The Best Little Whorehouse…

Stage 12 Universal…From up in the perms where grips and electricians habitat.
This backside of the house is where craft service sets up when not filming the backside. People eat here more than they dance.
The stairway to all the bedrooms, it’s chicken ranch indeed…
“Well’ look who’s taking a nap upstairs in this…haunted Chicken Ranch.” Dad works long hours, I wear kids out! This upstairs bedroom in this house is dressed for Providence.
Jim Nabors ended up being a policeman after all- in Burt’s film. After all those years growing up in Mayberry, he knows the law enforcement. And-he was a Marine!
Wear Gold-That’s what this show will gross- over $90 million golden dollars.
Let the 80’s begin…what’s Burt thinking about I wonder, “watch that hand Mr.?”…He’s met his match. Other women Mr Cosmopolitan attracted were Tammy Wynette in the 70’s. Sally Field, in which time they appeared in 4 films including my all time favorite Hooper. That was the set I met him on at the Columbia Ranch. It was so fun as chariot races were being filmed on their western street. I was conversing with director Hal Needham, himself a legendary stuntman, when Burt interrupted as we talked stunts. As Hal bragged about having the record for 23 car tumbles in a cannon blasted car roll, Burt walked up, “tell him how long you were in the hospital” with his big mischievous smile. One of my favorite moments ever. Hal broke his back on that record car roll.
He was married to Judy Carne, then once again to Loni Anderson in 1988. They began dating in 1982, the time of Best Little Whorehouse.
Yipes, more extensive than I realized. He must have had a hard time getting names straight. Proof that the whole world loves- Hollywood Stuntmen.
Before the Chicken Ranch, another house occupied this tiny hill top.The Psycho House proceeded this change of address. Set lighting has two covered arc lights on this lighting platform, foreground. This angle shows just how frail that house is. It could blow down in a strong wind. Very little original fragments still exist. A sign just behind the light standard says “Sorry Folks-No Smoking-No Fires.” We never had a out of control fire in this canyon area, amazingly.

The original location of Hitchcock’s classic- moved in 1982 for The Chicken Ranch.
This area is an extreme fire risk, A “No Smoking” area. The fire department is investigating “something haunted,” most likely.
Our featured House…Pictured in this Billboard.
Green Acres is the place to be…
A family dinner inside The Chicken Ranch.
Rob and Sheri Moon Zombie…Just another successful Hollywood couple.They have such fun together. They would have enjoyed growing up with me.I often ran into stuff like this.
Great family picture…this show was so gruesome, Universal would not produce it with their logo, it had an X- Rating, for it’s macabre content. But finally it got cut enough to be a hard- R.
Rob giving direction to the sheriff. “nothing wrong going on here”
“What a cool backlot-let’s explore!”-“Not afraid are ya ?”
“Putting supper together- plenty to eat-make yourself at home!”
Your all a bunch of rejects“…Base camp was located on Elm Street for this group so these folk could be seen wondering around the backlot. Universal provided equipment and trailers, but our bottom end equipment. It was like a strange Film Academy. A show I can never forget.
Michael J. Pollard- This is the kid you see on every rerun of great T.V. He was Virgil, Barney’s nephew in the Andy Griffith Show. He was also in Mayberry in Star Trek…Probably best known for his role in Bonnie and Clyde. He has a trespasser look, I always liked this kid, he has a grown up look. He was the second biggest name attached with this film. Fay Dunaway and Mr Pollard reunited again. Pretty cool…
My daughter Christy, wearing safety gear for this adventure. She was a guest on the T.V series Providence, a Halloween episode. Inside this Chicken Ranch was a coffin brought in especially for this scene. It was close quarters inside this ranch set with make up and camera all stuffed at the base of the stairway. They put my daughter as close to the action as possible. The coffin was the focus, it opened slowly- an actor, playing a corpse, is standing in this upright coffin. As the lid squeaked open in this dimly lit room, the female star delivers her line to this corpse -“Is it night time already dear brother?”…
The show got a sample of the reaction they were hoping to create, I wish we had that on film. They put Christy as the center of the Universe…

