You know the movies; here's how Timberline Lodge fit in
You might already know that the exterior shots of Stanley Kubrick's 1980 popular horror film "The Shining" — which, by the way, forever stitched Jack Nicholson's "Here's Johnny!" line into our collective psyches — were captured outside Timberline Lodge.
But I'm betting you're not aware of the many other Hollywood movies that have been made at our historic lodge right up there in our backyard high atop Mount Hood.
What's more, I have a personal connection to the making of "The Shining" that you might appreciate. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. This reflection starts back when I was just 10 years old.
'All the Young Men'
During the latter part of the 1960 ski season, when my dad and I would fasten our wooden skis onto the roof of our black Chrysler and head east for Timberline Lodge, it was like we were entering a war zone.
Just below the lodge, Army tanks growled between the trees. Rifle-toting guys in GI combat garb seemed to be everywhere. I swear, every now and then, you'd even hear the concussive thump of a mortar round explode or the staccato echo of machine gun fire rat-a-tat-tating out into the cold Mount Hood alpine air.
My dad and I never actually saw them, but Hollywood film stars, including award-winning actors Sidney Poitier and Alan Ladd, were among these soldiers who had seemingly commandeered our little ski area.
They were making "All the Young Men," a Korean War movie about an isolated, decimated rifle platoon that had just lost its leader, leaving the inexperienced African-American sergeant (Poitier) in charge of his squad of belligerent, racist, very white, battle-hardened comrades.
Had we driven up to Timberline Lodge eight years earlier during the summer, we might have bumped into Jimmy Stewart. The 1952 "Bend in the River," filmed on location outside Timberline Lodge and down below along the Sandy River, featured film stars Stewart and Rock Hudson.
Stewart's character was leading a wagon train west. Watch this movie sometime. It's fun to see our mountain top so up close and personal. Many of the scenes were shot in the snow around Timberline Lodge.
Our iconic mountain woman, the late Joie Smith of Rhododendron, a longtime equestrian, was hired to assist with the horses during the filming of "Bend in the River."
With her expert local knowledge, she also helped scout filming locations around the mountain.
One of this film's promotional photos shows the bad guys getting the drop on Stewart's character. This particular photo was snapped while they were shooting a scene just behind the lodge.
They were over on the lodge's east side where, back then, the original Magic Mile Chairlift was located, before it was dismantled and moved to the lodge's west side. Up toward that image's top left corner you can see one of the modern-day chairlift towers. Oops. This was obviously prior to the advent of Photoshop.
'World War III'
Fast forward to May 1981, 36 years ago this month.
Another war movie was being filmed up in the snow fields above Timberline Lodge. The film was "World War III," starring Rock Hudson, David Soul, Brian Keith and Cathy Lee Crosby.
The movie's story line has Russian paratroopers dropping into Alaska to sabotage our oil pipeline in retaliation against a United States grain embargo.
Many of my hot-dog ski buddies got jobs as "extras." They snuggled into head-to-toe winter-white Hollywood camouflage combat garb with fake AK-47 rifles slung over their shoulders and metamorphosed into instant Russian paratroopers.
On a Friday evening, my friend David Rogers and I headed up to Timberline Lodge to kick back and listen to local mountain musician Will Frank play his guitar and sing at the Ram's Head Bar.
We pulled into the lodge's lower parking area. It was obvious that something extremely serious and traumatic had just occurred.
Several emergency vehicles surrounded a parked helicopter. Nearby, red plastic cones had an area blocked off. We soon learned that this was where the LifeFlight helicopter lifted off just before our arrival.
Not that many minutes earlier, a long-planned "World War III" critical scene was being filmed high up above the lodge. It involved a big explosion that could not be repeated. It was an expensive "must get" one-take-only scene. But something went terribly wrong. That big explosion blasted off, but it wasn't captured on film.
Boris Sagal, the film's 58-year-old director, who had been helicoptered from that lower lodge parking area up to the site of the filming was furious.
