A couple of weeks ago, I hit the road to Pacific City on the North Oregon Coast for a presentation on Gimme Refuge
, my memoir about caretaking a wildlife refuge.
I traveled north on Highway 101 from my home in Newport and my first stop was Lincoln City. I met the designer of my forthcoming book about the Yaquina Bay Bridge and we discussed several cover concepts. At some point in our conversation she casually mentioned that her mom knew someone who ran a Lincoln City bar back in 1970. Apparently the woman had several stories connected to the filming of Sometimes a Great Notion, the Paul Newman cinematic adaptation of Ken Kesey's great Oregon novel, which was filmed in Lincoln County on the Oregon Coast in the summer of 1970. I just happen to almost have finished a book about this wild event and am always on the lookout for stories from locals who interacted with the stars. What I've learned so far has frankly blown my mind. I've also collected close to 350 photographs, and my designer said her mom's friend might have some photos too.
I gave a good show in Pacific City to a wonderful audience comprised of mostly elderly women and read better than I have in a long time. After the show I retired to the Sportsman Tavern, my former de facto writing studio when I lived in the area. In fact, I was the Sporty's official Writer in Residence and once overheard the immortal line from a crazed and drunken woman recounting a story of being arrested for shooting a rifle out the window of a moving vehicle. She told the cop: "You don't know how drunk I can get."
I ordered a beer at the bar and an OTA (Oregon Tavern Age) man said he recognized me from a documentary on public television, so naturally I thought he was referring to the Vortex documentary based on my book about the notorious 1970 free Oregon rock festival. He started telling me his personal connection to the Sometimes a Great Notion story, and I didn't have the heart to tell him he saw me on local cable access talking about a movie and not public television talking about the rock festival. No matter.
He said his parents owned a place near Kernville, where the Stamper house built for the movie still stands. He knew someone who was a little girl at the time and an extra in the movie. She might have photos. We talked for 10 minutes, and I gave him my card and told him to call me when he had the woman's contact info. I excused myself and went to the bathroom, where a decade ago I overheard a man say to a friend who was pissing alongside him, "I put her husband's head through the window in here, and then went home with his wife."
Not 10 feet out of the restroom and an elderly man wearing sunglasses came up to me and said he talked to the OTA man at the bar and heard I was working a book about the filming of Sometimes a Great Notion. He knew the former partner of a member of the film crew that traveled up from Hollywood 40 years ago. He thought he could put me in contact with her and then, eventually, with some luck, the crew member. Was I interested?
Yes! I gave him my card.
I sat down and started in on my fish and chips and then overheard a middle-aged man and woman sitting at the bar asking a regular about Sometimes a Great Notion
and how to find the Stamper House. He and his partner had just seen the movie streamed on Netflix and driven from Portland to see the house! I let the local give them directions (of course he knew where it was), and then I went up to the couple and introduced myself as a writer who was working on a book about the filming of the movie. They appeared shocked, and I told them to check out Fogarty Beach and The Bayhaven Tavern in Newport, where some of the movie was filmed, well, because, you know, I'm the world's leading authority on an obscure and mediocre Paul Newman film that has never been released on DVD. He thanked me, gave me his card (he restores hot rods!), and said he wanted to know when the book came out.