I'd heard a lot about Club Ed, and last weekend I finally decided to pay it a visit. It's miles from anywhere, an outpost of dilapidated fifties Americana in the middle of the California desert. A deserted diner, office, gas pump, hotel and swimming pool, battered by dust storms. The land around it is parched and flat, save for a large heap of boulders and twisted Joshua trees. It's a strange little oasis, ever-so-slightly creepy – and yet oddly familiar.
Ask its weatherbeaten caretaker Norman why it's so familiar, and he'll tell you tales of the many famous faces who have passed through. He's been there for 12 years (24/7 by choice, with five hours off every week to do laundry and buy groceries), and has seen Playboy Bunnies posing for calendars, hip hop stars shooting videos, Anthony Hopkins making his directorial debut, models, starlets, singers, dancers… oh, and Pamela Anderson. She's been back a few times and, if you're lucky, Norman will show you his framed photo.
It all started back in 1990 when the set was built for Dennis Hopper movie, The Eye of the Storm. When it came time to pull it down, no one had the heart to. It was just too darn purdy. Since then it's been in countless movies, commercials, music videos and photo shoots. Some say it's made 150th Street in Antelope Valley the most filmed street in the US.
But why 'Club Ed'? The official line is that it was named after its first caretaker (that'd be Ed), who would answer the phone, 'Hello. Club Ed.' Norman has another theory. He likes critters (didn't want neighbors, which is why he took the job), and when he took over from Ed, he had a little dog who was also called Ed. A helpful little fellow who pretty much ran the place and did everything short of answering the phone. So, as far as Norman is concerned, it's Ed the dog's club.
There's something about being at Club Ed that makes you want to wield a shotgun and spit chewing tobacco. Or stay up all night drinking whisky and reminiscing to a bartender about lost loves. But running around with the kids, stopping them every five seconds to take picture after picture after picture, was pretty fun too. And meeting Norman – what can I say? That made my day. RM