What if Chuck Changed His Name?

Tonight I took my kids to Chuck E. Cheese, that venerable institution of germs and grease. The place where a Kid can be many different kids: overwhelmed, undernourished, desensitized and overstimulated…oh, and did I mention germs?

So as I was observing my two-year old cower by the side of the rocking, monster truck ride and cling to me as we chose a booth frighteningly close to Chuck and his hip-hop band, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if Chuck changed his name?

As it is, Chuck comes across as a man on the streets, OK, he’s a rat, so let’s face it, he’s really more a rodent in the gutters. Anyway, Chuck and his band play a number of pop-songs ranging from hip-hop, to rap to teeny-bop. And even though the location of this particular establishment is daringly close to several wealthy suburbs, the cross-section of clientele doesn’t reflect it.

But, what if it was Charles E. Cheese? What then? Would more of the affluent neighbors with equally restless, easily stimulated, enthusiastic young charges be inclined to visit? Would  the same moms that will be tuning in to the Royal Wedding on April 29th also frequent? Perhaps the Royal Wedding would even be streaming live over the multitude of TV screens on stage.

Or how about Chaz E. Cheese? Would there then be a laid back crowd of surfers and musicians? Would the animated band play Jack Johnson or Dave Mathew tunes instead? Maybe tokens wouldn’t just be something that got put into the games, maybe they’d be something the moms and dads also did in the back rooms.

I have fond memories of my first Chuck E’s experience as a kid. It must have been around 1981, when my mom lived in LA, and it must have been one of the first franchise locations, since the original opened in San Jose in 1977. I remember there was a huge ball pit, an obscene number of video games (what else can you expect when the founder was the inventor of Atari & Pong?) and pizza. It was a sacred place for a kid…so what happened?

I guess I grew up.

Certainly my kids see it as sacred and surely the multitude of other pizza eating, ticket winning, token wielding kids do too but to me, the parent, it’s just too much, or too little. There seem like so many better places for a Kid to be a Kid.

But, sadly, when said culprit is just a short drive down the road, sometimes you just gotta Chuck it in.

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeff Silvey
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 09:43:13

    Nice post.

    Yes, we all grew up. But it seems like things really were different back in the day. There was just something special about a place that had a big arcade and pizza. Kids still love it now, but I don’t think they’ll have the same nostalgia when they get older.

    Charles E. Cheese would be a good name change, but if they want to upgrade the clientele, they will need to upgrade their pizza big time.


    • growingmuses
      Mar 25, 2011 @ 15:55:10

      I agree Jeff, an all-around change would have to come withe the upgrade to Charles E. Cheese. Maybe Upper Crust (an upscale pizza joint who tailors to its eponymous clientele) can join forces with them and the success wold be imminent. I think part of the lack in nostalgia for today’s generation is that now every kid seems to have video games at their ready access, just like movies…(good) times are just different.


  2. Lee Duvall
    Mar 25, 2011 @ 20:11:51

    You are hysterical. Went there with Ellie once. Once was enough.


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