This production company is shifting backlots this evening, leaving MGM’s NY Street for Desilu’s Chicago Street, right across town. You’d have no trouble finding the place… The Tommy Gun blasts from the Untouchables TV series are still echoing through whatever is left of that set. But now, we will have a color version… (and as you’ll see in the next post, let’s just say, the colors become quite vivid!) Talk about Technicolor!
Last night at MGM, filming concluded with scenes at Brownstone, as well as MGM’s famous alley. The scene was being filmed as we arrived on the backlot from school. It was a set that had just been created… a hospital exit. As we snuck into earshot, an actor with a very recognizable face was standing in the alley, as the dialogue was being filmed… his name is Sylvester Stallone.
This tight alley set is a challenge, in terms of sneaking logistics. The sheer narrowness reduces our scope of movement and limits our escape options. Sure enough, we see Big George walk out of the very doorway we are sizing up as a hide out spot. Bob Coleman is here also; we’ve spotted our version of the Untouchables. Elliott Ness is wearing an MGM badge.
Informants are descending all around… suddenly, we feel like we are in the haunted forest in The Wizard of Oz, with vultures coming down to get you from all directions. With just a knowing glance to each other, we know what we need to do… we will cut right through the filming set by busting through the same doorway Stallone is now in front of… But we will have to be patient. When will he move? It’s all about waiting. And peeking through doorways to make our next move… We mentally will him to just look the other way! He’s not even a household name yet. Rocky is still a year away. Yet, our fate at this moment depends on him.
It’s now a house of mirrors… which doors are real and which ones aren’t? Which ones are manned and which ones are clear? There are no side street exits here. Only doors. And more doors. And very tall walls. And guards—which doors are they hiding behind?
This scene is where Capone becomes the ringleader after a tenure of serving as right hand man to Johnny Torreo “The Fox.” By this time, bootlegging is already big business and beware the moonshine merchants who refuse to “negotiate!” Let’s just say, bad things will happen. This is supposed to be the scene that nearly finishes off Torrio. Frank Nitti, played by Stallone, is next in line as chief officer. But, we’re just here to see some gun shooting!
Unfortunately, it looks like there will be no shooting tonight. Just guards and doors. Door number one, Bronco Bob. Door number two, Big George. Door number three, Stallone… Lets make a deal!
Looks like the crew has called Stallone over to talk about the scene. Go… Now! We bolt. Brian, Danny and I dart along the wall, as if we had synchronized our big move, to the door where Stallone was standing. As we enter, we find a huge wardrobe inside. After gathering our whereabouts, we see that this was once an old “bank” in some other movie feature. It smells like a vintage clothing store. “There is a box of hats on table!” Danny says.
We busy ourselves in here for quite a while, trying on hats and scarves, like a bunch of ladies. Danny tests out a black gangster-type Fedora hat and models around with it; he droops it down over one eye and comes toward us with an expression like he’s gonna shoot us. Then we all bust up laughing so hard, it’s a wonder they don’t hear us. Meanwhile, I am modeling around with a fur coat, speaking with a British accent… How do you do Madame? Would you like a spot of tea? While Brian rummages through old pins. Can’t imagine what he wants with those, but he’s weird that way. Looks like this is the highlight of the night.
We wear our new stuff while walking home. This is now the very next day after walking home with the burned up dummy head under my arm. The other kids are carrying Pee Chee folders. What must they think…
We relish our treasures and feel very pleased with ourselves. George and Bob can explain where the stuff went. We consider our goodies as something of a consolation prize, since filming has been scheduled for the next day at Desilu.
As we always do, we move surreptitiously through the lot, in costume, and climb out by Maureen’s apartment. I was hoping to impress her with my grown up bootlegger clothing… Oh well.
“See you at Desilu after school tommorow” is cordially how we end this evening.
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…
Edited by Donna Quesada