TV Show Cancellation Slows Tourist Traffic to Roslyn, AKA Cicely, Alaska


Associated Press Writer

ROSLYN, Wash. (AP) _ Cocoa, a chocolate-colored dog, walked slowly down Pennsylvania Avenue, past 100-year-old storefronts that television viewers around the world would recognize as part of fictional Cicely, Alaska.

But six months after CBS canceled the Emmy-winning television series "Northern Exposure," the main street of the mountain hamlet was deserted.

Cocoa ambled past KBHR, the fictional radio station where Chris rhapsodized about the meaning of life. His headphones are hanging over the microphone, the soundboard he philosophized from is gathering dust.

Cocoa paused before crossing First Street, then walked past Ruth Anne's General Store, where the front counter and some of the shelves of food are still marked off by yellow tape proclaiming them a "Hot Set," ready for filming.

At the height of the show's five-year run, thousands of tourists flocked to this community of 935 people, nestled in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains just 80 miles east of Seattle.

But no one but Cocoa wandered the streets this recent afternoon.

No tourists stopped in front of the mural at the Roslyn Cafe to take photographs. The cafe was closed and dark.

The Brick tavern, where Cicely residents gathered to have lunch or see their neighbors, was locked up. A sign announced, "Closed ... we ALL went fishing!"

Most of the stores were shuttered, and those that were open were empty.

Marianne Ojurovich, was busy setting up her Cicely Gift Shop in its newest location, the Northwestern Mining Co. building that was Dr. Joel Fleischman's office on the television show. His name is still painted on the front window.

"I'm having a ball," Ojurovich said, laughing.

She plans to open a "Northern Exposure" museum next spring, using the space that served as Fleischman's office and examining room to show off memorabilia she bought at the show's closing auction in a Seattle suburb.

"I have so much stuff!" she crowed. "I have Dr. Fleischman's driver's license from Cicely, Alaska, his beanie _ the prayer hat, I mean _ his banners for his university and all his doctor's plaques and papers. ...

"I got the juke box from The Brick, the mountain-goat head from Maurice's office. I even got the first phone Dr. Fleischman used in the first episode to call his girlfriend in New York to see if he could get out of his contract," she said.

"Northern Exposure" was about a New York City doctor who must repay the state of Alaska for financing his education by working four years in Cicely. Others in the cast played eccentric and free-spirited townspeople.

Ojurovich wouldn't say how much money she spent at the auction, just that she spent a lot.

"I was bidding to save something for Roslyn, so when visitors come, they'd have something to see," she said. "I felt that if we didn't have anything to offer them, once they stopped filming, they'd stop coming. I'm hoping now they'll come for the museum."

She has a storehouse full of relics from the show that she hopes to fit into the building. And she notes that one advantage of moving into a former television set is the rolling walls, which allow her to adjust room sizes to show off her treasures.

"The bidding was fast and furious because I was bidding against fans who just wanted one piece from the show," Ojurovich said. "I had someone from California push me to $1,000 for the big sign for Cicely. I told him, `I want to bring it back to Roslyn, and I will.'

"Would you believe he followed me all the way out here and asked if I'd sell it for $2,000?" she said incredulously.

She turned him down.

"Exposure" put Roslyn on the map, as "Twin Peaks" did for nearby North Bend in 1990.

The Alaska fable brought tourists eager to pick up souvenirs at the numerous new gift shops. Sales-tax revenues increased more than 300 percent, Mayor Jack Denning said.

"The cancellation has hurt us, no question," Denning said. "For five years, we budgeted $35,000 of their money every year and now we don't have that. That's quite a gap in our treasury," about $1.6 million this year.

There were hard times here before the town went Hollywood, since the last coal mine closed in the 1960s. What lies ahead? Denning has faith Roslyn will find a way.

"We've been here 108 years and no one's ever missed a meal," he said.

He's optimistic that Roslyn's untouched storefronts will attract another TV show or a movie.

"We're exposed now _ northern, southern, eastern, western, what have you," Denning said. "It'll just be a while before someone else decides to come back in.

"But they'll come."

The day Cocoa wandered through downtown, Sandy Rosecrans was bored stiff at Memory Makers, a gift shop next to the KBHR set.

"I've seen maybe 10 people all day. I think I made wages, and that's about it," she said.

The pace picks up on weekends, she said, and more of the stores open.

"Summertime is better," Rosecrans said. "It dies off after we get our first snow."