Flying High at the Copper Room
Just a few blocks off of Highway 62, (the highway that takes you to Joshua Tree National Park) is the Yucca Valley Airport, a small, hobbyist style airport catering to those in the high desert. Attached is the quaint, but delightful Copper Room, which was once frequented by one of my favorite musicians, Gram Parsons.
Constructed in 1957, the Yucca Valley Airport was not built because of a great number of people traveling by air to the area, instead it was the child of one dedicated physician. When doctor and pilot John Bendall had difficulty driving to a patient in the high desert, he decided to build himself an airport with a little restaurant attached, dubbed The Copper Room.
After Dr. Bendall constructed his little airport, it began to serve other pilots as well as musicians and their friends, including Jimmy Van Heusen, the Honorary Mayor of Yucca Valley, composter, pilot, and best friend of Old Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, both of whom spent time within the walls of the Copper Room. Eventually the Copper Room was renamed the Red Baron, and pilots could even radio in their orders prior to landing.
It’s during its time as the Red Baron that Gram Parsons spent time here, although he never flew in. Instead Gram would arrive in his Aston-Martin and sit at the bar looking out at the sunset, ordering “pitchers of margaritas for himself.” Today several photographs of Gram hang on a wood paneled wall, and there is even a drink named after him, the Gram-arita Margarita.
The high desert bar got quite a few renames over the years, after the Red Baron era, it was known as Wine & Roses, and later Touchdown Bar & Grill, and then it shuttered, with the only visitor being the breeze through the windsock atop its roof. Eventually it was bought by the same team that revived the Red Dog Saloon and Pioneertown Motel, further investing in the community of the high desert. Today the Copper Room has an overall subtle 70s vibe, including wood paneled walls, red booths, and a mirrored tambour wall, that makes you feel comfortable and relaxed with great food and drinks. During our visit I of course ordered myself the Gram-arita and a steak, which was seriously one of the best steaks I’ve had, and basked in the rich history of this unique high desert watering hole.
Grab yourself a Gram-arita Margarita at the Copper Room at 57360 Aviation Drive in Yucca Valley. Learn more, including hours and menu, on their website.
Hat: Pachuco Supply
Jacket: Buffalo Exchange, Sweetheart of the Rodeo inspired Gram Parsons patch put on by me, but I can’t remember where I got the patch! Someone tagged me on Instagram about it, and I bought it years ago, but only recently found a jacket to sew it onto.
Tee: Palomino Festival
Boots: Buffalo Exchange
Jewelry: Here and there
Bullock, Tim. “My Memories of Gram Parsons.” Pioneertown Gazette. Print
“High Flying in the High Desert.” Pioneertown Gazette. Print
History. The Copper Room. Accessed 7 December 2022.
Pardilla, Caroline. “Inside Look: The Copper Room, Yucca Valley.” imbibe, 30 November 2022. Accessed 7 December 2022.
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2 comments on “Flying High at the Copper Room”
Looks like a cool place. That’s a great picture of you holding the menu.
Gram Parsons was one interesting cat. I’ve heard he’s buried in an unmarked grave somewhere in the remote desert. As a big fan, do you know if this is true?
I haven’t heard that rumor, but I suppose it stems from the fact that his body was stolen by his manager, Phil Kaufman, who took it out to Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Park and attempted to cremate the body. This was done because there was a supposed conversation that occurred during a funeral where Parsons said something to the effect that he just wanted his body to be taken out to the desert and burned. The charred remains were discovered the following morning, and were taken to New Orleans, where Parsons was finally laid to rest.