Restaurant patrons along Winnetka Avenue in Canoga Park have been dropping in on a new fast-food eatery called Busterburger, hoping to get a taste of bull burgers, Bustershakes, cow pies and bull chips.
Instead, they've gotten a taste of Hollywood when they have opened the door to find cameras, film lights and an interior crammed with props as filming proceeds on the feature comedy, "Hamburger--The Motion Picture."
Chances are their appetites were whetted by the two 19-foot fiberglass bull's horns that sprout from the shop's front. A fiberglass hamburger is impaled on one horn, and the shop's would-be motto appears in bright, bull-red coloring: "A Lotta Bull in Every Bite!"
The transformation by film makers of the former taco stand into a fictional fast-food franchise has produced a daily spectacle of glassy-eyed motorists swiveling their heads toward the horns and annoyed some neighborhood residents with traffic delays. But it has also kept many neighbors laughing at the garish set parodying fast-food eateries.
In the past two weeks, locals have been treated to invasions of black-leathered bikers in search of a better burger, an explosion, and, on Wednesday evening, the crash of a truck loaded with 25 live chickens into a side of the building. In the film's script, the crash leads to the discovery of the ultimate chicken sandwich when one of the errant birds drops into the deep fryer.
As word of the impending crash spread through the neighborhood, 40 to 50 residents showed up to watch.
Filming at the Campos Famous Burritos franchise near the intersection of Winnetka Avenue and Saticoy Street, whose owner agreed to close his restaurant for the duration of the filming, is expected to be wrapped up Friday. The film is scheduled for release early next year.
"I didn't know if it was a new place or not until I saw the menu," said Marcos Reyes, 13, of Canoga Park, referring to a bill of fare listing such unlikely offerings as refried spleens and not-so-super Busterburgers. "I mean, how many shops have horns on them?"
"I'm waiting to be discovered--to be a star in the movies," said Anita Jones, whose house sits across from the set. "I'm still waiting."
"If they want to use my pool or barbecue, they're welcome to it," Jones added with a laugh.
Jones, as did other residents, complained about parking problems caused by the 50-person film crew and its equipment. Others criticized the film company for not warning them of a planned explosion.
But most residents interviewed said they are enjoying the restaurant's zany design, which also has attracted would-be customers even while film crews were working inside.
"People would come in and say, 'I want lunch.' I'd say we're closed, then they'd ask what time will we be open," said Robert Lewis, the film's co-producer. "People are into it. They love the horns."
So they do.
A 'Great Gimmick'
"I think it's groovy; it's a great gimmick," said Rob Peeples, who lives in the area.
"I would definitely go in there if it were for real. It'd be my hangout," Peeples said.
Jones agreed. "They're dummies if they change it. It's good for business."
During remodeling of the shop in June, the construction crew reported that a few job-seekers wanted to apply for work at "Busterburger." Last week a would-be customer drove up to place an order with the eight-foot statue of a "pickle man" holding the menu card.
"There's been a continual flow of people," said Charles Meeker, one of the film's two chief producers. "I wouldn't be surprised if we don't wind up in the fast-food business."
$100,000 Spent on Remodeling
"Hamburger Productions," the film company set up for the movie is spending an estimated $100,000 to remodel the Mexican restaurant and then restore it to its original form by mid-July. Neither the restaurant's owner, Moises Campos, nor film crew members would say what the price is for renting the restaurant for two months.
"It'll be interesting to see what happens with this place," Meeker said. "We've told the owner that we'll leave it this way if he wants us to."
Campos indicated he wouldn't take the film makers up on their offer.
"For a Mexican restaurant, it's probably not too good," he said of the decor.