The 25th anniversary of "The Goonies" brought a deluge of fans to Astoria last weekend. I trekked along with family to take it all in: the celebration of an adventurous gang of young misfits; the strange assortment of fans who literally come from around the world; and of course, the dual spectacles of Astoria and the cultural tourism business.
I had forgotten many things about the film, including that the city of Astoria is featured prominently in the movie. Usually Hollywood will film X and call it Y, but in "The Goonies," Astoria is both featured and named. Except for the parts, of course, where Haystack Rock is somehow, magically, much closer to town.
At the Goondocks
The newly opened Oregon Film Museum, housed in the old Clatsop County Jail. The building was used in one of the opening scenes.
Pathway to Goonie heaven
The house where Chuck is forced to do the Truffle Shuffle to come inside
Astoria pride was in full display, and I marveled at both the turnout and the money-making possibilities. Saturday was a beautiful day, and nearly every shop had a Goonies angle for their business. We arrived around 2 pm at "the Goondocks," the central hub for the celebration.
Three main money-making items were on sale at the Goondocks: bus tours every half-hour to film locations ($25), twice-daily actor presentations and autograph sessions ($20), and an assortment of anniversary merchandise. I lost count of the numerous "Goonies" anniversary t-shirts being worn around town.
It's always fun to stare at these events and try to run the numbers (hmmm, 500 people in line at the Liberty Theater at $20 a pop makes $10,000 x four events makes $40,000, but then minus Corey Feldman's fee at perhaps $2000 minus his first class airfare $2000 but then he's probably comped a hotel room and gets all autographing revenue, etc., etc.)
By 2 pm the bus tours and events were sold out for the day, leaving what appeared to be a very overwhelmed volunteer workforce fielding angry questions. This was the first in a series of events that made me wonder if perhaps a professional event planning organization should have been behind the whole thing. Some corporate event-planning service with crisp shirts, wireless headsets, computing tablets for easy registration, beautiful cheek-boned employees and large 80-foot-tall colorful displays all over town. You know, basically a workforce falling somewhere between Disney and Apple.
But bottling magic is tricky business, and in many ways that's what cultural tourism is. If you present a slick corporate face to a discerning bunch like Goonies fans, that could easily backfire.
Why is "The Goonies" still a cult hit? Well, everyone can list their reasons so I'll present just a few: 1980s nostalgia, a tale that captures the adventurous spirit of youth, the lack of dubious sequels to rain on the whole parade, and — coming back to Astoria here - the fact that "The Goonies" setting is a real place. You can get in your car and drive to it.
That house where Chunk has to beg to come inside and he's forced to do the Truffle Shuffle? You can visit it. Heck, there's even a sign in the drive-way announcing that you are indeed in Goonies territory.
That jail where the movie more or less starts, and the bad guy fake hangs himself? It's now a film museum and you can pay to go inside and walk around.
Those streets where Chunk sees a police chase, complete with squealing tires and gunfire? Come on in and have a cup of espresso and a sandwich. Just don't smear it against the glass.
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