Bagdad Cafe: Calling You

The camera pans across the barren land, and focuses on a lonely German woman with her suitcase in hand.  She walks silently towards the place just ahead.  Then you hear a most enchanting voice sing:

 

 

“Desert road from Vegas to nowhere
Some place better than where you’ve been
A coffee machine that needs some fixing

In a little cafe’ just around the bend . . .”

 

 

For us and countless others, Jevetta Steele’s haunting lyrics from the song, “Calling You,” from the 1987 indie cult classic “Bagdad Cafe” will forever evoke the particularities of a small desert town on Route 66 contrasted with the vastness of the Mojave Desert.

 

 

 

 

However, Bagdad Cafe was not actually shot in Bagdad.  Not Bagdad, California, and not Baghdad, Iraq.

 

 

 

The German film, directed by Percy Adlon, was filmed in Newberry Springs at the former Sidewinder Cafe, which decided to let the name “Bagdad Cafe” live on, drawing throngs of international tourists like moths to a flame.

 

The award-winning movie is also known on foreign markets as Out of Rosenheim.

 

The water tower in the movie can still be seen between Interstate 40 and the Bagdad Cafe.

 

“I am calling you
can’t you hear me
I am calling you…”

 

 

 

The Bagdad Cafe remains an iconic stop on Route 66.  The real Bagdad is further up the road. 

 

Down an even lonelier road than this place.  Only a cemetery remains there, and no one calls at all.

 

Newberry Mountains are the backdrop from the interior of the vintage Airstream used in the movie. We took this photo in 2005 on our first outing to the cafe. Little has changed on subsequent visits since then.

 

The Bagdad Cafe movie, loosely based on Carson McCuller’s 1951 novella, The Ballad of the Sad Cafe,  focuses on a desert motel, a diner owner and her guest, and two women whose husbands just left them.

 

The odd women slowly develop a rocky friendship which blossoms into a transformative experience for both. Several colorful characters live there, as well.

 

It runs 95 minutes in the U.S. and 108 minutes in the German version.  We’d like to watch the German version to see what landed on the cutting room floor of the American one. We bet it does not disappoint.

 

We encountered this friendly neighborhood dog sunbathing near the trailer. He studied us, yawned and wandered away.

 

Because of the fame of the quirky movie, a television sitcom bearing the same enigmatic title, came to prime time in 1990 but didn’t last long. Fifteen episodes made their way out of the can but the ill-fated show was not renewed for a second season.

 

 

 

Despite accomplished actors, nothing could compare to the flash in the pan success of the original.  It still holds an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

 

 

Only the old motel sign next to the Bagdad Cafe remains. The motel has been demolished in recent years.

 

Nothing remains of the original Bagdad Cafe in Bagdad, once owned and operated by Alice Lawrence.

 

The little restaurant serves only standard American fare, but it is interesting to read the layers of comments, notes and business cards in many languages that visitors have left on the walls throughout the years.  The adoration and worship for the movie and locale are still very evident.

 

If you look carefully, you will even find one from The Desert Way.

 

 

Directions:

 

Just off I-40, about 15 minutes south of I-15 (Harvard Rd. exit).

46548 National Trails Hwy
Newberry Springs, CA 92365

Phone number (760) 257-3101

Jaylyn

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