Monterey bus rolls where cameras did
Monterey -- In front of an old Monterey fish house, an obsessed female
fan stalks a radio talk show host. Over at Lover's Point in Pacific
Grove, two kids find plastic-wrapped wads of cash. Along the twisting
routes of 17-MILE DRIVE® and Highway 1, jealous husbands and suspicious
wives grapple with their spouses at 60 miles an hour.
Whew. To think I witnessed all this in one afternoon. Who says nothing
happens in Monterey except golf and whale-watching?
The human drama -- and snippets of comedy -- all came during the
Monterey Movie Tour, a three-hour bus ride that winds through the town
and nearby Carmel, Pacific Grove and the 17-MILE DRIVE®. Offered daily
since its introduction in July, the scenic drive takes riders to the
locales that Hollywood has preserved in black-and-white and Technicolor,
in Oscar-winning flicks and less stellar fare.
The tour allows visitors who have "done" the peninsula many times to see
it through a director's eyes. Ideally, you'll make the tour part of an
overnight trip, since the window-seat views of the beautiful, New
England-like homes of Pacific Grove and Carmel's fetching main street
(where tour buses are not allowed) will invite further exploration, as
will nearby Big Sur and the gorgeous Point Lobos State Reserve, where
"Rebecca" was filmed in 1940. Or you can hike through town and country
first, making the bus ride a well-deserved rest.
The peninsula's cinematic heyday -- or heydecade -- peaked in terms of
numbers in the 1920s, with about 30 films. In terms of prestige,
however, its storied past lasted through the 1960s, popping up in
Academy Award-winning classics such as "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1935),
"Captains Courageous" (1937), "National Velvet" (1944), "From Here to
Eternity" (1953) and "East of Eden" (1955).
Movie sets still occasionally make their way out here, but the area has
become a haven of sorts for actors, especially in the former artists'
colony of Carmel. Doris Day -- who fended off a psychopathic husband
hereabouts in "Julie" (1956, nominated for song and screenplay Oscars)
-- retired here, although she still dabbles in the business world with
her part-ownership in Cypress Inn. Of course, former mayor Clint
Eastwood ranks as the area's most active personality. In fact, a "Play
Misty for Me" fund-raising tour, with Eastwood and other actors from his
1971 directorial debut, inspired the Monterey Movie Tours®.
No personal stalkers were provided, but the day was definitely misty
when I boarded the 32-seat green motor coach at Portola Plaza, in front
of the Monterey Convention Center. No Eastwood, either -- owner, guide
and bus driver Doug Lumsden is the one-man crew. Looking like a cross
between Regis Philbin and Mike Douglas (the late talk-show host, not the
"Fatal Attraction" star), Lumsden keeps up the patter and rolls the
clips that play on TV monitors overhead.
After a 15-minute introduction, the bus drove off and in minutes paused
at Colton Hall, first of several stops and references to "A Summer
Place," starring blond duo Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. The historical
museum was the home of the California Constitution and, more importantly
-- at least for movie buffs -- a setting for the 1959 oh-so-shocking
tale of young love and adultery. The film was banned in households
across America, Lumsden reminded us, although the gee-whiz passions come
across as quaintly hilarious 40-some years later.
A different type of blond duo emerged with a ride through Cannery Row
and a clip from "Clash by Night." A lesser-known film noir piece
directed by Fritz Lang and starring Barbara Stanwyck, it features a
young Marilyn Monroe as a sassy sardine worker. Besides a chance to
appreciate how far Monroe progressed in her acting after this 1952
flick, the drama showcases real scenes from the fishing industry that
made the area.
With mostly older films showing on the bus (the most recent ones include
"When We Were Soldiers," the 2002 war film made in nearby Fort Hunter-Liggett,
and the 2001 "Bandits" in Salinas), the tour takes you into a parallel
past. Lumsden, a Monterey native, gives both insider gossip of long-ago
celebrity visitors and factoids about county life. The latter includes
witnessing the protected status of the ever-present deer, which
apparently can sometimes interfere with a good golf game.
