Yes, Stallone Was There, but the Fault at Universal's Rocky Theme Park Debut Was Not in the Stars

updated 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Any event that brings out the stars to celebrate the draining of a natural swamp and the paving of 444 acres of pinelands must have something going for it. So there were Bill Cosby. Michael J. Fox, Jimmy Stewart, Sissy Spacek, Jane Seymour and Sylvester Stallone—all assembled by Universal Studios to grace the opening of the company's new Orlando theme park. But when it came time for the day's biggest attractions to perform, some balked. Jaws, the shark, refused to bite. King Kong, the park's 32' tall, $30 million pseudosimian, wouldn't roar. And over at Earthquake: The Big One, a $30 million ride, the earth, alas, didn't move.

There was considerable rumbling outside the park's guest-relations office, where angry crowds chanted "Re-fund! Re-fund!" Universal listened and handed back the $30.74 admission to hundreds of the first day's 10,000 visitors. "It's been a letdown," said Linda Chapman of Kent, England, whose ride on the E.T attraction was soundless due to a computer malfunction. She was lucky: Other riders had to be helped down when the ride stopped in mid-"flight." E.T, phone 911.

Still, theme-park veterans did marvel at the size of Universal's complex. And, of course, stargazing at some Hollywood favorites didn't hurt. "We hope that occupied part of their day that they couldn't spend being thrown to the ground by King Kong or dragged around by Jaws," said a Universal spokesman. "It was unfortunate, but, you know, we're doing everything we can to get them up and running as soon as possible."

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