Santa Anita ParkJun 24th, 2009 | By Lindsay | Category: 90210 & Beverly Hills, 90210 Filming Locations
This weekend, I dragged my fiance out to Santa Anita Park, aka the Santa Anita race track, in Arcadia for some major stalking. Our original plan was to catch a movie at the theatre located next door to the track, but a funny thing happened on the way to the show. While driving to the movies, I got an email from fellow stalker Owen who told me that Santa Anita Park stood in for the entrance to Walley World in fave 80s movie National Lampoon’s Vacation. Needless to say, I was absolutely SHOCKED! All this time I’ve lived in L.A. and had no idea that Walley World was literally right in my own backyard. So, I made my poor fiance detour the car and, with Owen’s directions in hand, the two of us headed over towards the racetrack.
Santa Anita Park first opened its doors on Christmas Day of 1934 and has the distinction of being known as Southern California’s oldest race track. Elias Jackson, aka “Lucky”, Baldwin had originally built a horse racing track on what is now the Arcadia County Golf Course in 1907. Sadly, though, just two years after its opening, the government passed the Walker-Otis bill, which outlawed gambling and forced Lucky to close up shop. Twenty-five years later, after California had legalized parimutuel betting, a company named the Los Angeles Turf Club opened up a race track just a few blocks from the former track’s site. The Los Angeles Turf Club was owned by movie producer Hal Roach and a doctor named Charles H. Strub. Roach and Strub commissioned their new track to be built in the Art Deco style by architect Gordon B. Kaufman, who is most well-known for designing both the Hoover Dam and the L.A. Times Building. The original exterior of the race track building still stands at Santa Anita Park to this day. Santa Anita has hosted a number of memorable competitions over the years, including the equestrian events of the 1984 Olympic Games and Seabiscuit’s big win – and final race – which took place on February 9, 1940. Because of the involvement of movieman Hal Roach, the race track has long been associated with the silver screen. Celebs like Bing Crosby, Louis B. Mayer, Alex Trebek, Errol Flynn, and Spencer Tracy all owned horses that raced at Santa Anita at one time or another. And, of course, the track has also shown up in several Hollywood productions.
I have actually been dying to stalk the race track ever since it appeared in my favorite episode of the television series Las Vegas. In the Season Three episode, entitled “Everything Old Is You Again”, Danny McCoy (played by – sigh – Josh Duhamel) has a flashback of sorts in which he fantasizes about what it would be like to run a 60’s era hotel and casino named the Jubliee. In the episode, the entire cast dons 60’s regalia, uses terms like ” Poindexter” and “It’s a gas”, and dances to the Twist. Everyone, that is, except for poor Danny, who doesn’t quite have the moves to the latest dance craze down yet. He spends pretty much the entire episode begging people to teach him how to do the Twist. I’m telling you, it is SUCH a cute episode! And, it just so happens that the Club House at Santa Anita Park stood in for the Jubliee Hotel and Casino in the episode. My fiance immediately recognized it when we first saw the show a few years back. So, I really could not have been more excited to stalk the place this weekend!! In a lucky twist of fate, while we were snapping some photos out front, an INCREDIBLY nice valet came up and started talking to us. I told him that the Vegas episode that had filmed at the Park was my very favorite and he asked if my fiance and I wanted a tour of the areas used in the episode. IF we wanted a tour???? IF we wanted a tour???? LOL OF COURSE we wanted a tour!
Both the interior and the exterior of the Club House were used as the Jubilee Hotel and Casino in the “Everything Old Is You Again” episode.
The main entrance to the Club House also served as the main entrance to the Jubilee.
According to the valet, hundreds of casino gaming tables and slot machines were brought in to turn the main room of the Club into the casino’s main floor.
Other areas of the Club where filming took place include the bar where Sam (aka Vanessa Marcil) “worked”, which is, in reality, a cafeteria counter;
the main lobby area;
the Club’s cafe, where Mary worked in the episode . . .
which is also the same area where Mary taught Danny to do the Twist :);
the steps located just outside of the cafe doors, where Danny asks Mary out on a date;
and the Jubliee’s “pool” area. Because Santa Anita Park doesn’t actually have a pool, the Jubilee’s “pool” was in actuality just the Club’s back porch area. Producers simply added some chaise lounges, a handful of bikini-clad women, some wet cement, splashing sounds, a bit of movie magic, and voila – they had themselves a hotel swimming pool!
At the end of the episode, Danny finds himself in the lobby of the present day Montecito Hotel and Casino, where Chubby Checker just happens to be on hand to entertain the guests . . .
. . . and to lead everyone, including Danny, in a rousing rendition of the Twist. See, I told you it was a cute episode!
The racetrack was also featured in the Season Two Valentine’s Day episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 entitled “And Baby Makes Five”. In the episode, Andrea finds some luck at the track by betting on horses with names such as Lovesick, Unrequited, and Grand Amour. Notice a theme here? 😉
And, as mentioned in my introduction, the Park was also used in National Lampoon’s Vacation. In the movie, an un-used portion of the track’s parking lot stood in for Walley World’s main entrance. According to IMDB, a painted backdrop was installed behind the above pictured overpass to give the illusion of roller coasters in the foreground. Love how you can still see the yellow divider lines in the road that were used in the filming!!
The racetrack’s GINORMOUS parking lot area stood in for Walley World’s parking lot, where Clark and his family race each other- with “Chariots of Fire” playing in the background – to the theme park’s entrance. Again, a huge painted backdrop was used in this scene to create the illusion of roller coasters.
Walley World’s main entrance – where Clark, upon hearing the news that the park is temporarily closed, punches Walley Moose in the nose – is actually Santa Anita’s South Entrance. The entrance was dressed up quite a bit for the filming, so in person it looks much different than how it appeared onscreen in Vacation. Also adding to the difference in appearance is the fact that the movie was filmed in 1983, long before Santa Anita’s main tower, which you can see in the above photograph, was built. An interesting sidenote – it’s fairly common knowledge among locationites that Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia was used for the filming of the scenes inside of Walley World. So why, you ask, was Magic Mountain’s real entrance not used in the movie? Well, apparently, the original ending of Vacation involved Clark W. Griswold and family leaving the “temporarily closed for repairs” Walley World and heading over to Roy Walley’s house, gun in hand, to demand that he entertain them. When that ending didn’t fare well with test audiences, the finale we all know and love was shot on location at Magic Mountain. Rather than waste money re-shooting the parking lot scenes, producers just used the scenes that had already been filmed at Santa Anita Park. And the rest, as they say, is history!
Santa Anita Park has also been featured in Seabiscuit, A Day at the Races, The Dark Horse, and the television series Jockeys, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: Santa Anita Park is located at 285 West Huntington Drive in Arcadia. Las Vegas was filmed at the Park’s Club House. The entrance to Walley World was really the South Entrance of Santa Anita Park.
The overpass that the Griswold’s drive under when entering the Walley World parking lot is a bit tricky to find. It is located directly off of Huntington Drive, near 659 West Huntington Drive. The overpass leads to Westfield -Santa Anita Shopping Center and runs over one of the un-used areas of the racetrack’s parking lot. You can see its exact location in the above map.