Come on in…
You could easily hear movies being made, and the wildest ones filmed on this end of the backlot…by my house. Combat blasted me out of my crib and I hit the ground running -at a very young age. I heard every lot 2 episode, every shot fired…ever. The war lasted TEN years, ratings were good. No one did war TV, and movies for that matter, like MGM in the 60’s. The gold bar standard to this day.
The Rat Patrol picked up where Combat left off, followed by Garrison’s Gorillas. Gunfire was the normal around here. In the seventies, chants of natives yelling “Kong Kong” could be heard. And yes, more gunfire. Even more spectacular, was to see these torched lit walls from outside the fences. This film was quite the operation. Of all the thousands of sets I’ve been on, Kong was the most special of all.
But wait… there’s more, Sgt Pepper followed and sweet rock tunes flowed through my window screens. Is that Billy Preston? yeah- thats him!
Earth, Wind & Fire- yep, that’s them.
Peter Frampton, Bee Gees…it’s like I’m backstage at my own home.
Heavy metal describes music, not machine guns, in the seventies….Finally, No More Vietnam War!
Protest music, such as Ten Years After “I’d Love to Change the World” was replaced by Disco. Alvin Lee and Peter Frampton were friends and their music is sensational. T.Y.A. stole Woodstock…
The bands behind the two biggest selling albums of all time are spending the summer on lot 2. Chips, the TV series, begins in this same year and films 3 episodes on my street. Officers Baker and Ponch have sped down this street several times, including the orangutan episode.
The house my dad is crouched with that dog later became our second home. We rented it out to a couple who both worked at MGM on Chips and we had MGM vehicles parked up and down the street, like my home is part of the studio. It was very cool.
I was on set for Hero at Large for the final ever grand explosion on the backlot, when I got home my mom said,” Donnie – did your hear that explosion- it shook the whole house?”
“I was there mom, it was at MGM, it’s a John Ritter movie…the guy in Three’s Company”
Lets just say this house has seen a lot of this studio’s history.
In the picture of my dad with that dog, there is a lot to talk about. Off in the distance are tall eucalyptus trees. To be precise, that’s where Esther Williams pool is located and the site of the fallen tree that created A Hole in The Fence. Yes the same hole my soon to come book is titled after.
You would see Kong’s walls in 1976. In 1976/77 I saw helicopters fly in on one set and hot air balloons exit the other. With Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees inside. Needless to say, this backlot was far from dead and I owned it. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. This lot could never have been busier!
The backlot was the sight of the hit video- Staying Alive, by the Bee Gees.
The top song, on the top lot, sung by the top band in record sales. A seventies Fred Astaire Band Wagon, but with hippies.
Wait, there’s more…As we pull back from lot 2 past my dad’s- 57 Chevy, he has a dog clutched. My father’s name is Don, but the dog is the star. The four legged one is in a TV series, so take a close look at the dog. It’s a star in a series in this 1961 photo. You’re an expert if you can I.D. this dog to its series. I met another K-9 star at that same driveway. Frank Inn stopped by from LAX airport on a trip back from Paris, France. Glen, his assistant called me over to meet Frank and Benji.
This dog is the biggest thing in Hollywood!
It just got off a jet, not just any jet, a Concord SST. Frank jubilantly praised his curly, quick to lick prize, “This little fella just got us a ride back into the USA in that off-set nose cone cockpit of a plane that creates sonic booms.” “The plane ride from New York to L.A. took more time than Paris to NY.” So, the first jet setter I ever met was a dog named Benji. No ego whatsoever…imagine his little face with a scarf and goggles, looking out the window of a rocket ship.
This overall kaleidoscope of time through Donnie’s eyes gives you an idea of all the stories and stuff I have from these films.
Benji was the box office Lassie of the 70’s….
Get Back to where you once belonged!…Billy Preston was lifted by a crane for this scene, he had on a wire harness under that jacket. You could hear the song in my bedroom, so that’s all the invitation we needed. I’m hiding in the bushes for this shot.
This blue tractor-trailer is part of the transportation on Chips. Blue was the fleet colors. On the passenger door you see where the lion logo and MGM are blacked out. We didn’t want MGM on vehicles that are involved in crashes.
My street- episode -MUTE
All this adventure awaited me and my dogs, right outside my backdoor…
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…such fun!