The “Boys on the Side” movie mural

In late 1994/early 1995, a colorful piece of Hollywood landed on the top façade of the Black Elks Club at 384 South Meyer Avenue. Now faded, the painting was part of the stage decoration for several exterior shots in the Warner Brothers film “Boys on the Side.” The film starred Whoopi Goldberg, Mary-Louis Parker, Drew Barrymore and Matthew McConaughey and took place in Tucson with filming in front of the Teatro Carmen and at other locations around Tucson.

View of Teatro Carmen in 1994/95 in the film “Boys on the Side”

Teatro Carmen 2022

Prior to the filming, the façades of both buildings were painted a solid color (as seen in the 1977 photos below). The production company hired a local artist to paint a mural to make the location feel more like the barrio nightclub scenes where Whoopi and her band performed, (see images below). Interior shots of the club were filmed on a Los Angeles soundstage per conversations with the crew of the film. When filming was over, the mural, window flower paintings, and name above the door remained.

1977 Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) photos

When our restoration project began, we researched the original look of both facades, (1915 brick Teatro Carmen façade and mid-1940s Black Elks addition), and we discovered the origin of the mural, and its history not as a cultural or community artwork, but as a set piece for a film. We diligently confirmed this with Warner Brothers, members of the film’s crew, and locals who saw the mural being painted for the filming. We then confirmed with all the local arts entities that the mural was not on the register of public art and not required to be retained in our work to bring the building back to life.

The vision of the restored Teatro Carmen property is to honor all of its diverse cultural history; Mexican, African-American and Chinese (for the demolished Lee Henry Market on the corner of Meyer and Simpson).