CFC Roadtrip: Ping Pong Summer Edition!

Something that I’ve always been interested in is the idea of visiting iconic filming locations from some of the movies that I grew up loving.  There’s something really appealing for me with the idea of walking out onto Cannon Beach in Oregon to take a gander at the three rocks that Mikey and the the guys used to geo-locate with One-Eyed Willie’s doubloon in Goonies, or to take a stroll through the Monroeville Mall from Dawn of the Dead in Pittsburgh, PA.  I know these are just places where some folks made a movie at some point, but they’ve become almost mythic to me in a way, like the ghosts of those films are still lingering about.  To see with my own eyes what the actors and crew were looking at, standing in the exact spot where someone else once stood, the thought of this just feels like a slightly deeper way of connecting with the film and the next time I’d watch it I’d know what it was like to stand there, knowing what it sounded like, what it smelled like or whatever.  It’s weird, though I’ve always been interested in doing this I never really sought any locations out.  Part of this could be that I lived in Atlanta for the last 25 years and there weren’t a ton of locations I was interested in visiting (though I’ll always kick myself for not making it out to the town where the Dukes of Hazzard TV show was filmed.) But over the last couple of years, and after moving up to the Baltimore area, I’m much closer to a lot of the locations that I was hoping to visit so I’ve been making a point to drag my co-host Jaime out to a bunch of places.  So I thought it would be fun to introduce a column for the Cult Film club that takes a look at some of these location visits we’re calling the CFC Roadtrip!
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The Cult Film Club just covered the woefully under-appreciated film Ping Pong Summer on episode 26 of the podcast and in preparation for that recording Jaime and I thought it would be fun to make the drive out to Ocean City, MD where the movie was set and shot.  If you listened to the episode you’ll know that Jaime’s is a Maryland native and spent many of her childhood summers trekking out to OC, MD to soak in the sun, stroll up and down the boardwalk, and argue with her parents during the years that they decided to stay bay-side (vs. the much preferable ocean-side.)  So we book a room in one of the tackiest yet perfectly located motels on the boardwalk and spend a weekend indoctrinating me to OC and scouting out the various filming locations from the flick that we’re both mildly obsessed with.

Of course the first location we hit up was the boardwalk itself that features prominently in the movie.  We walked up and down the entire length (about 3.5 miles or so one way) taking in all the gaudy beach t-shirt shops, Candy Kitchen stores and kitschy trinket shops and I loved every second of it.  In the shot below you can see the movie still on top and one of my boardwalk shots underneath.  Unfortunately I didn’t think to take the screenshots before the trip, so in some of these shots I didn’t capture the exact locations from the film in my pictures, but we did walk exactly where the Miracle family did (and we even rode the Ferris wheel you seen in the shot below…)

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Of curse a visit to the boardwalk wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Paul Revere Smorgasbord!  I really wanted to have lunch here and get a couple shots of the interior, but since we were visiting in off-season it was closed.  No gargantuan piles of clam strips for me! (Note that the difference in the buffet price…)

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We also hit up Trimpers amusement park near the end of the boardwalk that heavily features in the film during the “Friends for Eternity” montage where Rad and Teddy make up after a fight.  One of the cool shots from this montage involved a carny ride called the Himalaya which hasn’t changed a bit since it was built and felt like it was ripped right out of the 60s.  My shots are on the right…

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As Jaime informed me, no visit to the boardwalk is complete without a cup (or bucket) of Thrashers french fries, and they were pretty freaking awesome.  No ketchup, just salt and vinegar, as you do…

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While at Trimpers we also plunked a few quarters in the shooting gallery.  That bear is damn hard to hit!

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There are also some iconic locations (in terms of Ocean City) that Michael Tully used in the film that any local watching would immediately recognize like in the scene where Rad sees Stacey making out with Lyle up against the Ocean Gallery Art Center.  This place was so weird with decades of handbills, flyers and paintings layered and peeling off of the walls on the outside and so many prints on the inside that it was next to impossible to walk around inside without stepping on one…

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Later in the evening we ventured off the boardwalk and made our way to the Gold Coast Mall that’s just across the street.  In the film Rad both finds his beloved track suit jacket in a store here as well as confronting Stacey after the previous night where she ditched him in lieu of macing on Lyle…

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Thought the sign for the mall is almost the same, in the two years since the filming took place a TJ Maxx has been constructed making the once throwback landmark a little more modern.  The mall itself was in pretty bad shape.  I’m not sure if they spruced it up for the filming of the movie or if it’s taken a serious downturn in the past couple of years, but most of the stores where closed and it looked like it was getting ready to be demolished on the inside.  It is probably the tiniest indoor mall I’ve ever seen and I still loved walking around and trying to place where the shots took place.  You can see the Sell By the Inch awning in the shots below…

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That Saturday night we decided to pull out a laptop and rewatch the movie to pick out some other places to visit and to just generally get into the vibe of the flick.  While rewatching I was wondering where the neighborhood was where the scenes were shot with Randi Jammer’s and  the Miracle’s rented houses.  It just so happens that the house number on “Jammer’s” house were visible and a quick google search gave us the destinations for the next morning’s scouting.

