Saturday, March 20, 2010

20 March 1980: Mixed Response to Filmmakers on Virginia Avenue

On this day in 1980, the Athens Observer ran a story about the reaction of local residents during the filming of the ABC television series Breaking Away. The program was a prequel to the movie of the same name that had won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress, Direction, and Musical Score. The film was shot and set in the college town of Bloomington, Indiana.

Much of the filming for the television version was done on Virginia Avenue, where the show's producers had selected a house to use as part of their set. Local reaction ranged from "it's just exciting having all those movie stars right next to you" to "they had the streets blocked...but I wasn't in a hurry" to "I don't feel like anybody has the right to come to my house at 7 or 7:30 in the morning banging on my door demanding I move my automobile." It was generally agreed that the crew "could have used a little more diplomacy."

The television version of Breaking Away lasted only one season, despite having two Emmy nominations. The show starred Shaun Cassidy, who did not appear in the film. Only three actors from the movie were in the television show.

Athens has long been a biking town. Athenian Fred Birchmore was the first person to circle the world on a bicycle in 1935. Tourist guides and planning department proposals for bike routes going back to the mid-1970s. Spring, 1980, marked the first Athens Twilight Criterium. In recent years, many streets were repainted with bike lanes (pdf), and BikeAthens has become a strong advocate for alternative transportation options in the city, including a Safe Routes 2 School program to encourage children to walk or ride bikes to school rather than taking a bus or car.

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