Laffing Sal

I’d seen Laffing Sal before, so when I saw a photo of and reference to her in my new copy of Patricia Ann Stockdale’s book “The Long Beach Pike”.

I wondered. “Is that the same Laffing Sal that I saw up at the Musee Mechanique on San Francisco’s Pier 45?” I am sharing the video I took there… It’s not ‘our’ Laffing Sal, but is very close. The clothes and hat might be different.

I found a reference to Laughing (laffing) Sal on Page 45 of the book: The Long Beach Pike by Patricia Ann Stockdale.

Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam were large animatronic characters that were mounted above the “Laff in the Dark” attraction (ride) on the Pike. Wikipedia shares that another animatronic character, Blackie the Barker, was made by the same company and was also mounted above the “Laff in the Dark” attraction. Another site mentioned that Blackie the Barker was the first to deteriorate from the weather. Since they were made in the 1920s and 1930s, it would make sense that the Laff in the Dark attraction was built before or around those years. Let’s call it a research to-do point.

Funnily enough, when I brought up the subject of Laffing Sal, a visiting friend mentioned that he had seen the character at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. We looked it up, and sure enough, it was! It makes me wonder “What else is on that boardwalk?”

Wikipedia notes that “Laffing Sal (sometimes incorrectly called “Laughing Sal”) was produced by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (PTC) of Germantown, Pennsylvania during the 1920s and early 1930s. PTC subcontracted fabrication of the figures to the Old King Cole Papier Mache Company of Canton, Ohio.[1]

The figure stood 6 feet, 10 inches (2.0 m) high, including a 12-inch (30 cm) pedestal. It was made of papier-mâché, consisting of seven layers of pressed card stock with horse-hair strengthener, mounted over steel coils and frame. It did not come with a hat — hats were added by purchaser — but wore an artificial wig and was missing an upper incisor tooth.[3] The head, arms, hands and legs were detachable and were held together with fabric, staples, pins, nails, nuts and bolts. When activated, the figure waved its arms and leaned forward and backward. A record player concealed in its pedestal played a stack of 78 RPM phonograph records of a woman laughing. When the records finished, an attraction operator re-stacked and restarted them.[1] A woman named Tanya Garth performed the laugh.[4]

‘Our’ Long Beach Laffing Sal In the Movies and TV

The following references are all taken from Wikipedia.

The 1954 Technicolor 3-D film Gorilla at Large features Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam at The Pike (then called Nu-Pike) in Long Beach, California.

A 1963 episode of Perry MasonThe Case of the Two-Faced Turnabout, features the Laffing Sal and Laffing Sam at the Nu-Pike amusement park in Long Beach, California.

An episode of The Magician with Bill Bixby features the Laffing Sal at the Nu-Pike amusement park in Long Beach in the early 1970s.

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