Keep New Times Free
When local artist Maggie Keane was approached last May by the owners of Player 1 Arcade in Surprise to create a series of ’80s-themed murals inside their new retro game bar, it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.
“It was a great gig,” Keane says. “The sort of stuff they wanted – murals of David Bowie, Prince, A-ha – was right up my alley. When I gave them a price, they didn’t balk and just said, ‘When can you start?’”
Over the next four months, Keane painted eight murals inside Player 1 Arcade, which is located near Grand Avenue and Bell Road, each drawing from ’80s music and pop culture and befitting the game bar’s retro vibe.
“It’s absolutely fantastic stuff,” says Player 1 co-owner Phil LeMieux. “We were so much in awe of Maggie’s work and wanted it to add to the atmosphere of the place.”
There’s a large portrait of David Bowie as Labyrinth’s Jareth the Goblin King above a pair of sinks in the main room, complete with a pair of convex mirrors mimicking the crystal balls the character dexterously wields.
Artist Maggie Keane with her mural of Jareth the Goblin King at Player 1 Arcade.
Over in one corner, a painting of Jack Nicholson as The Joker from 1989’s Batman is situated alongside a depiction of Prince in the music video for “Party Man,” one of the many hits from the film’s soundtrack.
Inside the family restroom, you’ll find several Ghostbusters murals while the men’s room includes homages to the videos for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer,” the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!),” and other music from MTV’s golden age.
The highlight of this nostalgia trip is Keane’s tribute to A-ha’s 1985 hit “Take On Me” found in the women’s restroom. Several scenes from the song’s groundbreaking music video, which featured an interaction between animated sketches and live-action, adorn every inch of the 8-by-10-foot room.
It was inspired by a previous “Take On Me” mural Keane created on an alley wall near her home in Coronado Neighborhood last February.
Keane says LeMieux’s wife, Nicole, wanted an expanded version with multiple scenes from the video that would fill an entire room and worked with the artist in its design.
“She wanted people to come through the door and see the video play out from left to right across the room. So the big scene where [A-ha vocalist] Morten Harket is on opposite sides of a mirror with the girl is directly across from where you’re sitting doing your business and you can gaze at him,” Keane says, laughing.
Keane has been a fan of A-ha since their ’80s heyday and was happy to oblige LeMieux’s request.
“It’s been one of my favorite videos of all time since I saw it in 1985,” she says. “I was blown away, because it’s based on drawings coming to life, and the song just defines catchiness. It makes me want to dance every time I hear it.”
A mural paying tribute to Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” in the men’s room at Player 1 Arcade.
Keane also worked with Phil LeMieux and his co-owner Kevin Ehlers on Player 1’s other murals. Lemieux says they wanted the art to reflect “the whole ’80s/’90s vibe” of their place.
“It turned into more of a collaborative situation instead of a client dictating what they wanted to an artist,” LeMieux says. “We always knew we wanted Jareth and Prince in some form, and Maggie helped make those happen, but she also brought some good ideas to the table.”
Like turning the family restroom, which was originally going to be dedicated to Pac-Man, into a tribute to the original Ghostbusters film. Keane also helped them decide on using Prince from the “Party Man” music video.
“It was originally going to be something with paisleys, but it was brought up that Prince did songs for the Batman soundtrack,” LeMieux says. “Kevin is a huge Jack Nicholson fan, so we mashed those ideas together and had [a painting of] Prince dropping tokens where we have our token machine next to Nicholson throwing out money like did in the movie.”
Prince also played a role in landing Keane the gig doing Player 1’s murals. Nicole LeMieux, who works in downtown Phoenix, frequently passed by the enormous 2019 mural Keane created in tribute to the late R&B/pop musician along 15th Avenue north of Roosevelt Street.
LeMieux reached out to the artist over social media last spring about possibly painting murals for Player 1 Arcade.
“She just sent me a message on Instagram last spring telling me how much she loved my work and wanted me to come work for them,” Keane says.
One of the Ghostbusters paintings in the family restroom.
The gig wound up being the first wall murals she’s painted for a commercial business. Keane says it was a fun way to spend the summer, instead of working outside in the heat.
“It was great being indoors with air conditioning at the beginning of summer and they brought me lunch every day, fed me chocolate, and I’d just jam out every day to music while working. I wish every mural [experience] could be like that.”
Player 1 Arcade is located at 17239 North Litchfield Road, Unit 60, in Surprise. Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and on Thursday.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free… Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who’ve won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism’s existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our “I Support” membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.