The 1985 Steven Spielberg film “The Goonies” is a quintessential adventure movie, following a middle schooler named Mikey and his friends as they find a treasure map and go on an epic adventure to save the family home from being demolished to make way for a golf course at the local country club. They call themselves the “Goonies” because they live in the Goon Docks neighborhood of a fictional version of Astoria on the Oregon coast. Since the movie first made its debut, the real Astoria house has been a tourist draw for fans from all over.
The Goonies themselves famously “Never say die!” And one of the film’s biggest fans would never do so either. Behman Zakeri lives in the Kansas City area and was among a number of would-be buyers that put in immediate offers when the home went up for sale last fall. He says he’s committed to making sure the house is preserved and that other die-hard fans will have access to it. What that will look like, though, is anyone’s guess, says Zakeri, as he’s not legally allowed to rent the home on a short term basis or make it into a museum.
Zakeri joins us to share why and how this movie became so woven into his identity and what his plans are for the future.
The following transcript was created by a computer and edited by a volunteer:
Dave Miller: From the Gert Boyle Studio at OPB, this is Think Out Loud. I’m Dave Miller. As painful as it might be for some Gen-Xers to hear, ‘The Goonies’ was released almost 40 years ago. It was a swashbuckling teenage adventure movie about pirates, hidden treasure, friendship and preventing a family home from being turned into a golf course. Famously, it was shot in Astoria, and in the decades since it was released, countless fans have gone to Oregon’s north coast to see a piece of their childhood dreams.
Now, the so-called ‘Goonies’ house has a new owner, a super fan named Behman Zakeri, who lives near Kansas City. He says he bought the house to make sure that the public still has some kind of access to it. Behman Zakeri joins us now; welcome to Think Out Loud.
Behman Zakeri: How’ you doing?
Miller: Doing very well. Thanks for joining us. Are you in the house right now?
Zakeri: Yes. I am actually, believe it or not.
Miller: I believe it, it’s yours. What does it look like inside right now?
Zakeri: Well, it’s very empty. We obviously just moved in so we actually had to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights until the bedding showed up and things like that. But it’s still very empty. We’re still buying stuff every day to furnish it.
Miller: The first time that you woke up in the ‘Goonies’ house, what was it like? I mean, we’ll get to what this house has meant to you over time but it’s yours now. What did that feel like?
Zakeri: I keep using this term, it’s surreal. It’s incredibly hard to believe that a kid from Kansas ended up on the West coast in the ‘Goonies’ house. It’s unbelievable. Especially growing up poor, we always joked about how we didn’t have two nickels to rub together. It’s just been 30 years of business and working six and seven days a week and sacrificing a lot of time that I could have spent doing other things, having hobbies, going to the lake, friends and family. I mean there was a lot of stuff that I wasn’t able to do to get here, I’ll tell you that.
Miller: Well, let’s go back in time to that time when, as you say, you ‘didn’t have two nickels to rub together.’ How old were you when ‘The Goonies’ came out?
Zakeri: I was eight, almost nine years old. It was the summer of ‘85.
Miller: It’s a pretty great age in terms of the appreciation of that movie. What do you remember about the first time you saw it?
Zakeri: Well, I remember that the most important thing was that I was excited just to go to the movies to get candy and popcorn. That was the coolest thing and then my mom was telling us, ‘So there’s this really new movie coming out. It’s cool. They go find a treasure and whatever.’ And so that’s kind of what I was thinking…when you’re eight years old, you’re more of a dreamer and just kind of living day to day and things like that.
Once the movie started, I was hooked immediately. I was resonating with the kids, with the Goonies. They’re older than me, right, they’re 3,4,5 years older, and I think Josh Brolin is probably 6, 7 years old. So you look up to older kids when you’re a little boy like that and you’re seeing what they’re doing and I just wanted to be them, and I wanted to find a treasure map, and I wanted to chase after this treasure with my friends. So we all saw ‘The Goonies’ during that time. We’re all just role playing and joking around about how, ‘we’ve got to find this treasure map, who knows the neighbor that’s got a basement, that will let us kind of snoop around, and look for this underground tunnel.’ It was so much fun.
Miller: Let’s listen to a scene from early on. This is when the kids who call themselves the ‘Goonies,’ are looking through a bunch of old stuff in an attic and they are about to find the treasure map that is going to set them on this quest.
[Scene from the movie, ‘The Goonies’]
Miller: So you talked about what this movie meant to you growing up. Why do you think it’s maintained its hold on you?
Zakeri: On me specifically, and probably like a lot of people, is when you mix adventure, treasure hunting, friendship, family, action and then you sprinkle in the bad guys, the Fratellis, you’ve got a great movie. And they picked such a neat town, all the shots were just neat from the beginning when they’re breaking out of jail and the police are chasing them to the Fratellis’ hideout in Cannon Beach, and all that stuff.
