Locals remember when ‘Hair” was filmed in Barstow

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BARSTOW — This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of the movie “HAIR,” an anti-Vietnam War musical based on the Broadway show, which was partially filmed at Fort Irwin and the High Desert.

Barstow residents told the Daily Press that part of the movie’s production in 1978 included an open casting call for local residents who were ready for their 15 seconds of fame on the big screen.

Longtime Barstow resident Mary Benson said the local film shoot was the “talk of the town,” with many people auditioning for the movie.

“It seemed like everyone was talking about the movie,” Benson said. “It was a pretty big deal back in the ‘70s.”

The 1960s-themed movie that was released in 1979 featured John Savage as Claude Hooper Bukowski, Treat Williams as George Berger and Beverly D’Angelo as Sheila Franklin, hippies, the drug culture, the army and the draft.

The movie also featured the once-popular Chili Bowl Cocktail Lounge, once located near the corner of Irwin Road and First Avenue in Barstow.

Benson described the Chili Bowl as a “dumpy little place that people absolutely loved.”

“The Chili Bowl was always so busy, but we were raising five kids on one salary so we didn’t go out to eat,” Benson said. “The Chili Bowl is gone and the only thing left is dirt and a bunch of memories.”

Former Barstow resident Christopher Beck said his mother’s 1965 T-bird was featured in the movie scene where a group of people were coming out of the Chili Bowl.

William Shank, who was an extra in a scene that was filmed at Fort Irwin, said the film shoot at the base lasted a week. He also shared how he had the opportunity to eat with the casting director in the mess hall.

Ronald Hackman, 67, said one of the coolest scenes in the movie is when Beverly D’Angelo starts singing “Good Morning, Starshine” while she’s riding in the convertible across the Mojave Desert with her friends.

“There’s like six people in the car and most of their hair is whipping in the wind,” Hackman said. “It’s my favorite part of the movie.”

“I don’t remember the movie Hair being filmed in the area, but I do remember Erin Brockovich being filmed here and the Chili Bowl,” Barstow Mayor Julie Hackbarth-McIntyre told the Daily Press. “In 1976, we moved from Virginia Way to place pretty close to Morgan Meat and the Chili Bowl.”

Don Muro, whose family lived in a house behind the Chili Bowl and the Morgan Meat Company, said the Chili Bowl scene in the movie started with a girl named Julie Baker, who took a bite off a hamburger. The scene ended with a car peeling out of the parking lot shooting rocks all over.

Muro also shared fond childhood members of the film shoot, the Chili Bowl and growing up in Barstow.

“Will always remember the Chili Bowl, Lloyd’s and the Graystone. My dad would hit them all,” Muro said. “Most of the time, they would let us kids come in and have a soda, a burger and play the bowling or shuffleboard game.”

Muro said the bars were different, but all had good food and the same smell, a mix of beer, cigarettes, old polished wood, a touch of hamburger grease floating through the always cool air of the bar.

“Nothing left but memories now,” Muro said.

Victorville Mayor Gloria Garcia told the Daily Press that she remembers when movie production companies would come into a town and have open casting as they selected small to large groups of people to be in the movies.

“There were times when people would be chosen to be in the movie with the understanding that they weren’t going to get paid,” Garica said. “Back then, it was exciting just to be in a movie.”

Singer and actress Cheryl Barne, whose song “Easy to Be Hard” was featured in the movie, stayed in Barstow after filming ended in April 1978, the Washington Post reported

The money that Barnes made from the movie allowed her to live for almost a year in the “sovereign community of Barstow” and “dead in the center of the Mojave Desert, where she sequestered herself with a toy poodle, a cat and a piano, the WP reported.

After Hair director Milos Forman talked Barnes into coming to New York City for a few months, she returned to Barstow, where she worked as a piano teacher for a short while.

A clip of the movie, which features the song Good Morning Starshine, can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3XewsVnx9E.

Reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com, Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.