40 acres Main Gate and Beyond

No other public street in Hollywood can spin the tales this 3800 hundred block can.
A Backlot so wild – it’s guarded by dogsand Marines.
Ince, Selznick, RKO, and Desilu productions all crusaded down this street named after Thomas Ince. Where Ince crosses Washington Blvd, a plantation building modeled after George Washington’s Mt. Vernon began all things movie ranch. Inceville Studios, also known as the Triangle ranch, moved from its beach location inland, out of the fog to this spot in a deal made between Harry Culver and Mr. Ince. Ince needed backlot settings for his B-Westerns. What a perfect fit!
This is the main entrance to the Desilu Backlot. This shack is where you check in to proceed forward. When permission is granted, your road will turn to dirt. You’ve arrived at Sand Point.

I ordered a pizza once from this shack and met the delivery guy right here. I slipped the cash through the chain link while the delivery man slid the box under the fence. We needed a phone, which this room had- just dial 9 first for-off lot business. Inside furnishings were modest. A desk, a comfy chair, a calendar. a clock, and a phone. A book of crossword puzzles was security’s entertainment. Well- besides every great TV show being filmed beyond these windowpanes. Who needs a TV, this box is a TV. The shack was often unlocked, but it took guts to go inside as a trespasser. If a real guard shows up, he will see you and your escape time is based on how fast he can unlock the gate to let himself in. Escape requires running as fast as “Yellow Bear” and disappearing into La Ballona Creek. We loved to tease guards this way, behind locked fences that they’re on the wrong side of. Smoke emits from the top of their head, while laughter emits from our mouths…
I found this inside the security shack.
This too, is a 40-acre main gate photo. The guard shack is clearly visible. The houses left of the guard shack are homes of citizens living on Lucerne. 9 square lid covers are the location of the Desilu Film vaults. I’ve explored those ancient relics and found every episode of The Whirlybirds inside one section. Even Lucy episodes were shelved inside.Notice the oil derrick covered with sound proofing drilling on studio property.
Film vaults contained many entire classic TV series. Like ancient Tombs in Egypt. Forgotten where they were constructed. Airwolf, a series I worked on – got its concept here, pre–Jet Helicopters.
The film in this camera set up is protected from dust by an extra canvas cover, a glass plate will shield the camera lens from debris when the rotor spins. Blowing sand at Inceville Triangle Ranch created problems for Thomas Ince, often finding its way on to the negatives. The elements need to be factored in and not taken for granted.
Hogan’s Heroes is busy at work in this photo as Gomer’s set sits vacant. Chances are Pyle is at stages at the Paramount lot on this afternoon, or up around Mayberry which has crew parking behind the street. Your personal cars were what delivered to your set and spent the day with you on the backlot. There was no such thing as parking structures around here, so the backlot doubled as a parking lot. You had to be parked in an area where the camera won’t see your muscle car.
This picture preceded Gomer Pyle’s barracks, Goober’s gas station, and the Hogan’s Heroes bridge. Those series were just about to kick in. Andy Griffith was on the air and Wally’s filling station sits at the top/middle of this of this photo. Two structures built into a hillside. The Atlanta Rail Depot from Gone With the Wind sits empty and adjacent. Hogan’s Heroes would build a bridge at this spot removing Wally’s Gas Station. But Goober would get his own station closer to Camp Henderson. This picture shows the area right before the landscape best known in sixties television shows would change. Lots of transition about to take place here in this early sixties photo. This is the section being toured in my story.
This map is the section of 40 acres I’m bringing you through. Where Ince Blvd. turns to dirt- “You’ve arrived!” Obviously -long before TV made this lot a staple, these mapped sets preceded all things TV.

