Thursday, July 11, 2013

Chuck Foley, Co-Inventor of Twister, R.I.P.

Eva Gabor and Johnny Carson play Twister.
Chuck Foley, who invented the popular game Twister with Neil Rabens, died 1 July 2013 at the age of 82. He had Alzheimer's Disease.

Chuck Foley was born in Lafayette, Indiana on 6 September 1930. He worked on a Ford assembly line for a time, and served in the Michigan Air National Guard from 1950 to 1953. He worked as a salesman and eventually at  Lakeside Toys in Minneapolis.

It was while he was working at the Reynolds Guyer House of Design that he and his collaborator Neil Rabins developed the idea for a game called "Pretzel". Pretzel was licensed to the board game company Milton Bradley, who immediately renamed it "Twister", and first put it on the market in 1965. Twister did meet with some controversy. Sears thought the game was too inappropriate to include in their catalogue. Not surprisingly, sales were initially very low. All of that changed when Twister was featured on the 3 May 1966 edition of The Tonight Show on NBC, on which Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor played the game. Sales shot through the roof to the point that Twister became an outright fad. Even before the end of 1966 over one million Twister games had been sold. Critics still called the game "Sex in a Box", but with such phenomenal sales it really didn't matter. In 1967 it was named "Game of the Year". It has remained in production ever since.

While Twister was by far Chuck Foley's most successful invention, it was not his only one. He held 97 patents. Another one of his popular inventions was Un-Du Adhesive Remover, a liquid to remove tape, stickers, and labels. Not surprisingly, he invented or co-invented several toys and games, including Striker: A Safe Dart Game (a game with soft-tipped darts), plastic toy handcuffs, the game Paddle Pool, and many others.

While Chuck Foley is not a household name, he certainly left his mark on popular culture. Twister proved to be one of the most successful games of all time, and is still in production nearly fifty years after its introduction. Weird Al Yankovic parodied The Beastie Boys with a song about the game, "Twister". A game of Twister with Death was a pivotal plot point in the film Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. And while Un-Du Adhesive Remover may not have seen the success of Twister, it has proven very successful nonetheless. It can be found in libraries and offices across the nation. The average person may not know who Chuck Foley was, but chances are he has touched their lives in some way.

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