Passengers can get out at three stops, the first of which is Bird Rock,
close to where Troy and Sandra got down-and-sandy in a love scene in "A
Summer Place." Binoculars are provided and highly recommended to focus
on the barking seals and sea lions sprawling on and leaping from the
largest promontory off the Monterey coastline. Meanwhile, adorable
squirrels beg at your feet, competing with the gulls and crows that
The second stop is a token examination of the lone Cypress Tree -- not
so solitary, given surrounding flora and the human care that strung up
its trunk to preserve this copyrighted image. A 1957 Western, "Gun
Battle at Monterey," depicts the tree, but except for that scene, the
movie has little to recommend it, according to Lumsden.
The longest stopover is at the Lodge at Pebble Beach, where many scenes
from "National Velvet" were filmed. I am not a golf aficionado, but the
vista Lumsden urged us to see is indeed spectacular: From the rear deck
of the lodge stretches a green expanse that meets up with a stunning
blue-gray bay, in turn bordered in the distance by forested slopes.
I spent the other 25 minutes of the 40-minute break gaping at $75 Pebble
Beach T-shirts and stratospheric real estate prices. The listings made
me appreciate my elevated bus -- a much cheaper balcony seat for viewing
the Oscar-winning scenery.
IF YOU GO...
Monterey is about a two-hour drive from the Bay Area. From Highway
101 south, take Highway 156 west, then Highway 1 south. Exit Pacific
Grove/Del Monte Avenue. A garage at Del Monte Avenue and Washington
Street costs $5 for the day; street parking is free Sundays and
WHERE TO STAY
Cypress Inn, Lincoln and Seventh, Carmel-by-the-Sea. (800) 443-7443
or (831) 624-3871, www.9cypress-inn.com. Pet-friendly inn owned by Doris
Day, son Terry Melcher and Dennis LeVett. $125-$425; $25-$55 additional
DoubleTree Hotel Monterey, 2 Portola Plaza, Monterey. (800) 222-8733 or
www.doubletreemonterey.com, $159-$800; special packages include the
Monterey Movie Tour for $189 a couple this spring.
Mission Ranch, 26270 Dolores, Carmel. (800) 538-8221 or (831) 624-6436.
A 19th century farmhouse owned and restored by Clint Eastwood.
WHAT TO DO
Monterey Movie Tours®, part of Monterey Scenic Tours. 2 Serrano Way,
Monterey, CA 93940. (800) 343-6437,
Pick-up 12:45 p.m. at Portola Plaza and Del Monte Avenue, Monterey.
Daily tours, $35-$45 per person.
Monterey Bay Aquarium, 886 Cannery Row, Monterey. (831) 648-4888,
its 20th anniversary this year with a shark exhibit coming in April, a
new entry gallery in May and special events throughout the year. 10
a.m.-6 p.m. daily except Dec. 25; open 9:30 a.m. summers and holidays.
Point Lobos State Reserve, Highway 1, Carmel. (831) 624-4909, pt-lobos.
park.state.ca.us. Three miles south of Carmel; rare plants,
stunning geological formations and animal life; picnicking, scuba
diving, photography, painting, jogging. 9 a.m. -7 p.m. Daylight Savings
Time; closes 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. $5 per car, $3-$4 disabled
and senior citizens.
WHERE TO EAT
Old Monterey Cafe, 489 Alvarado St., Monterey. (831) 646-1021,
Breakfast and lunch, $3.95-$8.95.
Casanova Restaurant, Fifth Street between Mission and San Carlos,
Carmel. (831) 625-0501,
www.casanovarestaurant.com. Brunch and dinner, $30-$45.
The Restaurant at Mission Ranch, Mission Ranch, 26270 Dolores, Carmel.
(800) 538-8221 or (831) 624-6436. Basic steak and seafood place, serving
brunch and dinner. Dinner for two including wine, $75.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau, P. O. Box 1770, 150
Olivier St., Monterey, CA 93942-1770. (888) 221-1010 or (831) 649-1770,
Monterey County Film Commission, P. O. Box 111, Monterey, CA 93942-0111.