A Lucky Night of Sopranos Pinball at EightyTwo

The Sopranos pinball machine at EightyTwo arcade in Los Angeles' Arts District. (Photo: Liz Ohanesian)

I’m not sure why we decided to drive to EightyTwo. It’s Saturday night, so parking in the Arts District will be scarce and, now that the Little Tokyo/Arts District Metro Station is open, we could have just taken the A. But we didn’t. Instead, we’re driving around in circles past taco trucks and small armies of party people. We’ve probably spent more time looking for parking spot than we spent driving from home to wherever we are on Traction. 

On an ordinary night, this might have prompted us to turn around and head home, but Carlos is bumpin’ a City Pop mix CD that he picked up at a Tokyo Love Song party earlier this summer and the vibes are good. We will find parking. He turns onto a tiny side street, which we quickly realize is a dead end. Two points into a three point turn, we notice a small empty space on the side of the street. It’s not a curb, but it’s not really a driveway either, so we could park there. I mean, it doesn’t say no parking. We’ll take the chance. 

EightyTwo is an arcade for the 21+ crowd. There’s a full bar, located in the back of a room full of classic arcade games, where you can get specialty cocktails  with names like Kill Screen and Wizard Mode, or just get beers like we did. There’s usually a DJ on the decks. Tonight, it’s Fifi Laroux, from Décadanse, who is playing The Cramps song “Human Fly,” as I take the first sip of my sour beer. 

Carlos and I head to the second room at EightyTwo, which is dedicated to pinball, and are delighted to see that The Sopranos machine is open. I stake our claim while he goes to get a handful of tokens. 

As a kid, I always gravitated towards video games at the arcade. Ms. Pac-Man has been my favorite since I was old enough to handle a joystick. Street Fighter II was a game I eventually learned to like because of my friends’ insistence on playing it at virtually every Valley arcade we encountered in the ‘90s. In recent years, though, I’ve grown much more enamored with pinball. The catch, however, is that I also suck at pinball. I don’t know what I’m doing and don’t even bother to pay attention to the score. I just like turning my focus towards that silver ball for the handful of moments that I can keep it in play. It’s a little meditative.

Also, I love the visual and sound design of pinball machines. Take this Sopranos machine as an example, with the talking fish on the playing field and lines like “Where’s the fuckin’ money?” We use up almost all of our tokens here, going back and forth in two player games. Carlos moves up the ranks in the organization. I flick the ball into the fish a couple times and hit the Stugots once, but remain a lowly associate. Then, in the last round, as something magical happens. I watch the ball wind around the Bada-Bing pole dancers, successfully flick it up towards the fish a couple times, hit the pork shop and lock it in the Stugots. I’m not looking at the score or the ranking, but I can hear the sound of more points over the Fun Fun song playing in the background. Hey, I must be doing something right. 

We realize we’ve been hogging The Sopranos machine and head into the video game room for a bit. We don’t play anything. I move my feet to Ken Laszlo’s Italo disco jam “Hey Hey Guy” as much as one can in a busy room with no dance floor. We start talking about The Sopranos. I tell Carlos that I don’t know how anyone could think Tony made it out of that show alive. He was responsible for so many horrible events that the only way the show could end is with his own death. That’s the only logical conclusion. 

Is it time for a rewatch, we wonder, even though we did that just last year?

We venture back to the pinball room and play a few other machines before I start to get really hungry. We leave, pop by a truck to pick up tacos to take home and then look for the car, which is still in its parking spot. I look at the windshield and there’s no sign of a parking ticket. That’s the real win on this Saturday night. 


707 E. 4th Place, Los Angeles, CA 90013

Hours: Tuesday – Friday 5 p.m.- 2 a.m.; Saturday and Sunday 2 p.m.- 2 a.m.

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