Tales From the Theme Park #11

September 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Tales from the Theme Park

tales-from-the-theme-parkIt’s another thrilling tale from the live caricaturist trenches at your friendly neighborhood theme park!

There are many annoying things that transpire around you when working at a theme park, but by far the worst is repetitive noise. Things like the repeating park soundtrack, shows that play near you a dozen times a day, games barkers that say the same thing over and over on their microphones, etc. Theme park management usually does nothing to help people keep their sanity when things get out of hand, so sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands.

Way back in the 80’s when I worked as a caricaturist at Six Flags Great America, we had a location right next to a ground speaker that was basically stuck on full volume. Listening to the repeating soundtrack all day is bad enough, but when the volume and proximity to the speaker actually interferes with you being able to talk to your customers, something needs to get fixed. The manager of our operation, Gary, tried to get the park to adjust the volume or move the speaker, but they just ignored him. So, he would periodically use a multi-tool to cut the wires of the speaker or otherwise sabotage it so it would not work. It would take a few days before someone in park management would notice the speaker was out, and another day or two before they’d fix it. Gary would just sabotage it again, and then played dumb if they asked him about it. I’ve been told he did that for years.

Years later I took a page out of Gary’s book when Six Flags St. Louis put a loudspeaker on top of a building next to one of our locations and had the speaker pointing right at our booth. After close one night I climbed up onto that roof and turned the speaker around to point away from us. Later we disconnected the speaker entirely. I don’t think the park ever noticed.

The worst noise annoyance problem of all happened in the summer of 1990 when I was managing an operation at Six Flags Atlanta. We had a couple of locations in the park but the main one was located in a kind of central midway area. This booth was built like a wrap-around “porch” on the outside of a fairly large candy store, and was by far our busiest spot. Well… it was in front of a candy store during the 1989 season. When we came in to set up the booth the next spring, we discovered they’d replaced the candy store with a karaoke recording studio. They also set up huge speakers right in our faces to play a repeating demo tape of horrible karaoke performances.

If I would have had to listen to Six Flags patrons singing awful versions of country tunes all summer, I would have been dead by August. Knowing we had no chance to get the park to do anything about this, we took matters into our own hands. We went into the recording studio and confronted the manager, telling her that if we had to listen to their demo reel all day every day, we were going to have to record the one they used ourselves. She agreed to our compromise.

So, all summer long we listened to our artist’s renditions of 70’s and 80’s tunes… and a couple of “Madonna” numbers by the nearby puppet show personality “Buford Buzzard”. Eddie Pittman did mean version of The Eagles “Desperado”. My Billy Idol numbers sounded like a cat being tortured. It could have been worse, but I still sometimes wake up in a cold sweat with Buford’s “Like a Virgin” echoing in my ears.


  1. Paul says:

    I always enjoy hearing about these. Thanks!


I am close to adding a second caricature workshop in January in Orlando. Details here: http://www.tomrichmond.com/2016/10/21/second-orlando-workshop/

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