The Phantom of Hollywood 50 years later

The true Phantom of the Backlots, with his trustworthy, trespassing K-9 companion.

Long haired teenage punks arrive...we often exit here, where they are arriving. Maureen’s apartment is on the other side of this fence. You can see the streetlight above the fence line. Ironically, streetlights get stored where these hoodlums just entered.
This is where the two teenagers touched ground to open this film. Security is well aware of trespasser’s using this spot. Here they are, parked. Yes, there is a guard sunken low in the front seat. He would have caught them depending if he’s awake. I took this picture from on top of the fence depicted in opening of The Phantom of Hollywood.
Where art thou Juliet?”

A scene from the movie and a picture I took below

Ohhh, you shouldn’t break things…
Naughty boys, you’re in trouble!”
We don’t like that!”
Run little boy…
Cause of fort is inside this section where the awning gave way.
The awning gave way, and they broke their neck.” Chalk marks are all that remain of two teenage long hair punks with fittings in their pockets.
They think we’re dead…not so.”
Boystown...5 months after “two long haired teenage punks” fell to their deaths. Bill Murphy parked brand new fancy Buicks in this dusty area with tombstones surrounding it. You may have owned one of these Plymouths fresh out of Detroit. The 70’s- anything goes!
Pat– short haired teenage punk. Jimmy and I were the long-haired ones…Pat was still in Catholic school with this trim. Take notice of that peek hole to Pat’s left. When on alert we use that hole to keep track of security’s moves. Like a periscope.
Reverse angle- Boystown fort. To access the tower roof, you will find yourself inside here. All furnishings are from sets on the lot. An ammo clip from Combat sits on the table in front of that Orange Crush bottle. An Army jacket hangs on the wall from the Helmet Room. The water jug is from a labor crew taking care of the backlot. The table was in They Only Kill Their Masters and was walked over from Maple Street. Maureen helped me with that one. Lots of climbing is involved to get up here. Hidden ladders and compartments must be diagnosed. We felt entitlement. This fort would hold up under extreme scrutiny. In the months ahead, we survived a full assault of the MGM security department and lots of help from Culver City P.D. They gave it their best. You can’t catch a Phantom where he lives. The story called “Run, run, run” is in my book one-Hole in the Fence.
Our views were unsurpassed…East Wing, a large chimney is on each wing. Small town square beyond.
In the show, a security guard walks over this bridge at night with a flashlight. In real life, I’ve had powerful searchlights beam up through the floorboards when security would park below us in the red Bronco.
Come out come out wherever you are”…
I’ve lived this momentLiterally!
Ooops- we need more chalk. Security this time!
Esther Williams pool. It sloped to a deep bottom for fancy diving board launches. But, after the water was drained for good, it became a skateboard destination.
These tombstones travel, the initial MGM cemetery was back by the pool, exactly where we first found our Hole in the Fence. Then they moved to New York Street for the closing chase scenes in Soylent Green. From there, they relocated to the Tarzan Lake set for this graveyard where the movie Phantom resides. He lives in a tunnel, we live in a penthouse overhang looking over his spooky little plot of land.
Fable or reality...I lived this.
Action” shouts Gene Levitt in this one take scene. An episode of Combat used this house as a bewildered Sgt. Saunders, dazed from explosions, swam with a bag of grenades to blow up Germans firing from every window inside here. Shell casings and a large hole from the detonation was how this building existed at this final moment. It sat here, barely used since that episode. Walk through the bomb hole created by Saunders and you have walked back in timeto Combat.
Bullet holes still exist around the windows, a machine gun was stationed up here. Every window had gunfire coming out of it. Robert Altman directed an episode of Combat involving this building. One of the best episodes. Everywhere Combat filmed, bullet holes and shell casings still exist as if a retreat just happened.
If anyone gets an approval to wipe out a set, it’s Gene Levitt. His memories here are special. I heard all these battles from my house. He was the orchestra leader of all the WW2 battles that carried to my house.
My fort is the upstairs overhang pictured here, we look down on the movie Phantom’s hideout. Both our forts are real close. I took a spear home that was part of set decoration. It was pretty fancy with a carved wooden spearhead and custom painting on it. I was so excited, I ran like a wild native on the warpath with spear in tow, down public streets to my house. This became a common site for the neighbors on my streetSome kids carry school books, I carry movie props.
This is me, kneeling in the undersized doorway, I was pretending to be a hobbit. Empty film cans sit on the floor behind me. Probably, the long-haired teenage punk Broderick Crawford was referring to.
Same doorway I was just seen kneeling in.

