My favorite movie of all time is Coming To America. That, and Mrs. Doubtfire. The sudden death of Robin Williams honestly hit me harder than any other celebrity. My sister Stephanie has every line from Coming To America memorized, so when I flew to visit her in New York in 2010, we decided to fulfill a life-long prophecy. New York is home to many television city tours, like Gossip Girl and Sex & The City, but for some reason Prince Akeem’s adventures around Queens are completely underrated and unappreciated.
With a little help from Google, Steph and I found the exact filming locations, from Akeem’s rat-infested apartment to McDowell’s where he meets the love of his life, Lisa. But what seemed like a quick little day trip at first quickly turned into two hungry, tired, delirious, and freezing cold sisters roaming Queen’s Boulevard in the middle of the night — in the middle of December. Most of the sites were easy to find since they were actually in Brooklyn and relatively close to Steph’s apartment. It was finding McDowell’s that was a serious undertaking.
For starters, McDowell’s is in fact in the middle of Queens. Google provided no further details except that it was a Wendy’s on Queens Blvd. How many Wendy’s can there be on one street, right? WRONG. Of course we got off the subway on the wrong end of Queens Blvd. Every stranger we asked for directions looked at us like we were crazy for walking so damn far for a fucking Wendy’s. We marched on for miles and miles on one of the longest, sketchiest streets in New York.
Just when our legs were about to give out, we saw the florescent lighting of Wendy’s freckled face and red pigtails. We ran to the entrance with tears in our eyes, snapping pictures every step of the way. It was only right to promptly order a strawberry milkshake. Just like the one Darryl throws at Akeem and Semmi while they’re washing the windows in the parking lot.
We made a lot of connections to Coming To America during my week-long trip to New York. For starters, Steph took me to my first NBA game to see the Knicks — a subtle nod to Akeem’s awkward double date with Darryl, Lisa, and her sister Patrice. I’ll never forget that game because I got super drunk and paid $10 for a fucking foam finger. That shit should have cost $5 — MAX.
The comparisons continued to mount on. I almost stepped on a dead rat like the one in Akeem’s apartment. I ordered a hot chocolate from the restaurant Delicatessen to honor the band Sexual Chocolate. We even spotted a wedding dress in a shop window that looked like Lisa’s. Very puffy, very 80’s. I compiled all these photos into one mind-blowing Facebook album back in 2010. Now, nearly eight years later, with a sequel officially on the way, I think it’s appropriate to bring Coming To America back to life. Enjoy!