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Meet Maida Vale's pinball wizard

PUBLISHED: 12:13 27 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:59 07 September 2010

Gary Flower

Gary Flower

Kristian Brunt-Seymour HE may be a serious businessman by day, but one Maida Vale resident can also claim to be one of Britain s lesser known sporting heroes. Gary Flowers is the current pinball world champion and is also a leading authority on the sport

Kristian Brunt-Seymour

HE may be a serious businessman by day, but one Maida Vale resident can also claim to be one of Britain's lesser known sporting heroes.

Gary Flowers is the current pinball world champion and is also a leading authority on the sport.

Clad in a royal blue pinball shirt and specially-designed pinball jacket, Mr Flowers talks excitedly about his 31-year pinball career.

"Playing pinball is like watching a movie," he said. "You build up and up and then all hell breaks loose. It's fast and furious at times."

Mr Flowers acquired his first pinball machine in 1977 before rising through the ranks of the competitive sport to world champion in 1984 - where he has remained ever since.

Among his vast trophy collection is a bronze plaque of an honorary knighthood which he received at the annual Western Chicago North Shore Convention in 2008.

He has attended the convention 25 times and admits he is still in awe of what he sees there.

"To see all my heroes, including Steve Kordek - a leading figurehead in the world of pinball - was amazing, they were such role models growing up."

All three games machines proudly displayed in Mr Flower's living room are in immaculate condition despite being 10 years old.

According to the champion, the normal life span of the machines is three to four years.

"If I was on a desert island with one pinball machine I would take the Getaway," he said.

"The game is a small piece of real-life history in itself."

Mr Flowers says his cherished Getaway reflects his own mood - furious and gentle at different times.

He explained how its designer was inspired to create the game after being caught speeding on the freeway in America with his girlfriend. The game depicts a graphic Bonnie and Clyde version of the couple escaping the police in his red Ferrari.

Following his pinballing success, Mr Flowers began writing books on the history of the game. One of his more famous books, The Lure of the Silver Ball, sold half a million copies.

He currently provides teaching for pinball enthusiasts as well as working for Pingame Journal, an American magazine. And he is a leading member of the Internet Pinball Database - the online pinball encyclopaedia.

In the meantime, Mr Flowers is preparing for the European Pinball Championships, which will be held in July.

"The show will be the biggest ever seen with more than 20 countries," he said. But he also notes the changing face of the game over the years: "It has gone from a public sphere to a private one. And the trend is particularly declining in pubs and universities.


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