A lot of people — especially Europeans — know about the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs, California, and its draw as the setting for the 1987 film “Bagdad Cafe.”
But not many know about Andree Pruett, owner of the Route 66 restaurant for about 20 years.
The Victorville Daily Press published a profile of Pruett. It’s got a lot of good details, but here are some of the highlights:
— She moved to the Mojave Desert from Los Angeles in the mid-1990s to set up an ostrich farm. She ate at the restaurant once and had “the best burger I ever had.” Pruett wasn’t sold on buying the restaurant, but her husband and son persuaded her.
— After buying the restaurant, she quickly changed its name from Sidewinder Cafe to Bagdad Cafe to capitalize on the film’s link.
— Pruett revealed the restaurant “almost went under” several times, but she says it’s “doing alright” now.
— She said the Bagdad Cafe “kept me going” after the death of her husband and son, the latter who died from an accidental drug overdose.
— Pruett says 75 percent of the restaurant’s business comes from French-speaking tourists.
— She lets customers leave mementos at the restaurant. The walls, ceiling and upright piano are covered with movie posters, plane tickets, notes, business cards, and the like.
— Pruett wrote a screenplay, “The Real Bagdad Cafe,” that’s available for purchase at the restaurant.
— Pruett soon will launch a membership club to help draw more international tourists.
“Bagdad Cafe” is an eccentric little film, but it was nominated for an Academy Award for its song “Calling You” and won a bunch of movie awards in Europe. (The late, great film critic Roger Ebert loved it; you can read his review here.)
It also signaled a rejuvenation of co-star Jack Palance’s career; he won an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor as an old cowboy in “City Slickers” a few years later.
Another Bagdad Cafe was in the now-defunct Route 66 town of Bagdad, California, about 50 miles east of Newberry Springs. The Los Angeles Times published a good article about old Bagdad in 1991.
(Image of the Bagdad Cafe in Newberry Springs, California, by Vicente Villamon via Flickr)