Thursday, July 11, 2013


Photo courtesy Flickr

Here’s a little background on the Space Needle in honor of this week’s celebration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of grunge music. The Needle was the symbol of the Seattle World’s Fair (the only one to show a profit), and it was designed with a flaming torch on the top. Washington Natural Gas supplied the fuel and was annoyed to discover that, as with any structure, it was obliged to pay for the pipe from the gas main. The pipe for the Needle was two hundred feet long, er, high.

At the time, the University of Washington was the epicenter of research in heart medicine, and the former PR director of the Washington State Heart Association arranged for the first pregnant woman to undergo open heart surgery to light the torch in a small ceremony held on top of the Needle. A hand holding a torch was the logo of the national heart association.

The honoree, PR director, a newspaper photographer, and hard hat rode an open freight elevator to the top of the Needle in a howling autumn storm. When they reached the small platform, the PR person said, she realized there were no safety rails and she fell to the deck in her “Mad Men” tweed suit and hat, frantically grasping for non-existent hand holds. The Heart Mother of the Year, who was eight months along, didn’t bat an eye.

No doubt today’s musicians, who will be performing atop the Needle in a live streaming concert, will more than make up for the absence of an open flame.


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