A trip down memory lane…
Call the street what you wish, but when best friend Jimmy and I first stepped foot on it, we named it after the Twilight Zone episode, Maple Street. That’s what we called it. We synergized it when we snuck in a tiny black and white TV with partially broken rabbit ears and watched this episode where it was filmed, here on Maple Street. TV’s and backlots work as time machines. Eventually you have two pictures, the original on television, and the one presently in living color, with living potential hazards.
It’s like One Step Beyond and The Twilight Zone combined…
Every studio has a residential street similar to this neighborhood. The residents vary from lot to lot, depending first on writers, then on ratings. Rod Serling imagined, then created memories and scenes that we still watch and love to this day on this backlot. His narratives helped shaped this street in the early 60’s. This backlot is…The Twilight Zone
Rod has written and produced more subject matter here than anyone else that’s set foot on this backlot. Not enough credit can be given to his accomplishments considering the quality of that series and the tight demands of TV scheduling. Six days of filming for one episode.
The concept Rod was selling to Westinghouse at the time faced rejections, and not until Bert Granet and Desi Arnaz vowed their unlimited support did this series get off the ground.
Due to budget restraints with CBS, some episodes were videotaped in the first season. It is extremely noticeable, only one episode made at Television City was the quality of what MGM produced. “The Night of the Meek” starring Art Carney as Santa Claus, held up in this format. It’s the only Christmas episode made. This cost cutting move, one video camera, completely on stage at CBS, was an attempt to trim the $65,000 per episode cost. The experiment was deemed a failure, then this show infiltrated into film and naturally –backlots!
I would have died to have run into Rod Serling walking around this backlot. I felt his spirit, he fits this backlot like a good pair of tennis shoes.
The film They Only Kill Their Masters, starring James Garner, was the first film I saw being made on this street. The set dressing inside a home on the street here consisted of (a wall picture, a table and a chair) which ended up disappearing from one house and reappearing upstairs across the street in Andy Hardy’s house.
Often, each house gets a complimentary doorway set up when front doors will be open. It’s like the Salvation Army around here.
Needless to say I spent an awful lot of time here. It’s like this street connects to my house and street. I have occupied every home on this street in one adventure or another.
Sadly, the church burned down in November of 1975. But before you shed any tears, Sgt. Pepper to the rescue. A little over a year later, this street was magnificently rebuilt- as good as ever. Backlot fires are easier to take when new sets sprout up from ashes of what stood before it.
Fittingly, a musical would charm the backlot in grandiose style. (The Trolley Song), performed here by Judy Garland, would turn into an entire Beatles album with artists including Peter Frampton, The Bee Gees, and Billy Preston.
Let’s be happy this street went out with class. But I’d feel remiss if I didn’t take you somewhere daring, so lets go up in the church tower…shall we?
Through the church doors- we appear. We are greeted by a tiny room, like a chapel would look. If you open the next door in the sequence, you see an ocean liner. That’s how it works here- Lost Horizons are blocked by doors, curtains, and walls. Behind door number two is a ladder. Four stories, straight up. No ledges or platforms to rest at, just go to the top. See what surprises await you…
Bird feces cover everything in this bell tower. Worse- dead birds appear to have been trapped inside. It’s pretty terrible up here, and that’s coming from a teenager. On the conical top of this -place of worship -is where the MGM owls sit and hoot at all goings on. There are normally two, and they existed the entire time lot 2 was standing. They leave a pile of bones when they digest their prey, which is actually very interesting to reconstruct.
I’m happy to say, owls still hunt where the backlot use to be, I recently saw one fly across the street and up to the water tower on what is now Sony lot 1. This would be the offspring of my two favorite backlot birds ever. I’m a proud grandpa it turns out.
The climb to the top of this church is scary in daylight, but you should try it at night. Just trust what you’re grabbing hold of for support doesn’t snap. A sign of the cross is in order once you arrive up top….literally!
Four humans can fit fairly comfortable here but be careful not to be seen.
“OK …I got to go, good luck everybody getting down from here!”
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…