Despite rapid changes taking place in Kuwait, people still have unforgettable memories of places that were a part of Kuwait in the past. One place that remains in the memories of those who grew up in the 1980s and early 1990s is ShowBiz, a kitschy symbol of that decadent era. ShowBiz Pizza Place was a pizza restaurant chain and family entertainment center founded in 1980 by Robert L Brock in the US. Its branch in Kuwait was an arcade center and amusement park, located in Ras Salmiya on the junction of Arabian Gulf and Balajat Streets.
ShowBiz was a permanently sited carnival place with dodgem cars and donkey, pony and camel rides, and was open daily until midnight. It was the first entertainment park with a large rollercoaster as its main attraction. It had 35 outdoor games and rides, and an additional 120 indoor games. Entrance was free, but tickets for the rides ranged in price from 250 to 500 fils. There were three restaurants and a cafeteria for those seeking refreshments.
Owned by former information minister Mohammed Al-Sanousi, ShowBiz was heavily damaged in the Iraqi invasion in 1990. It later reopened, but has been shuttered since 2005 with promises of something exciting coming up in its place, but nothing ever materialized.
“ShowBiz was my childhood home. I used to go there twice a week,” reminisced Anil Thomas. “It hasn’t reopened, and I’m sure they will build some lame mall there.” Thomas also told Kuwait Times that Shaab Park is not ShowBiz. “The difference between Showbiz and Shaab Park is that ShowBiz had a family atmosphere. ShowBiz had many sections for all ages,” he said.
For Nada Omran, ShowBiz was unforgettable place when she was a child, “I was only five years old, but I remember playing at ShowBiz like it was yesterday. I cannot forget how happy I was when I saw the singing bears’ band. My mother always held my birthday party there and I enjoyed dancing with the big yellow duck and winning toys in competitions,” she said.
Hamad Abd Al-Shafi, a father of two, told Kuwait Times that his children are now grown up, but will definitely visit ShowBiz if they consider reopening it. “As a father, I enjoyed Eid back then at ShowBiz. There was camel ride with a long queue, but it was worth waiting for, and an Indian man with a basket full of flowers. I used to buy one for my wife,” he said.
Another patron, Aisha Wardi, is filled with remorse and guilt when she remembers ShowBiz. “There was a mini-zoo inside ShowBiz with various animals. My best animal was the goat – but I have to confess that I fed it tissues and paper. Now I realize that I did something wrong. Maybe it got sick because of me!” she told Kuwait Times. Wardi was curious about the billiard hall because it was open only to men. “My dream was to go inside this hall to see what they were doing. But I will never know now,” she rued.
By Faten Omar