Easter Egg Hunt in the MGM Backlot

The final scene from MGM’s Easter Parade 1948I have my own special Easter hunting for eggs on the MGM’S Backlot 2.

Easter is when the difference between Catholic School and Public School is most noticeable. The days off don’t line up at all. Catholic kids wait for the resurrection before being cut loose with days off. Public School just calls it “spring break” no morals or scruples, just colored eggs and time-off. We pray- while they play!

But on Easter Sunday…all is forgiven. We all unite as one-under the guise of a good Peter Rabbit story. This is the time east meets west, all roads lead to God.

Jews, Catholics, Muslims, even Atheists, can come together as flowers begin their magnificent blooms. Today, God, in his magic, created colored eggs and chocolate bunnies, for kids of every age and color to unite in this small, small world. It’s amazing what candy can do…it breaks down fences and barriers.

My Easter lasted 3 months last year. That’s when Jimmy and I finally finished finding all the eggs. Two stubborn faded hard-boiled guys stayed hidden until around the 4th of July, when their odor and decomposition finally gave them away. They were lodged inside the steel bumper of an old Rambler that my dad has parked in our long driveway…

Odor solved; it was beginning to affect our kitchen table breakfasts. “No mom, I don’t want any eggs today or ever again.”… We’ve been living off pancakes for over a month due to the foul effects of rotten eggs.

This year, my mom has encouraged me to do this elsewhere, like Jimmy’s house. She still wants to spend Saturday coloring a couple dozen fresh ones, mom’s quite the artist, just hide them somewhere else is the rule this year.

Walking home from Market Basket with 2 dozen eggs in tow and a box full of chocolate marshmallow bunnies, I see Maureen as I turn the corner headed home for the decorating party. She is wearing a new Led Zeppelin t-shirt from the concert we both attended (but not together) at the Fabulous Forum. We excitedly exchange notes: “My seats were terrible” she says, “My seats were great” I brag. “They sounded sloppy drunk” she complains but it was mind-blowing!” we agree. “What ya got there Donnie?”

“Oh yeah, eggs!” then I ask her, “do you want to sneak in MGM and hide these with me?” “You hide a dozen, and I will hide a dozen at the same time- there’s no better place for a hard-boiled egg hunt than MGM.”

“Of course, what time?” she chimes. “Bright and early, I have to go to church about 11,” that was the one condition I had to agree to, to get this bag of Easter goodies”…

My mom loves MGM, if she didn’t walk with a crutch, she would come with us, I’m sure…bless her heart. But in the spirit and soul of living vicariously through her son, she has helped me decorate my eggs after MGM movie stars!

We are talking an Easter Parade of eggs, saluting MGM legends. Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Liz Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Ricardo Montalban, Roddy McDowall, Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Laurel and Hardy. MGM’s big hitters made up and ready for their 7am backlot call times.

A Bright Easter Morning – 7am

Maureen greets me on my porch, my parents are still asleep, we sit on the stairs admiring these hard-boiled legends. My mom should work for the MGM Art Department. Fantastic stuff, mom outdid herself on these hard-boiled entertainment legends!

We know these will end up being pulverized, that’s how most our egg hunts terminate, with a Battle Royale.

We load everything in one easy to run with canvas bag with handles, just in case a whiskered easter villain with a badge interrupts us. TWA has its logo stitched on each flapped side; it fits nicely on my shoulder. I feel like a pilot, why not, we do have a jumbo jet inside the airplane hangar used in the movie Skyjacked, starring Chuck Heston.

TWA meet MGM as 4 tennis shoes hit the ground at the same time at our Grand Central Train Station. We quickly occupy a seat in the Pullman train cars to get a feel for what’s up on the backlot. I expect zero security, or a courtesy Bronco drive through at best. Maybe the White Rabbit will run by; anything can happen here. We’ll tell him a hookah-smoking caterpillar has given us the call.

The sun comes in through the train windows caked with dust patterns on the east side compartments and shines on the eggs we are looking over one last time…Nice, mom made a Louis B. Mayer egg, and it’s gold, with round glasses!

Maureen finds a special egg in her carton… Lassie… mom painted the dog!

We love all of Lassie’s shows. I should have brought my dog Pebbles with us, that’s all that’s missing here. This is like That’s Entertainment- hard boiled!

Ok, here’s the rules…Catholic kids always have to have rules, it’s the law.

“You hide yours here, in these trains…and inside the Grand Station,” as I gesture with my arms.” I will go to the cemetery behind the Romeo and Juliet sets, so your hunt will be in the graveyard.”

“Sounds fun …get out of here!” as I am pushed out the side train door back onto the cement platform. “I’ll be back after I hide these guys, you have this entire train station to work with…see you in about 15 minutes!”

Twenty – minutes later, at the depot…

There are five trains at this depot, each with its own long aisle containing row after row of seats with hiding places.

