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'Goonies' fans descend on Oregon town to celebrate movie's 25th anniversary

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 7, 2010; C01

ASTORIA, ORE. -- There is a compulsion, a yearning, a force that causes people to drive to this remote village, up the rocky coastline and through the hilly streets in weather that is almost always damp. They park near the olde shoppes and the gingerbread Victorians, walk to the cream house with purple trim, and then, as if fulfilling a destiny that has shaped every moment of their lives, they raise their shirts, they shake their belly fat, and they do the Truffle Shuffle.

"Oh, sure," says Regina Willkie of Astoria's Chamber of Commerce. "They all want to make sure they go to Mikey's house, do the Shuffle. It's just something that clicks with people."

This is devotion in its purest form, built on so very little, just a 114-minute movie filmed here and released in June 1985. Since, there's been almost nothing to fan the flames of fandom -- no resuscitated spinoffs, a la "Star Wars" or "Star Trek." Years ago there was a board game (but who bought it?) and a Nintendo game (but who still owns the console?). There are always talks of a sequel that will never materialize. Still the fans come, this anniversary weekend especially, to celebrate their love of "The Goonies."

* * *

"The Goonies" turns 25 on Monday. Goonies never say die.

"The Goonies" are . . . how to explain them if you were not born in the '70s or '8os, the sweet spot of obsession? They were a club of seven misfits, including a fat kid (Chunk -- forced to perform the indignity of the Truffle Shuffle on command), a loudmouth and a gadget whiz. They all went on a treasure hunt below the earth to find a missing pirate ship and to escape the Fratelli brothers -- cons who kept their mutant sibling, Sloth, locked in the basement, when all he wanted was a Baby Ruth.

A few years ago, when Willkie realized that people were coming from as far away as Japan to see the sites of the movie, she planned a 25th anniversary celebration. During this four-day extravaganza, the town's usual population of 10,000 has swelled to she doesn't even know how high.

All of the hotel rooms are full. All of the bus tours are sold out. The autograph lines for the cast meet 'n' greets are five hours long. Hundreds of fans trip blissfully from costume contests to quiz nights. It's like a stoner-free "Big Lebowski" fest. They greet each other on the street with "Hey, you Guu-uuuys!" -- the official greeting of the Goonies.

Anyone who understands the meaning of the Goonies -- friendship, adventure, awesomeness -- is, by definition, also a Goonie.

"She's totally a Goonie," Michael Morris says of his wife, Carolina. How does he know? "All the other girls are like, 'I want a big wedding,' but she suggested we come here." They traveled from New Orleans to be married Friday night on the Goonies beach. That is a Goonie move.

Brothers Jesse and Jeremy Horst drove across the country from Buffalo in homemade Chunk and Sloth costumes. That is a Goonie move.

At one point or another, all fans end up at the house inhabited by Mikey, played by a pre-"Lord of the Rings" Sean Astin.

The owner of this house made the biggest Goonie move of all.

Sandi Preston did a Goonies pilgrimage in the 1990s. She visited the house and fell in love. "I asked God if he would give me the Goonie house," Preston recalls, "and He did."

Four years after she first began praying for it, God or someone put the house up for sale. Preston moved from California to Astoria. She is happy to give tours; just leave your shoes on the porch.

Here is the doorway that Data crashes though. Here is the living room where Chunk breaks the statue. Here is the door to the attic -- tourists love the attic.

What is it that draws people, Sandi?

"Well," she says, "have you seen the movie?"

Let us see the movie, for the 10th or 15th time. Let us go to one of the nightly screenings held at the Columbian Voodoo, a battered single-screen theater with wobbly vinyl seats.

Let the lights dim and the credits begin, reminding you how many icons started as Goonies. There is a pre-puberty Corey Feldman as Mouth, telling the Spanish-speaking housekeeper that she will be locked up with the cockroaches. There is young Josh Brolin (in his first movie role) as big brother Brandon, and Astin's Mikey, the sentimental asthmatic and the ostensible soul of the movie.

