posted: February 29th, 2008 | by:Bert
©Bert Gildart: Three days ago we departed Death Valley, leaving by way of Furnace Creek Wash. The road passes Zabriske Point, climbs over a pass and then descends to a junction well known as Death Valley Junction.
Janie and I stopped at the junction, for we hoped to learn a bit more about what has become a famous fixture through the years–and perhaps even catch a glimpse of the person who has made that fixture so famous.
Marta Becket is responsible for the creation of the Amargosa Opera House, now an institution in Nevada. Marta, as the story goes, loved opera, and while growing up in New York, she studied dance, art and piano.
BIRTH OF AN INSTITUTION
As an adult, she supported herself and her mother in a freelance manner. She danced at Radio City Music Hall in the corps de ballet and won small parts on Broadway. But, Becket wanted something else; she wanted to take control of all aspects of her dancing and, so, she and her husband went on the road where she quickly became a one-woman show.
Several years passed, but in 1967, the couple was on a camping trip in Death Valley and got a flat tire at Death Valley Junction. She fell in love with the dilapidated adobe buildings, and in that way found a home for shows. Sometimes, however, her programs wouldn’t attract anyone.
Nevertheless she would dance for herself, particularly during the early years. And, so, to assure herself that she would always have an audience, she painted images of her guests on the walls and ceilings.
In subsequent years, she became famous, attracting an audience from all over the world. Though now in advancing years, she still performs, but, now, only on Saturday nights. Though we understand it may be hard to acquire tickets, Janie and I will inquire. From where we’re now camped in Pahrump, it’s about a 30 minute drive back to the Opera House.
For us Pahrump is a place to catch up a bit on stories and on general chores associated with our Airstream travels. Our camping accommodations are a bit different from those in Death Valley, for we’re parked on a concrete slab immediately adjacent to a casino. Across the road there’s a sign advising that we can purchase fireworks. We’re 45 minutes from Las Vegas.
You won’t have too much trouble finding us, as we’re one of the few with camping gear, sleeping bags, and underwear spread in front of our trailer and draped from our trailer’s awning with clothes hangers. That’s my doing, not Janie’s, for it is I who am struggling to create an image. Granted, that may be hard to do with a relatively new Airstream, now polished, but, still, I’m trying.
To get the real feel of Nevada, we also completed the necessary paper work and now have an SW Player Club card, and the other evening discovered that the free card entitled us to a $2 discount on the $8 buffet, which really was a bargain. They understand human psychology and know if they suck us in to eat that we’ll just have to pull the handle on the slots at least once before we leave. There’s a flood of slots between the dinning room and the exit and they know that if we win even a dime that we’ll then pull the handle again. They’re right, and our time in the casino–which would have totaled but $12 (with the discount) if we’d only eaten–actually wound up costing us about $20.
They really got me! But probably not as much as they got some of the other patrons who sat on stools, drinks in hand, evincing looks of determination, coupled (and sadly so), with genuine desperation as well.
We’ll soon be departing Pahrump. Our clothes are clean again, sleeping bags aired, truck and trailer washed and the refrigerator full. Mojave National Preserve here we come–but not until we make one more effort to become instantly rich.
Wish us luck, and while you’re at it, wish Marta Becket a little luck, too.