Sunday, July 14, 2024

Information Sign up

Sign up to be on our mailing list for updates.


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

Pancho, Jawbone and E Clampus Vitus

Print Email

There's a funny, wonderful California organization you may have heard of (or then again maybe not!) by the name of E Clampus Vitus.  This ancient and honorable order of pranksters is somewhat akin to the Moose or the Elks or Lions Clubs, only a bit goofier.  As they say on their website, "The early meetings of E Clampus Vitus in the California gold fields were devoted so completely to drinking and carousing that none of the Clampers was ever in any condition to keep minutes, let alone remember what had happened the next day!"  ECV was founded in the 1950s, and over the years ECV has had many famous members, including two California governors — Edmond G. Brown and a friend of Pancho's named Ronald Reagan.
LebeckWell, Pancho Barnes wasn't a member of E Clampus Vitus, but her own sense of vitality, humor and playfulness attracted the attention of this esteemed group.  So, the day after April Fools' day in the year 2000, the Peter Lebeck Chapter (named, incidentally, after some poor sucker who was killed and eaten by a grizzly bear) of the group decided to honor Pancho by commissioning a plaque in her honor.  The beautiful, red sandstone marker was placed at the Jawbone Canyon General Store.  This business, which is still operating in the present day, was originally owned by Pancho and Mac McKendry.  That's a story we didn't cover in any detail in the film, because it's not too great of a tale!  Pancho and Mac bought it after the Happy Bottom Riding Club went out of business, with hopes of starting a new fly-in guest ranch.  They even talked about building a desert marina complete with an artificial lake.  Unfortunately things did not work out as Pancho had hoped.  She couldn't attract her old friends at the new location, and her big schemes failed to take off as her bank account emptied.  Then she discovered that Mac was cheating on her with a former Riding Club hostess. . . an affair that would lead to their eventual divorce, and Pancho's surrender of the store to McKendry.

Well, that's an awful sad story!  But what I really wanted to write about, was the plaque which, if you will remember what I said a few paragraphs ago, was placed by this wonderfully fun-loving group ECV.  If you visit the store, you'll see it right out front in a place of honor.  It says many positive, wonderful things including that Pancho's "sense of adventure, integrity and independence is an example for all."  Amen they got that right!  But what I find funny is that the plaque also says that Pancho "toured the world as a lecturer honored by the Air Force and aviation organizations" like some sort of Lowell Thomas or Al Gore of the air.  Well truth be told, I don't think Pancho ventured outside the United States after 1930 (except for a few trips to Mexico), and probably never went farther than the state of Nevada after 1965.  As for "lectures", that's a nice thought but Pancho wasn't a university professor or one to mince words!   Perhaps better wording would have been something like, "she was honored by the Air Force and aviation organizations, and told them some wonderful stories and some jokes that were so dirty that mud looked clean." 

Then again, "toured the world as a lecturer" has a nice ring to it.  I am sure it made Pancho smile, the day that plaque was dedicated, wherever she was . . . knowing that the joke was on the pranksters of ECV!

San Francisco Int'l Airport (SFO) February 4th 6:00 p.m.

Print Email

SFAMThe Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club is coming to the San Francisco International Airport Commission Aviation Library / Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum on February 4th.  Director Amanda Pope and Producer / Writer Nick Spark will be in attendance at this special event along with special guests.

This screening is sponsored by San Francisco Airport Museums, and is FREE to the public.

Click HERE to read more about the Museum.

WHEN: February 4th, 2010 @ 6 p.m.

WHERE: San Francisco International Airport, International Terminal, Level 3  (You will NOT have to go through security to attend).


HOW TO GET THERE / FREE PARKING: Take the BART to the Airport, and walk to the International Terminal, Level 3.  If you are driving, free parking is available.  To get it you will need to bring your Airport garage parking ticket to the museum for validation. 

TO RSVP OR FOR MORE INFORMATION:  RSVP is appreciated but not mandatory.  Contact Gabriel Phung, San Francisco Airport Museums, 650-821-9911 or gabriel.phung(at) For directions within the Airport use the locator at

Two New Screenings Announced

Print Email

On January 9, 2010 the arts commission of the city of Mission Viejo, California will host a special screening of The Legend of Pancho Barnes to benefit the KOCE-TV Foundation.  This exciting event represents our first Orange County screening, and a chance to recognize the outstanding work of public television station, and our affiliate in this production, KOCE-TV.

On February 25, 2010, Pancho Barnes returns to Pasadena, California for a benefit fundraiser for the KOCE-TV Foundation, Heritage Square and the Pasadena Museum of History.  Both Heritage Square and the Pasadena Museum are outstanding non-profits which educate and promote the love of history.

You can purchase tickets to either event on our website by clicking on the "Screenings" button.


Putting 2009 Into Perspective & Events in 2010

Print Email

2009 has been a wonderful year for The Legend of Pancho Barnes.  Well, six months of it anyway! PanchoXmas2 We premiered the film at the NewFest Film Festival in Manhattan in June, and since that time we've done over a dozen events including the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and screenings at NASA, the Arlington Air Show, the Planes of Fame Air Museum, the Celebration of Women in Aviation, the Flying M Ranch and of course, our special Los Angeles premiere screening at the Aero Theater.  Those of you who made it to that event definitely had a night to remember.

