Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

619012019
1759Hours EST

The Far Shore of Accomplishment

Page 2

09
Friday, 26 February 1999

There's An Explanation   00:31:51

Tripp and Sloviak in the Parking Lot
Fine Arts Parking Lot (P8) at Carnegie Mellon University
5100 Margaret Morrison Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Set in the same location as the "Crabtree Pharmacopoeia" scene earlier, this parking lot moment provides a quick laugh as Tripp and Sloviak exchange looks at each other and the trunk's contents, including a tuba, suitcase, dead dog and garment bag.

Wonder Boys Parking Lot Scene
Paramount Pictures
10
Friday, 26 February 1999

A Little Rescuing   00:32:01

Driving: Tripp's 1966 Ford Galaxie 500
Polish Hill
3117 Dobson Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

As Tripp drives Sloviak home and they talk, they pass through parts unknown in Pittsburgh. In reality, this three-mile drive would route through North Oakland and around Schenley Heights and Herron Hill Park before arriving in the Polish Hill neighborhood. The background plates used during the scene may have been shot in these areas or the vicinity.

Arriving at their destination, Tripp slows down on Dobson Street and pulls over to the side of the road.

Wonder Boys Polish Hill Scene
Paramount Pictures
Google Street View of Dobson Street
Google

The home in between the garage and the small awning house has been town down. The garage itself remains but is looking rather abandoned. The large structure at the end of the street is the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church (1905), first founded in 1896 for Polish immigrants needing a neighborhood church and school.

Wonder Boys Polish Hill Scene
Paramount Pictures
Google Street View of Dobson Street
Google
11
Friday, 26 February 1999

The Hi-Hat Club   00:33:17

Unofficial WordFest After-Party
Modern Cafe
862 Western Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

We cut to Tripp, having just entered The Hi-Hat Club, making his way to the back of the bustling establishment where he eventually spots Crabtree and Leer in the left corner booth.

Wonder Boys The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures
Wonder Boys The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures
Wonder Boys The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures
Wonder Boys The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures

A photograph from Sunday, 07 March 1999 shows the Modern Cafe's back section from the Wonder Boys era. A circa mid-2000s picture shows some modernization to the interior but the same basic configuration.

An old-time bar and restaurant on Pittsburgh's North Shore since 1933, the Modern Cafe served as the interior for The Hi-Hat Club. Located in a three-times renovated, 1880s L-shaped brick building in the Zotis family since 1974, the Modern Cafe is operated by Irene Zotis. She purchased the business from her father in 1993.

Unfortunately, on Thursday, 01 January 2009, the Modern Cafe and several nearby businesses were destroyed or damaged by a three-alarm fire that started in the early morning. There were no injuries in the blaze, but the fire meant that the bar required a complete renovation. The Modern Cafe reopened in April 2010.

Google Street View of the Modern Cafe
Google

Besides the large neon sign out front, the general layout and two original light fixtures hung on the wall behind the bar, the Modern Cafe now appears quite differently. From the pictures, it seems to have lost its old-time bar feel and is now a brighter, pardon the pun, more modern place. Regardless, I am pleased that the business was able to recover from the fire to carry on the tradition, now going on eighty-two years. If I had not already been running so behind, I would have stopped in for a drink.

Google Street View of the Modern Cafe
Google

The remainder of The Hi-Hat Club interior scene plays out, mostly in tight shots of the characters and thereby providing few additional details of the Modern Cafe's 1998–1999 interior decor.

12
Saturday, 27 February 1999

The Vernon Hardapple Encounter   00:36:54

Leaving The Hi-Hat Club / Driving: Tripp's 1966 Ford Galaxie 500
Hill District
2161 Wylie Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

As Tripp and Hannah Green, carrying Leer, emerge from the Hi-Hat with Morewood and Crabtree, we are transported from the Modern Cafe and across the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh's historic Hill District, known locally simply as The Hill.

Developed from farmland into a planned residential community by Thomas Mellon in the late 1840s, The Hill was first home to wealthy residents. With the population boom, new trolley service and ever increasing factory pollution, the wealthy moved away and a series of European immigrants moved into the area. "Urged to come by industry recruiters who also promised relief from the segregation laws of their birthplace," blacks from the south started moving to The Hill from 1880–1890.

By the 1930s and 1940s, The Hill was a flourishing African-American community filled with locally-owned businesses. It also became "famous on the national jazz circuit for places like the Crawford Grill, the Hurricane Lounge" and the Savoy Ballroom, attracting musicians such as Lena Horne, Billy Eckstein, Ramsey Lewis, Oscar Peterson and George Benson.

Three Vintage Photographs of the Hill District
Paramount Pictures

Despite the prosperity of these two decades, Pittsburgh City Council Member George E. Evans wrote in July–August 1943 that the area was "probably one of the most outstanding examples in Pittsburgh of neighborhood deterioration" and that ninety percent of the approximately 10,000 buildings were "sub-standard and have long outlived their usefulness, and so there would be no social loss if they were all destroyed."

