Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Emmy™Award-Winning Documentary Film

"Broadcast" version now airing on most public television stations.

"Uncensored" version now on DVD and in film festivals.

Synopsis: A charismatic figure featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, Florence "Pancho" Barnes was one of the most important women in 20th Century aviation. A tough and fearless aviatrix, Pancho was a rival of Amelia Earhart's who made a name for herself as Hollywood's first female stunt pilot. Just before WWII she opened a ranch near Edwards Air Force Base that became a famous -- some would say notorious -- hangout for test pilots and movie stars. Known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club", it became the epicenter of the aviation world during the early jet age. Chuck Yeager celebrated breaking the sound barrier there in 1947, and Howard Hughes and Jimmy Doolittle caroused in the bar. The Club's destruction by fire in 1953 is seen by many to mark the end of a Golden Era in post-WWII aviation. In the same fashion Pancho herself has become something of a legend, a fascinating yet enigmatic icon whose swagger is often celebrated, but whose story has been largely unknown. Until now.

A documentary film produced and written by Nick Spark and directed by Amanda Pope. Featuring interviews with test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and biographers Barbara Schultz and Lauren Kessler. Narrated by Tom Skerritt with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

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Women in Aviation
"Read Nick Spark's article about Pancho
from Women in Aviation magazine (.pdf)"
20 December 2006

Remants of the Happy Bottom Riding Club

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A large part of Pancho Barnes' guest ranch, the Happy Bottom Riding Club, burned to the ground in 1953. A short time later the property was seized by the U.S. Air Force, and it was absorbed into the limits of Edwards Air Force Base. What few people realize is that parts of the HBRC are still standing. The long hotel buildings, which survived the fire, were sold and moved to a location north of Edwards. Pancho's hangar was moved to El Mirage airport. The more permanent buildings at the HBRC were either bulldozed, or left to decay. Pictured here are some of the remnants of the ranch, as photographed during a recent visit by our documentary film crew.

Pancho's famous circular swimming pool, and the fountain she had built in the shape of the USAF insignia are also still standing.

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The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club ©2008-2010 Nick Spark Productions, LLC.