Tag Archives: American Woman
Howdy, folks! Today, I am a guest blogger on Death Valley Jim’s Desert Adventures. Please bear with me as my writing style is a little bit different from the man himself. Just a few words to introduce myself. I am “DVJ’s” wife and I go on many of his adventures with him. Usually, I am the silent supporter of these adventures and take great joy and pride in reading his writing and looking at his wonderful photographs. This past weekend while Death Valley Jim was on his manly hike to Panamint City, I went on a desert adventure of my own. I decided to take a mini-tour of the Lancaster/Palmdale area filming locations. This adventure was right up my alley, being a movie lover, and I got a lot of cool photographs of these locations. Some of my favorite movies were filmed at these places and while there may not be a ton of “real history” to them, they are unique and pleasing to the eye and most definitely places you should take the opportunity to visit.
Growing up as a fancy-pants north-easterner (New Yorker here), I was always fascinated by the desolate, hopeless, and outright creepy desert locations I saw in the movies. During my first visit to the Mojave desert some years ago, I completely expected to see these creepy places “for real” during our sightseeing adventures. While we would run across some authentic places (like Roy’s on Route 66), none of them had that special something they have in the movies. As a rather naive and inexperienced desert visitor, I was disheartened and disappointed by this and I had to wonder, “Do these places really exist? Am I just in the wrong place?” Actually, I wasn’t in the wrong place. I was just down the road from them.
The first location I visited during my trip was what is well-known as the “Kill Bill” church. The official name of this church is The Sanctuary Adventist Church. Up until recently, it was the Calvary Baptist Church. This is currently an active church and during my visit on a bright Saturday afternoon, there were parishioners sitting in the pews while a minister gave a sermon. I was not able to enter the church for this reason, so I do not have any photographs to show you of the inside. I didn’t want to be rude and interrupt, so I stayed outside and quietly snapped a few pics from the road. The architecture is certainly old Spanish style. I haven’t had a chance yet to see any real missions in Southern California, but I suspect this church is sort of a miniature, chapel version of them. As soon as I drove up to the church, I could see the wedding scene from Quentin Tarantino’s film “Kill Bill” in my imagination. The church is on a lonely stretch of road surrounded by small farms, ranches, homes and that’s about it. A lonely Joshua Tree stands out front greeting passers-by as well as church parishioners and sightseers. Other notable films that have used this church as a location are “Crossroads” with Britney Spears (okay, that’s questionable on the “notable” thing) and “True Confessions” with Robert DeNiro.
Across the street from the church is another rather dilapidated filming location. It reminds me very much of a lot of the modern ghost towns Death Valley Jim covers on this blog. There are a few run-down buildings, including an old adobe-looking diner, some old houses and an odd-looking stack of rocks that was perhaps once a furnace or fireplace or chimney of some kind. The films “Desert Heat” with Jean Claude Van-Damme and “Nurse Betty” with Chris Rock, Renee Zellweger and Morgan Freeman were partially filmed here. The Sanctuary Adventist Church is located at the intersection of 198th St. and East Avenue G in Lancaster. Be warned, unless you live close to this location, it is quite a hike away from the rest of the city. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and plenty of water just in case.
The next stop on my trip was what is known as “Club Ed.” I decided to stop here after a friend (thanks, Kim!) suggested I do so. We have passed it before, more than once, and even stopped to take pictures of it in the past. After learning it is a film set, we were let-down, being the ghost town junkies we are. This time, I did my research about “Club Ed” and realized some pretty cool movies were filmed here. The set was built for Dennis Hopper’s “Eye of the Storm” from scratch. It was later used in other films such as: Rob Zombie’s “The Devil’s Rejects,” “Torque” with Ice Cube, “Nothing to Lose” with Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence, as well as an episode of “The O.C.” Other commercials and music videos have also been filmed at “Club Ed.” Again, this location is out there, surrounded by rocks, Joshua Trees, and desert. It is unmistakable once you come upon it, with it’s bright blue paint on the diner building and retro looking gas station. THIS is what I always imagined Route 66 would look like, but it’s not on Route 66! I parked across the street and abided by the “No Tresspassing” signs, so I couldn’t get in very close for good photographs. The first building at “Club Ed” is a wooden garage with 2 older classic trucks parked halfway inside. The building next to the garage is called “Tonsorial Parlour.” I’m not sure what a Tonsorial Parlour is, but it looks pretty neat! Next up is the diner/hotel/hotel office. It’s made of wood and looks authentically run-down. 1950′s-1960′s era signs decorate the buildings and the property. A short walk adjacent to the property is an old-looking metal water tank. Then there’s the gas station “Bob’s Highway Service.” More cool signs and Route 66-reminiscent buildings. Please note, there is a caretaker who lives on this movie set. BE RESPECTFUL of this person’s home. Do not cross over the fence and try not to disturb. There is a phone number to call, which I will give you, so if you’d like a closer look, please call and ask first. I didn’t plan that far ahead, but hoping to go back and get closer to “Club Ed” with the correct permission. Club Ed is located on 150th Street East, approximately 1 mile south of Avenue K in Lancaster. If you would like to try to call the caretaker for permission to enter the property, you may use this number: 661-946-1515
My last stop on the trip was “Four Aces Motel” in Lancaster. A few films which have been filmed here are: Rob Zombie’s “House of 1000 Corpses,” “Identity,” “Black Cat Run,” and Lenny Kravitz’ “American Woman” music video. The Four Aces is a built for movies set, so there is not much history aside from the films that have been filmed here. Once again, there are “No Tresspassing” signs up all over the property, so please, be respectful. I parked on the shoulder slightly north of the set and walked to it. You first come upon the motel building, again, outfitted with retro signage and old cars. The second building is a gas station (which you might recall from “House of 1000 Corpses” as Captain Spaulding’s gas station, proudly serving up “fried chicken and gasoline”). There are gas pumps (which don’t work, of course), a service station and a few props set up outside. Attached to the gas station is a diner, painted robin’s egg blue with a Joshua Tree standing at attention out front. The diner was outfitted with a false front for “Captain Spaulding’s Museum of Monsters and Madmen” for “House of 1000 Corpses” which was a demonic face, opening its mouth to engulf brave visitors entering the building. The false front is no longer there, but the building is easily recognizable. I did see a phone number to call to book the set for filming, so if you are interested, you may wish to call it to see if you can enter the property for closer photographs. The Four Aces Motel is located at 145th Street East and Avenue Q in Lancaster. The number listed is: 310-396-2211.
There are many other filming locations in the Lancaster/Palmdale area which I plan on visiting another time. I highly suggest you check out the ones I’ve detailed here, if for nothing else, their aesthetic value. They are a piece of an americana dream and I am personally very glad they are standing out in the middle of the lonely desert, just waiting for people to lay their eyes upon. Thank you, readers, for taking the time to read about my adventure and I hope to guest blog again on Death Valley Jim’s Desert Adventures real soon. Until then, happy trails and safe travels!