It’s not often that you can visit the setting of a favorite movie in real life, hardly unchanged, and experience it just as you imagined it to be. The Bagdad Café is one such place, located off the road between LA and Vegas, in the mystical desert and just off the mythical Route 66. There are no roads less traveled in the illusions found here.
So when we drove from the city of angels to the city of vice, a pilgrimage had to be made to this unique place. A mecca of sorts, especially for French cinephiles who flock like seagulls, descending upon the café to relive the shivers that they have been unable to shake off since seeing the film. After making a few wrong turns and pulling up to the place, it all comes back to you. The nondescript building hasn’t changed much save for a new coat of paint, and the whitewashed hotel adjacent to it looks closer to the café in real life than it seemed in the movie. And who did we find when we entered? Lyn the waitress, who was in the film, and her husband Pat, who was the biker. Lyn was all smiles and informed us that more than half of the visitors come from France.
So what was it like? Well, how I imagined it really. A homey, greasy spoon kind of place with an earthy feel. The eerie lights from the solar plant not far off in the desert gave the whole area a sort of shimmering glow. Inside, I had a coke, sat down, and just relaxed for a while. Lyn was extremely friendly, as was the gentleman there who could best be described as the resident wacko, simultaneously telling me that he was torturing his cat, was a spy for the KGB, and had been on a spaceship in the 1930’s. That’s right, you heard me. I think he derived some sort of pleasure at screwing with the tourist customers. The French probably love him… It was possible to imagine Jack Palance painting in the distance. On the whole it was a very enjoyable visit, replete with odds and ends dealing with the movie and a very friendly staff that don’t act like they’re bored to death with the same damn questions they must hear day in and day out who happily posed for a few pictures.
This is one of those places that tourists migrate to but doesn’t bend over backwards to provide cheap trinkets and even cheaper thrills. There is memorabilia, to be sure, but it is a humble place. It reminded me of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg, TN that was also quite isolated. Your gift is your visit. The same goes for the Bagdad Café.
Here’s the address:
46548 National Trails Hwy
Newberry Springs, CA 92365
Open Daily 6am-9pm