The Waltons Treehouse

The Good Ole Days…

Rated- R; for marijuana use… By the time your day is done, you will have smoked out in many iconic film sets. Films are being made everywhere around me…Last but not least- this is a real life trespass. It’s through those red eyes we begin;

My diary-Fade in- March 6/1981…The Burbank Studios

My trespassing buddy Jimmy and I need a studio fix. The backlots in Culver City are all gone, so today we’re going mobile, where all the valley studios still stand. We exit the freeway on Barham Blvd and the selection process begins. We first pass Universal on this Friday work day morning. It’s very busy as we slow our volkswagen to a crawl. We decide to keep driving toward The Burbank Studios, whose stages can clearly be seen from the Universal employee parking lot.

We both fixate on our life back in 1975, when on New Years Day we drove around the lot in a Walton picture car. The former Warner Brothers lot is laid out wonderfully, the backlot completely separate from the stages up front.

Today we just want to re-explore this lot and check up on all the sets we have played on over here before. Nostalgia for Jim-Bob and Don-Boy. Ironically, the show The Waltons, is still on the air, this many years later.

We start our trespass from fences by the L.A. river on the studio’s south boundary. A big dog barks the entire time we climb this barb wire fence adjacent to a residential area just outside the studio fences. We’ve been had so to speak, but we finish a successful entrance while ignoring this four legged barking soul. We need to scoot and once inside, we run to the church set in the TBS small town set. This area is busy with set dressing going on.

We work our way around, deciding not to hide, but just act like we work here. Hide in plain site, now that we’re getting older and don’t look like we’re school ditching kids on the prowl anymore. Getting old is a good thing, when your under 21 and hang around adults. We stop inside the bank on Laramie Street, I look up to the roof and the hole that was created by my falling halfway through is fixed. You can no longer see the sky. We celebrate by lighting up one of three joints in my sock. I blow the smoke upwards , towards the roof. I stand where I would have landed had not my camera saved me.

As we head toward the Waltons House, we pass by a building that says Ike Godsey proprietor.. The Dukes of Hazzard are parked outside. Their car is anyway, the Duke boys are nowhere to be found. Just me, Jimmy, and General Lee, framed by Ike’s country store. Having driven a car here before, on the Waltons’ set, we can’t help but look inside this mean orange machine just to see if the keys are inside. Thankfully, they’re not, because driving this car would be the ultimate temptation for Donnie and Jimmy.

Next up, the pond. This small body of water is full today and it sits in a jungle in between Laramie Street and The Waltons House. Any TBS TV series in need of a pond films here. I snuck in here last year during the filming of Flamingo Road and stood next to Morgan Fairchild as Howard Duff pulled to shore in a Hydroplane. The big-fan boats used in the everglades. I appeared from the jungle as a scene was being filmed. This super loud engine is distracting and allows me to position myself with the pick of the litter, Ms. Fairchild herself. It’s then a mishap takes place, this boat flips, dunking Mr. Howard Duff head first into this pond. Although concerned, everyone is laughing their heads off. Especially Morgan!

Jimmy was with me then as we laugh at our previous escapade and as we finish off that first doobie. It’s cool that we are beginning to have a lot of adventures at our new hang outs in the San Fernando Valley, more pages for my diary, which has been on a diet since MGM was torn down.

As we stand in house built on the pond, workers on bikes come tearing through the jungle. All appear to have a post-buzz on from their lunch break, since the time is 12:30. Hot dogging in front of us, one guy crashes into the pond, completely submerged as every one else laughs.

Deja vu, last time I was here, Howard Duff ended up being fished out of here.

Next up in this Hollywood jungle is The Walton Home. Normally, this is where we get in at, but we couldn’t use this entrance this morning.

We climb up into the treehouse, armed with a doobie and a transistor radio. Elvin Bishop is singing “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” as we reach the top for the Walton family treehouse experience. We spark yet another joint as Steely Dan’s song Show Biz Kids comes across the FM dial on KMET.

Jimmy and I are fulfilling our craving for a backlot country club, TBS replaces MGM. TBS is very busy. We sit in a prebuilt professional fort. It’s on TV once a week! A stake bed truck slowly rolls under the jungle canopy and parks right in between the treehouse and the main house. Lighting equipment is getting unloaded. They’re doing a “company move” to this set is what Jimmy and I decipher peering from up above.

We cut the music and snuff out the joint, because we’re stuck up here. We watch as this set gets rigged, cables and boxes and lights get unloaded off the truck bed. We realize the longer we wait, the more chance we will have of being confronted. It would be embarrassing to run into John- Boy, up here. It’s his fort, he can have it. There was a time I had 5 forts between Desilu and MGM. Now we use other people’s, but today, we gladly hand over the keys. It’s for the Waltons to enjoy!

We just don’t want to be seen climbing down, once on the ground we’ll be ok. We pick a time and quickly exit through the chicken coops. We backtrack through the jungle, having avoided everyone and all involved on this series.

