Monday, June 28, 2010

Misadventures in Bodega Bay and other Weekend Musings

I decided to go exploring for Hitchcock movie locations in Bodega Bay. That was my first mistake.

It was a gorgeous California morning and I rolled onto I-280 early, headed for the Golden Gate Bridge and the little town of Bodega Bay, used by Alfred Hitchcock as the setting for the delightfully silly and horror-filled movie The Birds (1963).

I had all the locations in my head: the general store where Tippi Hedren rents the boat, the pretty bay, across which sits handsome Rod Taylor's farmhouse, the gas station that goes up in flames, the phone booth, the dock where a sea gull musses Tippi's perfect "do." I'll bet it is a pretty, tiny, out-of-the-way spot where few people even know of its association with this half-century old movie, I thought to myself.

Tippi Hedren, keeping a good grip on her Mark Cross handbag, as she runs from the schoolhouse in The Birds.The film has a great cast including Angela Cartwright, Rod Taylor, Suzanne Pleshette, and Jessica Tandy.

Getting across the Golden Gate bridge was a snap that early in the morning, so I was able to multi-task as I drove and admired the view.

All of San Francisco was sunny, except for some lingering fog that huddled around the Golden Gate Bridge. You can see a patch of it at the upper left of this photo I took with my iPhone as I used it as a camera and to find my route with its terrific GPS program.

Once you hit the Marin side of the Bay you still have about sixty more miles to go. Marin county always reminds me of a guy I used to know who constantly talked about how wonderful it would be to live in Marin County.

I once knew a man
Who dreamed of Marin.
But after we parted
He went into a spin.
It must have caused
For he settled in

(That's what happens where you are in the car long enough: you start composing rhymes in your head to pass the time.)

Anyway, I had a little trouble finding Bodega Bay, because once you hit Petaluma, the Chicken Capitol of the World, there is only one sign directing you to Bodega Bay. Must be a sign rationing campaign here, I thought, as I repeatedly consulted my GPS on the iPhone in order to wend my way along the farm roads and hills to the little town.

And even when I got there I couldn't find it. There was a bay all right. And a huge parking lot for about four seafood restaurants that hang over the water. And there were about five large motels on the bay side of Highway 1. But there was no room on the bay side for a little town. And the other side of the highway is a hill, so there is no room for a town on that side either.

"So where's the town?" I asked a sturdy young lady wearing heavy eye make-up when I stopped at a gas station jammed up against the cliffs.

"This is it," she said.

And it was crawling with people, mostly elderly people with large cars, coming and going from the sea food restaurants and wealthy wine-country people in Mercedes Benz convertibles with the cloth tops down and their face lifts up.

Once again I had mistaken a movie for real life.

Rod Taylor with the Master of Suspense.

I turned around and headed back to San Francisco.

Going back across the bridge was a little slower--there is a toll going south--and I'd forgotten the short cuts I used to know to zoom around and get onto Highway 101. So I ended up on Van Ness where it seemed to take about a year between stop lights to go the few miles to the freeway entrance.

I saw lots of interesting San Francisco sights as I inched along. Lots of people in costume, I noted, as I watched an older couple ogle two women dressed in black. Both young women were wearing black top hats. One with black shorts and a tee shirt and the other wearing a black lace bustier, a black thong, a black lace garter belt over the thong, holding up black-and-white striped stockings stuffed into very high heels. Since she was plumpish, she made quite an interesting sight going away.

Wow, I thought, as the clock ticked past three in the afternoon. Seems late to be coming home from a party. But this is San Francisco, after all.

Silly me. As we crawled near the San Francisco Civic Center, I realized what was going on. It was Gay Pride Day and were they having a real party!

I had not done enough planning for this adventure and I paid the price. Didn't get home until 4:30 in the afternoon and the highlight was that lady in the bustier and garter belt with grandma and grampa turning in surprise to watch her walk away.

I did learn from a sign in Bodgea Bay that Tippi Hedren will be appearing at The Tides at Bodega Bay, July 3-July 6 (double check those dates) greeting fans and signing autographs. She is still a stunning woman and I'm sure she'll draw a crowd--though I think I'll miss this one as I've already had my Birds misadventure for the month. Hedren, as you probably know, is Melanie Griffith's mother, and named her daughter Melanie after the character she played in The Birds.

And they both have those tiny little voices.

Hitchcock, by the way, liked Northern California. He had a ranch in Scotts Valley, near Santa Cruz. And he used Santa Rosa as the location for his mystery Shadow of a Doubt (1943). At the time, Santa Rosa was just the kind of self-contained little town that made the story of a visiting serial killer even more creepy.

So instead of Bodega Bay, where there isn't much of a town, nearby Petaluma might have made a better location for The Birds. Petaluma is closer to the interstate and there are many more shooting locations there. Not to mention the place is easier to find for post-movie tourists, like me.

But its claim to fame is chicken farming. And I guess it just wouldn't do to have named his scary movie The Chickens.

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Anonymous said...

the schoolhouse is in the town of Bodega which is inland from Bodega Bay about ten minutes. The dock is remodeled. The farm was across the bay from the docks and is also gone. Turns out that a grand-aunt of mine was a real teacher in the school house in Bodega.

I can't walk past the sw corner of Union Square w/o thinking of the Birds scene filmed there.

And no, the powers-that-be around here do not seem to believe in signs.

Anitra Kitts (I was an intern at KGW TV Evening show in 1979)

Robin Chapman said...

Wow an old friend. I thought the area was beautiful. I just thought there were too many tourists, so I fled.

Anonymous said...

I have been a weirdo fan of "The Birds" since I first saw it on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies in 1968. I was too young when it came out in the theatres in 1963. I did learn that tht Brenner farm, which was owned by Mrs. Gaffney, in real life, burned to the ground in 1969 and the land was bought by the university for marine research. The little store and the location of the gas station was actually shot on the Universal Studios lot and you can still see them at the lot on the studio tour. The buildings are still there if you know what to look for. The arial shot over the burning gas stations is part Universal Studios and part Bodega Bay and part "art" acutal mat painting to make the town look bigger. The only acutal structure in that shot that was in Bodega Bay is the Tides Restaurant, which is still there. It has been substantially updated and does not look the same as in 1963. I have never been to Bodega Bay but here it is a great place to rent a house in the Summer, alot of vacation homes and rentals there.

Robin Chapman said...

I think the cottages would be nice as most of them looked private and down from the road, overlooking Bodega Bay. Just take your GPS as the place is a tad hard to find!

Karen Swan said...

I have been a fan of “The Birds” since it was filmed in the theater. I love the places wherein they filmed their scenes. Just like this Golden Gate Bridge, I fell in love with the place because of its beautiful views. is a big help for me to see my favorite movie’s filming location.