Well, this place around the block from me, sure is active. Day and night, what a cool hobby I am developing. Everyday, I keep tabs on this backlot that presents itself in all its glory.
Sounds, smells, and lights punctuate themselves as you walk along the studio’s fenceline. It seems that peep holes exist every 10 feet or so, in the old green fence. Most people settle for this tease, not daring to challenge the Trespassing and Loitering Forbidden by Law signs mounted by each tempting peep hole.
That ploy worked for a long time, and I obeyed the posted signs. But, my life has become entirely altered. A complete disregard of rules by yours truly, has opened up a pulsating, adventure laden lifestyle that has become compulsively addicting.
Even at school, it’s as if I’m not present. My mind is always focussed on some show, some set, or some chase, on some backlot. I live it, I dream it, I sleep it and wake up to it.
What amazes me is that I am the only kid around who takes it to this level.
Jimmy is my best pal and he often enjoys the same stuff, yet, he is more compliant than I am. His parents are a bit more do-gooders. Jimmy’s dad is a teacher. He is scholarly. He hands out pencils on Halloween. My dad is an ex fireman and thinks this MGM thing is pretty cool.
“Just don’t get hurt” is how my family sends me off. Dad likes my updates on television shows and the sets that I hang out on. When I hear a “NO,” I often disregard and wonder why it can’t be “YES.”
Tonight, filming is taking place. You can’t miss it… even the tops of these old massive euclyptus trees are illuminated. Lights pointing off into space. This normally pitch- dark area is extremely active tonight, inviting Jimmy and I on another adventure of unknown origin.
“Let’s do it” we utter to ourselves. The next thing we know, we are over the fence and checking out this very active set from, once again, the church steeple in German village.
This is just like last week, when I was sneaking onto the Medical Center set. I am thinking, this may be that show again. I mention that possibility to Jimmy. We watch the show on TV for its use of the backlot.
This view is out of the church window, second story. It often has a machine gun protruding from it and blank ammo shells litter the floor.
The area that is green is the area that is being filmed tonight. You can’t quite see it, but, that is the Esther Williams pool set or as we call it… The Bewitchin’ pool, from the very last Twillight Zone ever.
We can see a police car with its lights on, parked alongside the pool. We think it’s for the show and not for us, since we have not been seen. But we need to get closer, so we become very ambitious.
We actually formulate a plan basesd off how this set is arranged. We exit the lot, only to reappear right behind this park setting scene.
We climb in at a chain link fence, just behind the pool and the colonial mansion. But, we must be really slick because someone lives in this house we are climbing into.
It is the caretaker’s house; a family lives inside, complete with a little dog. this place is occupied 365 days a year. But tonight, the adjacent garage will provide us with a rooftop to peer through the tree branches and down on this set.
Here we are on some guy’s garage, I think to myself, but we see the police car clearly. It has NYPD on it, and a black man is walking and talking to a white lady. He appears to be the star. Sprinklers water the grass behind them as the camera picks all this up. Spinklers, walking, talking, police lights flashing. This repeats itself with just the slightest variations, as time slowly spins.
The lighting is mesmerizing and it sedates us. We imagine all the shows that filmed here, prior. Decades worth, still going strong. We are very comfortable, trippin’ out, as a pesky dog starts barking.
We’ve been had by a two pound dog. We jump down and run over to the fence, chased by little fluffy mutt. An old man shouts… “Get out of here!” from his porch, and we oblige.
But not before another backlot adventure gets chalked up. Our confidence is through the roof, literally. Day or night, this place never stops.
By the by, that blackman we see, is Richard Roundtree … also known as… SHAFT.
We were not sure what this show was, until the next day, when I found this sheet. It is the pilot and has not been on TV yet. Shaft was big at the box office and feature sequels also transpired. It starts the beginning of blacks as heros in movies and TV.
All stories written and lived by Donnie Norden
Edited by DQ