Hello kids, it’s been a while since your Aunt John has done much of anything around these parts and for that, I would like to apologize. Three months ago this week, I went under the knife and laser and whatever else they use to reattach retinas. The recovery process has been tedious, and the very last thing on the list of things I really wanted to do was look at the computer for prolonged periods of time. What I did find myself doing though was developing a pretty noticeable addiction to the documentary section of Netflix Streaming. With my own reality being nothing more than a depressing blur, I looked to the lives of others for inspiration and escapism.
While almost all of the documentaries I watched are not suitable for Kindertrauma coverage, there is one that will resonate with readers traumatized by the automaton house band at the now-defunct Showbiz Pizza Place chain. THE ROCK-AFIRE EXPLOSION (2008) explores the rise and fall of this unlikely super group through the usual tapestry of interviews, stock footage, and mind-bogglingly ‘80s commercials.
Two of the interview subjects rightfully garner the most camera time, Rock-afire inventor Aaron Fechter and fanboy Chris Thrash and when the camera was not pointed on them, I wanted to click the fast forward button. The fascinating tour of Fechter’s once big, shiny, and very ‘80s corporate headquarters (requisite Michael Jackson cameo alert!), which is now a forgotten warehouse of decaying animatronic curiosities is akin to watching a surreal episode of HOARDERS. If this gloriously creepy place was open for public tours, I would be the second in line right after Thrash, who worked day and night as a DJ at a roller-rink to save up to get his very own Rock-afire Explosion, which he keeps in, what looks like, a detached garage. It does get borderline uncomfortable when he invites neighborhood children over unsupervised to take in the floor-show, but hey, who I am to judge? If he wants to show off the prized possession he worked so hard to get and spread the Rock-afire gospel by parading around in a plush character costume, then more power to him!
Sadly, there’s no mention of what Thrash actually shelled out for these robots, but we are left with the knowledge that Fechter still has one in mint-in-crate condition for sale at his warehouse of broken dreams. If any of you traumatots pony up the cash for it, please invite me over… please!
Dear Aunt John, I am very glad to hear of your successful surgery. I too, have had this unpleasant experience and it took a while to see well and feel better about looking at the computer for long periods. Welcome back!
Chuck E. Cheese and his friends could not hold a candle to these guys. Seriously.
As a child, I once peeked behind the curtain between Rock A Fire shows to see what was happening. I can remember a flash of seeing Billy Bob standing there, frozen, eyes open and lifeless, before I let the curtain fall and refused to watch the next show. Scarred . For. Life.
I guess I expected to see them getting some water and cocaine and playing a little grabass between shows, I don’t know.
Oh man I wanna see this so bad! I’m not streaming right now so I’ll have to wait though.
All we had here in Portland was The Organ Grinder – a guy playing a GIANT pipe organ with a wind-up monkey on it and, if I remember right, silent movies playing on a screen above the organ. By far one of my most fav childhood memories!
Glad to see you’re back, AJ!
Hey cmcmcmcm… no need for the Netflix, as pointed out by someone on Facebook, it’s available on HULU:
And thanks saraeg for the kind words. I still have the silicone embedded in the eye and the retina specialist and ophthalmologist are keeping close tabs on it. No fun, indeed.
Well, I just spent time that I should have been doing chores watching this documentary. Being from Alabama, I remember Showbiz Pizza very well. It beat the crap out of Chuck E Cheese! I’d rather crew broken glass than enter that place! I did enjoy the doc, but I felt sorry for a few of the featured participants. Aunt John, I would also like to know what Chris forked over for his own Rock-afire Explosion.
awesome. i had one right up the street from me in FL. they turned it into a chuck.e.cheese back in the late 80’s tho.
there’s a local guy named burt wilson who has been on the radio here off and on. he was the writer of the music and the voice of the gorilla.
also the redheaded dude with the beard at about 19:30 is jeff howell who’s also local and buddy of burt wilson.