Class Action Park on HBOMax | The ’80s were Rad and Deadly AF
Class Action Park on HBOMax is a documentary about death-trap amusement park Action Park in Vernon, NJ. The park operated between 1978 and 1996. And daaaaamn, there was a lot of carnage!
Also known as Traction Park and Accident Park, Action Park in New Jersey was the brain-child of 1970’s penny stock hustler Eugene Mulvihill. Mulvihill was known as someone who skirted the law, including setting up a phony shell company to provide bogus liability insurance for the Action Park.
Action Park pushed the limits of self-accountability, giving visitors control of their experience, and of course plenty of alcohol too. Workers were known to be teenagers more interested getting fucked up and hooking up after hours, than supervising the scene.
Mulvihill, an associate of Trump in the day, shows a lot like the President in the HBOMax documentary. Completely lacking accountability for those injured or killed at the park, and pushing the limits on ways to avoid playing by rules by buying-off local officials.
Six deaths occurred at Action Park. The poorly designed, unsupervised, and rowdy Jersey patrons ensured a visit to the park was literally risking your life. The HBOMax covers all these tragedies and other dismemberments on mythical terror rides like Cannonball Loop, Alpine Slide, Colorado River Ride and Kayak Experience.
But apparently it was the fucking shit! MTV, Ricky Rachtman and Alice In Chains even make an appearance in the film. Apparently MTV hosted Headbanger’s Ball there in 1980s.
Growing Up in the ’80
What stood out the most to me while watching the Class Action Park documentary was the reality that the 1980’s were a different world.
In the 1980’s growing up didn’t come with a safety net, it barely came with seatbelts. Kids still hopped on there bikes on summer mornings, peddled off to the adventure of the day, and then return before sundown – hopefully.
There were plenty of dangers. Stories would spread of kidnappings and white vans, kids falling down a well like Baby Jessica, getting hit on their bike and, of course, getting maimed or killed at an amusement park.
Independent Amusement Parks
I’ve never been to Action Park, but local Massachusetts amusement parks like Lincoln Park and Riverside Park were also known to take a life every summer or two. Let’s just say the safety standards were…lacking.
Nevertheless, did this stop us from wanted to risk it all to hop on a rickety roller coaster with little to no supervision each summer? HELL NO!
We’d hit these parks multiple times during our time off from school. Young teenagers learning how to face our fears during the day, and then learning what it meant to be a “cool kid” from IROC-Z driving high schoolers arriving half-buzzed at sun down.
Was it Worth It?
In an era of participation trophies and safety helmets, the 1980’s certainly helped with mental fortitude for some (and mental issues for others). I mean it’s not like we set out to grow up in these high-risk situations as a way to form our identity. We had no choice!
Riding in the back of pick up trucks, burning old Christmas trees in the woods for a night of drinking by the fire, riding your bike on the highway, jumping out of the second story window of Fort Adams in Newport when being chased by cops…I mean, who HASN’T done this shit?
Every flip over the handle bars was a badge of honor. Touchdowns only counted if you were playing on concrete. And if your friends did it, well, you were at least going to have to act like you were going to.
Thinking through the consequences wasn’t a choice. You just did. Peer pressure from online trolls? Shit, in the ‘80s, trolls were other kids in your face if you chickened out yelling “You Fuckin’ P-ssy!” for half the school year
The HBOMax documentary highlights crowds of New York and New Jersey spectators waiting for waivering kids to chicken out or mess up a cliff dive, in order to mock them relentlessly.
Nostalgia or PTSD?
Class Action Park on HBOMax is worth the watch. Of course the deaths at the park bring a cold dose of reality to the documentary. However, the film does a good job balancing the nostalgia of growing up in the crazy ‘80s and the reality that it wasn’t all hair-spray and arcades.
Featured former Action Park guest, Chris Gethard, probably sums it up best, “We felt like we were on our own, we felt like the world was an unsafe place. But it’s what we got – so fuck you.”