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October 27, 2005

Interview with a Ghost Monster

The year was 1980, and a great sickness was ravaging America. The name of that illness?

Pac-Man Fever.

Unlike many afflictions, Pac-Man Fever never caused poor people in foreign countries to get sick and die. Instead, PMF was an ailment that caused socially inept slackers to jam quarters into an arcade machine for hours at a time. And this was back when 25 cents was really worth something - back when one quarter could buy you a chicken dinner, a 6-pack of Schlitz and a full tank of gas for your VW Minibus.

A lot has changed since then, yet Pac-Man remains a quintessential icon of American culture. Although it was developed in Japan. By Japanese people. Specifically, this guy:

pinkintpmcreator.jpg

Even so, what could be more representative of the American Spirit than a disembodied mouth that mindlessly devours everything in its path? Replace those little white dots with beer, pornography and foreign oil, and Pac-Man could easily challenge The Great Gatsby as the Great American Novel. And Pac-Man is neither American nor a novel! Beat that, John Irving.

Yet... as much as America loves Pac-Man, far too little attention has been payed to the famous yellow munching machine's supporting cast. Of course, I am referring to the game's fearsome antagonists, the Ghost Monsters.

gmnstrs.jpg

Without the Ghost Monsters (Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde), Pac-Man would have lacked conflict. There would have been no drama, no rising action, no catharsis! Despite the pivotal role they played in the success of the game, the Ghost Monsters reaped none of the rewards. While Pac-Man went on to star in major feature films and signed lucrative endorsement deals, Inky died penniless in a Tijuana barfight. Blinky is currently serving 5-10 on federal drug charges. And Clyde... well, no one really wants to talk about what happened to Clyde.

Pinky, however, is alive and well, working as a dental hygienist in upstate New York. In order to commemorate this, the 25th anniversary of Pac-Man, I caught up with Pinky for an intimate personal interview.

thapnkstr.jpg

Joey Headset: Thanks for for joining us today, Pinky.

Pinky: My pleasure.

JH: So what exactly is a Ghost Monster?

P: What do you mean?

JH: Well, are you supposed to be a ghost, or are you a monster?

P: A ghost is a monster, isn't it?

JH: It's a kind of monster...

P: Yes it is.

JH: You are a ghost, then?

P: Sure.

JH: You're an incorporeal being? The supernatural manifestation of the soul of a deceased...

P: What the hell are you talking about?

JH: That's what a ghost is, right? The supernatural manifestation-

P: I'm not that kind of Ghost.

JH: What kind of ghost are you?

P: I'm a Ghost Monster.

JH: But that just brings us right back to the question...

P: You know, I don't really concern myself with labels. Could we move on?

JH: All right. I've always been curious, what was it like working with Pac-Man?

P: I'm not going to lie, it wasn't easy. I tried to keep things professional - we all did: Blinky, Inky, Clyde. We were professionals, man. We tried to take it one quarter at a time... but every single day was a struggle.

JH: How so?

P: Let's just say that a lot of crazy shit went down behind the scenes. No one ever talked about it, and that's fine. Back then, it was all about the game and we weren't going to say anything that would hurt the game. In all those years, we never said a word about Packy's eating disorder.

JH: Pac-Man had an eating disorder?

P: He was bulimic.

JH: Really?

P: He did nothing but eat all day long, and he never gained any weight. What the hell did you think was going on?

JH: I just figured he got a lot of exercise. He did a lot of cardio, running around the maze and stuff.

P: Vomiting around the maze is more like it. You know that little tunnel he would duck into on the side of the screen? There's a reason we didn't like to follow him through there. "Puke-Man" treated that tunnel like his personal vomitorium.

JH: I see.

P: But the bulimia was really nothing compared to P-Man's escalating drug problem.

JH: Pac-Man had a substance abuse problem? That's a pretty serious allegation. Can you offer any proof?

P: Look, no - obviously I can't prove anything. The league never bothered to establish a meaningful drug testing policy... but come on. What did you think all those pills were? Vitimin C? "Power Pellets" my ass, that was Crystal Meth! It made him fucking crazy. One minute we'd be chasing him around the maze - which was our job, after all. Suddenly, he pops one of his little Happy Pills - next thing you know, the crazy motherfucker is TRYING TO EAT US. The league didn't give a damn. If you recall, Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield during a boxing match, and they banned Tyson from competition for an entire year... just for BITING a guy. Me and my teammates were not only bitten, but TOTALLY DEVOURED, on millions of occasions and that yellow freak never got so much as a fifty dollar fine. What kind of fucked up league puts up with something like that?

JH: I see your point. But to be fair, Pac-Man didn't actually hurt you.

P: What?

JH: He would chomp on you, but then you would go back to your little box and do whatever it is you Ghost Monsters did in there, then come out a few moments later ready for action. So he couldn't have hurt you that bad.

P: Let me ask you something: Have you ever been eaten?

JH: No.

P: Well, I'll let you in on a little secret: Being eaten is EXCRUTIATINGLY FUCKING
PAINFUL!!!

JH: You know, Pinky, it's interesting you bring that up, because there's something I've always wanted to try. You may have noticed this box I brought to the interview - bet you were wondering what was inside!

P: Not really.

JH: Here, why don't you open it.

P: I don't have arms, Joey. I can't even open a can of Milwaukee's Best.

JH: I'll open it for you then. Here, take a look - I'll bet this takes you back to the old days!

P: What the... WHERE THE HELL DID YOU GET ONE OF THOSE?

JH: Ebay. Got bid up pretty high too, but I put in a strong bid in the final minutes. As I'm sure you know, Pinky, this is an actual "power pellet" from the original Midway arcade game. Bet you haven't seen one of these in a while, huh?

P: GET THAT THING AWAY FROM ME!

JH: You see, when I was a kid I played Pac-Man all the time in the arcades... but I always wondered what it would be like to actually be Pac-Man. I would run around the house, yelling "aapa-aapa-aapa", biting any small white object or family member that crossed my path. It was fun, but it wasn't the real Pac-Man experience that I craved. But now - with a little help from you, Pinky - I can live out my dream!

P: This interview is over...

JH: Mmm... this power pellet is delicious! No wonder Pac-Man liked them so much. How you feeling over there, Pinkster? You look a little blue. In fact, you've turned completely blue! Uh oh... now you've started blinking. I better get down to business!

P: GET OFF ME YOU FUCKING BASTARD! STOP BITING ME! ARRRGGGH!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was at point that we concluded the interview, what with Pinky having been recently devoured. By me. For those keeping score, this incident represents the first case of a journalist eating the subject of his interview since Jeffrey Dahmer's largely unsuccessful stint as a stringer for the Akron Beacon-Journal.

Posted by Joey at October 27, 2005 02:12 PM

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