When I was a kid my family owned a variety store for a few years. One of the many perks that came with owning a variety store was that I got to read all the comic books I wanted. Whiling away hours behind the cash register in a country store as a twelve year old I read an awful lot of comic books.
Anyway, for some reason I’ve always remembered a cross-promotion issue of Dennis The Menace that saw the little scamp visit Universal Studios. I vividly recall seeing The Menace experience the earthquake ride, the King Kong ride, the JAWS ride and a bunch of others.
So of course when I finally visited Universal Studios in Florida for the first time on February 22nd, 1995 I was eager to visit every one of my Dennis The Menace memories. Okay, “eager” might be understating it a little bit. It was more of an obsessive determination.
My girlfriend and I had been visiting my folks at their winter place in Deland, Florida. The four of us planned to go to the park together but my dad wasn’t feeling well so they insisted Shannon and I go without them. We arrived at the park a few hours after opening and started our day, which turned out awesome!
I ran around like a little menace myself, dragging my willing companion to one ride after another. We started on the Back To The Future simulator which probably stood as the best ride of the day. After that we hit a few roller coasters and other more traditional rides but I was far more interested in the movie-trick tours. I was thrilled when the waters parted before our trolley car like Moses was at the helm. I went ape when King Kong attacked us, his huge hairy fingers lifting our vehicle up off the tracks, just like in the comic. I remember the earthquake and floodwaters when we were down in the subway…I was living the nostalgia of a comic book and it was soooo much fun.
Just as the park was closing I pulled Shannon towards the JAWS ride. “C’mon!” I yelped, “We still have time!”
“Please, no,” she begged, finally having enough. “I’m cold and I don’t want to get wet,” she told me, walking towards the gate.
But I was having none of it. I begged and pleaded, grabbing her by the hand and dragging her towards JAWS. “You won’t get wet,” I promised. “Please?!?! I really want to ride this one,” I begged. “There was this great part when the shark came at Dennis The Menace…” I was worse than a five year old, and of course I got my way.
And of course it was fantastic! I was amazed how well the “cast member” who was running the ride was playing his part. Even at the end of a long, busy day he still acted shocked and horrified every time the mechanical shark attacked our boat, putting in such an energetic performance he almost stole the show. The guy would be screaming and pretending to steer us away from the giant toothed beast when whammo! JAWS would jump out of the water and surprise us all over again…it was great!
And of course the one, single person on the entire ride who got wet was Shannon, and she got soaked. And man, did I hear about it. I heard about it through chattering teeth all the way through the vast parking lot back to the car, and I heard about it all the way back to Deland too. And of course, she was right.
I suspect if we were still together I’d still be hearing about it, and frankly I still wouldn’t regret pulling her onto that JAWS ride. It was so awesome!