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On Location: "The Room"

Tommy Wiseau in "The Room"

Welcome to "On Location," a micro-feature taking you to little-known cinematic locations of SF and taking a look at the films shot in the city by the bay over the years.

The Room, which every self-respecting San Franciscan has no right to avoid as it plays nearly once a month somewhere in town, begins like all great San Francisco stories which don't actually take place here: With some spectacular views of our landmarks. Good old Golden Gate bridge, the Palace of Fine Arts looming in the sunshine, foreboding Alcatraz, the glistening bay, Coit Tower… If it wasn't for the flugelhorn, anyone who stopped the film at this point might assume they were about to watch a very well-produced promo for a Bay Area travel company.

If you don't stop the movie however, something very terrible happens–or very wonderful if you ask the film's legion of cult followers–the "star" of The Room, (and its director) Tommy Wiseau, glides by Grace Cathedral on a cable car. He's immediately recognizable, looking like a half-formed alien clone of Willem Dafoe wearing a long black halloween wig. The wig apparently has magical powers, because the film immediately transports to the exterior of a chi-chi row house over on Broderick Street near Chestnut as Johnny utters one of his various catchphrases in his inimitable Christopher-Walken-by-way-of-Arnold-Schwarzenegger central European drawl. Almost as soon as he enters, one of the films various bizarre, late-night-Cinemax sex scenes begins, so I'll just skip ahead to the locations.

The first pin on the map is actually pretty easy to spot: Johnny visits a flower shop to buy a dozen roses for his sweetie over near Ike's Place on 16th, where the counter person absurdly "doesn't recognize him." Maybe he changed his hair? Cut to The Fairmont Hotel, back to the Palace of Fine arts, and we find Johnny having coffee with his best friend Mark (who's having sex with Johnny's hilariously despicable girlfriend Lisa under Johnny's nose) near Fisherman's Wharf in a fake coffee spot next to the tourist sink-pit "International Spy Shop"–and around the corner from the old Hooters, if anyone's counting. Somehow, this leads to more laughable sex. Once that's dispensed, as any two men who are sharing the same woman would, Johnny and Mark decide to play with a football in Golden Gate Park and jog up some stairs in Pacific Heights, a location that actually makes surprising sense geographically, considering their accommodations. Then there's more sex. Then a nice jaunt through downtown San Francisco en route to the masterpiece's hilarious and histrionic party climax. Let's just say it ends with a bang.

A lovely denizen of the internet, who we can only assume lives here amongst us, has created a handy google guide to The Room's locations here–can you say movie tour?