The Goonies made $9 million dollars in its opening weekend in June 1985. Even with trailers flaunting its blockbuster crew including Richard Donner (“the director of The Omen and Superman”) and Goonies producer and co-writer Steven Spielberg (“the director of Jaws and Raiders of The Lost Ark”), the film still placed in a not-so-close second at the box office to Sylvester Stalone’s action vehicle sequel Rambo: First Blood Part II.
But if The Goonies proved nothing else, it’s that opening weekends aren’t the end of the story. The endearing 80s adventure and child actor ensemble was a Hollywood production for the ages, snowballing from cult classic status to an international sensation over several decades on home video.
As Rambo was shooting up the film’s opening weekend chances throughout most of the country, Goonies hysteria was already in full swing in the summer of ‘85 in Astoria, Oregon where the film is set and where a majority of it was shot. The Goonies’ early popularity in the historic port city is evidenced by photos of a crowded line of moviegoers stretching around the block outside Astoria’ Liberty Theater, originally a vaudeville theater before it became a cinema. Little did the city know what kind of real-life characters the movie would eventually draw to the northwestern tip of the Beaver State.
Donner and Spielberg Shot Much of The Goonies On Location
While sequences featuring lavish set pieces like the Pirate Ship required Donner and Spielberg to shoot on a soundstage in Los Angeles, a great deal of The Goonies was actually filmed on location in Astoria and surrounding areas on the Oregon coast (though they did sub in Bodega Bay in Northern California for some last minute reshoots of the film’s ending). Donner and Spielberg were so committed to shooting on location in Astoria that they even filmed the interiors of the “Goon Docks” house in the real house in the historic Uppertown neighborhood.
This was an unusual move considering that interior scenes featured in Hollywood films are almost always shot on Hollywood soundstages to make room for the camera and exert more control over other elements of production like lighting and sound. Why would Donner and Spielberg sacrifice that control and wiggle room for the camera, especially with all those kids crammed into that house? Because they fell in love with Astoria. Speaking in the made-for-TV documentary The Making of a Cult Classic: The Unauthorized Story of The Goonies (2010), Donner said that Spielberg, himself, and a few other colleagues:
… jumped into a van and we started driving up the West Coast. We’d stop in little towns in California and say ‘This is good’ and ‘That was good’. We got all the way up to Astoria. It was pissing down with rain. And we went into [the Thunderbird Motel] and early [the next] morning everybody changed their clothes, showered, we got back in the van and we started to drive. And the sun came out. I mean, ‘Oh my god this place is unbelievable’. You got the port, you got the river, and you got this and this. It was like time stood still. It was a town that needed The Goonies to save it. And that was it. It was just one look. And we’d fallen in love. Astoria was it.
The Real Goonies House Became a Movie Mecca
The real-life house in Astoria’s Uppertown neighborhood which belonged to the fictional Walsh family in The Goonies (played by Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Mary Ellen Trainer, and Keith Walker) has since become the region’s most famous landmark apart from the natural landmark rock formations on nearby Cannon Beach, which are featured in the opening credit sequence of the movie.
But the Uppertown Astoria house has become more than just a filming location. It has become something of a Spielbergian mecca for which fans have traveled the globe to take photos in front of to post on social media or tack to their fridge. Unfortunately, not everyone who visits the house is content with a few selfies.
In the years since the release of The GooniesAstoria has had a rocky relationship with the madness of movie fandom, culminating in a recent incident that is easily the most bizarre yet as it involves a dead fish, a dangerous rescue mission from the U.S. Coastguard, and a Pacific Northwest manhunt unlike any other.
The Breaking Bad House Faced Similar Fandom
As the owners of the real house featured in exterior shots throughout the five-season run of Breaking Bad (2008-2013) know all too well, fandom can be a double-edged sword. One iconic shot from the second episode of season three of the series features Bryan Cranston tossing an extra large pepperoni pizza perfectly onto the roof of his character Walter White’s house.
Though the shot is one of the more amusing examples of what filmmakers frequently refer to as “happy accidents” it has unfortunately led to numerous copycat incidents. Nefarious fans of the show have repeatedly tossed pizzas onto the roof as if they were toilet papering the house.
On a 2015 episode of the Breaking Bad: Insider Podcastthe hit series’ creator Vince Gilligan denounced the pizza throwers and other questionable behavior from disrespectful fans, asking them to leave the homeowners in peace. Nevertheless, the pizzas kept coming and, eventually, the homeowners erected a six foot fence to keep the Breaking Bad fanatics out. But even while it was being constructed in 2017 some fans snaked their way in to take selfies.
