Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rockin' in the pleasure-dome

I'm fascinated by YouTube clips of the opening and closing credits for The Krofft Supershow, a live-action Saturday morning broadcast I recall fondly. It aired in the 1970s, when I was a child, and was one of a slew of trippy kids' shows produced by the puppeteer team of Sid and Marty Krofft (cf. Land of the Lost, H.R. Pufnstuf).

Critical sequences were taped not on the coasts but in downtown Atlanta, Ga. This is because the show existed partly to promote an indoor theme park: the World of Sid and Marty Krofft, which opened in the Omni hotel complex as part of a big urban-renewal land deal. As a Southern kid I felt great regional pride that Dixie could claim so wondrous a park and TV show. A fine remembrance of the park from Creative Loafing, the Atlanta alt-weekly newspaper, is here.

Like other 1970s downtown revitalization efforts, this one flopped. The park closed six months after it opened in 1976, and the hotel went bankrupt a couple of years later. It is now CNN Center.

In about 1978 my family drove down from Nashville to spend an Easter vacation at the Omni. The theme park was gone, but there was still lots to do: an ice-skating rink, shops, restaurants -- including Burt Reynolds' own Burt's Place. The Omni is where I encountered my first mall-style cookie store, complete with a love-testing machine from the penny arcade.

But all the fun aside, I remember standing in the vast atrium of the hotel -- I was 7 or 8 -- and gazing longingly up to where the theme park had been. When I squinted I was able to imagine puppets, rides, even a performance by the Krofft Supershow's glam-rock hosts, Kaptain Kool and the Kongs. But it was all gone, utterly gone.

In the still below, Kaptain Kool and the Kongs urge viewers to follow them -- on foot, on an Interstate highway -- to central Atlanta.

A crowd forms:

Now a sea of people make their way down the shoulder to the Omni:

A camera captures an aerial view of the Omni complex, which sits like a gleaming science fiction fantasy, a high-tech entertainment wonderland amid the abandoned ruins of the city. (For another view, check out this postcard.) In the foreground is the distinctive roof of the now-demolished Omni coliseum. Wrestling matches were held there:

Inside the Omni, Kaptain Kool, the very picture of kool, sings and plays the guitar. Behind and above him tantalizingly looms the World of Sid and Marty Krofft:

Kool is joined by his backing band the Kongs, among them Superchick, seen here performing elaborate stage moves in front of the theme park. Above her is what was billed as the longest free-standing escalator, which visitors rode up to the park. It is now part of the CNN studio tour:

Adieu, World of Sid and Marty Krofft. You burned brightly on The Krofft Supershow. You were the indoor theme park of my dreams, a glittering beacon of hope for the New South.

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