False Face is trespassing here again…this is a job for Batman.
Old abandoned BIOSCOPE Studios…Public street “INCE” behind the open chain link.
You’ve arrived” – dirt welcomes you!
Every show must pass this set upon entry. Built in 1964
1974- still standing. Parts of it remained until the end August 1976.
Same angle as my photo-10 years later.
The white house located behind the barrack with the Blue Door is actually not on studio property. Two of my friends from school lived there, Charlene and Tony. Tony had a terrible mishap on this backlot. A stairway inside the Mayberry Hotel gave way and he fell a ways down severely injuring himself. The dangers on these backlots present themselves in numerous ways, and ancient wooden sets require close inspection. The stairway that collapsed was on the 4th floor. To get on the roof, you must maneuver a stairway that is barely tied in due to rot. I did it once, but it’s the scariest unsafe rooftop of all this backlot. We did it just once, realizing the negatives far outweigh the positives. This is a sad reality whether you work or trespass these old backlots. It was not if, but when this stairway up would collapse. I saw that coming before it did!
Tony and Charlene’s house was built alongside the backlot. Chain link fences provide temptations. This house still exists and is located on Van Buren. Bruce Lee, or KATO, lived up the street in 1967/68. This area is the site of the Desilu Film Vaults. Stuff in this lot at the time of my picture includes a trailer for a star, it had basic furniture inside-a couch, chair and mirror. Alongside is a shot up gangster car from The Untouchables. Adjacent to that is a mobile air conditioner. Just out of frame begins the film vaults. This is where the oil derrick was set up in the early sixties. Another dressing room is in a yard just up the way…Marion Davies.
Welcome to La Ballona Creek-opposite P.O.V. from the storage area previously pictured. This storm drain still exists on the bike trail. It is a crime scene in The Untouchables. Gomer’s camp is a top this embankment.
“Someone’s trespassing, here’s the evidence”…” Pretty sure it’s that Donnie Kid, he runs around here with an Untouchable Tommy Gun”- I met Robert Stack at an event at Warner Brothers, Universal rented trams and drivers to celebrate Warner Brothers rededication from TBS. We talked Desilu while on the Warner Lot. He rode my tram.It was a dream come true, to visit with Elliott Ness.
OK- no rope needed. This is where we get in at most of the time. We don’t have time for rope. Gomer Pyle’s barracks are the first thing you see at the summit. I’ve taken motorcycles up this embankment. You can see the flood control channel below, better known as La Ballona creek.
Always pay attention around here, anything could happen. Through these trees is the creek in The Untouchables. That drain is just adjacent to this explosion.
Film vaults, main gate behind jeep.
Well look who showed up, they’re looking straight at his gas station from here.
A white car is exiting the backlot at the main gate behind our actors. This backlot provided crew parking in the sixties TV era. You and your car might be captured on some rerun entering or exiting 40 acres.
This gate is a set- its job to simulate Camp Henderson’s entrance.
Damn’ car again…”
I’ve seen you before!”
Gomer Pyle episode- 20 yards difference in location, same actor, same expression. Truck is being used to block out gas station.
Man in a Hurry episode…Pleading with Gomer to Hurry -Up. Andy Griffith episode, a year apart from Gomer Pyle episode. Same location and expression.
Until we meet again!
Once again, a truck blocks Goober’s Filling Station. I wouldn’t have imagined when I watched this series on TV as a kid, I would live this. But- I ended up leading U.S. Marines through this backlot myself and sure enough we ran into trouble. Great story in Book 2, titled Hogan’s Heroes Bridge in Hole in the Fence -2, later this year. Real deal stuff -Real Recon-Rangers. OORAH
Camp Henderson gate set just ahead.
Gomer Pyle was often in production within walking distance of The Andy Griffith Show when on the backlot. Hogan’s Heroes is just beyond those trees ahead. A brown truck is blocking Gomer’s camp. This area equals 2000 hours of quality TV Land Desilu reruns…
Gomer’s Barracks in Andy Griffith’s- Grab Bag for Cash episode.
The Ince gate of present day. This was the entrance legendary real-life adventures would begin. Every film ever made here crusaded down this road. That’s why the street is named Ince. But long after his mysterious death, the crusades continued…King Kong 1933 all funneled through here. Gone With the Wind would load in horse after horse, coach after coach, costume after costume had to pass through here. It’s like a bottle-to get anything out you must embrace spout.
This room was full of…gardening tools. But when removed, It’s as if a history book opened up. Each page more exciting than the next. I will share much more on this subject at a future date. It’s the Holy Grail of this lot’s history.
Once Upon a Time…
Marion Davies- photo shop back into her mirror.
Ghosts hang out here…
Just up the dirt road if you’re on the backlot, sits an ancient relic, cleverly disguised as a gardening shed. This chameleon has been changing colors here for nearly 100 years. One of the only original film making compounds still in existence. It’s pleasantly… Haunted!


