Bill and Ted’s Legacy Forever Linked to San Dimas

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Actors Alex Winter, left and Keanu Reeves starred in the 1989 time-travel comedy “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” that took place in San Dimas. Artwork: Evan Solano

By Brian Birmingham

When goofy teen movie “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” hit theaters in 1989, the comedy of errors carried San Dimas with it into American popular culture, but now that the duo has reappeared in last summer’s “Bill & Ted Face the Music,” their connection to the city is getting a closer look.

A large Bill & Ted mural hangs prominently in High Point Brewery. A juice bar and cafe on San Dimas Avenue is called Most Xcellent. And the phrase “The Adventure Continues” was utilized in official city literature for San Dimas’ 50th birthday in 2010.

Yet some residents, and even City Council Members, believe San Dimas can do more to welcome Bill & Ted further into San Dimas’ rich heritage. 

At the City Council meeting on July 28, 2020, a marketing professional called in and encouraged the city to capitalize on San Dimas’ prominence in the Bill & Ted franchise.

“This is free publicity–to do nothing would be a massive missed opportunity to bring in new visitors and generate revenue for local businesses,” the caller said.

The caller offered suggestions such as adopting the iconic phrase “Be excellent to each other” as the city’s official motto or erecting a statue to the dynamic San Dimas duo in the city.

San Dimas’ history is vast, rich and distinct from other cities in Los Angeles County. It formed during the Santa Fe Railroad-triggered land boom of the late 19th century, grew to prominence in citrus agriculture, retains an “old west” aesthetic, and recognizes its Native American heritage from people who inhabited modern city limits more than 8,000 years ago.

And yet, the most well-known and oft-quoted fact about the city has remained consistent for more than three decades: “San Dimas High School Football rules!”

The line is one of many made famous by “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which follows two San Dimas locals destined to save humanity through their music.

In the movie and the sequels that followed, San Dimas plays heavily into the setting, structure and climax of the story, which has created an innate association between the film and the city, the city and the film. More than 30 years after the adventure that started it all, the films’ slack-jawed, ever-stoked protagonists have been widely embraced as the unlikely heroes of San Dimas and stand prominently at the forefront of the city’s legacy. 

Bill and Ted have arguably become the most distinguished alumni of San Dimas High School.

“We’re proud of the connection,” said Dave Milbrandt, a San Dimas resident for 20 years and a teacher at San Dimas High School for 16. “It’s part of the culture here. We have [“San Dimas High School Football rules”] on our football shirts.”

“We’ve had people come in from out of town who want to see the high school. I’ve even ended up giving people tours,” said Milbrandt’s colleague Kim Lowary.

Lowary, an employee of San Dimas High School for eight years, shared similar experiences, even with fans traveling internationally to visit the school. 

“Random people–I’ve had people all the way from Australia–will walk in and say, ‘This is where Bill and Ted went to high school! Do you have any t-shirts?’ It happens all the time,” she said. “It’s fun that we have that connection.” 

Lowary went so far as to get Will Robbins, who plays Ox, deliverer of the “San Dimas High School football rules” line to attend a homecoming parade at the school. This year, Milbrandt and Lowary, along with some of their colleagues at Bill and Ted’s alma mater, took their pride in the city’s association with the films to new heights when they successfully led an effort, through outreach, social media and an “invite video” scripted by Milbrandt, to get the films’ stars, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, to give an excellent virtual address to the graduating class of 2020. 

The films’ connection with San Dimas now feels stronger than ever, and it’s an association embraced by the city, residents, and cast and crew alike.

“One of my favorite things ever is that the city now refers to itself at times using the Bill & Ted vernacular,” movie co-writer Ed Solomon said. “I love that. And I love that ‘Ox’ came to homecoming and did his ‘San Dimas High School football rules.’ And especially now that [co-writer Chris Matheson] and I have been with these characters for nearly 40 years, in a bizarre way I feel closer to San Dimas than many other places I’ve actually lived!”

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