Myth of the Bagdad Cafe Lives On
Harold reminded Andree they had a family that wanted to get out of LA. “He knew how to get to me,” she said.
“He told our actor son, Harold P. Pruett II, ‘We went up there and had lunch at the Bagdad Cafe where they made the movie with Jack Palance.’ ”
Harold P. was impressed.
“ ‘… but your mama don’t want to buy it. The woman wants to sell it but your mom don’t want to buy it.’
“Finally my husband had me sold on the idea of me just coming by in the evening, but that’s not the way it worked out,” Andree remembered. “The people my son promised he would bring, never showed up and I am behind the counter the whole time.”
It was Harold P. who said “We have to change the name to the Bagdad Cafe.”
It was running the quirky wood-shingled cafe that kept Andree centered after the death of her beloved husband and son in 2002. She still mourns their passing.
The late “General” Bob Gray was already an institution at the Sidewinder when Andree bought the place. “I paid him attention because I liked him,” she said. “He was a nice man and I loved his stories. He was the best storyteller I ever heard. THE BEST — you can’t find another one like him. He’s the lead in my movie.” (She has written a screenplay called the Real Bagdad Cafe.)
“He was amazing, he would work on a typewriter in his little apartment six or eight hours a day writing about his life.”
I mentioned I had met the grizzled General Bob with his wraparound sunglasses and fly-away coarse grey hair in 1989 during my second visit to the Mojave. A few weeks later he sent me a long, typed letter detailing his career and experiences with the military, black helicopters and chemical brainwashing. Words were crossed out, corrections and additions were handwritten in the margins.
I was never sure how much of Bob’s stories were real or imaginary; but they were fascinating to be sure. He was convinced “they” were out to get him and hit men routinely hunted for him. For someone who was being hunted, he was seemingly, serenely unconcerned, watching passersby and eating a hamburger out in the open.
I think he was just telling stories, watching people’s reactions and laughing inside. A genuine desert character. I miss General Bob. He died in June 2005.
Andree is amazed at the continuing popularity of the Bagdad Cafe. “We did a live reality show for Chinese television about two weeks ago. A live feed all the way to China. Can you believe that?”
A note on the wall next to a forlorn piano says it best, “Just like we expected it to be,” from Phillipe and Kate.
By Lara Hartley
All text and photos are copyrighted.
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