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A Visit to the Bagdad Cafe

A bill for the 1988 film

A bill for the 1988 film

Get Your Kicks, on Route...

Just outside of Barstow, a little west of where the old 66 and the modern Interstate 40 intersect, you will find a small village called Newberry. A couple of gas stations, some decorated houses that look like they were kit homes dropped haphazardly, some old trailers on flat wheels.

Tucked along the edge of the road, is a restaurant known as The Bagdad Cafe. This is where the film was made. A tall sign reads Motel in molded neon letters that probably could be seen from miles when it was busy in the 1950s.

I had seen the film years ago and was impressed with it and happened to be in the area when I made the connection. I didn't realize that this was an actual place. The hotel was torn down a couple of years ago, I would find out. But during the filming, it served as the residence for the female lead - German actress, Marianne Sägebrecht. Jack Palance, who also starred in the film, stayed in one of the silver trailers.

The tall Motel sign can be seen in the film

The tall Motel sign can be seen in the film

The Restaurant is off the Old Route 66

A Little Place Tucked Away, Known as the Bagdad Cafe

If you haven't seen the film, I would highly recommend it. It will definitely raise your spirits and may even expand your mind. In the wasteland of late 20th Century cinema, this movie is a definite gem with a bit of drama, off characters full of amusement and a song and dance or two.

Directed by Percy Adlon, it won several awards and has become a bit of a cult classic. You can probably catch it in some art theatre or some college cinema house. Filled with literary elements like a chorus (the Greek drama narrator type), the movie is said to be based loosely upon Carson McCuller's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. McCullers, the southern writer, is probably best known for her work, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson McCullers

Someplace, in the Middle of Nowhere

You probably would not know it was there unless you knew it was there. If your vehicle happened to be traveling along this remote - and obsolete - section of highway, you probably wouldn't give it a second glance. And if you are a resident of Newberry Springs, population 2,985, you probably don't have much choice. It seems to be the only structure in town.

I wandered in because I saw the film and wanted to see what the fuss was about when I saw a blurb about the restaurant with the eponymous namesake, I was curious.

When I arrived, the scenery familiar, I remember shots from the film of the distant highway and the shell of a camper which the Jack Palance character stayed in during the movie, as well as the actor Jack Palance while they were filming during non-shooting hours.

I met the people who bought the restaurant and spoke to them briefly about acquiring the business. They knew about the movie of course and there are memorabilia about reminiscent of the motion picture. A menu had screen images, collages decorated the walls, a signature book had writing in it. Many of the names were from people from other countries I was dutifully informed.

The place had all the decor of a mid-western gas station with a motel/museum/outhouse ambiance.

I was a bit disappointed.


The theatrical trailer, for the film


I let the new owners know that I was interested in doing a little story for my site on this place. We talked about the film and how one of the owners was acquainted with an actor who was also a fan of the film.

The place is still a working restaurant and looks like it serves up a pretty typical country cuisine: biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried steak, and in there somewhere you will find home-fries (or hash browns).

"What time do you open for breakfast?", I asked.

"Oh about 6:00 or so when she is here," said the man. he had longish grey blonde hair, and a thin mustache that probably looked quite fabulous when he was in his younger years. He kind of rocked a little bit on the rotating chair. He rested his right foot on his left knee and looked at me with a smile that seemed slightly insincere. I halfway expected him to burst out in a Thin Lizzy song or pull a box of the No Doze which was behind the counter and reach for a spoon large enough to pulverize the pills into a fine powder.

His wife, this establishment's owner, was behind the counter.

"When he's here, it's different" she pleaded and turned in his direction.

"Yeah, 6 or 7 or 8. Or whenever I decide to get here," and then he chuckled in a manner that reminded me of the cartoons with Porky Pig when I was a child.

I believe the motel is torn down now

I believe the motel is torn down now

End Credits

The woman behind the counter seemed like your typical country girl. Her hair may have been a pristine blonde at one time, but now it appeared as if she spent many hours in the company of dishwater - and most probably she has. She wore a simple blue T-shirt with some white writing on it. I recall an apron, but that might have been a figment of my imagination.

When I looked at her I thought about Gretchen Wilson songs and saw bus drivers and school cafeterias. She acted open and seemed forthcoming when I asked her if I could take photographs.

"Sure. My son loved the movie and he was an actor in Hollywood..." she mentioned some of the reasoning behind the purchase.

Soon, she disappears. I look around the place a little and remember scenes from the movie. I look out at the windows and at the empty trailer and the place where the motel used to stand. (I had many other photos which seemed were unintentionally been deleted.

I begin to take notes and ask a couple of questions of the man who is sitting on this side of the counter. He smiles a wide, slightly toothless grin, but I don't feel his smile. The door opens and two men walk in and head right for the counter. They sit on the stools and face into the restaurant, in my direction.

They don't speak. When I smile and nod, I get no response.

One of them is wearing red shorts and a tank-top and I would guess if you had his eyes, you would not be able to see your toes while standing up. The other man has a beard and looks like he could have been a character in The Dukes of Hazard. Both remind me of the movie Deliverance, even though I have not seen the film.

I put my pen in my breast pocket and close my notebook. I turn towards the door and feel my feet start to move.

"Thank you," I say. "Maybe I will stop by tomorrow."

The screen door bangs behind me and I feel the warmth from the sun and inhale the taste of dust and dried grass and realize that I can breathe much easier now.

"Yuh-huh," I heard which comes out in a slight chuckle as I head toward my car.

Then I hear three men and a woman conversing.

Not the Official Site, but a Link to Info About

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    Delivery & Pickup Options - 74 reviews of Bagdad Cafe "April 24 2010 Finally stopped by the famous Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs. Had the tuna melt, jack palance burger, grilled cheese. The food was adequate, however we did not stop here for th

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