Film production has just ceased on this backlot. This was a Lost Backlot unlike all the rest in Hollywood until Desi and Lucy purchased this parcel and named it Desilu. It finally had an identity, and you grew up here if you owned a TV. Black and white is fine, that is until Batman came along in living color. Slap a “Out of business” sale on the fence that warns of “Dogs on Duty.”

As Desilu ended its ties here, this lot once again became Hollywood’s Lost Backlot. Steven Bingen’s book of the same name is a must have bible for all things 40 acres. I just wish I had this book with me when I was running around this wild film ranch.

I had to make my own maps, figure things out on my own, all the while under fear of four-legged K-9 security.

I never became friends with security here on this lot, but have had several run-ins. And I never saw a regular face. Security was as hodge-podge as was the backlot itself. I’ve previously shared stories my friends lived who resided by this entrance…” Jim Nabors serenading children at the main gate while handing out lifesavers. Bob Crane was known to give tours of Stalag 13 and all adventures begin at this Ince main gate. Spock, in full costume, has exited this gate to visit the neighborhood Jackson Street market. “I’ll have whatever he’s having!”

There is one other studio gate on Higuera, but it is rarely unlocked and probably more of a fire gate or emergency entrance. Basically, this lot has one way in and out and it’s through this gate right here, unless you’re a trespasser- like me!

I’ve never met a fence that could keep me out, to be honest, there was no fence period along the creek. It was like an open border from Mexico to the U.S.A. Drugs and trespassers poured in, but I digress…

I told you-it’s the seventies!

Even in the sixties, I would stare through this fence when it was locked shut- wearing a Batman costume I bought with a million Blue Chip Stamps. I just wanted to see Adam West. Eventually I was lucky enough to see the Batmobile and the Caped Crusaders zip by. The hair on my arms stood up when my dream was realized.

Exploration sensitive area…

To explore the main gate and surrounding structures, you have to come to a conclusion first that security is not here. This is a very risky area. The gate would be locked and a quick tour through Mayberry can verify activity or not. If the lot is ours, then that’s our opportunity to get dirty at the main gate. Exploring the structures beyond the security shack would include the film vaults, which this guard shack looks directly at.

Inside the security shack are humble settings, A heater, a radio, a desk, a phone, a clock and a calendar. Finally, a water dispenser. Windows on all sides allowing the guard to watch filming, as if this shack is a TV set. The only luxury not inside was a TV. Very similar to my backlot forts, minus a heater and clock.

Public homes exist on Lucerne with their backyard being the studio fence property line. You can Bar B-Q while TV Land is filming over your back fence. You can slip a hot dog through the fence to your favorite TV star. A greenhouse sits neglected and in the process of being reclaimed by nature itself. The plants inside are letting their hair down, like a bunch of hippies. The stories this structure lived is rooted into the ground.

A wagon and a tractor sit side by side, tall weeds grow between the wagon spoked wheels, as gentle breezes encourage life to exist, once again. A plow wonders if it will till the land here ever again. Like a Toy Story. Time does not exist here. If you continue hugging this fence line you will see an artillery cannon, painted gray, as is a German Troop carrier and a Tiger Tank. That means you have left the boundaries of Camp Henderson and arrived behind the sets of Stalag 13.

Tucked behind Stalag 13, in a Triangle, is where I rediscovered Ms. Marion Davies’ first ever mobile make-up room. That is an incredible story still taking place… a hundred years after the fact.

This main gate doubled as a set frequently, especially for Gomer Pyle due to the proximity to the camp. Today, you explored with me a non-descript section that contains security headquarters on the 40-acre backlot.

If you get into the shack- dial 9 on the rotary phone to get off lot. Chris’s pizza delivers here- no questions asked…

Written and lived by …Donnie Norden

3 thoughts on “40 acres Main Gate and Beyond”

  1. I remember everything that you are describing. I thank you for all of your pictures and stories.

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