West End Six Points Texas…we begin:
In Hitchcock’s The Birds, location filming cleverly blended in the Universal backlot. When chaos ensues, production usually prefers a backlot controlled setting. This film used real locations in San Francisco and two towns Bodega. One Bodega Bay, a large village on the bay.Two, Bodega Village, a small inland village.The two towns were made to appear as one.
Make that three towns when you include Bodega on the Universal backlot. The most action packed scenes of course were filmed on our backlot. Bodega shared the same pond as McHale’s Navy in 1963. The naval base area set up for McHale’s merry band of soldiers was named Taratupa. It’s a just a depth charge away from the Bodega Bay set, at Universal.
In all my tram driving years, little if no reference was ever made by tour guides involving Bodega Bay and The Birds. Trams do pass in front of the bungalow Mr. Hitchcock operated out of, so he is always mentioned, both in the front lot, then the backlot. The Psycho House is a picture stop memory for tourists. But this Bodega set is not part of the guides spiel. Perhaps it’s overlooked by younger eyes. Actually, to spot Universal in this film is an advanced backlot logistics test. Good job if you already identified this location prior to this installment.
Trams passed through this set after exiting the Flash Flood and then a brief Hoo Ray in Six Points, we curve around the old paddleboat for our approach to the Red Sea. We would sit parked in Bodega waiting for trams to enter and exit the Red Sea. Guides talked mostly westerns and how small doorways are around here to make Cowboys bigger and damsels look more distressed.
Murder She Wrote did an episode in this area and it was suppose to be a movie studio backlot. In the eighties, this street faded to black, so to speak and was rarely used except for parties and rock videos. Alias Smith and Jones was the last western series to saddle up on these streets.
This gas station set is located in the center of the backlot, all roads funnel at this area that connects Lankershim Blvd to Barham Blvd and all backlot roads in between. This set lies in close proximity to film vaults and our underwater tank. The buildings surrounding this area that still stand depict a different era inside, one that never changed. Old wall paper is peeling off the walls and the curtains are held together by caked on dust. The buildings inside take you back to the days of the westerns with cowboys sketched on walls by a talented artist-long ago.
Three things every tourist see’s from a tram is The Hitchcock Bungalow, Bodega Bay Station, and the Psycho House. Bodega Bay sets rarely gets pointed out. In 1963, McHale’s Navy jungle set was right ac across the way from this set. The pontoon boats, could be craned out when a naval base was undesirable in our Red Sea. The studio uses oversized props and structures to hide or block views of other sets. The Paddle Boat is a floating rode block, it can look real by blowing steam out the chutes and the paddle can spin with help by effects. Cover with extras in costumes and begin the hootenanny. Everything will move but the ship itself. One of our many illusionary devices. It was common place to move the PT. 73 around also, from the Red Sea and also Singapore Lake, better know as Cabot Cove, the water Jaws occupies.
The tram backup during busy summer days back through this entire 6 Points Texas western area. This area is like the 405 freeway at 5 P.M. Slow going due to animation time needing to reset, the Red Sea needs to refill after each parting creates what we call -A Tram Jam.
Each guide treading water, with a just microphone to keep them a float, earn their tiny bags of silver stalling in the old west. Guides desperately try to keep folks attention. They proudly say something while constantly peeking at the tram movement in front of us. ” I wasn’t trained to say this much,” is the truth to their befuddled facial expressions. Veteran guides don’t over react and stay in the moment, but new summer hires just cram stuff in with a petrified look. Rookie guides tend to shout nervously. Most guides are new in the summer, it becomes a match to drown out other guides doing the same spiels in other trams. This is where-brain cells die.
I have more fun watching the guests faces as the guides attempt to enlighten and entertain. These backups can last a half hour in sometimes brutal sun.
Most guides are here just to be discovered by some director, it’s not the pay that seals the deal. It’s stardom… O’k that rarely happens but it’s the dream come true of every face behind that microphone. I once did a private tour for Whoopi Goldberg, she pointed out to our guide, quote ‘I once applied for a tour guide position but was refused, do to my color.” -” But I ended up making quite a bit more money!” with a devilish laugh she exclaimed in all her bravado. My struggling tour guide was happy for her success, I could tell. Do say, She didn’t tip like she’s rich.
Jack Wagner is the biggest success story to move on from that backwards facing seat with the microphone.
Another guide named Katy Garretson moved on to directing from her front row seat on the tour. She has won achievement awards, you could tell she even on the tram she can run a show. These two former guides achieved high professional success and are now legendary in their previous world of tram tour guides. Role models if ever there was…
For us drivers, we’re Teamsters…life is good. We jump from shows- to tours, and vice a versa. I have so much fun on these 4 car contraptions, you meet the entire world and show them your small portion of your Universe. Especially on private nights when companies rent out a tram, driver-guide, we are a team after all, and do liquored up tours with folks letting their hair down. Spirits bring out the spirits. Not everybody has the cash to rent this place out, those who do sure have fun.
Bodega Bay is more than just a duplicated set on our backlot, it’s a way of life for us tour employees.Tour Guides pour their soul out in this area and it’s my job to listen, before driving to the next stall- backup for more of the same…
You can never have enough information when it comes to touring with 175 captive customers.
“and on the drivers side of the tram that ditch was in Night Gallery”…”no it wasn’t” but if you say it on a microphone it happened. Make it up, yep-I’ve heard everything from my All American Good Looking Side Kicks!
Written and Lived by…Donnie Norden.