Well, here we go again…
Just like last year around the Christmas Holidays, we’ve gone mobile. Studio City here we come. We were out here casing a few of these valley backlots last weekend. Jimmy and I have determined CBS has passed go, and that’s the first stop on today’s Monopoly board we will circumvent. The fence along the L.A. River is as simple as a recreational climb. Jimmy, Pat, and I are no match for this corner fence that has had little activity on its crest. You can tell when a fence gets action by shoe marks and bends from what must be trespassers. Apparently, kids are compliant to the trespassing signs here in a city that named itself after the industry itself. CBS Radford is the facilities operating name.
Universal is a true studio city, since they have their own mayor, fire department and post office. But Culver City has always been the hub for the greatest movies and TV shows ever made. We take pride in the backlots in our city. We live on them. We’re professionals…
Today, we explore the unknown. We know every square inch of our backlots, but each turn today will be a passage into the unknown. Every open door, or structure, possibly trees and bushes, will be approached and used as camouflage. Like three chameleons-we are on a mission– to find Gilligan’s Island.
Sure, we might see a security guard, earning double time today. That said, the badge will be in for double trouble, if we cross paths. Better have a fast golf cart buddy…trespassing doesn’t stop on holidays in our world.
This is how we mentally prepare for our excursion. Like a team, a team that’s undefeated. When we touch down on the forewarned private property, it’s like taking the field for the big game. If Maureen and her pals were here, they’d be cheering… Go Centaurs!
First and ten…
We’re in and the three of us take cover in some houses laid out in a rustic tree lined area void of roads and activity. That’s how we like to start, quietly nestled in, observing activities. Jimmy and I both have camera bags on our shoulders, Pat is shopping for old cars. Where we begin reminds us of MGM lot 3. The landscape is all we see, a large grass field with lots of trees around it, could the remains of the lagoon be around this spot?
We sometimes need to put on detective hats to connect dots to the past. Things get buried easily when ratings cease to meet expectations. Your only as good as your last sweep weeks in Hollywood.
With Gilligan canceled years ago, who knows if this deserted island still exists.. At MGM and Desilu, Tarzan filmed on sets like this. But Tarzan’s deep “AHHHAAHHHA” as he swings vine to vine would be be replaced by the skipper shouting “Gilligan” on this lot.
The silence of a backlot on a holiday morning is similar to a prayer moment in church. Pristine quiet, we skip the kneeling, of course. Morning dew covers the grass on this chilly but bright morning sun-rise. We touch everything, we are on an expedition. Last year on this same day, we conquered The Burbank Studios. My camera is still dented forever after saving me from falling all the way through a roof on Laramie Street, last New Years Day. Of course, at Disney, my camera received more battering, and was captured, only to be released to my parents, who were forced to drive all the way out to get me.
This year’s resolution was the same as last year’s, go where few if any kids trespass, and explore new frontiers. If all goes well on this tiny lot, we will visit the Columbia Ranch afterwards. But first, where is this damn island?
My other island was torn down for housing, the former MGM lot 3. Some of it remains and is located in what is called Raintree Condominiums. We sneak in there also- to remember the glory of MGM lot 3. A few original things still remain besides the magnificent trees, if you have a keen studio eye.
Right off the bat, this area seems to be where you would stick an island or lagoon on the Radford backlot. We scrounge through the bushes, as if searching for the remains of a downed aircraft or yacht that’s been marooned. It appears the castaways have been rescued, there are no signs of life now-or ever. The jungle gives and the jungle takes back…
Our homework also has centered on another set that says CBS on it’s credits. This is the home of The Wild Wild West, starring Robert Conrad. I love Cowboy shows, and this one is slick. He’s a thinking man’s Cowboy. We usually just watch shows from Culver City lots, but Alias Smith and Jones and this show are too good to pass up. I made my own 8mm western movie on the Desilu lot, in front of the saloon, I feel at home as we pass a gallows pole…
Just like last year at a saloon on Laramie street, we toast to the New Year with a big joint in the old west. We sit on bar stools lined up along the dust covered dark stained counter top. The three amigos are reunited, this time in a different saloon. Satisfaction gleams on all our faces. Adventure awaits, maybe we’ll find a picture car from My Three Sons. A station wagon tour, after all, we are three boys!
Smoke blows out the swinging doors as we follow it’s swirling path. The aroma sets us free. Life is easy- welcome 1976.
There are props all over the place on this western street. It’s like we’re at a sale. This western street is jam packed with lanterns, whiskey barrels, gun powder boxes and livery equipment. Such wonderful items, we take our time on this deserted street. Must be no hanging’s planned today.
Behind the western street is a small town square, Mary Tyler Moore films her show here. She should, she and husband Grant Tinker own the place. I found a call sheet from Dick Van Dyke Show at Desilu. Here she lives, ten years later. Different husband and studio. That’s Hollywood for ya!
No- we’re not driving this car and trailer…
My Three Sons set has been discovered… Kids were so good back then!
Well, we covered this entire, quaint, backlot and it’s just now noon, after a near by- Bob’s Big Boy lunch, we will plan the second half of today’s adventures at this iconic hamburger joint. It’s much older than the ones where we live. While Ohio State is kicking off versus UCLA today, we will be climbing a fence to take to take on Columbia Studios.
It’s good for the taking- we already cased the joint!
Another backlot…another year of backlot fun awaits!
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…