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The Fourth Wall

By the time you get to Phoenix, you'll be in Klamath Falls

The Ashland-based filmmakers of such titles as “Calvin Marshall” and “Redwood Highway” are in production for another movie using Southern Oregon as a backdrop.

The effort is being called “Phoenix, Oregon” so, of course, it’s being shot — at least partially — in Klamath Falls.

It brings to mind the song “Movie of My Life” by the folksinger Susan Werner — wherein the narrator’s grandiose visions for a biopic of her accomplishments melt into the reality of her bland, “as of yet un-Oprah-worthy” existence.

Honestly, how un-Oprah-worthy does a town have to be when Klamath Falls is considered a better option?

Still, the good folks of the City Formally Known As Gasburg are in stellar company when it comes to such a seeming slight — after all, “Casablanca” wasn’t shot in “Casablanca.” Oddly enough, much of it was shot in Yuma, Flagstaff and Tucson, Arizona although not in Phoenix. So, we have a trend.

Besides, the last thing Phoenicians should wish upon themselves is an onslaught of movie buffs descending on downtown — wherever downtown will be after all the construction there.

Trust me on that.

It was the summer of ’75 when my own small corner of the world was disrupted by a little film made by a guy mostly known for directing episodes of TV shows.


The original sharknado stormed into theaters in June, and the feeding frenzy of fanatic fans followed to Cape Cod shortly thereafter. Summer on the Cape is a quagmire of lookie-loos and lost souls in even the slowest of seasons. Add in a phalanx of slow-moving, single-minded tourists and well let’s just say that Congress moves faster.

What did these people want? Usually the answer to a single question: “Where is the bridge to Martha’s Vineyard?”

“Jaws” was shot primarily in the ocean and oceanside communities of the Vineyard, and tourists on the mainland wanted the quickest way to get there. So, as someone who looked like a local, I fielded more than a few of these inquiries.

“Well, I’m sorry to say, there is no bridge to Martha’s Vineyard,” I’d explain. “What you need to do is take the bridge to Nantucket and from there take the bridge to Martha’s Vineyard.”

There is, of course, no bridge from Nantucket to Martha’s Vineyard ... not to mention no bridge from Cape Cod to Nantucket. What I would do, therefore, was give directions that would lead them to a restaurant called The Flying Bridge — from which they could have drinks on a patio overlooking the harbor, and then catch a boat to their desired destination.

The summer reached its apex (for me, at least) one day when I was bringing my mother her lunch at the motel where she worked as a chambermaid. My attention was drawn to a dresser, on which sat a small, screw-top jar that appeared to be filled with dirt.

My mother related that the motel guests were all excited because inside the jar was “sand from the beach where they made ‘Jaws.’”

A lemonade stand wasn’t going to cut it that year.

Over the years, I’ve found myself in locations where films or TV shows were shot — and wondered what was all the fuss. I’ve eaten lunch in a “Cheers” bar in an airport next to animatronic dummies of Norm and Cliff, and had dinner at a Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. as Forrest ran and ran and ran on an endless loop across a dozen or more TV screens.

I’ve seen “The Goonies” house in Astoria walked through “Jurassic Park” on Kauai stood near a hedge carved into a dollar sign at a North Carolina mansion that served as the home for “Richie Rich” moseyed down Main Street on the “Bonanza” set outside Lake Tahoe and been to the Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood — which served as the exterior for the haunted hotel in “The Shining,” although the interiors were shot in England, and Stephen King’s actual inspiration was a Colorado lodge that ultimately made it into the movies as a locale for “Dumb and Dumber.”

None of which ever made me understand the need to bring home a jar of beach sand or travel to the middle of Iowa to visit the baseball diamond on which Shoeless Joe Jackson emerged to bat from the wrong side of the plate in “Field Of Dreams” — a film which only proved that if you build it, a million cliché newspaper headlines will come.

But, if I am going to be truthful here (and why should I start now?), I have made one such pilgrimage purposely — driving 83 miles southeast from Seattle to the town of Roslyn, Washington, in order to visit a radio station.

KBHR-57 AM — “K-Bear, The Voice of the Final Frontier” — from which Chris in the Morning launched into daily stream-of-consciousness monologues about the state of the world as seen through the portal of Cicely the Alaskan town depicted in the TV series “Northern Exposure.”

KBHR, on this day, was just a stenciled window with no sign of life. I bought a coffee mug at a gift shop ... but just like some future filmgoer who wants to see Phoenix but winds up in Klamath Falls, I came to the honest truth that I was in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Where I wanted to go didn’t exist.

Mail Tribune senior designer Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com, where everybody knows his name.