As temperatures soar, we look forward to one of the hottest weeks in recent history here in northern Idaho—over a week of the mercury hovering near 100°F. I know, I know, many parts of the country regularly see days like this, but there’s one major difference: In our moderate-temp, low-humidity climate, we typically don’t have air-conditioned houses. Bring on the fans, girls!
That got me to thinking … where’s the hottest place on Earth and how do people there cope?
The World Meteorological Organization has officially recognized Death Valley, California, as the world’s hottest place on Earth, with a record temperature of 134°F. How do people cope? They live somewhere else. Death Valley Junction’s city limits sign lists a whopping population of 4. But Death Valley Junction still has a story to tell: It’s home to the Amargosa Opera House and Hotel, where Marta Becket staged dance and mime revues from the late 1960s until 2012.
Photo by G. Rogers via Wikimedia Commons
Marta was a ballet dancer who started her career in New York City at Radio City Music Hall. After a stint on Broadway, including a part in the hit musical Show Boat, Marta created a one-woman show and took it on the road, performing at schools and small theaters. In 1967, she and her husband were on their way to a performance when they got a flat tire and consequently discovered an abandoned theater in Death Valley Junction.
What was a theater doing in Death Valley? Turns out it was part of a company town, built in the 1920s, for the Pacific Coast Borax Company, who mined for borate salts in the adjacent Mojave Desert. Marta settled in and never left. In 1970, journalists from the National Geographic magazine discovered Marta doing a performance to an empty house. Their subsequent article spurred interest in her theater, which led to visits from people all over the world, including author Ray Bradbury and comedian Red Skelton. Marta continued to perform three times a week. In later years, she limited her appearances to once a week, calling her performance “The Sitting Down Show.”
Photo by Rick Cooper via Wikimedia Commons
Filmmaker Todd Robinson shot a documentary, Amargosa, about Marta’s life in 2000, which received many film festival nominations and awards and won a 2003 Emmy award for cinematography. Marta’s autobiography, To Dance on Sands, was published in 2007 and is available on Amazon.com.