This Guy is a Real-Life Tommy

In The Who’s Tommy, a deaf, dumb and blind boy grows up to be a pinball wizard and inadvertently becomes the centre of a weird New Age religion whose followers eventually rise up against the poor guy. Pure fiction, right?

Maybe not.

Robert Gagno, who lives near Vancouver, has autism. And he’s a pinball champion. From the BBC:

When Robert Gagno plays pinball at his local arcade a crowd usually gathers to watch. The Canadian, who lives near Vancouver in British Columbia, has such control he can make each metal ball last up to an hour. He regularly smashes machine records, typing R E G – Robert Emilio Gagno – in the roll of honour.

“If I’m just playing for fun I can play safe shots over and over again. Along the way I figure out which shots score the most points,” the 27-year-old says.

He bends almost horizontally over the machine, bouncing the ball delicately between the flippers, before sending it high up the playfield.

Each hit generates a flurry of electronic noises and flashing lights that reflect off his glasses. Robert, who has autism, says this is what first attracted him to the game.

With Tommy, it was exactly the opposite: no distractions, no buzzers and bells, can’t see the lights a-flashin’. Read the whole story here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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