Alysia Gray Painter
The beautiful Amargosa Hotel, on the edge of Death Valley National Park
Your job: Decide to get out of town and fast. Our job: Help you find where you're headed. This week, Worth the Drive takes us to...
Marta Becket: Documentaries have been made about the elegant proprietor of the opera house/hotel. Fans regularly travel from Europe to pay homage. Why is Ms. Becket much beloved? The octagenarian dancer and former Rockette continues to put on shows in her whimsically painted opera house, which is miles from pretty much anything; it is, however, at the intersection of amazing and beautiful. In case you've been wondering where that intersection is all your life, and didn't have a map.
The opera house: You will never see a space quite like it. We promise. It was all painted by Ms. Becket, and the red-rich detail and idiosyncratic flourishes astound. A magic room.
The hotel: Call it Desert Gothic, call it an artifact of the age when borax mining ruled. Ms. Becket's modest but comfortable inn is photogenic, affordable, and a movie star; it was seen near the end of David Lynch's "Lost Highway." Atmospheric and authentic.
The shows: Each winter Ms. Becket hosts several performances in her opera house. She no longer dances, but she will tell engaging stories, as well as talk about her paintings. Her performances will run every other Saturday throughout the 2009-2010 winter and spring. November 14th is opening night. She'll do two more Saturdays in November -- the 21st and 28th -- and then she'll move to the every-other-weekend schedule. Call Rich at the hotel for details; you'll want to book early. Yes, we're pushing you. Politely. But pushing.
Being there: If you've been to Death Valley Junction, and met Marta, and listened to her peacocks crying in the silent desert night, you know. It is a wonderful, slightly surreal spot, full of mystery and history, and deserving of the New York Times spotlights and NPR profiles and the worldwide acclaim it receives. This is one place everyone should experience, Californians, ballet fans, desert devotees. Everyone.