Next we filter over to New York Street, and sure enough, we are asked by two ladies what shows are going on here. This is interesting since we’re trespassers. Cordially we reply, “Dukes of Hazzard is over that way,” turning while pointing, “The Waltons is that way, and a big movie titled Blade Runner has its sets on New York Street, over there How’s that? You have a good day ladies!”

We’re getting hungry and we’re close to the main gate on Barham. Bob’s Big Boy is to the right and Universal is the the left. Jimmy and I agree to go to Bob’s first then double-back for more studio adventures at Universal.

It’s here we decide to- just walk out the front gate. Wave good-bye to TBS security, like you will see us again Monday. Walk out the gate like the free men we are. Screw climbing, keep it simple.

“Yes, two Big Boy combos and a couple ice cold Cokes.” We place our order sitting at the counter on the opposite side of the glass, from the oversized statue that welcomed us after our adventure at TBS.

In 1981, this lot was known as The Burbank Studios

An Aerial shot from the same time period of my uninvited visit

I fell through this rooftop back in 1975 when I took this picture, today we fire up our first doobie at the same spot. The roof has been fixed.
Laramie Street no longer stands here at Warner Brothers. This is the same angle of what was the old western streets…
This tire swings below a treehouse above-1975

The tree house and shed is just to the right hand side of this photo

This could just as well be Jim-Bob and Don-Boy, “I hope they’re not filming up here today, how do you want to escape?”
My tree house smells like Dope!
The General store – Ike Godsey proprietor.
General Lee– outside Ike Godsey’s Mercantile. It wants us to drive it! -the windows are even down.
Hazzard County, on a different day. Preparation for the Dukes of Hazzard was going on here when we arrived in town in March 1981.
We love churches, every studio has at least one. Desilu had far and away the best chuch ever. I’ll take you inside the old 40 Acres church in a future post, right up into the steeple.
After climbing in at the L.A. River, we took refuge inside the church as we gathered our bearings. A big dog kept barking at us as we climbed in someone’s yard bordering the studio.
This town was being prepped for Dukes of Hazzard
Small – Town, Warner Brothers, TBS in 1981

Its been lots more than just the Gilmore Girls

Gremlins also filmed snow scenes here, and at Universal’s courthouse square. It was summer and about 115 degrees out. Actors had to wear jackets and act cold.
115 degrees, one of the warmest days of the entire summer-I was at Universal for this show, this is an example of backlot locations at two studios working directly for the same cause and appearance-1984 Courthouse Square Universal. Same appearance exists at Warner Brothers, small town square, at this same time.
This is the pond, empty.

Empty pond… Before/after

The Pond-As hot set… potted plants and an electric patch box indicate ready to go here…
This pond is about four feet deep…
The cast of Flamingo Road TV series
I’m standing in the pond basin, I’d be up to my waist in water normally.
This lodge is located at the pond. A work crew tore through here on bicycles and one guy crashed into the fully filled pond. There was a different cabin here in 1981, we were inside when we saw workers horsing around.
The pipe that fills this lagoon…
It’s here where star trailers would park, at the jungle entrance. The Walton House was very close. The red light in this picture is on when filming takes place in the jungle. You are not to proceed until it stops spinning.
We were asked here by “ladies” who were looking around “what is filming ?” as we walked through this set. Which is interesting- since we’re trespassers! Just the regulars- The Waltons and Dukes of Hazzard” we politely oblige to any and all questions. “Blade Runner has the street over there”…
Gotham City in Batman TV series, in a few episodes not filmed at Desilu. The Caped Crusaders dashed down these same steps…
We’re getting hungry and Bob’s Big Boy is close by on Hollywood Way.

At the end of this street is the main gate, hang a left you’re at Universal, hang a right your at Bob’s Big Boy.

Blade Runner would spend 14 nights at this intersection at this same time in history

Call sheet for Blade Runner
TBS New York Street Exterior shot page…I was on New York Street when this scene was filmed, so surreal. The street atmosphere and the neon signs flashing against dark surroundings and rain. Spinners, air ships, would take off lifted by huge cranes as liquid nitrogen created plume lift off effect. Ostriches walked the sidewalk. Sadly, this description in this movie script could easily be any intersection in Hollywood!
“Ninety nights” of night shooting is what Harrison Ford signed on for. Vampire hours when we visited this set on the TBS backlot. Dinners at midnight on New York Street. An hour to wander the backlot in the middle of the night. One night I took a tray of food from catering and sat and ate it there instead of table chair area. Just like a raccoon would…

Fade in – page 1 script Blade Runner
Fade out – last page Blade Runner
Set watch, keeping visitors away from filming, but not me, He is explaining how difficult this job is, I just want his keys. His radio would be cool too…“Hey we’re over here, nope you’re going the wrong way, hurry I see trespassers”… Run !
Who were those guys- they were really nice… Pleasure meeting you too.”

Written and lived by Donnie Norden…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s