Friday, June 19, 2009

'Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed' inventor dies at 92


MIAMI – The inventor of the "Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed," which brought weary travelers 15 minutes of "tingling relaxation and ease" for a quarter in hotel rooms across America during its heyday as a pop culture icon in the 1960s and '70s, has died. He was 92. John Joseph Houghtaling died Wednesday at his home in Fort Pierce...


Seeing this headline reminded me of something Big Brother once did to me.

I was in my late teens (so this would have been around 1979 or 1980), still living with my parents in Monroe, La., and Big Brother had been living in Lafayette, La., about a four hour drive into south Louisiana from Monroe.

He had moved back to Monroe, but still had some items in Lafayette that he needed to get, and bring to Monroe.

So he conned me into going with him on this boring trip, there was no easy, direct way to Lafayette, it was mostly two lane country Louisiana roads. For those who have never driven in rural Louisiana, the phrase "two lane country Louisiana roads" means mind-numbing boring scenery and horribly bad road conditions.

For some reason, much of that trip there and back is a blank to me, I'm usually great at remembering nauseating amounts of detail about the most innocuous things that have happened in my life, but for this trip, two things stood out, and still stand out in my mind.

One was the god-awful smell from a Godchaux sugar refinery (pronounced GOD-shaw) we passed, and to this day I cannot fathom how something so tasty as sugar can be produced from such a foul-smelling place. I grew up around paper mills, and this sugar refinery smell made the paper mills of north Louisiana smell like Chanel No. 5 in comparison. At least to my admittedly untrained nose.

Anyway, I don't remember one detail of the apartment we took his final possessions from, but I just remember looking like the Clampetts on their way to Beverly Hills, only we were in a 1970 Buick Electra 225, also known as "A Deuce and a quarter." But we had that puppy packed to the gills, with just enough room for Big Brother and I to fit our large frames in there too, for the drive back.

By the time we had loaded the car and were ready to go, it was late at night, so we got a cheap hotel room in Lafayette to sleep a few hours before getting up and hitting the road back to Monroe the next morning.

We walk into the hotel room, it had two double beds, and Big Brother called the bed by the door. (It was the closest one to the air conditioner, which we immediately set to full-blast.)

We were so tired, that we just pulled off our shoes and flopped on the two beds.

I noticed that next to the head of my bed, there was some contraption with a slot in it for feeding quarters.

I sat up and read the front of this metal box and learned for the first time about Magic Fingers Vibrating Beds.

I do remember thinking it was a pretty goofy idea, and lay back down and was getting drowsy within seconds.

Then I heard the tell-tale clunking sound of coins being fed into a machine's coin slot, and looked over to see Big Brother cramming quarters in the machine as fast as he could, and when he saw me notice him, just let out an evil laugh.

I rolled over to stop him, but before I could, the bed started vibrating.

Big Brother laughed himself to sleep while I laid there for an hour and 15 minutes until the bed stopped vibrating.

I guess he had gotten five quarters in the vibrator on my bed before I could react.

Of course his bed didn't have a Magic Fingers, so I was powerless to return the favor.

I remember laying there so sleepy, but this stupid bed vibrated too much to allow me to go to sleep until it stopped.

Of course this was one of the things we recalled and laughed about for years.

Rest in peace, Mr. Houghtaling, your invention cost me some sleep when I sorely needed it, but then again, was a great memory to laugh about in the years that came after.

3 comments:

Carina said...

I guess that means you didn't find it a relaxing experience? Sounds a bit frightful!

Hammer said...

I was on a road trip around 1995 and a super 8 motel in Albuquerque had those things.

My wife took one look and she decided to find a camp ground.

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