Many buildings were demolished in the following decades. The September 1955 approval of the Lower Hill Redevelopment plan, a major component of which was the construction of the Civic Arena (1958–2012), led to the "[levelling of] dozens of city blocks in the heart of the community" and cutting off the rest of the district from downtown. Eminent domain was used to evict 8,000 residents and 400 businesses from the Lower Hill.

From the 1960s forward, the rest of The Hill struggled to maintain itself and eventually went from a once "vibrant cultural destination" to being "plagued by dilapidation and crime." As additional businesses closed, the remaining residents had to travel distances to visit grocery stores, pharmacies and essential services. Not without some controversy of their own, plans and funding committed in the 1990s have brought some new development to the area, both low-income and upscale.

Knowing its history beforehand and then driving through The Hill, seeing for myself what had become of this once great community, was a rather depressing experience. Blocks completely devoid of buildings now stand in between abandoned, boarded up structures. Historical markers are everywhere in the neighborhood, one example being the Sochatoff Building (1917), former site of the aforementioned Crawford Grill at 2141 Wylie Avenue.

The building that stood for The Hi-Hat Club exteriors at 2161 Wylie Avenue was itself demolished sometime prior to 2007. Across Perry Street at 2155 Wylie Avenue, Tim's Bar is still around and open for business.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures
Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures
Google Street View of Wylie Avenue at Perry Street
Google

As Crabtree and Morewood walk to Tripp's car, you can see that it is parked across the street from the Sochatoff Building.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures

If you were sitting in Tripp's car during these moments, this would be your view of the action.

A lovely production design touch is the "The Hi-Hat Club" neon sign, complete with cocktail glass and hat, installed on the building's front overhang.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures

The film crew also painted a vertical sign on the northeastern wall, visible here from Green's car parked at the intersection of Wylie Avenue and Kirkpatrick Street. With its bridge logo, the "Gateway" billboard was probably added too.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Scene
Paramount Pictures

The building hosting the billboard was torn down over several years in the mid-2000s.

After leaving Leer in Green's hands, Tripp returns to his car and what must be one of the funniest sequences in the film begins.

As Tripp is retrieving Crabtree's bag from the trunk, he is approached by a stranger seen in The Hi-Hat Club earlier. Calling him Vernon Hardapple, Tripp and Crabtree had improvised a fictional narrative of this man's life after spotting him from across the bar. Saying that it is his, Hardapple accuses Tripp of having stolen the dark maroon 1966 Ford Galaxie 500 with black interior.

Tripp dismisses Hardapple, gets in the car and starts it. Buffalo Springfield's "A Child's Claim to Fame" is playing on the radio. As Tripp drives away with Morewood sitting shotgun and Crabtree in the back, Hardapple attempts to prevent their departure by standing in the middle of the road. Tripp hits the brakes just in time while Hardapple continues to yell at the men about the car.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Car Scene
Paramount Pictures

Prodded by literal backseat driver Crabtree who is pissed at Tripp for having sent Leer away with Green, Tripp backs up, drives around Hardapple and turns from Wylie Avenue left onto Perry Street between The Hi-Hat Club and Tim's Bar. Unfortunately, they are going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Car Scene
Paramount Pictures
Google Street View of Wylie Avenue at Perry Street
Google

In order to avoid a head-on collision with a car driving the correct direction, Tripp cuts right onto an unnamed alleyway behind The Hi-Hat Club over to Kirkpatrick Street. Morewood and Crabtree in their post-bar state enjoy this all a bit too much; their whooping and hollering is hilarious.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Car Scene
Paramount Pictures

The alleyway has basically disappeared as grasses, flowers and trees were allowed to reclaim the space.

Google Street View of Perry Street
Google

The Kirkpatrick Street end of the alleyway had exited at the rear of 2201 Wylie Avenue, which is still standing today.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Car Scene
Paramount Pictures
Google Street View of Kirkpatrick Street
Google

After turning right on Kirkpatrick Street — never mind that they could have gotten away by turning left instead — Hardapple catches up and again stops the car in its tracks. Hardapple and the trio look at each other during this face-off situation, contemplating their next actions. "Now what," asks Tripp. Crabtree says, "You owe him a book, too?" Of course my favorite is Morewood's sarcastic and deadpan offering, "you could always drive over him."

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Car Scene
Paramount Pictures
Google Street View of Kirkpatrick Street
Google

Just then, Hardapple decides to end the stalemate in a most surprising way. To quote the screenplay: "Then, as the three men watch, Vernon rocks back on his heels and — with a gymnast's precision — pitches himself onto the Galaxie's big hood. He lands on his ass, slides smoothly off, then takes a deep bow and disappears into the night."