2010 looks like it will also be about as exciting as Pancho in her flying boots!  We'll kick off the year with a screening to benefit the KOCE-TV Foundation on January 9th in Mission Viejo, Ca (you can buy tickets on this website by clicking on the "Screenings" button).  We'll follow that with a Pasadena event on February 25th to benefit KOCE-TV and two wonderful local history organizations, Heritage Square and the Pasadena Museum of History (click on "Screenings" button).  There are several other events in California and beyond that we'll announce as the details fall into place.  And if you know of a venue that wants to have a screening — an air show, a museum, or another organization — contact us.  Want to help sponsor one of our screenings?  We're always looking for help!

All of this barnstorming should (knock on wood) lead up to a television broadcast sometime in mid-2010.  We do not yet have the details, but our show has been submitted into the public television review process and we hope to have an air date announcement in the very near future.  In fact, we're sort of hoping Santa puts it under our tree!

Hello NASA, Pancho has landed!

Print Email

Director Amanda Pope and cinematographer Clay Westervelt and I spent the better part of a day at NASA's Dryden facility, where we showed the film and got the grand tour of this famed flight test and research laboratory.  (See our facebook page for all the photos).  NASAWe learned a lot of things, some of which we can't talk about or they'd have to kill us.  But seriously, one thing we did learn is that members of the public-at-large can tour the facility at Dryden.  That's something you will want to seriously consider if you live in Los Angeles vicinity.  Click here for details of how to do it!

One of the highlights of our visit was a trip out to the edge of the Rodgers Dry Lake, where twin 747s are stored.  These special aircraft have been rigged to carry the Space Shuttle from Edwards, where it lands on occasion, back to Florida.  In typical NASA-speak they call them SCAs, or 'Shuttle Carrying Aircraft.'  "We always tell the pilots before they take off," said our tour guide Cam Martin with a wry wink, "'No pressure but you have the future of the entire agency riding with you.'"  With only a handful of shuttle flights left on the schedule (as the shuttle is to be retired) these airplanes' fate is undetermined.

Cam also showed us the sister ship to the Bell X-1 that Chuck Yeager flew when he first broke the sound barrier, which is displayed on a pole in front of the facility's main building (that's it at right, with Amanda, myself and Clay posing in front).  It being NASA, someone there realized that the aircraft cockpit could still be pressurized, and so the aircraft was re-purposed as a time capsule for Dryden's anniversary.  That's gotta be a first! 

From my perspective, the real highlight of the day was a tour of the main hangar, where a number of NASA research and chase aircraft are stored.  This was the same hangar where Scott Crossfield rather famously put an F-100 through the wall.  That rather famous incident occured, as Cam Martin explained, when Crossfield's aircraft had a flame out.  He managed to dead-stick land it, and thought he'd let it roll to a stop in front of the NASA2NASA hangar.  Unfortunately, he forgot that the plane's brakes relied on the engine for pressurization.  The aircraft rolled inside and Crossfield managed to steer it away from the various X-planes parked there, wedging it into and through a wall.  "If it had been another foot, he would have been killed," Cam Martin explained, pointing to the area (now obscured by an air conditioner) where the welded repair of the hangar wall was once visible.  Instead he lived and the story went out, how Yeager might have broken the sonic wall but it took Crossfield to go through the hangar wall!

Our screening at NASA was a terrific success.  Director David McBride (shown in the photo at left) introduced us, and we had many good friends in attendance including Joni Schaper, Mike Salazar of the Pancho Barnes Trust Estate, and Alan Brown.

A Terrific Time at Niles

Print Email

AviatorsinEarlyHollywoodThe Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum was the site of another awesome event (see Facebook for all the photos), and joining us for all the fun was Shawna Kelly.  Shawna is the granddaughter of B.H. "Daredevil" Delay, who was one of the pioneer aerial stuntmen.  Delay is credited with being the first stuntman to, get this, transition from the saddle of a horse to the front seat of a biplane in flight.  He later did an update going from an automobile seat to an airplane cockpit.   Anyway, Shawna is a pilot herself and the author of Aviators in Early Hollywood, a neat picture book from Arcadia Press that is chock full of photos of stunt pilots and their exploits, and yes Pancho is in there!  You might want to consider it for your holiday shopping list, as it's a whole heck of a lot of fun and the photos are simply gorgeous.  (Incidentally, Arcadia is the publisher of Michael Patris' book about the Mt. Lowe Railway -- another stocking stuffer for you). 

Niles2Before the screening, Museum Director Dorothy Bradley and Michael Bonham provided a tour of the Niles Essanay Museum.  It's located in an historic district near where Charlie Chaplin shot "The Kid", inside a storefront that once housed a Nickelodeon.

Michael introduced me at the event, and I in turn introduced both Pancho and Howard Hughes' Hell's Angels.  It was nice to have an excuse to talk a bit about Pancho's career in the movie business.  She began before she was 20, working as an animal trainer on the silent Rin Tin Tin feature Lighthouse by the Sea.  It was only natural that once she developed a passion for aviation, she'd find a way to combine movie-making with airplanes.  Even after her flying days were over, Pancho remained connected to Hollywood.  In the short time it operated, half a dozens movies were shot at or around her Rancho Oro Verde, including Westward the Women, Johnny Stoolpigeon and the TV show Cowboy Slim.

Photo (above): Nick Spark (l) poses with Shawna Kelly and a bunch of 99's women pilots who came out for the screening.  Michael Bonham is visible second from the left, in the rear.

Facebook Box

You Can Help

Your tax-deductible donation can help make "The Legend of Pancho Barnes!" a reality.


News Letter

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