A ‘Breaking Bad’ fan’s dream: Watching the finale with a crowd in Albuquerque

The city of Albuquerque has become a popular tourist attraction due to the success of Breaking Bad, and on September 29 Sun writer Taylor Bern attended a showing of the finale there—along with 600 others.

I’m shirtless in a foyer at the Hotel Albuquerque talking to The Candy Lady about her blue crystal meth treats and the sex sweets section of her shop. This isn’t why I came to Albuquerque, but it feels right.

Two weeks ago I realized work would take me to the fake meth capital of the world the same weekend as the series finale of Breaking Bad, the AMC series that has garnered a legion of devoted fans and spawned a local cottage industry of show-related businesses.

The majority of the series, which aired its 62nd and final episode Sunday, was shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The homes and businesses are now tourist attractions that you can visit on the ABQ Trolley’s BaD Tour or with any of several local tours.

I changed my plans to stay an extra day after UNLV football’s 56-42 victory at New Mexico on Saturday night and attend the city’s biggest watch party. I wanted to witness the end in the place where it all began.

On Saturday and Sunday I spent most of my free time driving around the Duke City in full geek mode. I ate breakfast in Walter White, er, Mr. Lambert’s seat at Denny’s, got flipped off by a guy at Tuco’s hideout and decided it would be a step too far to run my rental car through the Octopus car wash. Still, it was an A-1 day.

One couple visiting the White family house at the same time as myself and another reporter was in town from Virginia. The woman who lives there—a retired couple has lived in the house since the 1960s—came out and asked everyone where we were from. She was friendly because all we wanted were photos from public property, not like other visitors who have tried to sneak into the backyard or throw a pizza on the garage roof.

Taylor Bern couldn't visit Albuquerque without visiting the iconic White house.

The scene Sunday night for the watch party at Hotel Albuquerque was a fanboy’s dream. Local artists and vendors had tables full of merchandise, including a pair of “What Would Jessie Do?” panties, and the bars served up Bad-themed drinks.

About 600 people filled a ballroom for the free viewing and another 150 or so filled the adjacent bar for the VIP section. I dropped the $10 for VIP and a guaranteed seat, although I still had to fight for space. These people were not messing around.

A lovely stranger at the bar suggested I order two drinks at a time because of the long wait. My first Crystal Blue Persuasion (Don Q Cristal Rum, Blue Curacao, fresh lime juice and vanilla bean syrup, finished with edible flowers) went down fast so I could have a free hand. I sped through the second by choice.

I discussed Lobos athletics over Marble Brewery’s Walt’s White Lie ale with an artist who sold me a print featuring Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny wearing Hazmat suits in place of the show’s protagonists. Albuquerque wants New Mexico football to succeed but it’s a really a basketball town, he said. Sounds familiar.

There was so much going on I almost forgot why I was there in the first place. However, once the show started, nothing else mattered for the next 75 minutes.

I was a little worried about watching a show with this many people, but no one in the crowd needed to tell anyone else not to talk. We were all dialed in, though it wasn’t exactly a quiet experience.

You don’t appreciate just how funny the show is until a room full of people all laugh together right on cue. And multiple deaths drew loud cheers from Albuquerquians who were sad to see the show end, but happy to get their fictional pound of flesh on the way out.

When the credits rolled, I was still running on adrenaline and a few specialty cocktails. I loitered around the shops and bought three bags of blue crystal meth candy, the treat that saved Debbie Hall’s shop The Candy Lady, which is also her pseudonym.

Hall has been in business since 1980, but the recession pushed her to the brink. That’s when she became probably the most famous local entrepreneur to profit off the show by selling $1 dime bags of blue rock candy that now make up about a quarter of her total sales. She said she started in the sweets business making adult-themed chocolates and showed me a few recent cakes. They were anatomically correct.

After most people cleared out, I lingered and kept peppering Hall with questions. She was also selling Heisenberg hats and T-shirts, so I tried those on (remember: shirtless) while the few remaining patrons looked on in puzzlement at the pale, gangly guy in the corner (remember: cocktails).

The hat cost me $45 and I have no idea if I’ll ever wear it again. It wasn’t the smartest purchase, but I spent all weekend caught up in the excitement of being in this city surrounded by people who turned something fictional into something tangible. I didn’t want it to end.

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