Playing the Silver Ball
Russ Lerner's Pinball Machine
What is your item? A 1994 Pinball Wizard machine that was issued in line with Tommy the musical that hit Broadway that same year. It was made in collaboration with The Who, the band, and the Tommy Film. It is THE machine, and I am so proud to own a Tommy.
Why is this item important to you? It represents so much about me. I absolutely love The Who and I have a love of pinball machines that goes back to my childhood. They remind me of my holidays with my Mum and Dad. We would go to Margate for a week, and I would be given a bag of coins which I spent in the arcades playing all the different machines – Bally, Williams, Gottlieb. It was the same whenever we came to Brighton too, I would go straight to the west pier and play the silver ball. So, it brings back really good childhood memories.
I have owned other pinball machines as I did start collecting them at one point. I used to buy them, do them up and sell them on. I had a friend who got me into that. He showed me how they work so I could fix them up. But I never dreamt that I’d own a Tommy!
When you hold this item what do you feel?
As I’ve said, I’d always dreamed of owning one but they were well out of my reach as they cost in the region of £5K, and they had only made a few thousand so they weren’t that available. I came across this machine by accident.
I went along to a conference on the wrong day at the wrong place in Richmond-upon-Thames, so I’d travelled across London to be told that I shouldn’t be there. It was at a media company with very swanky offices and pride of place in their foyer was this Tommy. My jaw hit the floor when I saw it and the CEO could see how taken aback I was. I said to him if he ever wanted to sell it, please let me be the first to know. A week later he called….
When you hold this item what do you feel? Feelings of pride, my love for the machine and what it represents. Me and my son Tom, spent a lot of time doing this particular machine up so we know it inside out. It’s an ongoing project as we are still replacing parts. It’s old school – Mechanical with 2D screen and basic computer but this machine plays the whole soundtrack from the show and it was a master of Wizardry of it’s time.
If it did get destroyed, I’d be gutted. I would try my best to get a replacement and I know it’s just a machine, but I would feel upset as it wouldn’t be this machine, my machine.
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