The Pioneer SaloonMar 23rd, 2015 | By Lindsay | Category: Movie Locations
There’s only one thing I love more than stalking film locations and that’s stalking film locations that have a history. On our way out of Las Vegas last week, the Grim Cheaper and I visited a watering hole that has quite a storied one. The Pioneer Saloon in Goodsprings, which has been deemed Southern Nevada’s oldest bar, was first established over 100 years ago on a curving rural road located about 25 miles southwest of The Strip. Miraculously, little of the two-room saloon has changed since its inception and the place is still going strong to this day.
The Pioneer Saloon was founded by businessman George Fayle in 1913.
He constructed the neighboring General Store at around the same time, which he operated as a café.
Both structures were built from kits likely purchased from a Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog. According to the Pioneer Saloon’s brochure, the buildings are thought to be some of the last of their kind in the U.S.
The walls and ceilings of the Pioneer Saloon and Goodsprings General Store were constructed entirely out of pressed tin that is still in place today.
The mahogany bar in place at the saloon today is the same one that was installed in 1913. It was made by the Brunswick Company in Maine in the 1860s.
The original brass foot railing is also still in place.
The Pioneer Saloon’s history is steeped in lore. The most notable tale (which I tend to believe) centers around Clark Gable and wife Carole Lombard. On January 16th, 1942, Carole, her mother and Gable’s press agent boarded a flight from Indiana to California. The three had been in the Hoosier State selling war bonds. After a brief refueling stop in Las Vegas, their plane crashed into Potosi Mountain. Gable immediately headed to Goodsprings and spent several days at the Pioneer Saloon, first awaiting news of the crash and then waiting for his wife’s body to be released.
Gable is said to have sat in the spot where I am sitting in the photo below.
The divots that can be seen in the face of the bar are rumored to have come from the many cigars he smoked while waiting.
The Pioneer Saloon’s eastern room is now known as the Carole Lombard & Clark Gable Memorial Room.
The space features numerous photographs and newspaper clippings about the couple, as well as a piece of the wreckage of the airplane on which Carole lost her life.
The room also boasts photographs of the many productions that have been lensed on the premises, but more on that in a bit.
Another infamous moment in the Pioneer Saloon’s history took place in 1915 when a dispute over a card game resulted in a man being shot and killed. The table where he was sitting during the game is pictured below. It was originally located in the main room of the bar, but has since been relocated to the Carole Lombard & Clark Gable Memorial Room.
It is said that the bullet holes below came from that shooting.
The three holes run straight from the inside of the Pioneer to the outside.
The photograph below is pretty eerie. No wonder the place is said to be haunted!
In 1966, the Pioneer Saloon and Goodsprings General Store (the interior of the General Store is pictured below) were purchased by Don Hedrick and his wife. When they passed away, Don Hedrick Jr. inherited the site and continued to run it until 2006 when he retired and sold it to Las Vegas entrepreneur Noel Sheckells. The property had fallen into a bit of disrepair by that point so Noel subsequently poured $600,000 into restoring it. The following year, the Pioneer Saloon was added to the Nevada Register of Historic Places.
The saloon is honestly one of the coolest places I have ever visited. The people there could not have been more friendly and the overall vibe smacked of good times. Besides cheeky décor, the walls are donned with signs that read, “Street girls bringing miners into hotel must pay for room in advance” and “Pioneer Saloon – Open Everyday Till the Drinking Stops.”
The Pioneer even has an “A**hole Association.” Being that one of my good friends refers to the GC as “Ahole” (in a loving way, of course), I made him join. The yearly $5 membership fee is donated to Goodsprings’ local schoolhouse.
While one would not think that a 100-plus year-old watering hole located in the middle of nowhere would serve particularly good food, the Pioneer’s fare was shockingly fabulous! The GC and I both opted for the chicken tacos and they were some of the best I’ve ever had! The restaurant also serves burgers (which smelled so good I almost regretted my choice of the tacos), steaks, ribs, nachos, pizzas, salads, and chicken wings. There is also the option of purchasing various meats onsite and grilling them yourself on the DIY BBQs located on the premises.
Thanks to its unique aesthetic, the Pioneer Saloon has appeared numerous times onscreen. It was featured in the deleted “Hardware Barn” scene in 1998’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Please pardon the craptastic screen captures – I got them off of YouTube.
You can watch that scene by clicking below.
Travis Tritt shot photos for his 2004 album, My Honky Tonk History, at the Pioneer Saloon.
In 2005’s Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous, the Pioneer Saloon stood in for the Sloane Valley, Nevada bar where Lou and Karl Steele (Abraham Benrubi and Nick Offerman, respectively) hosted an arm wrestling competition.
Though the interior of the saloon was also said to have been used in the filming, I am not sure if that is true. The layout of the bar shown onscreen does not seem to match up to the layout of the Pioneer.
The Pioneer served as the inspiration for the Prospector Saloon in the 2010 video game Fallout: New Vegas.
The saloon also appeared in Melvin and Howard, the 1982 Cheech and Chong movie Things are Tough All Over, and The Winner, as well as in episodes of Sister Wives, Ghost Hunters and Pawn Stars. And while the bar is also said to have been featured in The Mexican, I scanned through the flick while doing research for this post and did not see it pop up anywhere.
Until next time, Happy Stalking!
Stalk It: The Pioneer Saloon is located at 310 Spring Street in Goodsprings, Nevada. You can visit the watering hole’s official website here. The “gas n gulp” from The Hangover is located just a few miles away at 1 Goodsprings Road in Jean.