Ben Hur, Done That: American Towns with Movie Names

I live in what is perhaps the single worst town in American to call home, Pensacola. Pensacola is the last stop in Florida before you leave the state and traverse briefly into Alabama. Pensacola is named after, well, who cares. It is a pretty boring name for a town; certainly Pensacola does not have quite the audacious personality of a town like Ben Hur, Virginia. Technically, Ben Hur, Virginia is an unincorporated community at pointy westernmost end of the state. There is also a Ben Hur in Texas, in case you did not know. I did not. Since Ben Hur only came into being as an 1880 novel one can only assume that settlers in Virginia and Texas came to the decision to name their town in honor of the character, but that conventional wisdom could be wrong. The research was done, but came up blank.

The towns of Ben Hur in Virginia and Texas are not the only spots in America that share names with famous movies or television shows of course. Probably the most infamous instance of a town definitely being named after a television show is the extremely odd city in New Mexico named Truth or Consequences. This already famous spa town was known as Las Palomas and the bizarre name change came about as part of a public relations stunt in concert with the then-popular game show titled, well, Truth or Consequences.

Then there is Green Acres, California. Green Acres is the place to be, after all, to be perfectly honest Green Acres would be fairly enticing name for a town whether it was named after the surreal 1960s television sitcom starring Eddie Arnold and Eve Gabor. Green Acres certainly carries with it the verdant delight of a small town that would offer the finest in visual enjoyment for those who are not Sarah Palin and intent on undoing the greatest natural glory of God. But, let’s face it, Green Acres does not really have the oomph of a town named Truth or Consequences or Ben Hur.

If you are fan of Superman then you have to ask yourself why you have never traveled up America’s intestine, otherwise known as the Mississippi River, to take a visit to Metropolis, Illinois. Metropolis is not just named after the that Superman lives in and saves (to hell with the rest of America, apparently), but Metropolis, Illinois fancies itself as the real home to Superman. There is, in fact, a very cool more than life size statue of the man in tights in front of which you can have a photograph of yourself taken.

Those crazy Texans. They have a Paris and a Ben Hur and even a Tarzan. Apparently, this little hole in the dusty walls of Texas were looking for a name for this dot on the map and allowed suggestions to be properly and legally filed. Nobody knows for sure exactly how many different names for the town were suggested and subsequently rejected, but Tarzan stuck for some reason. It was the early 1920’s and Tarzan was hardly the huge hit he would become once Johnny Weissmuller got home from the Olympics and Maureen O’Sullivan’s body double went skinny dipping, but the King of the Jungle was still popular enough that the name just kind of stuck and never went away.

Probably the single coolest American town name that bears a relationship with a movie or TV show or book is Frankenstein, Missouri. When I get rich by revealing all I know about the 2008 election campaign I plan on setting up permanent residence at post office box there simply so that I can have all my official mail sent to Frankenstein. Frankenstein is so small that Bob Hope only visited there twice, once for the opening of gas station and once for the opening of envelope. And there is a story I refuse to believe that Frankenstein, Missouri was not even named after Mary Shelley’s famous mad doctor.