There must have been a point when the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure team decided they could totally ravage some barbecue.
Just across the street from Tovrea Castle, a recently opened barbecue joint sat less than a mile from a film set posing as a Los Angeles County high school — and some pretty famous (well, now at least) cast and crew members were about to break for lunch.
Owner Mark Smith remembers the first time this group of highly energetic and friendly young people walked into his barbecue restaurant, Honey Bear's BBQ, on Van Buren Street. It was 1987, and his new patrons explained they were working on a movie nearby. The next three months would be filled with some excellent adventures.
“I thought they were just a bunch of wild kids,” Smith says, laughing and referring to cast and crew members of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Smith was mentioned briefly in a recent story about the 30th anniversary of the film, and how the Valley played a role itself in the 1989 science-fiction comedy.
Rick Rothen, a location manager on the film, told Phoenix New Times the crew discovered Honey Bear’s BBQ while filming at the now-shuttered East High School for the interior shots of San Dimas High School. “They had just opened up nearby, and the crew loved that place. The owner was very nice and personally came over and catered our second meals if we went long,” he says.
That was confirmed.
Smith, who has owned the restaurant since it opened in 1986, says he remembers crew members and actors would come in for sandwiches, ribs, and beans. This resulted in heads-up calls being made to Honey Bear’s BBQ, saying people would be coming later, beyond operating hours. Smith would stay up and wait for them.
“I wasn’t turning down no money,” he says, “And I’m the kind of person who believes in building relationships.” Kind of the personified version of the film’s catchphrase, “Be excellent to each other.”
Then that courtesy morphed into Smith and his business partner personally catering the film locations at all hours of the night. “I remember going out into the desert at 1 a.m. to feed them,” he says, referring to Carefree Studios in north Scottsdale where our heroes had to scoop up Billy the Kid in an Old West town. “I felt I was on top of the world.”
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Smith says the small Honey Bear’s team would load beans, ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, and coleslaw in a van, and drive it out to the crew. “By the time the food hit the table, they were eating,” he says.
As for the movie itself, Smith says he’s seen it once since he knew many of the people. And whenever he sees it on, will exclaim, “Oh, yeah, I fed those guys!”
Now with two locations, including the original on Van Buren Street, Honey Bear’s does a substantial amount of catering for special events all over town. Smith says they continue bringing barbecue to movie sets, and even travel to Los Angeles to cater film productions. But he says feeding the crew of Bill & Ted was the first such adventure, and that will always be most excellent.