La Bamba (1987) Poster



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According to Lou Diamond Phillips in the VH1 documentary Behind the Music: The Day the Music Died (1999), Ritchie Valens' sister was on the set the day they shot the "coin toss" scene, in which Ritchie wins the chance to fly on the plane with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Ritchie's sister began to weep uncontrollably during shooting. When Phillips tried to console her, she hugged him and sobbed, "Why Ritchie? Why did you get on the plane?"
Ritchie Valens' family were so attached to Lou Diamond Phillips that when he was shooting the scene where Valens gets on the airplane that led him to his death, the family begged Phillips not to get on, fearing that he would die. The family was warned not to come to the filming the day that they filmed him getting on the plane but his sister ignored this and drove up to the set anyways. She cried, hugged him and begged him not to get on the plane
The plane crash at Ritchie Valens' school happened near Los Angeles, California on January 31, 1957. A DC-7 and an F-89 jet collided and broke-up in mid-air. The DC-7 landed on the playground of Pacoima Junior High School (now Pacoima Middle School) while students were outside at recess. Everyone on the DC-7 was killed. Several students died on the playground; 75 were injured. Valens was out of school that day, attending his grandfather's funeral. The crash caused Valens' fear of flying.
The band playing the traditional folk version of "La Bamba" at the club in Tijuana is Los Lobos, which performed all of Ritchie Valens' music for the film. The guitar player next to the bass player is David Hidalgo, who provided Lou Diamond Phillips' singing voice.
The club where Ritchie Valens is nervous about performing before an Anglo crowd is Cowboy Palace in Chatsworth, California.The bar is still in business.
Before Lou Diamond Phillips auditioned for the role, his agent mistakenly told him that the film was about Frankie Valli. Phillips didn't think he was right for the part, but went to the audition anyway.
Rosanna DeSoto is only twelve years older than Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales, who played her sons on the film.
According to Tommy Allsup (the one who "lost" the fateful coin toss), the toss occurred in the SURF ballroom and not on the airfield as depicted in the movie.
Many family members from the production team, and Luis Valdez's and the Valenzuela family, appear in this film.
One of the cartoon characters seen on the wall of Bob's basement studio is Oswald the Rabbit, the early Walt Disney character that was later modified and became Mickey Mouse.
Lou Diamond Phillips was 25 when he played teen-aged Ritchie Valens. Marshall Crenshaw was 33 when he played 22-year-old Buddy Holly.
The Indian motorcycle that Bob rides throughout the movie is really a Harley-Davidson Sportster mocked up to look like an Indian.
Esai Morales coincidentally has the same last name as the real person he portrays, Bob Morales.
The Big Bopper and Waylon Jennings, who was Buddy Holly's bass player at the time, traded seats. The Big Bopper got on the plane, Waylon took the bus. Before the plane took off, Buddy said to Waylon, "I hope you freeze your ass on that bus". Waylon responded, jokingly, "Well, I hope your plane crashes". That remark haunted Waylon for years.
A cafe in Bundaberg Australia named La Bamba as a tribute to the film operated for a number of years with 50's memorabilia and a phone booth similar to the one Richie sang to Donna in and set up like a 50's US cafe.
Original title was "Let's Go".
The patch on Bob's (Esai Morales) vest is that of the Galloping Goose Motorcycle Club. In 1947, the Galloping Goose was one of many clubs which descended upon the town of Hollister, California during the AMA Gypsy Tour motorcycle rally that led to a riot. However, the Galloping Goose were there by invitation and consisted of just over a dozen members.
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In the movie, Esai Morales plays Bob, the older brother of Ritchie Valens, played by Lou Diamond Phillips. In reality, Phillips is over eight months older than Morales.
Many people ask what the green guitar and amp are at the beginning of the movie. The guitar is a Harmony Stratotone 3/4 scale or Student Model from the early 50s. The amp is a Fender Champ, also early 50s. Both would have been less than 5 years old at the time.
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In this movie, Jackie Wilson is played by Howard Huntsberry. Two years later, two versions of the song "Higher and Higher" would be used in the movie Ghostbusters II (1989); the first is the Jackie Wilson version in the toaster scene, and the other is a cover by Howard Huntsberry used in the Statue of Liberty scene.
Toward the end of the movie, when Ritchie and Donna are cruising down the road, Ritchie asks Donna if she'll wait to marry him. He says "Just till I'm 25 and I have a big, glass cabinet to keep all my gold records in". Lou Diamond Phillips actually was 25 during filming.
The song "sleep walk" by Johnny and Santo used in the film was actually covered by the Big Bopper, which enhances the already haunting quality it brings to the OST.
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Waylon Jennings' The Stage (Stars in Heaven) recreates the Winter Dance Party in a touching song about the last performance before the Day the Music Died.
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Ritchie Valens,The Big Bopper,and Buddy Holly were all Killed in the plane crash on February 3rd 1959 while on tour in Iowa
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The American Legion Hall used in the movie was filmed on Ave 55 in the Highland Park community of Northeast Los Angeles.
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During the surprise party for Ritchie (Lou Diamond Phillips) after returning from his tour, his manager Bob Keanu says he's going to stay because of the good food. Just before the scene cuts, you can hear him ask someone, "What's this in the bowl?" "Menudo" is the response--a red Mexican soup or sauce, but also the name of a contemporary 1980s Mexican Boy Band.
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Connie Valenzuela: the old woman sitting near Ritchie Valens at the first family party. Valens' mother died October 18, 1987, three months after the film's release.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

When Ritchie is interviewed by the radio station, the DJ asks listeners a trivia question, "What does the mystery guest have in common with the Vice President of the United States?" Dwight Eisenhower was President at the time, and his Vice-President was Richard Nixon. The VP and the mystery guest had the same first name.

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