Making a journal this week of work projects from over the years; sticking in reviews of plays, old tickets and photos of past projects. One of my very favourite; the Monkey Bar, a club I designed and built on the Fox Studios lot in Mexico. A place for actors to relax and spend their downtime during a long, long shoot, far away from their native England. Looking back it seems like a bygone era; one of largesse and expansiveness. Even at the time it captured peoples imagination – we were all working hard to pull a big film together but the Monkey Bar became a focal point of energy and excitement as it came together.
Bar from a 30s train, hired from a Mexican fisherman
Entering the Monkey Bar
A Quonset hut was purchased by the head of the studio – the designed unchanged since WW2; basically half a tin can. The metallic arch became an exciting counter point to the design- my thinking was basically to replicate the feel of an English club, to make the actors feel at home. Most of the furniture was flea market finds, gathered on a weekend road trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Leftover windows and the iron work lift shaft from the movie “Titanic”, filmed at the same studio, customised the space. Down the back was a pool table and a cage with a parrot, on loan while his owner was away.
the startling experience of a Mexican Bullfight
Some of the monkeys drawn by the crew members
The name came from the monkey drawings that had been done up by the crew. I was the Graphic Designer on the film and needed to find someone who could do naive and charming drawings; I distributed some A4 sheets with monkeys up the top & asked people to redraw them. It took off in an unexpected way & suddenly there was a deluge of character filled monkey drawings on my desk. Really putting evidence to the claim that inside every one is an artist just dying for the opportunity to come out. The ‘winner’ was Raul, an ex Mexican wrestler from the set decoration department. The rest of the artworks were coated with shellac and framed; lining the bar like portraits of Hollywood stars.
some of the monkeys
flags of the different nationalities of the actors
Strangely although it was over 10 years ago there is little I would change. I still love the white painted wood panelling, the comfortable furniture, the aged wooden patinas & all those elements are in the old schoolmasters house. But best of all was how personal it was & how much human energy went into it. When I bumped into one of the actors several years later – he bought it up- “It’s strange” he said, “of the six months I was in Mexico, all my memories are of time spent in the Monkey Bar.”
Booths used in the movie “Titanic” filmed at the studio
Monkey drawn by Raul, ex wrestler turned metal worker