PG NewsPG delivery
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Home Page
PG News: Nation and World, Region and State, Neighborhoods, Business, Sports, Health and Science, Magazine, Forum
Sports: Headlines, Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Collegiate, Scholastic
Lifestyle: Columnists, Food, Homes, Restaurants, Gardening, Travel, SEEN, Consumer, Pets
Arts and Entertainment: Movies, TV, Music, Books, Crossword, Lottery
Photo Journal: Post-Gazette photos
AP Wire: News and sports from the Associated Press
Business: Business: Business and Technology News, Personal Business, Consumer, Interact, Stock Quotes, PG Benchmarks, PG on Wheels
Classifieds: Jobs, Real Estate, Automotive, Celebrations and other Post-Gazette Classifieds
Web Extras: Marketplace, Bridal, Headlines by Email, Postcards
Weather: AccuWeather Forecast, Conditions, National Weather, Almanac
Health & Science: Health, Science and Environment
Search: Search by keyword or date
PG Store: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette merchandise
PG Delivery: Home Delivery, Back Copies, Mail Subscriptions

Headlines by E-mail

Headlines Region & State Neighborhoods Business
Sports Health & Science Magazine Forum

A celluloid pilgrimage: Brothers journey from Dundee to see 'RoboCop' location

Thursday, September 07, 2000

By Bob Batz Jr., Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Three tourists from Scotland came to Pittsburgh this week and at first were sorely disappointed.

Brandon and Juno Reed and Robert Phillips from Scotland, are backpacking across the United States. They stopped in Pittsburgh to visit the filming location of the movie RoboCop. (Annie O'Neill, Post-Gazette) 

It's too nice.

"I was expecting a dark, dank industrial town," said Brandon Reed, in his great Scots accent. "An Aldous Huxley-style quagmire."

Instead, the 21-year-old and his two brothers, Juno Reed, 19, and Robert Phillips, 18, saw nothing but shining skyscrapers.

They wanted to see a steel mill.

In fact, they came here to see a specific dark, dank mill: the one where the movie "RoboCop" was shot.

Many readers will know this ultra-violent 1987 sci-fi classic, which stars Peter Weller as the part-man, part-machine who brings some order to the lawless future city of Old Detroit.

"Welcome to hell," he's told.

These travelers wished they'd been greeted like that here.

Brandon loves the scary flick so much that, though he was born and raised in the Scottish city of Dundee, he knew that key parts were filmed at a mill somewhere near Pittsburgh.

So as he and his roommate brothers -- they all attend Dundee University -- prepared for a September-long tour of the United States, they watched the movie several times and vowed to make a pilgrimage to the site.

Problem was, after they got off the Greyhound bus here Tuesday, just two days after landing in America, no one knew anything about it.

"We really drew a lot of blanks," said Brandon, who changed his last name from Phillips to do standup comedy.

"Thought we were in the wrong Pittsburgh," added Juno, who changed his last name, too.

The man at the visitor information booth suggested they just go to a museum.

But Brandon was adamant.

"This is the one thing I wasn't going to leave America without seeing," he said.

"Guggenheim, schmoogenheim," Juno added.

Yet they couldn't track down the "RoboCop" steel mill, not even at the United Steelworkers Building.

Then Robert went next-door to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where a security guard, an editor and a movie critic determined that the mill was the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.'s Monessen Works, which long has been closed and now mostly is demolished.

Undaunted, the three adventurers caught a local bus for that Monongahela River valley city, where the friendly driver not only let them off at the mill gate but even got off to chat with the guard there.

"They were so bewildered," Robert said, describing the reaction of workers who were cleaning up the site. " 'You came all this way to see a steel mill? Are you mad?' they said."

But the trio was allowed past the fence to get a closer look, as well as to take some photos and videotape of the concrete ore pits and the pool of water that figure in the movie.

"You could imagine the route Boddicker took," Robert said, referring reverently to the supervillain.

They were disappointed to find no statue at the site, no plaque, not even any souvenirs for sale, even though the townspeople they met remembered watching the filming.

At a nearby gasoline station, they bought some iced tea and doughnuts -- American food, you see -- and smoked a celebratory cigar, the butt of which they left against the fence as their own smoky tribute.

Then they caught the bus back to Pittsburgh, and had a "crackin' " good time, spending the night at the Pittsburgh International Hostel and visiting The Andy Warhol Museum, the Harris Theater and other unexpected attractions.

"It's beautiful. It's fantastic!" Robert marveled.

"It was such a pleasant surprise," said Brandon, who plans to plug Pittsburgh in performance projects once he gets home.

After spending yesterday here, the guys were to get on the midnight bus to Detroit, where "RoboCop" also was filmed, and where they happen to have cousins to visit. Their plan is to crisscross the country using their Greyhound passes and visit, for another project, American towns named Dundee.

They'll start with one in Michigan, pointed out to them by that nice editor at the Post-Gazette.

But it'll be hard to beat the experience they had in Monessen.

"I feel this was cathartic in a way," Brandon said with a grin. "I feel like we've accomplished something already."

Pittsburgh Film Office Director Dawn Keezer could not be reached to be asked how common such foreign film location pilgrims are.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh spokesman Jim Kosowski chuckled and said, "I can honestly say that I've never heard of anyone wanting to see that facility for that reason.

" 'RoboCop' must be more popular there than it ever was here."

But Monessen mayor and state Rep. Ted Harhai said he's heard of folks trekking to see the "RoboCop" location, and has even shown visitors the other Monessen spots that made it into the Bruce Willis movie, "Striking Distance."

Harhai, who "spends an eternity" trying to convince people that this region isn't as dark and dank as it once was, said, "I think it's kinda an honor" that the lads paid their visit.

"Hey, you're talking to someone who drove to Dyersville, Iowa, to see the 'Field of Dreams.' "

bottom navigation bar Terms of Use  Privacy Policy