Big Wheel Keeps on Turning

Yamashiro’s. The Griffith Observatory. The roofs of the Standard Hotel downtown and on Sunset. Among these popular L.A. vista points, one photo op often goes overlooked: the Pacific Wheel at Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier. Standing nine stories tall at the pier’s edge, the world’s first solar-powered Ferris wheel offers a panoramic view of the coastline from Malibu to Palos Verdes. On a clear day, you can see Catalina. It’s enough to put your head in the clouds. We asked a few Ferris riders some high-minded questions.


Joyce Higginbotham

Retired school administrator


Preston Griest

Retired computer programmer


Why are you here today?

Joyce: To have dinner. I wanted him to take me on the Ferris wheel.

Preston: I haven’t been in Santa Monica for 20 years. I don’t remember the pier being this big.

Do you have any height phobias?

Preston: I used to be a Navy pilot, so not much scares me.

Who would you be stuck on the Ferris wheel with?

Joyce: Pres.

Preston: Joyce.

Have you ever kissed someone on a Ferris wheel?

Preston: You’re not going to get a picture of us kissing.

What’s your natural high of choice?

Preston: I used to jog. You aren’t going to ask how old I am.

Nope. But I will ask how long the two of you have been married.

Preston: We aren’t married.

Joyce: We live next door to each other.


Nikki Bazar


Wayne Faler


West Hollywood

Why are you here today?

Nikki: I’m scared of flying, so I’m supposed to get on a Ferris wheel a few times and use my exercises.

Will you be flying on a plane soon?

Maybe in a couple of months. That’s the next step. I’m not scared of heights, I just don’t like being suspended in the air. The Ferris wheel is like the intermediate step.

What steps have you taken?

[Hiring] this therapist I’m with now. But I went to one in New York, and I went on the Roosevelt Island Tram. Ski lifts I haven’t done yet.

Do you have memories of this pier?

I used to come here when I was a kid. Just getting stoned and playing air hockey.

I’ve done that. Do you remember the pier’s last Ferris wheel?

It was a two-seater. Your legs were dangling. It was scary.


Matt Tidmarsh


Walnut Creek

Lee Anne Marino



Why are you here tonight?

Matt: I’m actually from the band Super Diamond that’s playing here tonight in about a half hour.

Are you a groupie?

Lee Anne: I’m his girlfriend.

Your earliest Ferris wheel experience?

Lee Anne: At a carnival in North Hollywood. It was rickety.

Who would you be stuck up there with?

Matt: Her [Lee Anne]. It’s great to be on a date and have them scared, because they want to cling to you.

Have you ever kissed anyone on a Ferris wheel?

Matt: This is my first. It’s never too late. There’s a little charge, a little hint of danger. I’m protecting my woman and all that.


Roula Atassi

Stay-at-home mom

Beirut, Lebanon

What brings you here tonight?

I’m visiting in La Habra Heights. I was born and raised here, and I vacation here in the summer.

If you had to be stuck on a Ferris wheel with anyone, who would it be?

George Clooney. He’s hot.

Did you know this is a solar-powered Ferris wheel?

No, I didn’t. How great America is for that. Always innovative.

Are there Ferris wheels in Beirut?

We have a prominent one in the middle of town. It survived the civil war. It’s bigger than this one, actually.

What can you see from it?

Beirut is hip and happening. It’s really, really nice. [The Ferris wheel] is right on the beach, but I’ve never been on it. I’m scared to go on it.


There’s no one to look over it and to make sure that it’s safe.