Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Emmy™Award-Winning Documentary Film

"Broadcast" version now airing on most public television stations.

"Uncensored" version now on DVD and in film festivals.

Synopsis: A charismatic figure featured in Tom Wolfe's book The Right Stuff, Florence "Pancho" Barnes was one of the most important women in 20th Century aviation. A tough and fearless aviatrix, Pancho was a rival of Amelia Earhart's who made a name for herself as Hollywood's first female stunt pilot. Just before WWII she opened a ranch near Edwards Air Force Base that became a famous -- some would say notorious -- hangout for test pilots and movie stars. Known as the "Happy Bottom Riding Club", it became the epicenter of the aviation world during the early jet age. Chuck Yeager celebrated breaking the sound barrier there in 1947, and Howard Hughes and Jimmy Doolittle caroused in the bar. The Club's destruction by fire in 1953 is seen by many to mark the end of a Golden Era in post-WWII aviation. In the same fashion Pancho herself has become something of a legend, a fascinating yet enigmatic icon whose swagger is often celebrated, but whose story has been largely unknown. Until now.

A documentary film produced and written by Nick Spark and directed by Amanda Pope. Featuring interviews with test pilots Bob Cardenas, Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and biographers Barbara Schultz and Lauren Kessler. Narrated by Tom Skerritt with Kathy Bates as the voice of Pancho Barnes.

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Women in Aviation
"Read Nick Spark's article about Pancho
from Women in Aviation magazine (.pdf)"
22 July 2009

Los Angeles Premiere Announced!

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After four years of exhausting, unpaid, hard work -- including research, production, post-production, constant fund raising, and not just a few unexpected headaches -- it gives me great pleasure to announce that we're finally ready to premiere The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club here in Los Angeles.

This is going to be one special, special evening.  So many of the people who supported the film, and made it possible, will be in attendance.  I hope you'll make it, too.

The date is Thursday, September 10th, and the location is ... well, keep reading below!

There's a story about this premiere.  Months ago, when it became clear we were getting close to wrapping up, we talked about where the best and most appropriate place in Los Angeles would be for our a big screening.  The Van Nuys Airport (where Pancho broke Amelia Earhart's air speed record) or the Santa Monica Airport (take-off point for the1929 Powder Puff Derby race) were early contenders.  But experience gained from taking the film on the road showed that screening in a big, uninsulated hangar can be tricky -- especially if there are noisy flight operations on-going.

Our next thought was to show the film at an historic theater, such as the palatial Egyptian in Hollywood.  After all, Hell's Angels debuted at the nearby Chinese, and Pancho herself might have attended a show or two there.  But when I emailed the American Cinemateque, who runs the Egyptian, the staffer there sent me back aAeroTheatern email with a smiley face.  "The place you want for your screening," she emailed, "is our sister theater ... the Aero in Santa Monica."

Turns out she was absolutely right.  The Aero Theater couldn't be a better choice for "Pancho".  Built in 1939 by Donald Douglas, yes that Donald Douglas, it takes its name from the fact that it served workers from the Douglas Co.'s aircraft factory!   During WWII in fact, the theater was open 24-hours a day so that workers could see the latest newsreels and relax.  The fact that the theater is located in Santa Monica makes it all that much more sweet.  The night of our screening will be just a couple weeks removed from the 80th anniversary of the finish of the Powder Puff Derby...

Please consider joining us at what should be a truly awesome evening -- celebrating the film and Pancho Barnes and her remarkable friends.  And yes, tell all your friends please!

To order advance tickets to the premiere, go to the "Premiere" link on the far right of the navigation bar. But don't dilly-dally --  tickets are going fast and it's likely to be a sell out!

Proceeds from this special screening will benefit the production.  Yes, the film is finished but we are still in debt.  Hopefully with your help we will get "Pancho" back in the black in the near future.


As part of the show, we're planning a silent auction of memorabilia and merchandise.  Have something to donate?  Contact us using the button on this website.


We're looking for organizations that might be interested in sponsoring our Premiere.  It's a great opportunity, as we expect a lot of wonderful people from the aviation and film worlds to be in attendance.  Are you available to help the event run smoothly?  We'd like a few volunteers to help run our will call booth and our silent auction.

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The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club ©2008-2010 Nick Spark Productions, LLC.