Pinball Wizards

Elton John kicks my ass.

Well, it's not so much the big-goggles singer as it is his namesake 1975 Bally Capt. Fantastic pinball machine. I go through quarters -- three balls for 25 cents -- the way some people dump them in the slots at the Double Eagle. It's like an addiction. Someday -- someday! -- I'm gonna score more than 300,000 points on this machine, which features Elton as the Who's glam Pinball Wizard. Until then, I just keep asking Kevin and Carole Carroll, the owners of Lyons Classic Pinball, to change my twenties.

The couple opened the alcohol- and smoke-free '70s-era pinball parlor last March after deciding to quit their day jobs and make a living off the machines lurking in their basement. "We started because my wife bought me a pinball machine two and a half years ago, and we thought, this is neat, but we'll get sick of it," Kevin says. "But we got addicted. We were obsessed -- and it was both of us. My wife said to me, 'I don't know if I'm into this because I'm into it or you're into it.' Then, that weekend, I was sleeping in, and I go downstairs about ten, and here she is in her birthday suit, playing The Addams Family for the past four hours."


Lyons Classic Pinball

339-A Main Street, Lyons, open Wednesday through Sunday, 303-823-6100

The game that started it all for them was the classic 1978 Bally KISS game -- five balls for fifty cents, woo-hoo! -- complete with Gene Simmons tongue and electronic tones of "Rock and Roll All Nite." It was a good choice: The game is now one of the most sought-after rock-theme machines, selling for $3,000 to $4,000. The Carrolls also have games that date back to the '30s and '40s, but none of those are in the Lyons shop at 339-A Main Street.

"Even though I have a ton of machines -- they're like potato chips; you can't own just one -- I only have limited space," Kevin says. "And even though a lot of people are interested in the old machines, not a lot of people play them. It's sad to say, but the modern games have more of an audience. I will never change the mix, though, because I want the older guy to be able to come in and remember, 'Yeah, this is pinball.'"

There are thirty electronic gizmos to suit any predilection, including Gottlieb's 1982 Haunted House, which includes three fields of play, and vintage Donkey Kong and OutRun video games. "I love showing people things on games," Kevin says. "There's something very Pavlovian about beating a ball around in a box. You don't get any money out of it, but there's just something about it."

Boy sure plays a mean pinball.

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