There is Jeff Cohen as Chunk, the real soul of the movie, befriending Sloth, Truffle-Shuffling his heart out. Don't Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, lovable schlubs that they are, owe debts to the Chunkness of Chunk?

Nestled into our vinyl at the Voodoo, it's 1985 all over again but it's also 2010. The pirate treasure is being hunted only because the Goonies are in danger of losing their homes to big business, watching the American dream wither before their preteen eyes. Their families could be the families of today's recession, except that the Walshes' plan if they lose their home, says Mikey, is to move to Detroit.

Not such a good idea, Mikey, not anymore.

After the movie, we call Willis Van Dusen, Astoria's mayor of 19 years, catching him just as he finishes judging a costume contest.

Mr. Mayor, "The Goonies" is about kids saving a fictional Astoria. How would you say the movie has impacted the real one?

"I'm not sure that's the right phrasing," the mayor says. He has lived here his whole life; his business cards read "N.B.A.," for Native Born Astorian. He was an extra in the movie. "The Goonies didn't impact our culture," he says. "The Goonies are part of our culture. They're part of our history. As we go, so go the Goonies."

Haunted

Jeff Cohen, 35, will tell you about the last time he did the Truffle Shuffle. He was leading cheers at a Berkeley football game, where he was a student in the 1990s, and in the back of the stadium, a drunk guy started chanting "Truffle Shuffle!" until it seemed like the whole stadium joined in. He thought if he didn't comply, "they might murder me."

That's what it took -- the threat of death by a mob. He Shuffled at Berkeley. He has not Shuffled since, or acted much.

The fans still ask. Here at a cast meet-and-greet, the fans are swarming Cohen, Feldman and Joe Pantoliano, who played a Fratelli brother (Astin is set to arrive the next day). They ask Cohen to sign their Chunk action figures, their Chunk T-shirts. They bare stomachs and ask him to sign their Chunk bellies.

"All my favorite quotes are yours," says one girl intimately. She is looking at him in a way that makes you think she wants to become Mrs. Chunk.

Chunk? A hunk! Chunk has lost his jiggle and his goofy curls; he now has a sleek physique and a shaved head. He looks like Chunk only in the teeth, which are still slightly crooked, but adorably.

When, post-puberty, acting offers started drying up, Cohen headed to college (winning a student government seat on a "Chunk for President" campaign) and then to law school. He now owns an entertainment law firm in Los Angeles. His clients know who he is, but since "in any room that I'm in now, I'm the 15th most famous person," no one really cares.

He doesn't need to be here for financial or fame reasons, but "I think it's nice. It's nice to make something people like, that people are attached to."

The cast will be perpetually haunted by "Goonies."

"We get 'Hey you guuu-uuys!' at every concert," says Feldman, who now fronts a band that will perform in Astoria. "Every single concert."

(Goonies trivia: Feldman met his 1980s counterpart Corey Haim at the Goonies audition where both were up for Mouth. R.I.P. Corey Haim. Could the brotherhood of the Goonies have saved you?)

Bucket of fate

Some would argue that "The Goonies" had no meaning, that it was nothing but a string of oddly memorable catchphrases: "Rocky Road?" "It's wet, ain't it?" "Always separate the drugs." "Follow them size fives."

At one point in the movie, the Goonies have a chance for rescue, when they realize they are below the town wishing well and that popular jerk Troy, standing above, could pull them up. Mikey persuades everyone to stay. He wants to finish the adventure, not capitulate to the adults outside and the Troys of the world.

"That's the line I quote the most," says Brandon Lerner, a fan from Seattle. " 'It's all over the second we ride up Troy's bucket.' "

That's the thing. True Goonies know that when Mikey said refuse the bucket, when he said, "It's our time down here," he wasn't talking about the bottom of the cave. He was talking about wanting to stay in childhood just a little longer, because it can never be retrieved.

And when adults make the pilgrimage to Astoria, they're not coming for the Truffle Shuffle. They're coming to show that Mikey was wrong, that sometimes it can.

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