Zoltar Segue
January 3, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Zoltar breakdancing! Everybody rumba, rumba rumba. Zoltar, that fortune-telling guy you thought was stuck in his booth, went mobile and won the Motorized Float prize in the 2009 Coney Island Mermaid Parade last summer.

Some of us probably remember one of his alter egos from the 1970s animated Battle of the Planets, who also went by the names Berg Katse and Mala Latroz, and whose quasi hermaphroditic nature was obfuscated in the American adaptation by explanatory 7-Zark-7 monologues (1:40 - 2:40). Perhaps one or two of us even have an action figure lying around. But that Zoltar wannabe had serious identity problems, and his life of ambigusexual villainy ended in tragic suicide.

Even more of us probably remember him from that scene in Big where a twelve year old kid made a wish and got what he asked for. (I doubt more than a small majority have seen him in Big - The Musical).

But Zoltar may be most fondly remembered as the six-foot-five, acquisitive and witty animatronic soothsayer-in-a-box who likes to hang out at piers boardwalks. Here, he is silent on the question of whether or not some dude should hire a prostitute. This cute girl lingers, intrigued, over her fortune while trying to ignore the douche cameraman. Here, Zoltar disseminates advice at the beach. This videographer prefers a horizontal Zoltar. This Zoltar is sort of interactive.

He may not be the only enterprising fortune-telling-machine around, but he is probably the first to become mobile and win a Motorized Float contest using a modified Segway. Lots of work went into this project. Here you can see how the float was assembled (part 1, part 2 - breakdancing bit is at 9:22), and here is a test demonstration.

Want a Zoltar of your own but don't want to spend $6,600 at Characters Unlimited Inc, or $5,500-$8,500 at ZoltarMachine.com (See how he's made: artists at work, woodwork, faces, hands & eyes), or $8,999.95 at Hammacher Schlemmer, or $7,495.00 for this eBay seller's auction? Well, it seems Zoltar has fallen on hard times and is offering himself to denizens of the Washington state area, as noted on his Facebook fan page.

Still can't afford him? Then get yourself a $139 Chumby Guts (some assembly required) or a $120 Chumby One and add the Zoltar widget to one of your channels.

Still too cheap for Zoltar? Then virtualize him (free registration required) and enjoy the advice and truisms via that widget for $0.
posted by christopherious (15 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I do not know what was printed on the many fortune cards that were dispensed to other parade attendees that day, but I'm pretty sure, based on photo #9 from this Regis & Kelly flickr photo set, that the spread on his table was from the Rider-Waite deck and that the cards were all trumps: The Lovers, the Wheel of Fortune, Strength and The Fool.

Incidentally, Jonathan Gleich also won other contests with this Zoltar, including Hollywood East Connection, HGTV and Blockbuster Blog.
posted by christopherious at 4:15 PM on January 3, 2010

I think I missed something, where is the break-dancing and the wonderous RUMBAAA???
posted by Lizc at 4:24 PM on January 3, 2010

Lizc: I think I missed something, where is the break-dancing and the wonderous RUMBAAA???
Buried in my post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKa1Rxk0Ou4 (breakdancing bit is at 9:22)
posted by christopherious at 4:27 PM on January 3, 2010

Here's a Zoltar doppleganger: The non-moving Zoltan the fortune teller by Prophetron (~1967 - early 1970s), apparently voiced by Robert Cottle (MP3 sample) and co-created by Robert Bourque (Bourque's obit). Lots of technical details in that first link.

I honestly do not know who came first, Zoltar or Zoltan.
posted by christopherious at 4:59 PM on January 3, 2010

Ah, Zoltan was the original! From the same link I just posted:
The name "Zoltan" was used and slightly modified to "Zoltar Speaks" for a fortune teller used in the 1988 Tom Hanks movie "Big" (though the fortune tellers "Zoltan" and "Zoltar" are nothing alike in looks or operation, this is often confused) ... Zoltar Speaks fortune teller, zoltarmachine.com, NEW, trying to take advantage of the Zoltar name as used in the movie "Big", this recently made fortune teller uses the "zoltar" name. (Has nothing to do with the movie however.)
posted by christopherious at 5:05 PM on January 3, 2010

the spread on his table was from the Rider-Waite deck and that the cards were all trumps: The Lovers, the Wheel of Fortune, Strength and The Fool.

I must commend Zoltar for overcoming the urge to showcase the Tarot's more oft-maligned and misunderstood images, such as The Tower, Death, The Hanged Man, and The Devil. It always bothers me when television and movies distort those cards' meanings purely to cash in on a little "OMG OCCULTISM".
posted by hermitosis at 5:05 PM on January 3, 2010

What a fun & ambitious post, christopherious - thanks. A veritable Compleat Zoltar.

He had the perfect dry costume for what looks like a soggy and chilly parade day. That parade always looks so fun. And my hat is off to people like this guy who put such personal effort and creativity into amusing onlookers.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:15 PM on January 3, 2010

I was at the parade, although I can't find myself in the background of the video. The amazing thing that day was that the costume went below the wheels of the segeway without getting caught. He truly looked like he was floating along. It actually took my friends and I a few moments to figure out how he was traveling.
posted by Hactar at 6:05 PM on January 3, 2010

@madamjujujive: Thanks. Had I spent a little more time on the research, I would have caught the Zoltan/Zoltar evolution sooner and mentioned that much up front. And a "more inside" link wouldn't have hurt. I'm glad you enjoyed it, though, and I am especially tickled that something I did has earned a "veritable" (my favorite word).
posted by christopherious at 6:58 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

The "explanatory 7-Zark-7 monologues" youtube link seems to be a dupe of the previous one.
posted by schwa at 7:30 PM on January 3, 2010

After posting I decided the Battle of the Planets section was weak, I have to confess.
posted by christopherious at 7:45 PM on January 3, 2010

We've just been switched from being Rickrolled to ZoltarRolled.
posted by Chuffy at 7:52 PM on January 3, 2010

Best use of Segway EVAR!!!!

LOL, my favorite joke is to ask a Zoltar machine to "make me big." Then I inhale deeply, look down in wonder at my DDD bosom, and say, "THANKS, Zoltar!"
posted by Jinx of the 2nd Law at 8:29 PM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Fun post! Thanks christopherious.

I honestly do not know who came first, Zoltar or Zoltan.

Zolton came first.
posted by various at 9:54 PM on January 3, 2010

God i totally love BOTP and its awesome theme tune. also the way, in some of them, that you can see where they are repeating the background, and the ship practically jumps across the screen.

great post, just for the botp links.
posted by marienbad at 6:20 AM on January 4, 2010

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