weather icon Clear

Desert dancer Marta Becket remembered by those she inspired

DEATH VALLEY JUNCTION, California — Artists aren’t the only ones who found inspiration in desert dancer Marta Becket.

California Highway Patrolman Robert Daharsh said a chance encounter at Becket’s Amargosa Opera House a decade ago completely changed his outlook on life.

Daharsh was one of about 200 people who gathered Friday in this near ghost town 95 miles west of Las Vegas to remember Becket, who died Jan. 30 at age 92.

The officer said he’d been patrolling the area for a couple of years but didn’t know much about the opera house until he responded to a late-night report of a car crashing into the building.

When he got there, he found the wrecked car empty in the middle of the street and a door smashed in on the side of the opera house.

Daharsh said he went inside the dark theater to investigate and was startled, then awestruck as his flashlight lit the faces of the Renaissance audience Becket had painted on the walls.

“I had no idea that, inside this white building I had driven past so many times, there was something so amazing just 20 feet away from me,” Daharsh said.

He said the experience opened him up to the world. It taught him to notice the people and the places around him more, and to wonder about the amazing things they might have inside of them, he said.

Becket staged her first show at the Amargosa Opera House on Feb. 10, 1968, about a year after she and her then-husband discovered the abandoned theater when they stopped to have a flat tire fixed.

Through the decades that followed, she regularly performed her own original productions, dancing and pantomiming in front of her hand-painted audience using the costumes and sets she made herself.

So many people turned out to celebrate her life on Friday that they couldn’t all fit inside the opera house. They crowded around the open doors to watch as Becket was saluted with speeches, stories and songs. Near the end of the almost two-hour ceremony, a light, windblown drizzle began to fall from the overcast sky.

Afterward, those in attendance filed through a small museum that just opened on the property to showcase some of Becket’s costumes and sketches.

Donna Lamm has been teaching dance classes in Pahrump for the past 40 years. She said she first met Marta in 1978 when the already-well-known dancer showed up at a recital by some of Lamm’s elementary-school-age students in nearby Amargosa Valley.

“I was just star struck,” Lamm recalled as she waited outside the opera house before Friday’s remembrance. “Somebody famous watching me? I couldn’t even talk.”

She had no reason to be nervous. Lamm said Becket was nothing but gracious and kind that day, and the two became fast friends, bound together by their love of the arts.

“I used to bring my dancers out here for performances,” Lamm said. “Whenever I came, I always brought her flowers.”

Contact Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com. Follow @RefriedBrean on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Small Business Saturday returns in Nye

Nye County will celebrate another year of Small Business Saturday, with Nye County commissioners formally declaring the event in 2019.

Nye County commissioner faces charges related to CARES Act

Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo turned himself in to authorities on charges he voted on CARES Act programs while he was benefiting from them.

Angel Trees out in Pahrump community

Thanksgiving has come and gone and the Christmas season is officially upon the community, bringing with it the opportunity for residents to help spread a little holiday cheer by participating in the Salvation Army’s annual Angel Tree program.

California Lottery

Because of early holiday deadlines at the Pahrump Valley Times, winning lottery numbers for the Wednesday night drawing of the California Super Lotto were not available but will be published in the Wednesday Dec. 2 issue with the results of Saturday night’s Super Lotto.

Turkey divan makes Thanksgiving leftovers divine

One of the best things about the Thanksgiving holiday is enjoying the wonderful leftovers. Now, I don’t know about your post-turkey-day turkey, but mine usually has no legs, or thighs but lots of leftover breast. If that happens to your turkey too, then you’re going to love this week’s recipe, Turkey Divan. We’ve got turkey, broccoli and mushrooms smothered in a cheesy creamy sauce, topped with crunchy, buttery breadcrumbs to make a classic casserole.

Pahrump’s Community Christmas Tree Lighting to be held virtually

The Thanksgiving festivities are at an end and the community is now turning its attention to the Christmas season, which for the town of Pahrump always includes the placement and lighting of the enormous Community Christmas Tree.

COVID surge leads to adjustments in Pahrump Justice Court operations

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to swell in the Silver State, Pahrump Justice Court is taking action now to curb any potential spread of the disease in its courts, which were shut down for two weeks earlier this year after an employee tested positive for the virus.

Murder suspect convicted in jury trial

The man arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of a child more than three years ago, was found guilty following a jury trial this week.