The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club
Review by Evan Isenstein-Brand
Directed by USC professor Amanda Pope
Written and produced by Nick T. Spark
Hi, I’m Evan from Evanflys.com, reporting on the great documentary movie The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club. Nick Spark was nice enough to send me this documentary in the mail, before it came out on PBS! I watched it with my family and we all loved it! Even my mom, who is a movie snob, loved it!
For those of you who don’t know much about Pancho Barnes, here’s the story: Pancho grew up as Florence Lowe in a rich family in Pasadena, California. Her grandfather Thaddeus Lowe had built a Balloon Corps during the Civil War. He took young Florence to an airshow in 1910.
He said, “Everyone will be flying airplanes when you grow up. You’ll be a flier, too.”
She was forced to marry Rankin Barnes, an Episcopal reverend. She was unhappy as the minister’s wife. Eventually she got tired of it and left her husband, disguised herself as a man, and boarded a banana boat bound for Mexico. She can back sporting a new attitude & nickname: Pancho.
Pancho began taking flying lessons. She ran a barnstorming troupe called the “Mystery Circus of the Air”. She also worked as a test pilot, performing tests on Lockheed’s new Vega. She then entered a race called the “Powder Puff Derby” from Santa Monica to Cleveland. Unfortunately, Pancho crashed, and was put out of the race.
Later, she opened a hotel & restaurant called the Happy Bottom Riding Club where many pilots hung out, since it was right next to Edwards Air Force Base. But the base wanted to expand its runway, and Pancho’s place was right in the way. During a legal battle, her ranch burned down, and the cause is still unknown. She died in 1975.
In all, The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club was a very well done documentary. I loved every single bit of it, and so did my family! It has interviews with amazing people like Buzz Aldrin, Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager. The bonus scenes are really cool too!
Be sure to see it on PBS or better yet, buy your own copy of The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club.
You can get the movie here - from Amazon
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