I love summertime. No school… no rules… lots of fun. I have had a prosperous couple of weeks constructing forts.
Although it is vacation time for kids, the backlot at Desilu is a working property, with employees clearing brush and taking measurements, in preparation for something big, it appears.
Trucks take men and materials back and forth from the main lot, which has the big stages, to the rustic old backlot. This operation is developing exactly where Stalag 13 recently stood. Also standing above the main lot, looking down, is the iconic Desilu water tower. The name DESILU still sits etched on its side.
My neighborhood pals, Jimmy, Danny, and Gerald, all want to visit these forts that have sprung up, practically overnight. Much the same way the production company across the way showed up, appearing overnight. We fit in perfectly and our timing is impeccable. Opportunities and resources exist like never before… at our finger tips.
The main gate on Ince is open when work takes place on the backlot. A lone ranger sits in a shack that is very similiar to the forts I have been working on. And… we both have phones.
We begin by climbing into Fort Cantina, a simple but slightly crude design stares back at my three guests. This is the lesser of my three studio offices. It is an improvement over what existed before, which was a dirty, filthy space. Color and comforts now replace emptiness. It is like a hippie pad.
Billy Jack is written in chalk everywhere on this lot… everywhere inside these buidings. I think to myself “hmmm… I need to see that movie. It must have been filmed here.” It wasn’t, on the backlot, anyway. And it kinda stinks also, so I don’t understand why it is written everywhere here.
Well, being as my friends today have already seen the Boystown job that Maureen and I did on the 4th, I can see that they are unimpressed by this paltry effort. It’s like moving from Malibu to the projects. The guys I am with today, are older by a couple of years and they all go to public school. They seem harder to please, anyway… as if they were too good or stupid or something!
Okay, one fort down, one to go, I think to myself… while still trying to impress my older friends.
We head towards a doorway in Mexico and pop out through a doorway in Texas. We approach the saloon. Ohh, the magic of Hollywood.
All these public school guys have been up here prior to the Catholic school boy remodel, done a couple of days ago. I am a bit worried that this fort may have been discovered, due to the phone cord leading up to it. Barry, as it turns out, did an extremely professional installation. He cleverly ran the wires roof top to roof top, making it difficult to trace, with out extensive climbing across rickety rooftops.
I push open the swinging saloon doors, as my older friends follow. We move props out of the way, that we purposely stacked to block the stairway, when we left last time. That signals to me that all is good upstairs. Step by step, we reach a working saloon, which is now located on the second floor. Careful not to stumble…
Like prohibition days… drinking activities, and yes… phone calls, take place now, upstairs, hidden out of view. You can never be to careful, after all. Elliott Ness has passed through this town before, enforcing drinking ordinances, by the barrel of a Tommy Gun.
My pals quickly size up the possibities this fort has to offer. We know it’s easy to escape, just jump. It has casting couches… actually, cots — even better.
Across the way, is a barn fully loaded with hay—stacked high and all over the floor. And it also looks like someone made a hay-bed. This can be used for auditions. Large hay stacks surround the front of this old barn, while some old farm tools and lanterns hang inside.
Dolly, the white horse, lived in this barn and the nearby farmhouse, in a color episode of Andy Griffith. Ronnie Howard would visit Dolly at this barn.
Bob Crane has a kissing scene in an episode, on this exact hay pile with Claudine Longet, in Hogan’s Heroes. It was filmed inside this barn. She is so pretty, and French, too… ooh la la. Bob seems to really like kissing scenes… in every episode, he is hanging a big wet one on some guest starlett… just sayin!
This barn will fit our needs perfectly, like a stage, but full of hay!
My associates and I talked, prior to inspection of this location, about possibly producing, and filming, our own films. Now is our chance.
Hole in the Wall Productions is officially open for business. We nod and smile accordingly. That puts us currently on the hunt for talent, and movie equipment. Scripts will be simple, we will only produce action movies. To start with, we need a movie camera and a plot.
“We would be foolish not to”, I continue on, “we have a bonafide office with a direct studio line that the studio pays for, and a backlot facility, loaded with sets and laden with movie props.”
If anything goes wrong, we just run. We can relocate our assets, later!
We are… The Real Deal.
I finish pumping out my presentation, and as fast as I spit it out, it gets full approval. Proudly, the board of older kids agree to work for me in my film company. The phone line seals the deal, I’m sure.
This will be our World Headquarters, upstairs, in a tiny saloon, located in the heart of this iconic backlot ghost town.
To close the deal and celebrate, I order a pizza from Chris’s Pizza. It is the priority number on this metal cased phone, with enlarged letters and numbers written in felt.
We spin the rotary phone and dial Chris… “yes we deliver.”
“Okay, we will take a large Pepperoni with four ice cold Cokes delivered to the Western Street saloon, located on the Desilu backlot on Ince Blvd.” I wait for a response…
“That’s one large pepperoni pizza and four cokes… Desilu western street saloon… 25 minutes!”
“Thank you we will be waiting.”
Eating has never been this easy! 25 minutes later, turning into our street, comes a white VW bug with its distinctive sound, kicking up a trail of dust. We walk outside as the delivery guy rolls to a stop, where horses normally get tied up, next to a drinking trough.
We exchange money for pizza and Coke as I exclaim proudly to the foreign Italian delivery guy, “remember this location… our show will be here for quite a while.”
He looks around, impressed, as I slip a dollar tip into his hand and wave farewell, “’till next time!”
The little VW drives away towards the exit, as I think to myself I have no show… but, I do have an office with a phone, so let’s get to work.
A short photo gallery, pertaining to the previous three stories begins now…
The photo above is of the Cantina fort viewed from Baldwin Hills.
Below, the arrow on the left points to the saloon on the corner, while the arrow on the right points to the Cantina location.
All stories written and lived by Donnie Norden…
Edited by DQ