Watch out Mister, trouble ahead! “…. My first ever near miss happened here, prior to this show.The purple torn curtain behind the helmeted fellow was our hiding place in a moment’s notice with Nowhere to hide. Jimmy and I had barely a second to tuck behind that cheesy curtain. Half our legs were showing as the Bronco cruised by. A black cap with a black arm extending out the window drove right by us unknowingly. Early in 1972, my very first very close call.
Hey Clyde, you up there?”
Ouch, so much for plastic hardhats!”
This was my moment with the TV Phantom. This was the scene when we crossed paths.
This set is where the two Phantoms acknowledged each other. Right before he killed the man with the helmet on, he waved “Hi” to me. All in a day’s work!R.I.P. Clyde
Maureen and I used this rowboat and spent some lazy, quiet afternoons listening to 93 KHJ Radio while floating alongside the forest and just above the snapping crawfish.
Jimmy and I also used this raft when it was seaworthy. I was caught in this boat by security guard Ron Smith. Jimmy was pulling me along with a rope attached, he was on shore. We took turns for quite awhile. The oars were gone. I was inside when the Bronco shows up and Jimmy takes off over this bridge to safety. Meanwhile I’m up the creek without a paddle. The Bronco pulls as close as possible and stares at me. Massive in stature, Ron steps out and asks “What exactly are you doing?” He told me to get inside the jeep, then we went looking for Jimmy. He let me go, “I think because he digs Maureen.”
We loved riding this wheel. We would stand inside it and get it spinning by pushing on it. It turned easy. Ride it like a lumberjack does on a spinning log.
As this car with studio VIP’s turns towards the backlot, the green car parked in the cubby hole is Bronco Bob Coleman’s personal vehicle. We got to know the guards’ cars. We would scout-Who’s on duty by seeing whose car is parked up at the shack at the West Gate. We took advantage of the little things, it helped us to succeed.
MGM officer Les Green. Thís is the same MGM guard shack with Worldwide on it. Al Black’s forhead is in bottom right corner. We were horsing around, they were telling me how they were going to catch me…”just wait and see!”
This guard shack is where I acquired the MGM trespassers list. All my friends are on it. It’s displayed in my first book, in case you’ve ever been caught.
As we cross Overland, this is where the front lot meets the backlot. Down the street is Winchell’s Donuts. A spot where trespassers can stand alongside MGM security, and city police, to get a sugar fix.
Worldwide Lot 2 main gate.
MGM Lot 2 Main Gate…
End of watch…
Out of the basement…
Off to the roof I go…
Brownstone Street, right after Soylent Green. Pre-Phantom film.
Wait, don’t cut that rope
Too late!
We need more chalk”
Copperfield Court below, Stage 29 in the distance. The MGM catwalks are where streets get tarps dragged across wires to create daytime/nighttime. This studio can create every illusion imaginable.
Maureen’s apartment and her bedroom looks easily over this fence in the distance. What fun we had, like a legal fort.
He’s got to be in here”
A half picture as camera roll expired, a bonus so to speak…digital folks don’t have this problem. View from steeple in German Village, or Copperfield Streetof the TV Phantom’s final resting grounds.
Good Luck Mr. Phantom
Who’s really the Phantom of the Backlots?”

50 years ago

Long before this Movie of the Week TV show was made, a Phantom on the MGM backlot existed. Security gave me that name as I became their Public Enemy #1. 1972.

I was able to carry that title the entire time MGM was in charge of backlot security. It’s based off reports to the watch commander about a frequent trespasser. His real name is Donnie, but often went by the name John. A good trespasser should always have an alias ready at their disposal. This frequent flyer is often seen by security but wrangling me up is unlike any challenge MGM security ever dealt with involving this mysteriously haunted backlot.

Here one second…but gone the next is how accounts were explained to the higher-ups. Hence, the name Phantom was attached to my backlot portfolio. This was the reality of MGM security in the beginning of the 1970’s.

Fast forward a bit, December 1973. At this time, I have never been caught, only seen and pursued, even shot at, but always made it back home to check in like all’s well that ends well. I have already built a fancy fort up in a massive building that the studio calls The Girls School but what us boys call Boystown. This fort is for boys, girls could never climb all the obstacles needed to infiltrate the upper reaches that lead to a hidden paradise.

MGM, or Worldwide Studios as it is named in this TV Movie, began filming several important scenes all over what I call my backlot. Fancy that, I find a call sheet that details all things taking place on the MGM backlot. The title –The Phantom of Lot 2.

Timeout, I was called the Phantom of Lot 2, for close to two years. Now a film is taking place with my identity. It stars Jack Cassidy as the Phantom of this backlot. Broderick Crawford is in charge of security and rolls out a line directed towards me and Jimmy. He explains to studio head Peter Lawford about an accident involving my fort in Boystown. Two teenagers had just fallen to their death, from where my fort sits at the top of this iconic structure. The greatest fort ever built on the MGM backlot.

It’s perfectly safe if you know what you’re doing, but in this show movie deaths happen. Chalk lines shaped of teenage bodies are being photographed as Broderick explains to Peter, ” they’re just two teenage long-haired punks is all we know”

I take exception to that insult that accurately describes me and Jimmy. Peter Lawford wants “our deaths” to create a publicity moment warning the rest of the public teens of the dangers that exist back here on this ancient backlot. But the following line deserved a slogan on a T-Shirt. “You can’t fence out curiosity” No truer words needed.

Well, what am I watching here, a movie about me?

At another set, the watermill house, I meet the TV Phantom. Jack Cassidy, in between takes in the middle of a camera set up. He sees me staring at him and waves to me with his leather glove hand, while he carries an iron spiked weapon in his other. He is just about to kill a demolition worker that is part of the team tearing down the backlot in this show.

The moment has arrived the true Phantom meets the costumed movie Phantom, as director Gene Levitt looks on. In Phantom style, I quickly disappear, because MGM has security on this set. At the time, I had no idea what my world was about. All I know is I live on studio backlots in Culver City, often disappearing into dark shadows, only to reappear on some rooftop or an image or reflection in a window.

When this show aired about a month later, it was must see TV as anything ever. This is the coolest show ever -story wise- involving Lot 2. CBS changed the name from The Phantom of Lot 2 to The Phantom of Hollywood for more zing right before airing. Gene Levitt returned to his old Combat stomping grounds to polish off a couple buildings he used in his classic war series. Gene has permission to do whatever needs be around here since he truly is a backlot legend.

I feel honored that he used my lot, he used my fort, I met the costumed up movie version of “me .” To this day this is must have TV if you like my stories and love MGM like I do. Do yourself a favor and get a copy, many MGM stars do cameo rolls and it was made over a year before That’s Entertainment.

Always remember…You can’t fence in curiosity!

Written and lived by…Donnie Norden

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