We will never forget that fun Friday night on this set of a thousand faces…This was the show’s Halloween episode. Thanks again Providence for the hospitality.
Parenthood Halloween Episode set dressing.
Parenthood Halloween episode…
The Bravermans
The Nordens… sneaking around this haunted house.
This is the Providence Halloween set dressing, inside is more spookier. My daughter and I were visitors on this night shoot at the Chicken ranch.
All the widows upstairs have their own bedrooms attached to them.
The Munsters remake decided to use false fronts around the Chicken Ranch rather than the original Munster House. Many scenes were filmed and lots of money spent.
The actors were under contract. Here is Herman Munster himself with yours truly. Jerry O’Connell on the Munsters set. This is costume Jerry is wearing. Jerry did three other series on this lot and was a fixture around Universal.
Herman and Lilly at dinner. Notice Jerry’s neck scar.
The mailbox should say…Munsters.This is 1313 Mockingbird Lane for this ill-fated attempt at redoing a classic.
This is the backside of the Chicken Ranch. You see its orange roof top beyond the false backing. The concept of this modern version was to be similar to True Blood. Grandpa could fly…
This attempt was canceled due to major legal issues with director Brian Singer. Millions of dollars were waisted. If you archive through all my posts to December 8th, 2020, I have more pictures of the inside of the Munsters House interiors, they are sensational. Ironically, Rob Zombie is now producing-The Munsters.
Soon to be released-Rob Zombie’s version of The Munsters, out later this month, September 27th, on Netflix. Jeff Daniel Phillips plays Herman Munster, Sheri Moon Zombie is now Lily Munster, and grandpa will be played by Daniel Roebuck. This should be interesting, small world when it comes to horror films. From the studio that brought us Boris Karloff and Frankenstein.
Salute the Flag…No studio makes Monster Movies like this one!
“Can someone please bring me a donut?-It’s not easy being me”
This picture is from 1973. I was on a pink and white Glamour Tram when I snapped it. No I wasn’t driving it, I was 13. Who could imagine then what was in store for me here at this studio 10 years later. This was before the Big Blue Super Trams existed. I was just perfecting trespassing at my studios in Culver City and this Universal lot was an untamed frontier. You could start exploring with a simple admission ticket. This was a test drive so to speak, within a couple years, I would infiltrate this studio and horse around their huge backlot. It was hard to cover all this space and you could get lost, but that’s the fun…kind of. My first tram ride ever-Yipeeee!
This was where the Psycho House stood until 1981. This area was completely altered as sets were moved upwards, backwards, and sideways. A key time in Universal Backlot history.

1982 Stage 12, Universal- we begin;

After all the hooting and hollering ended at this stage, Universal knew it had money in the bank on this feature. How could it not, Burt Reynolds was our Box Office King! Our Bandit traded in his Trans Am and ponied up with Dolly Parton to make a rip roaring, sometimes lewd, musical. Colin Higgins was signed on to direct what would be his final film. The budget was healthy enough at over 20 million dollars, of which Burt was paid $3.5 million. Dolly took second fiddle at $ 1.5. The filmed grossed over $ 90 million dollars. Dolly beat out stars such as Dyan Cannon and Shirley MacLaine for this role.

Mr Higgins prepared by watching old George Cukor MGM Musicals. The standard for musicals comes from MGM. Interestingly, another MGM icon was to be cast in this film, Mickey Rooney.But Burt suggested Charles Durning. “Everyone knows Mickey’s talents, but you will get credit for finding this star who can dance and sing” said Burt to his director.

The title created difficulties, in 1982- the word Whorehouse was in several areas in this country the title changed to “Best Little Cathouse.” Whatever the title, opening weekend grossed just under $12 million. Burt had yet another smash hit. The studio, expecting sensational results, decided to keep this set that can be used inside and out. To promote the film further, it would get moved at an opportune time.

Universal was expanding on all fronts, the backlot was being redesigned. Not only houses, but streets became…on the move. Entire streets were relocated, including the Psycho House. It ended up by the ice tunnel as the last set on the Glamour Tram Tour. What replaced the Hitchcock set was this Chicken Ranch. Out with the old, in with the new. This house sits perched overlooking Jaws Lake, the same hill top that the Psycho House peered down from.

The Chicken Ranch would be our first backlot set that allowed interior filming as well as exterior. Being enclosed, it would maintain itself well over the decades to come. Every tram tour must pass this set do to the fact it’s the only road going up trams can use to complete the tour. So during filming, tram back ups can stretch a long ways. That creates a silent zone for guides as scenes and audio take place close by. Even the Shark at Jaws is silenced, when filming is close by. We still have trams go through it, and it still tries to bite ya, just silently. If you’ve been on the tour, you pass this house.

When not in production, this extra large driveway serves as a basecamp for shows filming on Elm street below and Colonial Street above. In summer, tents provide escape from the heat. This house had very limited power so generators are needed for extreme power demands. Air conditioning can be added for a costly installation fee. Those were the situations I dealt with everyday. This ranch kept me very busy, in needed attention almost daily.

1982 was truly a transition period on this backlot. I saw it with my own eyes, as a trespasser. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I didn’t begin my career until 1984 and most the changes were completed as far as relocation. I knew I had to work here as pretended to be the engineer on the famous Run Away Train. This lot was my new utopia, Culver City sold all it’s backlots. I trespassed all the valley studios heavy from 1981-to being hired in 1984.

My fondest memories almost always date back to trespasses. MGM prepared me well for these extremely busy backlots. In the mid- seventies, I had every backlot at my disposal, I captured every flag possible. As the pre- recorded audio from the Run Away train shouts to visitors aboard trams I can’t stop,” lets just say that could by my calling card.

Written and lived by… Donnie Norden.

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