Now, I want to be clear about something.  Yes, we watched the film and saw where the houses were located, but people do own and live in these residences, so I want to make it crystal clear that we respected the privacy of these homeowners and didn’t walk on their property or bother them and took pictures with a zoom lens from afar.  I’ve also removed the house addresses from the screencaps and photos below.  If you decide to do some location hunting like this, always remember to be courteous and respectful first and foremost.  A number of years ago I visited Savannah, GA and was on a ghost tour in the middle of the night through the city when the guide stopped directly in front of a house from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and we could see the folks that lived in that house.  I felt pretty bad to be gawking with a group of people on their doorstep and I really don’t ever want to feel like that again personally.  Anyway…

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Here’s a shot of the Miracle’s rented house and the inlet and docks that were directly behind.  As for the movie, it would have been easily a 3-4 mile hike for Rad to have walked to the boardwalk, so either he REALLY wanted an Icee (I’ve been known to do crazy stuff for a Slurpee), or in the world of the movie it was way closer…

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And here’s Randi Jammer’s house and the huge barn just behind it.  We did check online and “Randi’s” house is for sale if you have $900,000.00 burning a hole in your pocket…

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Just across the street from the two houses is also where Rad gets accosted by Lyle and Dale (and has half a gallon of milk poured on him.)  Also, as a quick note, Rad’s mother sends him into town to buy a gallon of milk on what looks to be a hot summer’s day.  Sound gross?  Yeah, it did to me too considering how warm it probably was by the time he got back.  It also reminded me of a scene in Troll 2 (that we covered awhile back) where one of the characters jogs into town, buys a half gallon of warm milk and then jogs back, stopping to drink from it along the way.  I felt like this was potentially an homage, but realistically figured I was just reading into it.  Well, it turns out that after chatting with writer/director Michael Tully last week he’s a huge fan of Troll 2, and now I’m convinced that this was a direct homage.  Too cool!

In the below shots, note the Martin’s Fish Company truck.  It hasn’t moved in two years (or it’s always parked in the same place!)

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Speaking of places where some of the characters were dwelling, we also hit up the Kings Arms Motel where Teddy Fryy and his dad were staying that summer.  Their room is on the second story, just to the left of the office.  At first when we got to the motel I though that maybe there were two locations because the one in the film was brick.  But upon closer inspection at the site it looks like they just slapped a few coats of paint directly on the brick and painted the sign black.  Weird move Kings Arms…

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There were two more locations that I really wanted to hit up before we left Ocean City that weekend, places that I feel are kinda at the heart of the film.  The first is Anthony’s Beer & Wine (A’s Liquors now), one of the first stops Rad makes in Ocean City, and one that Jaime was very familiar with after years vacationing there.  This is where Rad first crosses paths with both Stacey, Dale and Lyle, and it’s where he was leaving when he meets up with Teddy.  In the bucket list of things that I wanted to accomplish while in Ocean City, getting an Icee at Anthony’s was right there at the top.

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Well, it turns out that Anthony’s in reality is way more cramped inside and there is no Icee machine.  I’m not sure if this is a recent development or if they brought in a machine strictly for the movie, but either way I was not going to be denied partaking in a frosty mix of coke and cherry Icee at Anthony’s so Jaime and I scoured the city until we found a machine, mixed a drink (we totally filled it to the top, took a sip, and filled it to the top again with more cherry just like in the film.)  I also picked up extra spoonstraws, because as Teddy says, “You can never have too many spoonstraws!”

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The last place on the list to visit was a little bittersweet.  The movie is full of a million iconic Ocean City landmarks, but there is one central location in the film that just happens to be invented for the story, and that’s the Fun Hub.  Teddy takes Rad to this totally secret pre-teen paradise located in an alley behind Anthony’s…

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Though the inside was set up strictly for the film and was most likely not shot behind the actual doors that they enter in the alley behind Anthony’s, that door is in fact there and it’s the closest I’ll ever get to visiting the Fun Hub…

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So that does it for the first Cult Film Club Roadtrip.  If you haven’t seen Ping Pong Summer, I highly suggest dropping everything and watching it right now.  It’s streaming for free on Amazon Prime right now, but it’s also totally worth an impulse buy if you’re a fan of cult flicks or 80s coming of age comedies like Meatballs or No Retreat, No Surrender.

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So, have any of you folks made the pilgrimage out to visit any filming locations?  If so, for what flicks?  Let us know in the comments!

  • hifirandy

    Great post! Despite growing up in the area, I’m still amazed at how much Randi Jammer’s house is going for.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Yeah, I think even the most run down houses are wickedly expensive that close to the coast AND with access to a dock. We’ve been vacationing in Mrytle and some of the houses on the shore are basically 2 beedroom apartments and sell for over a million. Crazy.

  • http://www.shezcrafti.com/ ShezCrafti

    Finding out there’s no such thing as Fun Hub was like the day I found out Santa Claus doesn’t exist.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Maybe we just didn’t know the secret knock, maybe it is real…

  • Retromash

    Fantastic post Shawn. Love this. Looks like it was a lot of fun, hunting for the locations. I’ve got a list of movie locations I’d love to go to but going to have to plan it well to coincide with a family trip to the States.

  • SlickMcFavorite

    I love that this is a testament to sometimes you “can go back”, even if it’s just a couple years ago. Gotta admit on first viewing I was a little skeptical about PPS (that’s right, it deserves its own acronym already). On subsequent watches I fell in love. Sometimes it takes someone telling you something is great before you believe it. Thanks Shawn and the CFC (that’s right, you deserve it too) crew.

    • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

      Yeah, I think the strength of PPS isn’t in the overall plot as much as all the character moments and the fun awkward humor. Stuff like that becomes endlessly rewatchable when you find those moments to love. A movie like Troll 2 fits that bill too. When you first encounter it you can’t help but recoil at just the steaming pile level of bad that makes it on screen, but when you stop paying attention to the plot and just focus on the pieces it starts becoming unintentionally genius. Long story short, very glad you dig the flick and that we could help foster that a bit. One person at a time! ;)

      • Paxton Holley

        “…when you stop paying attention to the plot and just focus on the pieces it starts becoming unintentionally genius.”

        I’ll agree with that statement on PPS, but not Troll 2.

        • http://www.brandedinthe80s.com/ Shawn Robare

          lol, but the Popcorn Scene! ;)