Laffing Sal, San Francisco’s Creepiest Tourist Attraction

I moved to San Francisco, way out near the ocean, in 1972. Just a short walk from my house was a rubble strewn, abandoned theme park called Playland at the Beach. I wandered through just before the wrecking ball smashed it to smithereens. Playland had a roller coaster, a fun house, a replica of Noah’s Ark, a diving bell. Its creepy ambience costarred in Orson Welles’ “Lady From Shanghai,” “The Princess Diaries,” and many others, some of dubious distinction such Roger Corman’s “X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes.”

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Russell Johnson

RussMoroccoSQSMRuss Johnson’s media career began at age 16 when he hosted his first solo radio program, a weekly jazz show on Minneapolis radio station. He moved on to become News Director of University of Minnesota Radio, to CBS’s WCCO-TV, McClatchy Broadcasting in Sacramento, California and to KRON-TV and KABL Radio in San Francisco. He left broadcasting to teach, spending four years on the faculty of Broadcast Communications Arts at San Francisco State University.

Johnson founded Travelmedia in 1984, which has taken him to 59 countries and dozens of states and cities on film, video, photography and editorial assignments for national tourism offices, cruise lines, airlines, major credit card companies, trade organizations, universities and world bodies such as the United Nations and the Asian Development bank. He served on the Board of Directors and the Sustainable Tourism Committee of the Pacific Asia Travel Association and has been a featured speaker on travel technology, photography and sustainable tourism at conferences around the world.

In the mid-90s, Johnson introduced pioneering web site connectedtraveler.com, which has not only served as a proving ground for internet technologies, but a multi award winning magazine emphasizing travel, culture and technology. It is the home to the Connected Traveler Technology Showcase events, most recently at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times Travel Shows.

Johnson has published books on sustainable tourism and a multimedia course and book on the tourism industry, which was used in institutions around the world including the University of Hawaii. He has produced features for American Public Radio and NPR and written for Wired, the Los Angeles Times.

A collection of his photography, videos and demos of his voice over work can be found at russelljohnson.com

Pat Meier-Johnson

Associate Editor Pat Meier-Johnson covers both technology and travel for connectedtraveler.com and is the major force behind the Connected Traveler Technology Showcases both independently and with the New York Times and Los Angeles Times travel shows.

Pat comes from a broadcasting background. After working as a graphic artist and cartoonist at San Francisco’s KQED public television she became Public Affairs Director for KLOK Radio in San Jose, California, meeting with grass roots organizations and hosting interview programs with community leaders. After several years as Creative Services Director at ABC Radio in San Francisco, she entered the uncharted waters of public relations, working for such clients as Memorex, where she had to prove that Ella Fitzgerald’s voice recorded on the company’s audio cassettes COULD break a wine glass, the Napa Valley Wine Auction.

In 1984 she established Pat Meier Associates, one of the first woman-owned high tech public relations companies. She has represented companies involved in the underpinnings of technology and business today, including networking companies, a major computer chip company, a travel booking engine, computer graphics companies and video streaming technologies.  She has been a featured speaker at both technology and tourism events, including conferences of the Pacific Asia Travel Association.

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