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Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea

Watch this entire Truly CA episode: Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea by filmmakers Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer. (Running Time: 1:01:32)

Once known as the "California Riviera," the Salton Sea is now considered one of America's worst ecological disasters: a fetid, stagnant, salty lake, coughing up dead fish and birds by the thousands. "Accidentally" created by an engineering error in 1905, reinvented in the '50s as a world class vacation destination for the rich and famous, and then suddenly abandoned after a series of hurricanes, floods, and fish die-offs, the Salton Sea has a peculiar and bittersweet past.

This surreal and apocalyptic landscape is now home to a hardy group of eccentric hangers-on, who have carved out their own slice of paradise on the shores of this environmental train wreck. As if living on the banks of a man-made mistake wasn't challenging enough, the sea's most unique community now faces a new struggle. Residents are being threatened by the nearby megalopolises of Los Angeles and San Diego, which are poised to snatch up the agricultural run-off that barely sustains the sea. The fate of this so-called ecological time bomb and the community that surrounds it remain uncertain, as the Salton Sea might just dry up.

Narrated by cult-movie legend John Waters, Plagues & Pleasures is an epic western tale of fantastic real estate ventures and failed boomtowns, inner-city gang flight to white small town America, and the subjective nature of success and failure amidst the landscape of the American Dream.

[Original air date: Sun, Apr 15, 2007]

This program is not currently scheduled for broadcast.

Filmmaker Profiles:

Jeff Springer

Read more about Jeff Springer, filmmaker of Plagues & Pleasures and Leonard and the Mountain

Chris Metzler

Read more about Chris Metzler, filmmaker of Leonard and the Mountain, Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea, and Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone.


Plagues & Pleasures: Crew & Credits

Directed and Photographed by
Chris Metzler & Jeff Springer

Narrated by
John Waters

Produced by
Chris Metzler

Edited by
Jeff Springer

Associate Producer:
Heather Carawan

Identity Design:
Dave Puketza

Motion Graphics:
Tyson Fitzgerald
Josh Kurz
Chris Metzler
Dave Puketza
Mary Rowe
Jeff Springer

Additional Photography:
Brett Dodd
Patrick Michael Dolan
Josh Kurz
Curtis Peterson

Offline Editing Facilities provided by Evil Twin Productions

Online Editing:
Shirley Gutierrez - KQED
Heather Weaver - BAVC

Truly CA Series Producer:
Rachel Raney

Original Music by
Friends of Dean Martinez:
Bill Elm
Andrew Gerfers
Mike Semple

Music recorded at Airole Way Recording Studios

Music available by Aero Recordings

Sound Design:
Scott Hirsch

Re-recording mixing:
Paul J. Zahnley, CAS
Disher Music & Sound

Narration recording:
Bob Bragg
Producers Video

DVD and Website Design:
Olya Lyubchenko

Legal Counsel:
Steven Paul Mark, Attorney at Law

International Producer's Representative
Roco Films

Educational & TV Distribution:
The Cinema Guild

Home Video Distribution:
New Video/Docurama

Archival footage sources:

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour
Footage courtesy of Paul Brownstein Productions
All rights reserved.

Palm Seas
Peterson Productions Inc.
Toronto/Vancouver/Los Angeles
(800) 665-6920

Burrud Productions
The Cabazon Tribe of Mission Indians
CNN News Archives
The Estate of Sonny Bono
Holly Corporation
Imperial Irrigation District
KFMB -- San Diego
KGTV -- San Diego
KMIR -- Palm Springs
Prelinger Archives
United States Department of Fish & Wildlife
United States Archives

Archival photo sources:
Michael Ochs Archives (at

Coachella Valley Historical Society
Desert Sun
Fresno Bee
Imperial Valley Press
Los Angeles Times
Milt Friend
Riverside Press-Enterprise
San Diego Union Tribune
Salton Sea Authority
Salton Seafarer
University of Redlands
United States Department of Fish & Wildlife
United States Bureau of Reclamation

Music courtesy of:
"Long Train Runnin'"
written by Tom Johnston
published by Warner-Tamerlan Publishing Corp. (BMI)
performed by Sonny & Cher

written by Dave Lachance
published by Anaba Pacific (SOCAN)
performed by Friends of Dean Martinez

written by Bill Elm & Woody Jackson
published by Tastin' The Plastic (BMI)
performed by Friends of Dean Martinez

Funding & Support provided by:
Bay Area Video Coalition
Pacific Pioneer Fund
Environmental Media Fund
Johnson & Widdifield Charitable Foundation
HBO Producers' Award -- Savannah Film Festival

Special thanks to:
Anthony, Dave, Lynda, & Tim Metzler
Olya Lyubchenko, Michelle Quirmbach & Todd Springer

Produced in association with KQED.

This doc was produced by Chris Metzler and Jeff Springer, who are solely responsible for its content.

C 2006, TILAPIA FILM L.L.C. All rights reserved

Inspired by and in memory of a man who knew his water issues.
Dave Metzler 1947-2003

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