Other homeowners in the Albuquerque neighborhood felt the heat turning up as the “White House” turned into a Gilliverse Mecca. As one neighbor told local news channel KRQE in 2017, “All day, non-stop, there’s people up and down this road. They park in front of our driveway and block us in.”
The “GoonDocks” Neighborhood Has Faced the Wrath of Goonies Fans
Like the disgruntled neighbors of the Breaking Bad house in Albuquerque, homeowners in the Uppertown neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon have not always been the biggest fans of the relentless onlookers and selfie-takers poking around their historic homes. Uppertown homeowner Roger Warren complained about being gridlocked on his own street and estimated that somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 people flocked to the neighborhood in June 2015 for the 30th anniversary celebration of The Goonies. Speaking to The Astorian in 2015, Warren said:
A couple of years ago, we saw it just turned into a circus. During the summer months, it was just thousands and thousands of people. It just got out of hand.
Also speaking to The Astorian in 2015, Astoria’s City Councilor Russ Warr said that the majority of Goonies fans were:
… lovely, friendly, warm people. But there are a few who are really abusive, and several have refused to leave the property when asked to. They’ve offered to fight the homeowner [Sandi Preston]…
During the height of the 30th anniversary celebration Preston covered the house in tarps and put up signs which read “Access Closed to Goonies House.”
Preston has since moved out and in December 2022 the house was sold for $1.65 million to a self-described Goonies fan with big dreams for the property. New owner Behman Zakeri has welcomed future Hollywood productions like a sequel to The Goonies. Speaking to King 5 in 2023, Zakeri said:
Call me. Let’s make it happen.
But soon after purchasing the property he had his first taste of fan fatigue. In January 2023, one Jericho Wolf Labonte, 35 year old male of Victoria, B.C. left a dead fish on the porch of the Uppertown Astoria house featured in The Goonies. He then filmed himself dancing around the property, gave the house (what else?) a middle finger, and posted the whole ordeal on social media. Not that local police would need Labonte’s post. The house’s security camera captured everything.
This was only the beginning of Labonte’s real-life voyage which feels tailor-made for an episode of Clerks director Kevin Smith and longtime producer partner Scott Mosier’s podcast. For several years on Smodcastthe filmmaking duo behind Chasing Amy (1997) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) would sport outrageous Canadian accents while reading aloud tweets of bizarre crimes committed in Vancouver B.C. posted by @ScanBCthe Canadian city’s unofficial crime reporting Twitter account.
The U.S. Coast Guard Rescued Goonies House Vandal
According to Gene Johnson’s 2023 article for The Seattle Times, it was not long after his Goonies house pit stop that Labonte commandeered a yacht he found docked in nearby Warrenton, Oregon and set sail along the Columbia River. Seeing as Labonte does not hail from the region, the Canadian man may not have realized that this particular river is infamous for choppy sailing conditions and is known colloquially as “the graveyard of the Pacific.” It’s no wonder that Labonte never reached the Pacific Ocean in that stolen yacht.
Heavy surf trapped him at the mouth of the Columbia River. Astoria Police Chief Stacy Kelly told local press that a Warrenton resident reported his yacht stolen soon after Labonte’s disastrously short-lived cruise on the Columbia River. Unfortunately for its owner, according to the U.S. Coast Guard swimmer who saved Labonte’s life, “the boat was pretty much in shambles.”
U.S. Coast Guard posted footage on social media of the daring rescue mission, showing swimmer Branch Walton being lowered by a cable from a helicopter into the stormy seas. By the time Walton reached the yacht it had capsized from a huge wave and jettisoned Labonte into the Columbia River. Walton swam over and grabbed hold of the then-unidentified man.
Labonte was helicoptered to a Coast Guard Base in Astoria and transferred to a nearby hospital. After being treated briefly for mild hypothermia, the hospital discharged Labonte before police could put the pieces together that the guy from the Coast Guard footage was the same guy from the security camera footage flipping off the Goonies house with the dead fish.
Police found Labonte two days later at a homeless shelter 17 miles south of Astoria in Seaside, Oregon where he had been staying “under an alias”. Labonte was arrested and charged with theft, criminal mischief, endangering another person, and unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Aside from the numerous crimes Labonte committed on American soil (and waters), he is still wanted in British Columbia for charges of criminal harassment, mischief, and failure to comply. If, however, the police had not found Labonte in that homeless shelter then his whereabouts might have become another great mystery like The Goonies’ own One-Eyed Willy, whose final resting place and pirate treasure was buried deep beneath the Oregon coast.