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The only original artwork by Charles Leroy Parker!

One year after lecturing on the art of Charles Leroy Parker at the 2004 Pinball Expo, I returned to the show to visit a few friends from Australia. I hadn't originally planned on attending, but my wife knew I really wanted to see Lee Fenwick. So she said, "Take off, Pin Head, and go visit your friend."

I planned on surprising him when I reached the hotel, but just as I entered the exhibition hall we ran into each other. He was as surprised as I was. Both Alan Tate and Michael Shaloop were also with Lee, so we really had a great time talking about our Pinball Museum projects. Lee has been restoring games for Alan for about two years and I've been trying to steal him away to restore games for me. It has been a long running joke considering Lee is very happy in Australia and would not uproot his family to come stay with me.

During the show I was approached by Larry Kitchen. He said he had been looking for me because he had attended the Lecture on Parker the year before and wanted to show me something important. When we reached his booth, he pulled out a piece of clear plastic with some artwork on it. When I got a full look at it I almost fell over. It was a color sketch of the Lady Archer from the backglass of Lady Robin Hood, a 1947 Woodrail Pinball game by Gottlieb. I was shocked to see any original artwork from any woodrail game of that era, considering no artwork from that period has ever been found or published.

Larry said he found it a few years ago inside a Lady Robin Hood game someone had sold him. He had no idea whether it was an original or not, and that was why he came looking for me. I told him I couldn't be sure if it was an original, and that I had no idea if Parker worked this way or not. I knew from my research that Parker presented many sketches to the "Gottlieb Brass" for approval during his tenure at Reproductions and Ad Posters. What I didn't know was whether he worked in this medium or not. Frankly, the only people I could ask with any amount of certainty were not even attending this EXPO, namely Wayne Neyens and Alvin Gottlieb.

I told Larry I was interested in buying the piece even if it wasn't an original Parker. He was happy to sell it as part of the future National Pinball Museum's memorabilia. That was the end of that, or so I thought.

That evening, Pinball Expo was inducting Judd Weinberg into The Pinball Hall of Fame. Judd became president of D. Gottlieb Inc. in 1974 after his father-in-law, David Gottlieb turned over the reins due to failing health. Judd ran the company until late 1976 when the decision was made to sell it to Columbia Pictures, a very savvy move considering the rapid decline of the sport soon after.

At the hall of fame induction, I realized that Judd had worked very closely with Parker for many years and that he would also be familiar with his artwork. After introductions by his nephew Michael Gottlieb, I showed Judd the artwork. Without a moment's hesitation, Judd declared it an original Parker. This was exactly how Parker presented detailed sketches of some of the games he painted. Being somewhat of a skeptic I asked if he was sure this was an original Parker. Absolutely, without question!

So there you have it! The only known piece of original artwork by Charles Leroy Parker. What a day!


Go Figure

"Why do people in ship mutinies always ask for 'better treatment?' I'd ask for a pinball machine, because with all that rocking back and forth you'd probably be able to get a lot of free games."
óJack Handy

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