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.
An Aerial shot from the same time period of my uninvited visit
The tree house and shed is just to the right hand side of this photo
Its been lots more than just the Gilmore Girls
Empty pond… Before/after
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.
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…