I just think that it was a combination of how the script was written with the music, that symphony that played, that music, tied in so perfectly. It reminds me of ‘Back to the Future,’ which is also probably my second set of favorite movies. ‘Back to Future’ and ‘Goonies’ are like neck and neck, but there was only one ‘Goonies’ movie. So when people say, ‘What’s your favorite movie?’ It has to be ‘Goonies.’ There’s only one.
And the acting was so funny, serious, done so well, they set the bar so high with everything in the movie. I mean how they picked all those characters, how did you find Chunk? How did you find Mouth? You found Sean Astin, you found all these characters that played the roles as kids to a ‘T.’ So I think that’s what it was and I think that every boy and girl resonates because there were two Goonies girls, right? So you had five boys and two girls, the bad guys after them. So I think that sense of adventure and that just chase for a treasure hunt. I think everybody someday wants to find an undiscovered treasure. That’s why everybody, I think, plays powerball right? Trying to hit it.
Miller: Chalee Howard on Facebook wrote: “‘The Goonies’ is a classic and every generation can relate because it’s about outsiders, groups of people in this case, kids who are marginalized yet come together to find friendship, humor and adventure.’”
Nancy Lapp wrote, ‘I think it was the first adventure I’d experienced in film, as opposed to books, that starred heroes my own age.’
So what are your plans now for this house?
Zakeri: Well, I like to say it’s a fluid thing because depending on who’s going to reach out and who wants to get involved or work together, things like that, is really what’s gonna dictate the future of the house. The number one goal of buying this thing, was to preserve it, lock it down, so it doesn’t change, we didn’t want it to get bulldozed, like they say, ‘We don’t want Troy’s father, Mr. Perkins, coming in and buying it all up and turning it into a golf course’ or something like that. We needed this house to stay the same. And whether it was me or the next guy or gal that was gonna purchase it didn’t matter. We just needed a ‘Goonies’ fan to own it so that all the ‘Goonies’ fans can continue to come and pay homage, make their pilgrimage, to come see this from all over the world. That was step one.
Then step two is, what are we going to do at the house? Well everybody has suggested Airbnb, suggested renting it, has suggested turning it into a museum, but what they don’t realize is we’re in a residential neighborhood, so because of that, we can’t do the museum thing. It would have to take the city wanting to do that and I’m not wanting to do that today. I think it’s a great idea. I think the Airbnb thing is fun and would be great for thousands of people over the coming years to be able to spend the night in the ‘Goonies’ house and say that they did and take their pictures and hang out, but then there’s the whole preservation, right? We got to make sure that nothing’s ever mistreated and things like that.
So there’s so many factors here, and then you wonder will they ever make a ‘Goonies II’ – they’ve talked about it forever. I would imagine if they do or if they make a series like they did for ‘The Karate Kid,’ where they did the ‘Cobra Kai’ series, I would guess that the directors would at some point or some episodes want to come back to ‘The Goonies’ house because it’s so iconic.
Right now, we’re just setting it up, people are still coming by every day, ‘Goonies’ are coming up the driveway every day and taking their pictures and doing the truffle shuffle and if I’m outside, I’m letting them walk up on the porch and stuff like that, so the goal is to share it. I mean, it was bought as an investment, but I didn’t buy it to keep it to myself. I bought it to share it with the world, as long as ‘Goonies’ are respectful. This is a neighborhood, there’s neighbors, a lot of them are fine with it and are big ‘Goonies’ fans. And then there are a couple that aren’t and they get aggravated with all the ‘Goonies’ fans but then, again, it kind of is what it is, right? I mean we are at the ‘Goonies’ house and that is what it is.
Miller: We just have a minute left. But you know the plot hinges on this ragtag gang preventing the hero’s family home from being turned into a golf course. Do you still see yourself as a ‘Goonie’ even though it seems like you’re more now in the tax bracket of the developers?
Zakeri: Yeah, I am more of a ‘Goonie’ because I borrowed the majority of the money to buy this house. So let that fact be clear. Theoretically, if something was to happen then the bank could foreclose on me. So I’ve got a bunch of monster payments that I’ve got to make in the coming years. I took out multiple loans to be able to afford this thing, put down the amount that they needed. So I’m still a hard working American, I’m not retired. In order to live my lifestyle, I have to work every single day I was working until I talked to you guys today. So I have the advantage that I can work mostly remotely and from a cell phone or computer.
Miller: Behman Zakeri, thanks very much for your time. I’ll let you get back to working.
Zakeri: Thank you.
Miller: That’s Behman Zakeri, the new owner of the house in Astoria, where the 1985 movie ‘The Goonies’ was filmed.
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