Marta of Amargosa

Amargosa Valley


March 2019

What goes on in the head of someone who lives and works in New York, comes to a desolate, dirty desert part of the country and is intrigued enough to uproot and move there?

On our drive from Death Valley National Park toward Scottsdale where we must attend a wedding, we come to the junction of CA-190 and CA-127.  There is a “town” at this junction called “Death Valley Junction” and currently has an official population of 4.  Four people, two attractions.  One attraction is the DVJ Fine Cannabis store.  The other is a Spanish Colonial building that was once the Amargosa Hotel, a respite for railroad and mining folks, and eventually for tourists.

In 1967, a ballet dancer, mime and artist from New York had a flat tire in Death Valley.  (This sounds like the setup for a joke, doesn’t it?  A ballet dancer, a mime and an artist walk into a bar…  No, in this case the ballet dancer, mime and artist are all the same person.)  She was also an actress, choreographer and painter.

Often we call places like this, where her tire blew out, “the middle of nowhere.”  We say, “there’s nothing here.”  However…

With her flat tire, our polymath, Marta Becket, looked around this barren land spotted with tents.  There was a hotel tent, a saloon tent, a store tent and several tents that served as home to railroad workers and miners.  This all caught her fancy and, tired of the stressful New York life and culture, threw up her hands and said, “I’m staying.”  She promptly converted part of the hotel into a dance theater, and this is where she made her life.  She provided culture as counterpoint to the rugged lifestyle of the locals.  She was a hit!  The locals loved her and her shows.

Marta was not only an artist with her dance, but she painted the entire building with murals claimed to rival the Globe Theatre and even the Sistine Chapel.  She sewed all her dresses and costumes which can be seen on display in its own building across the street.

We do not meet Marta partly because she is dead.  In her time though, I’m told she was hot stuff.

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