Where dreams come true-Universal Studios

Anthony Perkins is best connected to this estate.
Up these stairs-adventure awaits...
The path connecting The Bates Motel to The Psycho House. Let’s follow the little girl...“Shall We?”
Grandma rocks in her chair as trams pass by underneath her second story window view.
My daughter Christy knocking at the front door…”Come-in please.”
If that expression doesn’t tell all…upstairs with grandma.
Recreation area…
Billy Idol…I gave Billy and the boys in the band a tour of Universal. Far and away, the most inspired the group became was when we arrived at the Psycho House. In fact, a member with an impressively strange set of rings on his hand exclaimed “Billy- let’s buy this house!”
This is a 5 star hotel– “We’ll leave a light on for you!”
Check out…noon
Customers or….suckers!
Plenty of affordable rooms…
Satellite television…
Pool…just out back. No lifeguard on duty, Beware of MONSTERS
The Psycho House from above, adjacent to the War of the Worlds 747 crash site.
Christy and Zeus, one of the friendlier stars on our lot. A few weeks after this picture, Zeus found himself in a pickle. It was dusk on the backlot, the animal trainers were working him in the wilderness area adjacent to the Bates Motel. No filming, just practicing and training was taking place. As day tilts toward night up here, critters come out. Several deer live up here, as do their predators. Those being several coyotes and a bob-cat. This area is like being in Topanga Canyon. You can get lost up here, especially at night.
Zeus, a star, is usually pampered, but wanting to let loose his inner K-9, Zeus took off after a coyote. Through thick brush and upwards to the top overview of this studio. Sun is setting and the trainers are in a panic. This is the wrong neighborhood for a star to frolic around.

So off to the rescue I go, with a friend and Universal Best Boy named Gene Duffy. We know every road on this lot and quickly drove up to the fire road that buffers the studio from private residences. Coyotes were howling and an attack was imminent. Like a scene from a movie, I pull up to the center of chaos. Zeus was surrounded and wanted our escort off this hilltop. No bribing needed, Zeus jumped in the passenger side and rode back to safety on Gene’s lap. He was safely returned to his handlers who were petrified. A quick examination showed no damage happened.
The thick brush Zeus took off through-animal country. If this wasn’t a backlot, it would be a canyon.
Seagram’s threw this party for Christmas on our entire backlot. Drinks, gourmet food, snow, petting zoos, Ferris wheel etc. Each section of the backlot was dressed as a theme. Seagram’s dumped 6 million dollars into this event. Let’s toast to Seagram’s, Their brief ownership was very memorable, and that company is first class, all the way. A special thanks to Mr. Edgar Bronfman, Jr. for some very fond memories. My kids would experience all our different owners after Mr. Lew Wasserman passed on, the last of Hollywood’s Movie Moguls.
Jingle All the Way set, New York Street. Downtown Minneapolis recreated at Universal City.
I see how my dad loves this place!”
Universal Studios location…son Jeff.
The Flintstones had sets at Universal and Aqua Dulce, Vasquez Rocks.
Vasquez Rocks
Wilma’s wedding ring
Our dog Thor visiting another set…
Hudson, always wanted to be an astronaut…
Here- he could be an astronaut…. Countdown is on 10/9/8/7-blastoff. Today, he sports an engineering degree from UC Davis. I saw it in him back then.
Beethoven’s House.
A dream come true- her absolute favorite movie dog.
Look close, you can see right through this house.
To this day, my daughter swears she will own a St. Bernard. A mechanical face exists for facial close-ups. It could move its eyes, ears and snout. It was a metal skeleton that was controlled with pneumatics, then just slip on the face of our star- made of fur and fabric.
Nice yards, trams can’t see these sets. LAPD trains up here now and then.
For Beethoven, interiors were filmed on stage. This is what it looks like up behind the exterior on the backlot.

Up here, where the Leave it to Beaver House was sent out to pasture has animals grazing. Deer replaced the Cleavers.
The Cleaver’s Home, right side angle. Beethoven’s complex is the closest neighbor.
This complex was built for Beethoven’s first film. The Beaver House is top left, yellowish with the orange roof. It ended up here, up the hill from Colonial Street when The Feature-Leave it to Beaver needed a house that could also film interior scenes inside. They built what still exists today on Colonial.
The Backstreet Boys helped “babysit” while I installed an air conditioner on their (Stage 3), a last-minute order. Ironically, after this, she met Steven Tyler on Stage 5, a holding area and costume stage supporting stage 17 and the Aerosmith Rock video “Sunshine.” Christy is wearing 2 different stage passes around her collar. Pretty good for a 6-year-old…
On this set, Magic Mushrooms and White Rabbits cast a spell.
Another dream come true – Mr. and Mrs. Tanzer, Hollywood Forever together…
Alaska dog sledding honeymoon…

Working here over 3 decades, I grew old here. But my kids grew up here. My boys, Hudson and Jeff would often accompany me when we had “must see” filming. While the boys preferred car chases and explosions, my daughter was partial to sets involving animals. To each their own because there’s plenty to go around. Each child is now a successful adult, but memories of Universal still linger on pleasantly.

Golf carts are how my children first learned to drive, and no one knows the backroads around here better than me. After the tour sends out its L.T.D, last tram of day, these same animations that thrill tourists get explored by kids on carts. While growing up myself at MGM, only security had carts. The only cart I got to drive in my day was a Football Helmet Cart with the Dallas Cowboy emblem on each side of plastic dome. It was in an airplane hangar storage area on the backlot, needless to say I drove the heck out of that prop…just a kid trespassing inside a motorized helmet. Eight is Enough was the show that built it as I digress…

Almost two decades later, my kids receive this perk, and they don’t have to trespass to do so. The power to drive around a backlot, usually off hours, with the wind in their face and the power to accelerate, honk a horn, or just slam on the brakes is all theirs. Much better than a sting-ray bicycle, pulling up to a set or stage on a golf cart is usually reserved for VIP’s. Being a Teamster, I have access to all sorts of transportation vehicles. You name it, I’ve driven it.

Nothing puts a larger smile on a kid’s face than handing over the keys to my underaged chauffeurs. Basically, skills used in the real world could be mentored here at the studio. We crafted the best Boy Scout projects with a little help from our studio machine shop. A wood car at an exact weight, no problem. Yes, this factory can create anything.

Past, present or future- around here –it’s just now. We are in the now when driving these carts, but they transport us from Ancient Spartacus to a future with Cowboys and Aliens, if we simply, press the gas pedal.

MTV Awards to Comic Relief Award shows began to thrive and appeared annually at the Universal Amphitheater. Audience tickets were given out to operations staff. My daughter got my tickets for all things MTV.

As you see in this pictorial, time best pastes itself with these captured moments. Years turn into decades, shows continue to come and go, and those who were once little kids, well now, they drive fancy cars and have lives of their own. But, in the deeper parts of their memories, they will always be cosmically connected to this Universal Studio Universe.

Written and lived by ….Donnie Norden.

3 thoughts on “Where dreams come true-Universal Studios”

    1. Hi, I’d love to talk to you!…Contact me by texting, 310 902 2650.I don’t see a name just say what you did here and I’ll get back to you ASAP.I love all things MGM, we will have a blast, I live right next to Sony and the former MGM Lot 2. right on lets do it!

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