The Ghostbusters Apartment & Other Film Sites You Can Visit IRL
A film buff shares her holy grail cinematic destinations.
When I first got off the plane in New York, I had one thing on my mind and one thing only. Not Times Square, not the Brooklyn Bridge, not finding the best sidewalk hotdog and pushing it entirely into my mouth a la Homer Simpson and a stick of butter.
No, I had collated my Google Maps data and conferred with countless movie stills and pored over the Scouting New York blog, and I was on my way to 55 Central Park West, otherwise known as the apartment of one Dana Barrett from Ghostbusters, the penthouse apartment in Spook Central.
The spectacular Art Deco apartment building, erected in 1929, is of course not the towering Gozerian behemoth designed by Ivo Shandor (the insane architect who also “performed a lot of unnecessary surgery”) that was in Ivan Reitman’s 1984 classic. On film, the building was sent soaring into the heavens by way of an extra 16-storeys thanks to the magic of matte paintings and the use of a 15-foot miniature.
Still, there’s a special kind of giddiness that overcomes you as you’re charging past IRL New York poodles on your way to touch the hem of the garment (well, the brick facade) of a building that first spooked you back when you were an under-eight. From that point on, I decided that, where possible, I would build my travels around visiting certain “holy grails” of cinema: the places that might be powered past by those unaware of their cinematic significance, but liable to send me into a fit of vapours.
The neo-noir dystopian science fiction spot
After 55 Central Park West, it was back to the West Coast, and Los Angeles’ venerable Spanish Revival transport hub, Union Station. While that grand old dame (75-years-old this year) is a sight to behold in and of itself, it also provided a bravura performance in 1982 as Blade Runner‘s police station. In real life the Station is stripped of that film’s atmospheric mists (unless you count the evaporating sweat of waiting commuters) and blue twilight, but still occupies the sensibility of another era.
The U2 film clip
Then, in news that is slightly embarrassing in light of their recent infestation of our iPods and iPhones, I went to the location of U2’s Where The Streets Have No Name, aka my favourite music video (despite being indifferent about the band itself), and a piece of film that always seemed definitively “Los Angeles” to me. The location, above a liquor store on the corner of 7th and Main Streets – NO [real] NAMES, GEDDIT! – is smack in the middle of L.A.’s slightly demented garment district; we powered past it in a banged up people-mover while blasting the song on the radio. It was about 38 degrees Celsius and you could have been forgiven for thinking, given the traffic jam, that U2 were once again shooting a video on the street. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
The mandatory magician photo opportunity
My briefest and most mainstream location visit was in London, where I cruised past the segment of King’s Cross Station better known as Harry Potter’s Platform 9 and 3/4. I say “cruised past” because when I finally found the bloody thing after thinking, “Why not?” while killing time between Tube journeys, it was so beset by Hogwarts-scarf-wearing young people that I thought, “Ah, that’s why not” and powered on to Pret for a sandwich.
The ultimate favourite film sacred site
There were others in between, and there will be more, but all of these pilgrimages were merely a warm-up to my quest for the ultimate Holy Grail, Devils Tower national monument in Wyoming, which played itself in my favourite film of all time, Steven Spielberg’s 1977 masterpiece, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.
That metaphysically bewildering tube of rock served as the calling card left by visiting aliens, an image inserted telepathically into the minds of potential abductees, and memorably crafted first from mashed potato and then clay by Richard Dreyfuss as the film’s protagonist, Roy Neary.
While I had been excited by all my previous location visits (yes, even Platform 9 and 3/4), I was completely unprepared for the almost spiritual impact of visiting Devils Tower, which had held as much power over me since I was eight as it had Close Encounters‘ bewitched UFO-chasers.
I cried, I took a million photos, I quoted the movie, I even, as it turned out, accidentally cosplayed as Melinda Dillon’s character Jillian, in jeans, chambray shirt, and authentic Kodak Instamatic camera (I had been saving the last few photos on my last remaining cartridge for something special, and this was it).
As we were leaving the monument, we were engulfed in a truly terrifying hail storm; hailstones the size of gumballs pummelled our car, and at one point a road train swerved past on the ice-covered road, missing us by inches. At that moment I felt my life rush before my eyes a little – but if I’m honest, having finally made it to the site of the Mothership’s arrival after nearly two decades of yearning, had that road train cleaned us up, I would have died happy.