Critic’s Choice Venue Blues: Van Hoffnung, Bagdad Café on Route 66
Van Hoffnung, Bagdad Café on Route 66
Edited by Kalanite Bluestar and Eleanor Medier
Being British, most of the American culture that I know was supplied by Hollywood and my imagination. I had a stereotypical image of a lonely road side diner. I also had dreams of maybe, one day, taking the ultimate road trip ‘Route 66.’ In 2009, I went to California for an extended seven-week vacation. Returning to Los Angeles from Las Vegas, we drove south to hook up with ‘66 so I could at least do a part of that iconic trip.
Timing, hunger and sheer good luck—there was The Bagdad Cafe! It was every bit as good as my imagination, no, better. I instantly fell in love with the place. We stopped in for lunch and fell deeper and deeper in love with the place. While waiting for our food, a bus load of French tourists showed up. They spent fifteen minutes clearing the shop shelves of all T-shirts and baseball caps.
After the bus pulled out, taking it’s excited tourists and the contents of the shop with it, the cafe owner, Andrea Pruett, came and apologized for the hold up in our food. She then explained how the cafe was formerly the Sidewinder, and the name was changed to Bagdad Cafe for a movie. That low budget film has since developed a cult following in parts of Europe, and she has tourist buses regularly. (The movie and the cafe can both be searched on Google.)
I had my laptop with me, and by the following morning, I had built a replica here in SL. After I built it, I opened it as a club to provide live music. I love building in SL, but not running a club. It soon closed. However, I never demolished it, as I love the place so much and always hoped that one day I’d find someone who’d manage it and reopen it.
There are no plans to enlarge. I would loose the ambiance of a small place. This is more important that having crowds of people. And, to enlarge would mean it is no longer a replica of what is—a classic real life build.
During the time that the Bagdad was closed, my love of the Blues led me to DJ’ing, which led me to find Laya Sugarplum, another Blues lover who was running a club. Her club had to close too, and I was lucky enough to get Laya to run the Bagdad Café. We talked long about the vision we both shared—to keep it small and intimate, the kind of place you want to just hang out in, hoping friends might drop by, much like your local bar or pub.
Being Blues lovers, it was easy to make it primarily a Blues club. So from Monday to Thursday its a Blues club. Friday and the weekend, it is open genre. Some people are very picky about what they call Blues, and will have heated debates about electric or acoustic, Chicago or Delta, whether this person is or is not a Blues artist. My favorite Blues is without drums, but thats just a personal; I really love all Blues.
In real life, I have been forced into early retirement due to ill health. Like so many, I have a great many friends in SL, and find it a great place for music—a life long love. My real life budget allows me to have a small chunk of SL, Bagdad Café being part of it. This gives Laya and I a freedom that other club owners don’t always have because we don’t have to focus our energies on chasing tier fees. Instead, this allows us to open our doors to novice acts and new DJ’s, providing them a place where they can comfortably hone their skills, work up from a smaller audience, as well as allow us to develop and build friendships among ourselves. Its a great place to be, not chasing the dollar. I would class Laya and I as business partners— she does all the work, I just play the Blues.
The Café and the Sim are two very different places. The sim is going through an overhaul, so come back in a few months. There may be a new sim to look at!
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© 2014 by Eleanor Medier, Sim Street Journal. Articles cannot be reprinted without permission.