So my brother CD was visiting me recently from Raleigh, North Carolina, and some how on our first day together we found ourselves sitting on the waterfront deck of Baxter’s Boat House. I was enjoying a much welcomed day away from the Lamb and Lion Inn, sipping cocktails and eating fried clams, while CD gorged on a lazy man’s lobster, much like a ravenous monkey on a Whoopie Pie. Being land-locked in Raleigh, eating really good seafood while watching boats sail by is a treat for CD like no other. It was a perfect afternoon and then the Lady Martha sailed by our little table. “Does that boat go the Martha’s Vineyard?” he asked. I was having a religious experience with my cup of tarter sauce and missed it the first time. “Does that boat go to Martha’s Vineyard?” he repeated slower. “Yep, it’s the Hyline fast ferry to Oak Bluffs“, I gargled back. “Dock to dock in an hour.” Coming from a family of JAWS fanatics, I could already see his wheels turning. “Have you ever checked out some of the scenes from JAWS over there?” he asked (there it was). Of course I had, but being an innkeeper never really offered me much time to spend on the islands in the summer, so I hadn’t experienced the “official” JAWS tour, but felt content in the knowledge I had seen the little JAWS car ferries and familiar looking intersections of Edgartown, as well as the exterior of the Town Hall (where Captain Quint scraped the chalkboard while menacingly munching a Saltine) and of course I had crossed the famous JAWS bridge (“It’s going into the pond!”) several times–which was almost as monumental as the time I walked across the famous crosswalk of London’s Abbey Road–about 26 times. Back and forth, back and forth, filming my feet hitting the pavement every other turn (I still feel like I should have crossed a couple more times). Anyway, that night we watched JAWS in the inn’s movie room (not open to the public–but always open to JAWS fans). Tucking myself in that night I re-read parts of my beat up “Making of JAWS” paperback and enjoyed dreams full of chum buckets, barrel beacons and murky waters. The next day we were on the Lady Martha to explore “Amity”!
The famous bridge to the pond
The center of “Amity” (Edgartown)
Getting off at Oak Bluffs is a hoot, and you can easily spend your entire afternoon there, checking out the Gingerbread cottages, eating ice cream, digging into some amazing chowder at the Martha’s Vineyard Chowder House or slamming down fried oyster sliders at Lobsterville Bar & Grill (I don’t know why I typed “or”–this is usually an “and” situation for me). BUT, we were on a mission, so we hastily hopped on the #13 bus to Amity...er...Edgartown!
If you have never been to Edgartown, look at your reflection in the bus glass window as you pier out. Yes, that’s your jaw dropping. Edgartown is a magnificent, almost perfect
feast for your eyes in the summer.
Massive, bulbous hydrangea, tucked away gardens behind perfectly painted picket fences and magnificently manicured lawns that redefine the color green. The historic houses range from modest to handsome to regal, but rarely ostentatious. But forget all that. We have bigger fish to catch…let’s get on that JAWS tour!
The JAWS tour meets in the center of town–which happens to be the focal point of the on-land part of JAWS. You’ll instantly recognize the main intersection which is predominantly shown in the downtown scenes. The tour meets at the Paper Store on that very corner. It should be noted that the front door of the Paper Store is where Chief Brody enters to buy wood to make “Beach Closed” signs, but as he enters he actually walks into a different building, which becomes the hardware store (that building is just a few doors up. At the time it was a bait & tackle shop–the only shop open that early in the morning during filming. It’s now a restaurant). Just up the block is the “Amity police station”, which is actually a house, as well as many other familiar fences and doorways from the movie. On the other side of the main intersection the tour will take you down to the waterfront where you can still watch those little car ferries going back and forth from Edgartown to Chappaquiddick (it’s all worth noting than when you watch the movie the ferry doesn’t cross, it simply turns around as soon as they take off–but you didn’t notice because
The “Amity Police Station” then and now
you were fixated on Mayor Vaughn’s blue anchor pattern jacket). Interestingly enough Town Hall is not part of the tour, which was the part I wanted to see the most. I had seen the exterior plenty of times but they don’t even show the outside of Town hall in the movie–the scene opens with people walking down that little hallway and into the town meeting room. Rumor had it that the distinctively looking curved wooden table the committee was sitting at in the movie, as well as the mini grandfather clock hanging on the wall, were still both there to this day. I had to see for myself…
CD in front of the famous car ferries.
The Town Hall hallway
I was just a little apprehensive as I laid my hands on the door handle. I’m sure they omitted Town Hall from the tour because the people working inside didn’t need crazy JAWS fanatics walking up and down that hall all day long, but CD and I didn’t care. We were going in for a look. If we ended up on page four of the Vineyard Gazette, so be it. We made it all the way to “Amity”! In for a penny, in for a pound! We smelled blood in the water and nothing, and nobody, was stopping us from getting into that meeting room. “Can I help you?” was the question as soon as we walked in. CD turned to stare at the wall, I chose my sneakers to focus on. I was unprepared for the fight. “Um…uh…” I cut bait. We were going to get thrown out. “Um, no, we’re just, uh, looking around.” Suddenly and unexpectedly we received a warm smile (and from a town office worker no less!). “You JAWS guys?” she asked. “Uh-huh”, I eloquently answered. “Meeting room’s open–help yourselves!” she said. We were in! Walking through that cramped hallway I hadn’t felt that giddy since they sat Peter Benchley at the table next to Ali and me at the old Judson Grill in Manhattan. As we walked into the meeting room we were met by two very large, and very serious security type looking dudes. I opened my mouth to say something that I assume would have been stunningly nonsensical when the bigger of the two said “JAWS?” I again answered “Uh-huh”. “Help yourselves,” he smiled. And there…it…was…that same curved wooden table, almost 45 years later. CD was staring at the wall again, but this time with total elation. On the wall was the same grandfather clock, hanging proudly, keeping perfect time–but at the same time looking like it’s time had stood still.
We’ve reached Mecca! The meeting room with original table and clock!
After Town Hall we decided to hop the bus and head back to the ferry, stopping at another waterfront favorite for a couple of beers to celebrate our victory. I was thrilled to finally have taken the JAWS tour, even happier that my brother was there to experience it with me, and tickled that the whole afternoon took place practically in my own backyard. Martha’s Vineyard is a lovely place and a great escape for an afternoon, which we do a few times a year, but it’s a little more bustling and crowded for my taste, so the ferry ride home to nearby Cape Cod was a welcomed one.
Chief Brody walking to town
I feel like I’ve been here before…
It should be noted that if you want to see other scenes outside of the Edgartown JAWS tour you’ll need your own transportation, which you can rent very easily as you get off the boat. Menemsha is a little fishing village, and looks very much the same as it did when Captain Quint tied the Orka up there. If you’d like to see Chief Brodie’s house you’ll have to drive over to nearby Vineyard Haven, or if you’d like to sit on the same stone that Hooper sat on in front of the graffiti painted billboard then you’ll have to head over to the farthest point west o
the Vineyard, to Aquinnah. But most importantly, if you’re planning a Cape Cod getaway and you’re interested in having an adventurous JAWS afternoon–from watching the film on the big screen to purchasing discounted ferry and JAWS tour tickets–find an innkeeper who shares your passion for JAWS–which beckons this innkeeper to finish the story up with a Quint quote: “You all know me…you know how I earn a livin!” Make the Lamb and Lion Inn your launching dock to all things JAWS.