Vamping: The forgotten film shot in Buffalo in 1983

By Steve Cichon | | @stevebuffalo

BUFFALO, NY – Buffalo welcomed plenty of Hollywood in the early 1980s.

Welcome to Buffalo, 1980s style. Still from the film Vamping (Buffalo Stories archives)
Welcome to Buffalo, 1980s style. Still from the film Vamping (Buffalo Stories archives)

“Hide in Plain Sight,” starring James Caan, was shot here in 1979 and released in 1980. In 1982, Goldie Hahn and Burt Reynolds spent some time in Buffalo’s Parkside neighborhood shooting “Best Friends,” and also watching history at the Aud — both were in attendance the night Wayne Gretzky scored a hat trick shattering the NHL record for goals in a season.

The most celebrated film ever shot in Buffalo, ‘The Natural,” was shot with much fanfare during the summer of 1983 and released the following year. Buffalonians celebrated that film’s 30th anniversary with the same level of hoopla a few years back.

But while Redford, Close, Brimley and the crew were here shooting a baseball flick, an actor just as well known in 1983 — “Dallas” star Patrick Duffy — was in town shooting a music flick.

Buffalo scenery in “The Natural” is much celebrated. War Memorial and All-High Stadiums, the old Parkside Candy at Main and West Oakwood, The Central Terminal, The Ellicott Square Building, and a handful of other locations are seen and immediately recognized by millions of fans of that epic picture.

But you might consider the Buffalo scenery in “Vamping” even better. It’s a look at every day Buffalo. It reflects the grittiness of a city in the throes of factory shut downs, economic crisis, and an identity crisis as well.

In the same way the driving scenes and beauty shots on Kojak show New York City as it was in the mid-70’s, and the same sort of shots show us Los Angeles in the mid-60’s on Dragnet, Vamping’s scenes are a great snapshot in time in Buffalo.

The Buffalo Stories studios recently dug up an old VHS copy of Vamping in our archives and digitally remastered it as best we could. Here are some stills showing some of the great Buffalo scenery in Vamping. We’ve also loaded this entire film onto YouTube, only because as far as I can tell, the film is not available for purchase anywhere… And I think many folks would enjoy seeing our city as it was in 1983.

Watch the film:

While now it seems to be the film that time has forgotten, Buffalo News Critic Jeff Simon filled the front page of “Life & Arts” with a look at “Vamping,” starring Duffy supported by a large contingent of Buffalo talent on the screen and on the crew.

“While Robert Redford and one of the finest assemblages of acting talent in current film were all over the city and environs filming the $25 million film “The Natural,” (local film director Frederick King) Keller and star Patrick Duffy … were scrambling around filming on a budget that wouldn’t pay for the gasoline in Redford & Co.’s Winnebagos.”




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Steve Cichon

Steve Cichon is a proud Buffalonian helping the world experience the city he loves. writing about the people, places, and ideas that make Buffalo unique and special. The storyteller and historian has written six books, worn bow ties since the 80s, and is the News Director at WECK Radio. A 25 year Buffalo media veteran, Steve's contributed more than 1400 Buffalo History stories to The Buffalo News, worked at WIVB-TV, Empire Sports Network, and spent ten years as a newsman and News Director at WBEN Radio. He's also put his communication skills to work as an adjunct professor, a producer of PBS documentaries, and even run for Erie County Clerk. Steve's Buffalo roots run deep: all eight of his great-grandparents called Buffalo home, with his first ancestors arriving here in 1827.