ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Chuck Foley was responsible for millions of awkward party moments since the 1960s. Normally, that's nothing to be proud of but if you're the inventor of the game "Twister," it's not such a bad thing after all.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Foley and his business partner, Neil Rabens, invented the game for Milton Bradley in 1966. They originally called it "Pretzel."
If you're certain age there's no need to explain "Twister." But in case you need a refresher, the game is simple.
SIEGEL: You have four rows of four dots on a sheet of plastic on the floor. Each row of dots is a different color. And as this commercial from 1966 explains, a spinner tells each player in turn to put either a hand or foot on a particular colored dot.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TWISTER" AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Right foot, blue.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Right foot, blue.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Left hand, red.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Left hand, red.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Left.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Right.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yellow.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Blue.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Green.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN AND WOMAN: (Singing) Yeah, "Twister." You got to play "Twister."
CORNISH: Yeah, this can get embarrassing. Before long, up to four players were on the mat stretching in ways they never imagined - over, under the other players - as we said, awkward.
SIEGEL: Everyone usually falls to the delight of everyone watching. But you win if you remain standing.
The game was not a hit right away, even in the Foley house. Chuck Foley's son, Mark, explains.
MARK FOLEY: When he first brought it to us and said, here, you guys. How would you like to play with this? Well, we thought it was a wrestling mat.
CORNISH: Some executives at Milton Bradley were concerned with the game that some critics were calling sex in a box.
SIEGEL: Mark Foley.
FOLEY: One of the things that Dad and Neil were very concerned about is the perception back in those days of two people - a man and a woman on a mat in a party game - really had to be done tastefully. And that's why they used cartoon characters in the original packaging, because it was less threatening from a moral perspective.
SIEGEL: But when Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor played "Twister" on "The Tonight Show" in front of a national audience in 1966, sales exploded.
Chuck Foley never got all that rich off of "Twister."
CORNISH: Or at least not nearly as rich as Milton Bradley but that didn't bother him at all much, says his son Mark.
FOLEY: Dad did create items and products that he was passionate about. And then once he created it, he was off to a new one. Dad was humble. He wasn't about what he did yesterday. It was about what he could create today or tomorrow. He just enjoyed creating items and products.
SIEGEL: Chuck Foley, the inventor of "Twister," died this month in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was 82.
(SOUNDBITE OF "TWISTER" AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN AND WOMAN: (Singing) Get you all twisted and tangled, it's the "Twister." Spin the spinner and call the shot...
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.