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Car Scene
Paramount Pictures

Morewood is the first to speak, naturally asking "what the hell was that?"

"I just got my hood jumped on," replies Tripp dryly and matter-of-factly.

Wonder Boys Leaving The Hi-Hat Club Car Scene
Paramount Pictures
13
Saturday, 27 February 1999

Lost And Found   00:40:09

Returning to the Kresge Theater
Fine Arts Parking Lot (P8) at Carnegie Mellon University
5100 Margaret Morrison Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

College of Fine Arts 131–133 (Passageway) at Carnegie Mellon University
5100 Margaret Morrison Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

College of Fine Arts 128 (Kresge Theatre) at Carnegie Mellon University
5100 Margaret Morrison Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

Tripp takes a detour to the Kresge Theatre to get Leer's knapsack left behind earlier. The establishing shot shows the car driving through the Fine Arts Parking Lot (P8) at Carnegie Mellon University, pulling all the way to the southwest corner and parking closest to stairs that lead to the College of Fine Arts building main entrance.

Wonder Boys Parking Lot Scene
Paramount Pictures

Tripp gets out, leaving Crabtree and Morewood in the car. The young janitor Sam Traxler lets Tripp inside and they exchange some dialogue in a darkened Kresge Theatre. Back outside and returning to the parking lot, Tripp notices that his car is gone while descending the stairs.

Wonder Boys Parking Lot Scene
Paramount Pictures

Beyond some minor details like different lampposts and a new fire hydrant installed a few feet to the west of its predecessor, this area looks very similar today.

Wonder Boys Parking Lot Scene
Paramount Pictures
14
Saturday, 27 February 1999

A Lift From Traxler   00:41:40

Driving: Traxler's 1984 Honda Civic
Northwestern Perimeter of Carnegie Mellon University — Segment
4650-4698 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213
4530-4598 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213

As Traxler gives Tripp a lift, the background plates of the scene seem to show two disparate locations. The car is first driving through campus, perhaps an easterly course along Margaret Morrison Street with Doherty Hall out the rear window.

Wonder Boys Driving Scene
Paramount Pictures

The next shots alternate between Tripp and Traxler, providing views out both side windows. Shots toward Traxler seem to be additional campus buildings, however shots toward Tripp are from the northwest perimeter of campus along Forbes Avenue.

The latter plates were shot facing south toward campus while driving east on Forbes Avenue from South Craig Street to just past the bridge over Boundary Street/South Neville Street. Visible structures include Hamerschlag Hall (1906–1913); the National City Bank branch building at 4612 Forbes Avenue now home to the university's Integrated Innovation Institute; and several buildings razed for the development of Art Park.

Wonder Boys Driving Scene
Paramount Pictures
Wonder Boys Driving Scene
Paramount Pictures
Google Street View of Forbes Avenue
Google
15
Saturday, 27 February 1999

The Long Way Home   00:42:22

Detour to the Gaskell Home
Eastover House at Shady Side Academy
423 Fox Chapel Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15238

Having Traxler take him out of the way, a bit of a rude thing to do when getting a lift, we cut to he and Tripp on the edge of the Gaskell property watching Sara work in the greenhouse.

Wonder Boys Eastover Exterior Scene
Paramount Pictures
Wonder Boys Eastover Exterior Scene
Paramount Pictures
16
Saturday, 27 February 1999

Take It Easy, Professor Tripp   00:43:05

Tripp Arrives Home
Friendship Neighborhood
359 South Atlantic Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Arriving in Pittsburgh's Friendship neighborhood, we get our first glimpse of the location of Tripp's home on South Atlantic Avenue. The film disregards the one-way (north) configuration, instead adopting a more movie-friendly two-way street policy. Traxler is the first to demonstrate this by driving south to drop off Tripp.

Wonder Boys Friendship House Exterior Scene
Paramount Pictures

The old style single family home playing the part of the Tripp residence is located at 359 South Atlantic Avenue. The homes in this area were built around the turn of the twentieth century, with this one dating from 1913. Many of them were later subdivided into apartments and boarding homes during the urban flight of the mid-century. For the past few decades, many of them have been refurbished and restored to single family dwellings.

Allegheny County lists the 359 South Atlantic Avenue home as being two-and-a-half stories with four bedrooms and two full bathrooms; a total of nine rooms in all. It has a living area of 3,860 square feet and features a full basement, brick exterior finish and slate-type roof.

Wonder Boys Friendship House Exterior Scene
Paramount Pictures

We will see more of the exterior shortly, but first we follow Tripp inside to his office — the upstairs room with the street-facing bay window — where he makes a surprising discovery.

Continue to Page 3

Two Comment Bubbles No Comments

Closed Comment Bubble Comments Closed

  • Article comments are disabled after ninety days. Alternatively, you can send feedback via email.