Here I am, ready to do my best with the blogger’s version of a dead man’s hand.
The situation: I have not slept. I don’t know how it happened. I was in bed in the dark and it was all very sleep-encouraging. Somehow, no sleeping occurred. Now I’m about to write an article with more than a day’s distance between me and my last slumber. Don’t bet on good jokes!
The situation, made a billion times worse: This post is about carnival mirror prizes. 99% of you have no idea what I even mean by that, and I’m in no position to explain it. We’re totally fucked here, and I haven’t even started.
I’ll do my best.
“Carnival mirrors prizes” are those square pieces of mirrored glass, blessed with images of our favorite cartoon, movie and beer commercial characters. Shoved inside crude cardboard frames, they were (and to some degree, still are) common prizes at carnivals and amusement parks. Like, if you hit the three pins off the Lazy Susan or whatever, you went home with a carnival mirror prize.
#1: Transformers “Jetfire” Carnival Mirror Prize!
This is arguably the most famous carnival mirror prize of all. With a likeness that seems too good to be unlicensed, it’s Jetfire, the Autobot who was actually from Robotech or Gundam or something. Jetfire never appeared on the TV series, unless you count Skyfire as Jetfire, and I don’t, because Skyfire and Jetfire had completely different heads.
Hmmm. I just realized that Skyfire and Darth Vader were my first experiences with meaningful death. Skyfire crashed into ice, while Vader died by allowing his master’s Force lightning to seep into his exposed forearm. My first experiences with meaningful death. Could explain why I became such a monster.
#2: Grim Reaper Carnival Mirror Prize!
Every casino arcade of my youth had at least ten reaper-themed prizes, from posters to resin statues and beyond. Some the art was pretty nasty stuff, too. I remember one velvet painting that had the grim reaper clutching a woman by the boob, while using his other hand to point to the dimensional portal looming behind him. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t want to understand it now.
#3: Dinosaurs Carnival Mirror Prize!
This looks too good to be real, so I’m assuming it was one of those “phony” carnival mirror prizes that just dropped a paper photo behind a clear glass front. Earl Sinclair, you are a CHEATER!
Hit him, Baby. And not in your typical “cute for the camera” way. Hit him like you mean it. Stick that pot handle into his eye socket, and keep pushing until he either dies or admits that his obsessive cost-cutting measures made him a total failure.
#4: Coors Light Carnival Mirror Prize!
Well, I’m not even halfway done, and I’m already sensing collapse. I may have to continue this later. I know I made some mental notes about this Coors prize, but the filing cabinets in my brain are currently purple tigresses, waiting to pounce on enormous floating marshmallows. I think I wanted to write something about how I often chose “beer prizes” just for the maturity points. I’d come home from Keansburg with fifty plastic spider rings and three Miller Lite posters. Remembering even that much has exhausted me to the point where my hands are now literally trembling. That’s why it took thirty-seven backspaces to type “literally trembling.”
I’m going to bed. You’ll get the rest later. When I return, my eyes will no longer look like squashed cherries.
Okay, I’m back, and armed with four hours’ worth of shuteye. I still need ten more.
#5: Hulk Hogan Carnival Mirror Prize!
Hey look, it’s Hulk Hogan. It’s Hulk Hogan… as part of the Cheers intro? Weird!
I was never a big Hogan fan, even as a little kid. I was too into monsters and Macho Men, and Hulk was always beating them in such ridiculous ways. Still, wrestling references at amusement parks were rare things before the late ‘90s, so kudos to Hulk Hogan for being the one guy popular enough to beat the boom.
#6: Iron Maiden Carnival Mirror Prize!
As a child, bands like Iron Maiden scared the piss out of me. It’s not like I knew anything about them. I never listened to the music, and I didn’t know what any of ’em looked like. My fear was simply based on images like this. Creepy, complicated images that hinted at pain and Cenobites.
I took them to be satanic, but with a sci-fi twist. My theory was that exposing yourself to the sights and sounds of those bands made you an easy target for the many invisible goblins that were always waiting for the right moments to materialize.
It didn’t stop with metal bands, either. One of my sisters used to have a Grateful Dead poster in her bedroom. Some flowery thing, but with a big skeleton drinking from a cocktail glass. Something like that. I was positive that if I stared at that poster for too long, the skeleton would blink into physical existence. From there, it would eat the shit out of me.
#7: Ghostbusters Carnival Mirror Prize!
Classic! The Ghostbusters logo converts magnificently into a carnival mirror prize, and this was right up there with the most popular of them all. (I took a poll!)
I like how the “no ghosts” icon is duplicated in the text. Combined with the larger version, it gives the impression of a regular-sized ghost, plus a pocket-sized one who probably speaks with an adorably squeaky voice.
“Whew! The Real Ghostbusters will return after these messages!” Now picture a chipmunk saying it. Great, right?
#8: Bart Simpson Carnival Mirror Prize!
The dark truth of carnival mirror prizes is that they’re almost never licensed. Back when Bart was still fresh and new, his likeness was stolen constantly. The cool thing about it was how the bootleggers were always changing his appearance. We had Barts with different skin colors, Barts with extra bumpy heads, and Barts saying things that the real one never would’ve.
This prize was probably unlicensed, but at least the likeness was reasonably on-target. Course, the exclamation point in Bart’s speech bubble really should’ve been a question mark, or maybe the wicked question mark/exclamation point combo.
#9: Unicorn Carnival Mirror Prize!
I have no official position on unicorns, but I’ll say this much: I envy those who love them. It’s hard to explain, but people who cover their homes in unicorn decorations seem like they lead fun little lives. Cozy, somehow. I imagine the couches of their living rooms being covered in fifteen enormous blankets. I also bet they have terrific assortments of tea.
I hope this isn’t coming off as offensive, because I’m not being facetious. I’ve had plenty of friends, or at least acquaintances, with houses full of things like this. I always felt so comfortable in those houses. They were places where time stood still, and where every chip came with a dip.
So, if that unicorn prize fits your motif, I should sleep over.
#10: Snoopy Carnival Mirror Prize!
I’m suspicious of this one. There doesn’t seem to be any mirrors or glass. Is that just a Snoopy sticker stuck into a shitty carnival mirror frame?
And what’s with those blacks lines on the right? Marker doodles, or the remnants of a dead spider?
I think I’ll start up a writers’ workshop. I’ll take money from a dozen eager teenagers, challenge them to write stories about this carnival mirror prize, and then spend the whole class playing with my phone. I’ll intentionally tank the illusion with encouragements like, “Nice work, Jane. Good use of color.”
Okay, done. I’m going back to bed. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this tribute to carnival mirror prizes as much as I’ve enjoZZZZZZZZZZZ