Uptown Saturday Night…Chapter 38

Something is going on at Brownstone street at Lot 2. Fresh from some hair raising security disturbances, Jimmy and I cautiouly move about, as we watch set decorations prep the length of the street. Unlike the usual props and decor, these artists are making the street a bit ghetto-like. We watch from above the iconic alley that has an entrance to this slum. There are three streets that that turn into this alley.

Wrappers litter the sidewalk, graffiti is being painted on the fake brick walls, a shoe polish stand sits on the curb, along with a newspaper stand, next to a corner street light. This is your standard set dressing for this set. The light poles are stored behind this street. They wait patiently in between parts, or roles, I know this because I hang out inside the storage area with them now and again. It’s like a toy shead.

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Jones Market-Set decorations for Uptown

We are not sure what show we are getting ready for. We do know that this set will have a security guard, the term known around here as a set watch. His job will be to watch out for … me!

We leave, knowing that when a set is decorated, whether it’s fancy or trashy, it will be accompanied by a badge. This trash is a Hot Set, which in Hollywood terminology, means it can not be touched. It’s ready to shoot.

This set will require daily surveying, since I don’t have call sheets on it, yet. Fortunately, we have peep holes that look straight down Brownstone. This way, less risk is involved and we will make our trespasses count. It’s been dangerous here lately…

What do you know… The next day, while looking down the street through our little hole, we see Al Black, the guard who has been after me, hot and heavy, lately, patrolling on foot. We are on the sidewalk, on the legal side of the fence. We call to him. He gladly comes over to talk, as he boosts himself up to a higher part of the fence in order to look over.

We casually pick up the conversation, like none of those hair-raising, security driven incidents even happened… like a forgiving mother. He is giving us the advance, like a walking call sheet.

Jimmy and I conclude: He is luring us into a trap!

Al tells us it is a “Sidney Poitier movie, with Bill Cosby,” then tells us the title. He gives us the shoot date and practically gives us an invitation to… Come on over.

Well, we do. Not to see him, of course. We take the bait, alright, but we will circumvent the traps. Jimmy and I joke, as we make our way back to the alley set. What if we get chased and have to run in front of the Panavision cameras for our escape?… “Remember to wave to the stars! We giggle, as we make our way to the set. Stranger things have happened.

It is day one of a One Day Shoot, on these Brownstone scenes.

We arrive and a cab is parked at the curb. Upon closer look, we see that it’s none other than Bill Cosby, driving the cab. Soon, we observe dialogue taking place between the two big stars, Poitier and Cosby, but we can’t quite make out the words. We can only watch from buildings across the way, so, we substitute our silliness, instead. Ironically, we can see the high school from the famous movie, The Blackboard Jungle, from this vantage point. It is a wonderful movie that we love to watch over and over, when it pops up on Ben Hunter’s matinées.

Sidney, along with Vic Morrow, play troubled students, Glenn Ford is the new teacher in town. That building still has a Public Library sign above it, last used in Soylent Green. We wonder what it must seem like for Sidney, who filmed that show in 1955. In 1965, Sidney filmed a Patch of Blue on the exact sidewalk that he stands on now. This is so surreal, we think, as we use our imaginations to relive those moments… just as Sidney probably does, himself, when he returns to these well-known sets. We can almost feel time warp itself into a different space, as it entwines the past into the present. It feels like a time machine.

It is hard to put the pleasure and satisfaction of this feeling, into words… it is like living a dream. It is as if we are skipping a stone on a pond and where it stops is where you’re at… like the wheel of fortune. Or, perhaps like opening the middle of a history book, and watching it come to life.

1955, 1965, 1973… its all here, on these wind swept streets just below us.

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This would’ve ended up being a boring day, if it hadn’t been for our time tripping. No action today! We are getting spoiled!

But, there is a caterer and, yes, we are hungry, but guess who we spot off to the side?… Al Black. As if he is expecting us, he sits in a doorway on a folding chair… obviously waiting for something more than a meal.

We take it all in, realizing this show may be too dangerous to eat on. Some cab driving scenes are being filmed, as Big George pays a visit to the set on a golf cart. Al and George now collaborate, and we take advantage of this down time to make our exit. But first, while they gab, we grab. Teamster lunch has begun, always a half hour earlier than crew, because drivers start earlier than the rest of the folk. A specially prepaired lunch awaits us, we quickly assemble a to-go box. We are becoming addicted not only to these lots, but the food this environment contains. We look over our shoulders while stuffing this styrafoam container to the maximum. With the coast clear of security, Jimmy yields to temptation and grabs a piece of choclate cake as we disappear through adjacent doorways

We weave our way through back through the various labyrinthine web of alleyways and exits, alongside parked movie vehicles, always staying just out of view. But, we want a grand exit, so we fandangle our way, behind buildings, to a point where we can climb out safely. We want to be seen now, by MGM security so we climb an old section of fence that you can sit on top of. We wait and sure enough, seconds later our opportunity presents itself… We yell “See You Later” to the two guards who would just love the title of Top Hunter… having captured “The Most Wanted.”

They are too far to do anything. They simply stare, with a befuddled look, as we shout, wave and exit.

It was very nice of Al to feed us all the information needed to have this memory. The stiches left a nice scar from the last time we talked at the fence…anyways, plenty more food where that came from. Stay tuned!

All stories written and lived by Donnie Norden
Edited by DQ

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