Sunday, January 24, 2010

Photos: El Camino Motel, Imperial Beach ("John From Cincinnati's" Snug Harbor)


One of my favorite TV shows in recent years was HBO's brilliant, criminally-unwatched "John From Cincinnati." Set in Imperial Beach, California, much of it was actually also shot there. The exterior of the Snug Harbor Motel, hands down the show's most important set was filmed in IB's El Camino Motel.

(Click on a picture to see more photos of the El Camino.)


Run down, abandoned, and left to rot off Palm Avenue, I finally decided to get a few shots there. I spoke with neighbors at two different businesses; no one claimed to know who owned it.
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I've read that the cabins on the grounds where Butchie lived were built by the production company. I suspect that's true, but even now they look as if they've been there all along.


As an avid fan of David Milch's looping, baroque "Milchspeak," I loved the show dialogue, particularly the reflective, swirling way that John himself usually spoke. This is just a little taste from John's famous "Sermon at the Motel" - and yes, it's just a bit, and it's clean.
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"Joe is a Doubting Thomas. Joe will save Not-Aleman. Joe will bring his buddies home. This is how Freddie relaxes: cup-of-Joe and Winchell's variety dozen...
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...Fur is big, mud is big, the stick is big. The Word is big. Fire is huge. The wheel is huge. The line and circle are big. On the wall, the line and circle are huge. On the wall, the man at the wall makes a man from the circle and line. The man at the wall makes a Word on the wall from the circle and line. The Word on the wall hears my Father."

10 comments:

  1. Man, I miss that show! Love photo 4-all the different, dilapidated stretches of iron work; a wrought cacophony of patterns.

    If I ever get down to San Diego we're going there. We'll have a shoot out! :-)

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  2. We'll have to see if we can find out who owns the place. It would be nice to get some shots inside, or some better shots of the grounds. It smells good to me!

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  3. Great photos!

    I hope you are okay with this... I reposted them over on the SaveJFC.net Forum Gallery. And gave you credit, of course.

    http://savejfc.net/forum/index.php?action=gallery;cat=5

    Let me know if there is any other type of reference you want added to the images.

    And thanks again for doing this!

    Trishah
    admin SaveJFC.net

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  4. Happy to do it - I loved "John From Cincinnati" and I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. So long as I get photo credit, you can use those pictures online with no problem. :-)

    It's all Words on the wall from the circle and line, after all...

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  5. I've stayed at that place before! I was born and raised in Coronado and always passed that place since I was a kid going to Jack In Box down in IB. I finally stayed there back in 1988...It was already pretty run down then...It was a trip, with all these strange lawn animals. The rooms hadn't been remodeled since the mid seventies.

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  6. It's still there, right where Palm becomes 75. I suspect that someday someone will want to knock it down. It's going to be a shame when that happens.

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  7. hey i am working on a design team that is working with a developer who is turning the place into a motel/min golf/community center type place.. personally i find the place charming.. the old 1960's look.. any thoughts as to how to update the place and not loose the charm?

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  8. Yeah. Don't try to turn it into a mini-golf/community center type place. That will kill every bit of charm its got. Try a simple renovation to maintain the charm instead of an overhault to destroy it.

    No offense meant. It's just that adding mini-golf to any "resort" area makes me want to hurl golf balls at the developer. :-)

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  9. wow, nickolas, my name is linda, i was staying and working there while HBO was filming, my boyfriend at that time were security, him and his brother they work 10 hr shiff, they ran it when H B O first came here, it was secured by paroles, they did a good job, 6 employees in the a. m. 6 in the pm. I love it. Well I always check to see if its been sold, I felt bad for the el Camino for wasting away, why dont you apply for a government grant and put a shelter or a sober living i'll help you if you or someone is interested you can get 3 million grant for this its a money making business, I know how to run it, I left I. B.6 yrs ago and IM back and I live on 7 th I never ever thought I would be back, what else got my interest is your health, my niece had an attack Monday my first time with her like that I felt her heart and it started with a strong beat, and then it would shake she was afraid she said later that she felt like she was dieing, so I am going t OK show her your post. well I will chill now take care of tie health and may be think about what I wrote about the el Camino I can talk to you more about it or anyone who is interested it a win win situation.

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  10. Linda, I really dig your concept. I would love to apply for some type of grant to set about and restore the El Camino to all its frigging 60's grandeur. I also love the way you capture the ethos of a culture gone mad with greed when you describe the status of this place as "wasting away". My wife and I visited this motel the other day after walking on the beach with 2 of our grandchildren. They asked us why someone would let a "neato" place like this get "all junky?" From the mouths of babes! I remember reading an article by one of those TV "American Picker" guys recently. He said that one of the real awarenesses he has come to about people is that they literally "love their stuff, their things, to death." Meaning to say, they hang onto stuff for any number of reasons to the point were what happens is that the thing they love - or covet for financial reasons - rots into the ground. I sure hope this does not happen to the El Camino. There are crazies out there like me that believe it is worth bringing these elements of our community history, life together, back to meaningfulness in the day-to-day life of communities everywhere; even in IB. Worse yet, for a community like IB to have this type of situation going on while it is investing so much heart into turning their community's fortunes around, is just down-right wrong!! So ends my sermonette # 68 for tonight. But oh what dreams I'll dream tonight. l.c.a.

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