brooklyn has been shut down by health inspectors, after they discovered mouse droppings in the kitchen.

Given that Chuck E. is roughly the size of the average teenage girl, I'm glad I wasn't the one who found the droppings.

I always thought it was one of the world's most bizarre marketing faux pas to have a giant rat as the corporate mascot of a restaurant chain. It appears that I was prescient.

Truth to tell, KJ and I whiled away many hours at our local Chuck E. Cheese Pizza in our dating days in the early 1980s. Back then, though, Chuck E.'s was really more of a video game arcade — complete with animatronic singing animals — that just happened to serve pizza. (Barely edible pizza, at that.)

The original Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theatre chain was the brainchild of Nolan Bushnell, the man behind Atari Games. (Remember PONG? If you don't, you're not old enough to hang out here, kid.) Bushnell's original restaurant franchises went bankrupt as coin-operated video arcades began fading before the onslaught of Intellivision, Nintendo and other home video game consoles. The dying chain sold out to a competitor in 1984, and the new regime is the one that operates under the Chuck E. Cheese name to this day.

Our local outlet used to feature an animatronic lion called The King, who warbled bad imitations of Elvis imitations while you attempted to choke down the cardboard crust and rancid toppings of your Chuck E. Cheese pizza. We also had a character named Dolli Dimples, an Ethel Mermanesque hippo with — I kid you not — gigantic heaving bosoms that bobbed up and down as she belted out show tunes. (Now that's entertainment for the small fry!)

The old Chuck E. Cheese we frequented in downtown Santa Rosa is long since departed, but the successor chain has an outlet right here in our happy little burg. I haven't been in there since KM was a tyke.

If you've never dined at a Chuck E. Cheese Pizza, surrounded by crooning mice, dogs, chickens, and assorted other barnyard creatures, plus a hundred shrieking toddlers with pizza sauce and birthday cake smeared across their cherubic faces, you haven't lived, mon ami.

Just make sure those black olives on your combo pizza are really olives.

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