Title: Our Dolly Parton Pinball Machine: More Than Just a Game
Dates Showing: September 2, 2013 through the present
Status: Dolly is working great and available for free play in the LJAC Gallery during open hours. Dolly is in the process of getting an upgrade to LED lighting to reduce heat and save energy. The current high score is over 15,000,000 set in spring 2016. – Updated November 9, 2016
Description: Built around a working 1979 Dolly Parton pinball machine, this exhibition explores Appalachian identity and representation. During the mid-1970s, Bally, a leading pinball machine maker, had a successful series of machines based on celebrities including singer Elton John, daredevil Evel Knievel, hockey star Bobby Orr, and the rock group KISS. Bally Executive Tom Nieman wanted a machine he could sell to country & western bars. In 1978, Bally approached Appalachian-born country music star Dolly Parton to license her persona for a pinball machine. In mid-1978 Parton agreed, a contract was signed, and design work began. This kicked off an interesting process of determining how Parton would be portrayed in the artwork on the machine.
As the pinball machine was being designed, Parton’s career was rapidly changing. She had pop music hits and her music and identity crossed over from country into pop music. When it came time for her and her publicists to review and approve the design of the pinball machine, they balked, saying that the country music Dolly Parton portrayed on the machine no longer represented who Dolly was. A compromise was worked out between Bally Co. and Dolly’s people resulting a mixed portrayal on the machine. For more information and to see the early design, follow the link below.
The machine is available for free play during gallery hours, limit two games per patron per day. Since 2013 play averages about 900 games per semester. High scores are reset each semester. Scoring is set with free balls awarded for 240,000, 480,000, and 720,000, and for a Special.
Curators: College Curator Christopher Miller assisted by Student Curators Jonita Horn, Joey Shepherd, and Matt Heil. The online version also involved Student Curatorial Assistant Caroline Hughes.
Location: LJAC Gallery, Loyal Jones Appalachian Center, Stephenson Hall, Berea College, 205 N. Main Street, Berea, Kentucky