That’s Entertainment

After school today, Gerald and I are riding our bicycles around MGM Lot 1, visiting guard shacks that have friendly officers posted. Usually, these studio police officers stationed inside these boxes are polished in public relations. They don’t wear side arms, they greet you with a smile and get around the lot with an electric cart. I can easily out run these carts.

That differs from the nose to the grind stone approach that I deal with daily across the street on the backlot… it is like when Central Casting picks different characters for different roles. The men assigned to this detail are equipped with pistols and a 4 wheel drive Ford Bronco. Inside the jeep is a CB radio so reinforcements can be found quickly.

The security in a box guards are much cooler than the patrol officers, and we really appreciate and utilizetheir kindness. As we talk to them, we look over their shoulder for valuable studio information, posted all over the interior of these ancient shacks.

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Above: MGM’s East Gate

Today, at MGM’s East Gate, the legendary Ken Hollywood is on duty. We roll up and we  immediately feel at home as we realize just who is on duty…

He pulls out two pieces of paper and hands them to Gerald and I. Gerald is turning into my apprentice, a little me. He watches my methods and copies my approach to info gathering.

Ken Hollywood says to us, “two guys are coming out any minute and you will want their autographs.” He leaves it at that as people come and go at the studio’s main entrance and we chat with Ken… waiting for these somebuddy’s…

Minutes pass and a Rolls Royce slowly pulls up to the stop sign next to the guard shack. Ken nods to the driver. Right then Gerald and I realize who this somebuddy is… Fred Astaire!

He looks so dignified and classy behind the steering wheel, just like a scene from his movies. He stops as he sees us walk towards his driver side window. “Hello Fred,” I say, as his power window touches down. He nods, seeing the paper and pencil coming towards him and graciously accepts our autograph request.

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We stand silently as he signs two different copies. We thank him and I shake his hand as he tips his hat. I am in awe, and speechless, as he smiles and says goodbye and rolls off  gently into the sunset.

A wow moment… catch my breath!… I just met MGM’s biggest icon!

I realize I was not prepared with any questions since I was caught off guard… I am still not sure who the next somebuddy is going to be…

I’m floating on a cloud as an old Impala comes towards this same exit. I ignore this car since it is not eye-catching fancy, and I face Ken in his shack. Ken dips his head, as if to say “turn around!”

I look again and the somebuddy inside that Impala is none other than Gene Kelly. My heart flutters…

I love everything about him… I’ve seen all his movies so I am ready to ask some questions. As God would have it, Gene sees our pencil and paper and says, “let me pullover,” and he does. He stops out front of MGM’s main headquarters, the Irving Thalberg building.

He gets out and leans against his car, seemingly in no hurry at all. He signs as I ask my first question… “Mr Kelly, what was your favorite movie you ever did?” “Well”, as he hands me my paper that now has two of Hollywood’s biggest icons names attached, “I am going to surprise you, it’s not a musical.” And he pauses…

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In my head, I quickly run through his catalogue… which movies are not musicals? I have to pick between Pay or Die, made in 1950, or is it… And just as I am about to say the right answer, he says, The Three Musketeers!

I say “you were fantastic in that! It appeared that the sword was attached to your hand! You are so athletic… dancers are great athletes!”

Gene responds…”I love baseball, I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. I would have played minor league ball, but one thing led to another and here I am.” Gene shrugs his shoulders and smiles…

I am thinking as he speaks… I just saw him on Johnny Carson, and it came up that women around the world propose to him constantly… women he does not even know… I can see why.

I am admiring his prescence… his persona is so cool, calm and collected…

“Gene,” I now feel like he is my pal and so I call him by his first name… “I loved It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)especially when you danced with those huge trash can lids on your shoes”…

“Funny you say that, it was actually a very trying number, due to the size of those lids, and the three of us had to be in sync. Michael Kidd did a wonderful job choreographing that dance sequence.”

I continue on, “Me and my friends often sneak into the backlot and recreate your dances exactly where you performed them.” “We copy your Singing in the Rain number, or try to… singing and dancing with umbrellas when it actually rains” …sheepishly, I smile, as I look at the ground… “well, mostly we just splash in the puddles, just trying to sing and dance like you.”

As Gene hears this, he begins to smile affectionately, as only he can with that big broad legendary smile… we shake hands and bid each other a fond farewell…

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I am on cloud 9… I just met two of MGM’s biggest stars ever… Gerald and I race home… I tell my mom and show her these autographs. She is speechless, then says, “How do you do this?”

“I smile.” She knows…

I did not wash my hands… literally, for one week, at least!…and…Lot 2 will never be the same again, I belong here, I cherish being able to amuse myself, recreating famous scenes, meeting iconic legends, exactly where these scenes were performed… years and  even decades before… 

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

 

 

 

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