The Last Word
Which place name is likely to be found at the end of an atlas's index? This surely must be Zzyzx (pronounced Zye-ziks) in California's Mojave Desert. This started life as a spa and health resort 'catering to the senior citizen' founded in 1944 by an American radio evangelist, Curtis Howe Springer. Springer was also a self-proclaimed but bogus medical doctor and Methodist minister. He wanted his resort to be 'the last word' (sic) in both luxury and the English language.
Springer promoted the resort on his religious Los Angeles-based radio show, and claimed his (artificial) mineral springs and special diet could cure everything, including hair loss! His tonics were, in fact, innocuous celery and carrot juices and herbal teas. Staying at the resort was gratis, but everyone was urged to give donations. In this way, Springer attracted much attention and built up a thriving business that lasted 30 years, despite the damning title bestowed upon him by the American Medical Association – 'King of Quacks'. Eventually, the government discovered he had built the spa on land he had never actually owned. In 1974 he was evicted, arrested for food and drug law violations, and spent several months in jail. He retired to Las Vegas and died in 1985. The land was reclaimed by the government, and now houses the Desert Studies Center of California State University.
Incidentally, Zzyzx is mentioned in one of crime writer Michael Connolly's novels, The Narrows, which features his world-weary LA sleuth Hieronymus 'Harry' Bosch; it is a suitably desolate location for some of the gritty action to take place. Whatever Springer's legacy may have been in terms of the health spa market, it cannot be denied that he knew how to coin a place name.