At Desilu, finishing touches are being added to the south western community, built solely for this film, called The Fortune. Mike Nichols is the director. This set has taken many months to build, and is located on the footprint of Stalag 13, exactly where the iconic camp used to stand.
The same construction crew that built this village also helped us earlier with the cantina fort that had a rotted ladder. They were kind enough to build us a new one!
Today I’m gathering information on this production. The film stars Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson. To remain hidden, yet still see the set, we determine that a large grassy hilltop will give us the best advantage. It is impossible to get caught here, even if we’re seen, since we can run in any direction and hiding places are abundant. Like some Vietnam set.
This hilltop has very deep grass, tall trees, sand-paper plants, ohh… and sprinklers. We find where the spinkler system turns on, a major plus when it’s hot out.
This is a man-made hill top. The grass is so deep in certain spots, that we spring over it like leaping deer. Otherwise you just sink underneath it. On one leap, after ascending to my highest peak, I sink to my lowest low, I completely disappear…literally!
This hill has swallowed me whole. I land 15 feet inside it, on my rear end, in some enormous cavern. Jimmy turns around and I’m no where to be found. We were just speaking a minute ago. Poof …no more.
I now realize that this grass we play on sits on top of a wooden rotting structure and this entire place is fabricated. This garden of eden set “above” is supported by a frames that severely rotted termite infested wood. I’m stuck below the surface and “I can’t get out!”
Tree roots dangle above me, back-lit only by the hole that my body just punched. The underbelly of this organic studio prop has gobbled me into its version of studio hell. Heaven above, hell below…
The grass fixes itself like nothing happened. I barely see light. Jimmy has no idea about my dilemma or where I went. This sucks!
I shout for Jimmy relentlessly… but to no avail. I would not be surprised if I find skeletons down here from other missing kids.
I have no way to climb out. I’m in quite a predictament. Finally, Jimmy hears my shouts, but helping me will require a rope and he himself could fall in if this collapses any more. He talks into a hole in the earth, which is where I’m located.
We decide to ask for help from the people preparing The Fortune set. Jimmy enlists men with tools, ropes and ladders, who are more than willing to help. I sit in silence, in my hole. Dirt begins to fall inside from an already weak ceiling.
That’s just great, I think, as I wonder my fate. Mom always tell me, “Be careful Donnie!” Now look at me.
I hear lots of talking… Jimmy has recruited a small army to rescue me. The show stops preparing the movie set village for filming and shifts its focus to help me.
Finally, my tiny hole has been discerned. A man with a helmet and harness on… and a flashlight, stares inside. I say “Hello.”
“Oh… it’s you,” as men gather above and laugh downwards. Next, Bam! Down comes an extension ladder and up pops a teenager. I climb out and see that everyone on the set was dialed in to my rescue… I exit to a slight applause.
Studio transportation has a crew cab parked down below, they brought the ladder over. They have all seen me here before. They remember me filming my movie on western street, a few months back. Heck, it was their rolling phone that we used daily at my old saloon fort… to cast women and order pizza. I’m like crew.
Some of these guys, like Charlie, the Manson look-a-like, and me, have even gotten high together. I am handed an ice cold Hawaiian Punch by a pony-tailed Teamster. We all have a real good laugh and go back to our business.
The crew goes back to being a film crew and I go back to being me…
It took a village for this rescue… a studio village.
I feel… Almost Famous.
Above: Base of hill that I disappeared into.
The road in the above picture is located at the base of the my hilltop…
Below: This is where that road ends up… it was once the site of Stalag 13…
Now this road drops you off at the set for Warren Beatty’s latest show… The Fortune (below)
Below: View from the top of this hill, facing Baldwin Hills.