Pioneertown Posse

Deputy, lock them varmints in jail

Pioneertown is one of those treasures that is practically in Palm Springs' backyard but that seldom makes the list of things to see and do. About an hour's easy drive away, Pioneertown was built in the 1940s as a movie set for western movies and named after the Sons of the Pioneers. If you watched Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, or other B western movies you've surely seen the town. And it is an actual town where residents live in accommodations hidden behind the facades of the movie set.

Pioneertown was nearly wiped out by the Sawtooth fire in 2006. Firefighters managed to save the historic movie set buildings, but signs of damage to the surrounding area are everywhere.

A group of volunteers — some of whom, frankly, looked old enough to have been original cast members — put on a show every Saturday afternoon, and that's where the usual suspects went on Saturday, along with about 500 bikers on their Harley Davidsons, but that's another part of the story.

Réal, Bob, Ken, and Phil chat with one of the cast members before the show

It was a lot of fun walking around the town. The facades of the buildings in the movie set are only a few feet deep, hiding the accommodations behind them. As time for the show grew closer, cast members began appearing on the street in costume, chatting with visitors and making sure the sound system was working and all the props were in place.

casualties Almost every skit ended with several casualties, often not the ones you expected — they were all scams

The show itself, consisted of several skits usually based on some sort of scam, so the person you thought was going to get shot turned out to be the shooter. The casualty rate was very high, and the show only continued through the magic of reincarnation after each shoot-out.

bathhouse A lot of hanky-panky took place at the hotel / bathhouse / telegraph office

The hotel/bathhouse/telegraph office was the scene of a lot of shenanigans, few of which ended even after a new sheriff came to clean up the town. Let's just say the townfolk were unimpressed with his rules: "No cursing in public," "No spitting in public," etc. "No making fun of the sheriff" was equally ineffective.

Real, Bob, Ken, Phil, Paul The usual suspects with one of the town old-timers: (L-R) Réal, Bob, Ken, Phil, Paul (front)
demonstrating a crack Showing off his "cracks"
Indian Another long-time resident — it has perhaps been a while since he used that bathtub


parking lot filled with bikes

And now to the bikers. They were having a fund-raising event, Run for the Troops, having left Palm Springs en masse an hour before we did. By the time we arrived, they were all busy eating and listening to live music at Pappy & Harriet's Palace.


They didn't seem to mind that we crashed their party to join them for lunch. The place was packed, of course, and a bit understaffed considering that the bikers didn't just happen to drop in, so we contented ourselves with buying hamburgers at the outdoor barbecue stand.