In a totally enraged state, he hustled back into the helicopter and the pilot took him back down to the lodge.
When they landed, Sagal, still fuming, quickly exited and — even though he would normally know better — ran behind the still revving helicopter, directly into its invisible tail rotor blades. He suffered severe head and shoulder injuries.
Here's one of the many things that, unfortunately, I'll always remember from that particular day in my life.
As David and I made our way up the parking lot toward the lodge, I saw a wide river of red streaming down the pavement into a metal storm drain. Blood.
Don't Tell the OLCC
I really don't remember much about the beginning of that night up in the Ram's Head Bar. We know that over at one of the tables, the still-stunned "World War III" production crew — including the helicopter pilot — had gathered to commiserate. This was before cell phones. So someone kept coming in to relay the latest telephoned update from Portland's Emanuel Hospital.
Boris Sagal was still alive, but barely. He was undergoing emergency surgery.
Right before Will finished his last subdued set that night, they got the word. Their friend and director, Boris Sagal, had died.
Will, our friend, came up and joined David and I at our table. Most of the other non-film production patrons had departed the bar. It was closing time.
Don't tell the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission), but that's also when the Timberline Lodge general manager walked in and told the bartender to keep the drinks coming. (Sometimes, forgetting about the rules is the absolute right thing to do.)
We offered our condolences to those bereaved film folks. They motioned us to join them at their table.
Both David Rogers and I had recently lost our fathers and were still grieving their deaths. And now, here we were huddled-up with several souls who have just had an unfathomable tragedy skewer their hearts and minds.
You've probably been at such a table. You've sat with loved ones as the swirl of raw emotions — grief and denial — freely bleed. And you know how even the chords of bittersweet laughter, surprisingly, can somehow occasionally punctuate the tears.
That night, there at that table, we could have used a priest or a rabbi. But we didn't have one. Yet in the midst of that pure grieving and shock, more than once, I saw how each one of us would peer over toward the lodge's big glass windows where the promise of those Cascadian stars were lighting and reassuring our black night — as, together, we all held on tight.
The Famous Snow Cat Scene
Déjà vu time. That night of the helicopter tragedy wasn't the first time I'd been up in the Ram's Head when a motion picture was being filmed at Timberline Lodge.
Only this time, I don't think anyone outside the lodge's staff knew anything about it.
It was wintertime 1980. My buddy Dave Eldredge and I headed up to the Ram's Head. You know, sometimes it's good to break bread and toast life up there at 6,000 feet. (Try it, you'll like it.)
We sat at one of those north side window tables facing the mountain on a dark, cloudless winter night.
Suddenly this gentleman appeared clutching a handheld two-way radio. Peering out our window, he asked if he could join us.
Sure, have a seat.
Jan Harlan explained how he was part of a film crew. Deceptively modest, we later learned he was "The Shining's" producer, who would go on to produce other big-budget films such as "Full Metal Jacket" and "Eyes Wide Shut."
Jan explained to us how they had a camera fastened to the front of a snow cat parked behind several big hillocks of snow up the slope from the lodge. He says he's about to give the word for the lodge personnel to kill the outside flood lights, and to dim the internal lights.
Over his radio Jan gave the "go ahead" command.
Suddenly, all the outside lights went dark.
The electric lights in the Ram's Head snapped off. Only the soft yellow glow of our table candles remained.
Next thing you know the lights of a snow cat punctured the night, climbing over those mounds of snow, heading directly for the lodge. For the next half hour or so, they shot that scene several times.
If you've seen "The Shining" your eyes have held what was captured by Jan Harlan that night on film.
Every time I watch that movie and that scene is featured I know exactly which window Dave and I were sitting beside.
I keep looking for our faces or for Jan Harlan's radio antennae.
So far, I haven't seen anything — just our candle's light.
Just as the producer planned it.
Longtime mountain resident and former Sandy Post editor Paul Keller pens his "Beneath Wy'east" column once a month here on the Post's editorial pages.