On the most northerly point of the State of Oregon, on the moouth of the Columbia River, you will find Astoria, sitting among the hills on the riverbank overlooking Washington on the opposite shore. It is the oldest white settlement west of the Mississippi - if you can believe that! It was named for the Astor family, as in John Jacob Astor, one of those rich dudes from America past, like the Waldorff-Astoria Hotel in New York - same guy. Much of the population is Scandanavian and they have a great mid-summer festival which I had the good fortune to happen upon when Mom and I vacationed to the West Coast in the summer of 1990. That summer Kindetgarten Cop had been the last in the long string of movies which had come to town in the last several years. The first was The Goonies in 1984, followed closely by Short Circuit in 1985.
Actually only a fraction of Short Circuit was actually filmed in Astoria, but this cozy town, with it's unique winding streets and Victorian houses and the unmistakable Astoria Bridge, leaves a lasting impression. There's something pretty special about it even when it is not seen through the lens of a movie camera. Speaking of movie cameras, the photo above - which might remind you of sunrise at Stephanie's place, is actually a sunset. In Short Circuit the sun rose in the west!
Of course the major Short Circuit landmark is Stephanie's house. It is fairly representative of many of the houses in town. The town boasts a lot of intricate old homes, which are perfect for movie locations. Check out the house from The Goonies, which I photographed in 1992.
A friend and I drove around what looked like the right part of town, based on what I had seen in the movie and then asked some kids walking down the street, "Where is the house from the Goonies." "Right up that hill." they replied, and there it was. Pretty cool. Stephanie's house is also pretty easy to find based on the Astoria bridge as a major clue. This is a picture I drew of the house when I was in high school. I used photographs I had taken, along with my memories of Short Circuit to recreate it.
Here's something that I always thought was cool about Stephanie's house. In Short Circuit there was this wooden windmill on the porch of the house, and when I went to see the house in 1989 and then again in 1990, the house looked so different. But the windmill was one little details that was still there. I don't know if it was there already when they made the movie and the crew decided they liked it there, or if they left it behind after shooting. When I went back in 1992 though, it was gone.
I also recreated the bridge as a block print for my art class. Here's how it came out on rice paper. I also have a lot of photos and postcards of it. And since Nunber Five parachuted off of it, we had to drive across it. Costs $1.50, but it's worth it. Now I know why Number Five jumped off of it... to avoid the toll booth at the other end! (Note: the bridge was built in 1962 - I think - and they must have finally finished paying for it, because according to Mike Morgan, there is no more toll.)
And here's a nice view of some of the houses all stacked up on the side of the hill.
This is one of the views from The Goonies. In fact, I think I took it from the hill where the Gonnies house is situated. Whenever I went anywhere in Astoria, I always wished there had been more of it in Short Circuit. I sometimes even wished that the second movie could have taken place there, though I am sure that the dry climate of Montana is better for Number Five's electronics. Astoria does see a lot of rain and moisture, as is characteristic of the Pacific Northwest. But the odd thing is that they rarely get a good thunderstorm there - the opposite of what is suggested in Short Circuit. Only when the temperature rises above normal does such a thing occur. And when I was there in 1990 that very thing indeed happened. The day after we arrived the temperature reached a whopping 83 F! Peopla were so hot all day - not much air conditioning in Astoria. That night things cooled off and the next morning we awoke to thunnder and lightning. The people at the hotel desk told us that such weather was pretty uncommon. And I always felt like it had happened just for me!
And one sunny afternoon I had the fortune to pass by Stephanie's House only to find that one of its inhabitants was outside. An elderly lady was staining a fence along the side of the house and as I passed she said hello to me. I kept on walking becasue I didn't want to stand and stare at her hosue with her right there. I stood at the top of the hill checking out the bridge for a few minutes and resolved to stop and talk to her on the way down. Fortunately she spoke to me again as I passed the second time, and I got up the courgae to stop and talk to her. In the course of the next hour she found out that I was the world's biggest Short Circuit fan on my second pilgrimage to Astoria.
She told me the whole story of what it is like to live in a local hotel while people shoot a film and store large amounts of camera equipment at your house. She told me how they had chosen her house for the film. I beleive the location manager knew her husband and thought their house would be just the place for it - something like that. And I told her how I had written the producers a letter awhile back and how I had just come from L.A. where I had met Number Five and his makers. When it was all over she had finished with the fence and there bid me farewell as she went inside. I still wish I had had the guts to ask her if I could just stand on her porch for a few minutes.
Here's a picture of this sweet lady heading inside with her paint pucket. I'll just call her "Mrs. S." She was pretty cool, and I kept in touch with her for a couple years after we met.
I haven't been back to Astoria for awhile now. I'd like to go again one day. But I don't know if it will be quite the same as it was then. I used to kinda dream of living there. I wanted o buy Stephanie's house and get a remote control Number Five to run around the yard. And of course I would wear flowered skirts and sweaters, but probably not those weird boots. Anyway, I'd still like to go back.
And now just for fun check out my Astoria bridge gallery. None of these pictures were taken by me... That must be why they are so good!
This is a good one a boat going under the bridge. Makes me realize how big it is!
I think I bought this postcard the first time I went to Astoria in 1989!
This is a photo of the bridge on a nice misty day as taken from the Astoria Tower on the hill above town.
And this is a postcard of the Astoria Tower AND the bridge!
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