Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Breaking Bad Brings the World to Burque

Giant Walt and Jesse Bronzes Enshrine the Meth Myth


Philadelphia has Rocky at foot of the Philadelphia Museum of Art staircase. Marilyn Monroe adorns the Palm Springs Art Museum. And now, through the generosity of Sony Pictures and Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan, larger-than-lifesized bronze sculptures of
icons Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) grace the
Albuquerque Convention Center, welcoming busloads of tourists for
years to come.

Gilligan commissioned the work from sculptor Trevor Grove and
donated the statues to the city. He and the cast want to express
gratitude and honor Albuquerque’s decade and a half of hospitality,
he says.

But Are They Burque?

It’s too late to ask if Burque wants to be represented by two beyond-notorious crystal-meth cookers and their murderous psycho gangster cohorts. It is what it is. The brilliantly executed six-year television show plus movie "El Camino" plus at least, if not more brilliantly acted, written and produced prequel has captured the global imagination. “Better Call Saul” is nominated for five Emmys this year alone, including Bob Odenkirk for Lead Actor and Rhea Seehorn for Supporting Actress. “Breaking Bad” entered the Guinness World Records in 2014 as the most critically acclaimed show of all time.

If you had doubts about the power of the anti-hero’s quest, the transformation of a Costco shirt-wearing chemistry teacher into the persona of a “say my name” drug lord, stop by the Breaking Bad Store in Old Town any day of the week between 10 am-6 pm, or “be the one who shops” 24/7 online. Over 500 people a day from literally all over the planet stream in. Most happen by, though the store is the last stop on the Breaking Bad bus tour. They are vacationers on their way to the Sunport, and they are locals looking for the perfect gift –
mitts and aprons for their home cook and dog swag for their best friend. Christmas ornaments, BB themed Monopoly, books, birdhouses, and locally cut beakers and jewelry. There’s even something special for crafters, with skeins of yarn in coded BrBa colors. And visitors can complete their Halloween décor with Walt and Jesse’s lightweight mock tombstones. Look at the guest book signed by visitors from Italy, Colombia, Canada, Ethiopia – everywhere – stop by to make an average purchase from $28-$150 each.

According to the City of Albuquerque’s Department of Cultural Services, Mayor Tim Keller credits the success of Breaking Bad with boosting the local film industry, bringing in $855.4 million in direct spend for fiscal year 2022, an increase of $228.9 million over fiscal
year 2021.

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

And now a new generation of BrBa enthusiasts is obsessing on the 15-year-old show. Shop co-owner Ed Candelaria explains that during the pandemic, the original fans re-binged the program, but now, their children are old enough to be allowed to watch it. So Gilligan and writer/fellow showrunner Peter Gould and cast have addicted this new generation to the adrenaline rush they conjured.

Shop Co-owner Marq Smith believes the story is essentially moralistic: a struggling high school chemistry teacher wanted to leave his family provided for after he is gone. “It’s a critique of the health care system, essentially,” he says. However, he adds, adding archetypal status to the storyline, as the tale of Walter White unspools, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

“It’s on Burque,” says jeweler and Zumba instructor Sarah Mackenzie about the idea of the sculptures. “I love it. They’ve brought a lot of money and attention to the city. Albuquerque has an underbelly. We need to recognize it. They took what they found. They have made intelligent television and show a lot of creativity.”

Super Fans Made This Happen

Breaking Bad super fans Smith and Candelaria opened their store in January 2021. “It’s the only one of its kind in the world,” says Smith. From their own collection, they developed the Heisenberg Museum and Photo Ops, with sets featuring virtually every BB and BCS character, so visitors can take photos with Jesse in the meth lab, with Saul Goodman in his office or with Gus at the Los Pollos Hermanos counter.

The museum is free, but to gain entrance visitors must run the merch gauntlet, a wall-to-wall assortment of licensed goods far beyond coffee mugs, shot glasses and tee shirts, although the store’s biggest seller is the Los Pollos Hermanos t-shirt. The shirt adorned with drug lord Heisenberg’s face is a close second. A knock-off of his hat is also available to complete the ensemble.

In addition to the made-in-Vietnam imported items, Smith says the store stocks the creations of local artists including cards, prints, jewelry and crafts of all kinds. “If you’re a local artist working in the Breaking Bad theme, we’ll look at your work,” he says.

Walt and Jesse statues photos by Rusty Rutherford.


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