Two Hours in Chuck E. Cheese’s Hell

Chuck E Cheese RatA few days ago, I entered the hell that is Chuck E. Cheese’s.

If you’ve been lucky enough never to have experienced Chuck E. Cheese’s, let me describe it: Picture 100 screaming kids, high on birthday cake, bad pizza and soft drinks, running amok and playing games and rides that I played on outside department stores 30 years ago – one-horse merry-go-rounds that do nothing but spin, Whack-a-Mole games, and the ubiquitous plastic tube/spiral slide contraption that you see on every playground. Add at least one parent for each child, running after them with a dazed look in their eyes, and you have a good idea of what I’m talking about.

The mascot for Chuck E. Cheese’s, Mr. Cheese himself, is a giant gray rat. A quick Google search reveals that the E in Chuck E. Cheese stands for “entertainment.” I thought it stood for “Eeek!” or “exterminate.”

My youngest daughter was there for a birthday party. She continually cast a wary eye to the 6-foot animatronic version of Chuck, who stood behind a shower curtain most of the time (I’m sure the kids thought he was ready to pounce on them like Norman Bates) but emerged every five minutes for some “entertainment.” It’s here where I finally tie this horror story to music.

I thought that the rat would sing some upbeat songs designed for kids – “Walking on Sunshine,” “Celebration” or at the worst, something like “Who Let the Dogs Out?” (which as I write this, seems especially relevant given the vermin singing it).

But no.

Actually, I liked the songs. They were all 80s hits. I’m just wondering who decided that kids would like them:

  • “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Tears for Fears. Fairly innocuous, but it’s not the most upbeat song in the world. Unless Curt and Roland were singing it themselves, I really wouldn’t want to see anyone performing this song.
  • “Shout” – Tears for Fears. Okay, big TfF fan picking out the music. But c’mon. This minor-key, apocalyptic sounding song, with the lyrics “They gave you life, and in return you gave them hell”? I’m sure they changed the words, but even using Barney lyrics wouldn’t take away the creepy mood of this song.
  • “Overkill” – Men at Work. An underrated song by the Australian band, it’s good – very good. But it’s also Colin Hay’s confessional to anxiety and paranoia, first broached by “Who Can It Be Now?” A sampling:

Day after day it reappears
Night after night my heartbeat
Shows the fear
Ghosts appear and fade away

Get up and dance kids! Cuz tonight you’ll be afraid to close your eyes!

I know I’m reading too much into this. The kids were too busy playing and exchanging germs and mucus to listen to a singing rodent. But I thought it amusing.


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