Fade in: March 6,1981- continued on from the Waltons Treehouse adventure…
Sitting at the counter at Bob’s Big Boy on Riverside Drive is like being in a studio commissary at certain times. A man with a Wolfman costume sits at the opposite end as if this is his set. Jimmy and I rehash our interlude at TBS earlier today with the Waltons crew, having never before been in a set that became “hot” while we were inside it.
We explored the Burbank Studios lot this morning and now it’s off to Universal for the second part of our afternoon. We take the car from Valley Heart Drive, the public street behind the Waltons house and we pull into the Universal Lot. It is so big that employees get shuttled by a yellow school bus that reminds us of the Partridge Family. Over an hour ago, we walked out of the TBS lot and waved “good by” to security like we will see you again Monday. Now, we are waving “Hello” to Universal security as the magic bus door slaps open, and a teamster tells us “pull the cord when you want off” … “will do sir”
The older we get, the easier this charade has become.
We decide to get off by stage 44 with the rest of the kids. Across the way is Colonial Street. Filming for BJ and the Bear is already in progress on this street that has the Munsters House and The Beaver House. Jimmy and I go inside the Munster house and go upstairs, we see a big rig with a chimp climbing around the cab. Greg Evigan is kissing a blonde girl good-by as he and the Bear climb inside the cab and say “Farewell”
This lot is even busier than the one we just left! We have just gone from Dukes of Hazzard, The Waltons, and Blade Runner at TBS to BJ and the Bear and some other show farther down the street. Jimmy and I relax and finish the joint that we had to snuff out up in the Waltons’ treehouse. This joint, started up in a treehouse on the Waltons at TBS, and gets finished upstairs- in the Munster’s house. Welcome to my world!
As the smoke clears we appear and walk right out the front door of 1313 Mockingbird Lane. I correctly diagnosed something I was looking down at, Dan Pastorini is on this set. He plays Pro-Football, he is on the Raiders. He is the star I want to meet. I position myself alongside him, he is busy being the object of several women’s attention in between scenes. I just want to talk football, the Raiders are World Champs. He obliges me, I sit in a folding chair next to him. I’m acting like I belong here and am doing a real good job.
I get what I needed, including seeing the advance for Monday, on the call sheets. 7am, Santa Monica Pier. Count me in, I live right by there, see ya at breakfast.
A camera operator shares a story with me, it involves a moving truck shot and the camera is inside this truck POV looking out of the cab while driving. The camera is in the sleeper compartment behind “Stacks, BJ, and the Bear (BJ’s sidekick “the Bear” is actually a chimp named after University of Alabama football coach Bear Bryant.) The concern is this- the Bear is infatuated with the red air brake knob that would lock this truck up and send it into a jack-knife if it gets pulled. The entire time this scene is filmed, everyone was looking from the corner of their eye as they delivered their lines- ready to grab the chimp’s arm if he makes one wrong move towards the brakes.
The Bear would have loved the Waltons treehouse we were in earlier today. I’m sure the Waltons kids wouldn’t mind. This show is on the move to stage so we also move to another set, right down the street. Barbara Eden is being hosed down in front of a home by a green water hose, she’s dripping wet as we watch from the Beaver’s porch. Let’s all just pause and take a Barbara Eden moment…
That scene gets finished and we are in the mood to explore, so we walk the length of New York Street and end up at a castle that is better known as The Tower of London. From on top a castle turret, we watch all the activity on this lot and beyond. We can see the church steeple at The Burbank Studios, heck, we were just there. Below this castle is 6 points Texas, and the best gig on the Glamour Tram tour takes place right here-The Runaway Train.
Every couple minutes this train heads straight for the Pink and Whites with the conductor shouting ” I can’t stop!”
The train, having scared the Glamour Tram farther along, backs up by itself and hides next to the barn on this special set of tracks. It’s ready for the next unsuspecting tram.
O.K. we got this, the train parks, like train robbers we climb aboard, we duck behind the conductor, there are three of us up here now. Here we go, there’s a tram, ride em’ cowboy.
We pop our heads up as the train goes face to face with the tram. Pictures are shot from inside the tram as all this takes place by tourists and somewhere, in this world, Jimmy and I are in several. We do this several times, with each one we become bolder, we embellish the “can’t stop- part”
I always wanted to ride in a train engine, and today, we did that. We say, “Good by” to the gray-haired guy in blue coveralls with the three-word vocabulary “I can’t stop.” “We will see you again sir,” with that we walk to the next town.
The depot on Denver street doubles as a jail, inside anyway. Inside it, is a picture of Alias Smith and Jones. That’s a must have picture, The Hole in the Wall Gang meets The Hole in the Fence gang.
Jimmy and I got what this gang was searching for…Amnesty! It’s all Smith and Jones wanted, not to have to look over their shoulder at every turn. Well, the show got cancelled before the Governor came through. But the valley and its marvelous studios have provided Jimmy and I the amnesty those boys were searching for.
We’ve gone being shot at, hunted, and on every most wanted list at every studio gate in Culver City, to a simpler life. Unassuming, willing to work, can drive a train if need be. We got something special out here, we couldn’t get it in Culver City. We got… amnesty!
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…