I find my first egg, sitting proudly like the head of a movie studio would. It’s the Golden Egg, with Louis B. Mayer on it. It is in between the arm rests separating two reclining seats. His glasses are facing forward, as if he’s ready to have his ticket punched… in the first-class section.

He is the first one to go back inside the egg carton. Maureen is upset I found that one so quickly, “I think he wants out of this dusty train and would like to head back to his clean white office.” as I shut the lid on this mogul.

Peter Lawford has just been located, in an overhead compartment, he is yellow and hidden properly. The initials P.L. are on this egg in case we couldn’t recognize this member of the rat-pack. One of my mom’s heart throbs. This is so fun!

Maureen says there are a few outside also… I climb down the steel steps and examine the exterior, underneath the carriage, the train’s massive wheels, the couplers, the air hoses, like a conductor doing his pre-trip inspection. As luck and hinting would have it, Fred Astaire has been spotted on the sprouting grass between the rails. This spot is where he filmed the Band Wagon song By Myself.

Astaire… scene from the Band Wagon, but mom has drawn him in his more familiar top hat. (Grand Central Station MGM Backlot #2).

My Easter Egg Hunt location taken in 1973. (Grand Central Station MGM Backlot #2).

Free Range Fred Egg

Roddy McDowall is hiding around here I’m told. That hint takes me to the doorway he walked through when we both met him on Planet of the Apes. As I walk through that same door today, his egg appears, it’s on the fence cross brace in plain sight. It says Roddy on one side and is died Purple. That is a perfect color for the Bookworm.

I met Roddy McDowall for my second time on this TV series in 1974-He greeted all the kids who were watching these scenes filmed at Grand Central Station. The series wanted an abandoned look, bringing in cement fragments. The station was used in Young Frankenstein right before this and was very fancy. Both Planet of the Apes and Young Frankenstein were 20th Century Fox renting the MGM backlot. This station would get fixed up nicely for The Fortune, this deterioration is set dressing. This would become fit for a Band Wagon, once again.

The hunt begins here, we climb in where these train tracks enter the backlot.

We’re leaving the Train Station and off to the cemetery!There is a fence in this picture laying on the ground, white and dented, a car crashed through it. It was a traffic accident, not a stunt. Imagine crashing your car on the backlot. I’d keep driving around, leave out the main gate. The studio put a replacement fence in, which funny enough, was the side of a ship with port holes to look in the studio from. That’s the story behind this picture, Look closely, the rear of the train has a guard getting out of the Red Bronco, they patrol this area knowing this is our favorite way in.

My partner in today’s story...This picture is from Maureen’s balcony seen here holding her nephew Shad, In the background is Lot 2. Yes she had balcony MGM seating. We watched filming from her bedroom. So much fun…Notice the fence and you will see two-port holes. That’s the replacement to the fence-the side of a ship. Only in Hollywood…

MGM Lot 2 cemetery in it’s glory. Site of my original Hole in the Fence. When we entered we were scared stiff, we crawled in the high grass along these tombstones. In the 70’s, this cemetery was moved around to different locations. NY Street used it on Soylent Green. Chuck Connors had a shootout with Charlton Heston in the climax. Also, The Phantom of the Backlot used these graves at Tarzan’s Lake. Then Young Frankenstein made a graveyard below the Girls Reform School I still call Boystown. These are Styrofoam. Some are wood and were last used in Logan’s Run. I’ll take you on that set in Book 2 “The Uninvited Guest.” Walk with Richard York and Jenny Agutter with my pal Jimmy and I…
These gravestones were used in “Young Frankenstein” and seen here in transit.

A picture I took of the location of the Lot 2 cemetery. I’m peeling apart Peter Lawford as we head over to the next set. I’m hungry… it’s always fun when you can eat game pieces. The cemetery relocated for more filming.

We are done on my part of the hunt, next it’s her turn!

An egg hunt in a haunted cemetery…

“OK girl”…I kept it simple, most are in this cemetery but two are at the pool, just sunning themselves.”

She scans the field of retired souls, and now slowly walks apprehensively in search of…movie eggs. Cautiously, she touches the tops of the graves, like she’s knocking on a front door. She is warming up to this macabre environment. I bet no kids anywhere are having an Easter Morning quite like this… except maybe in Transylvania.

That’s good because I hid a white egg with Red Slippers on it- inside a coffin. This coffin has weeds growing out of the partially open lid. The egg just rolled under a wad of ancient and current spider webs. We will see if these slippers can be recovered or if Boris the Spider is the new owner of these painted on Ruby Red Slippers.

She points to the sarcophagus, looking for some reaffirmation, I blankly stare back, “Open it!”

Knowing she hates spiders -her head turns as if she’s seen a Phantom, perhaps Lon Chaney. He lurked this lot in the silent era after all… Boldly she grabs the Judy egg. “It’s cracked”, she says. Then in one smooth move as I approach her, she throws it at me sidearm.

Bullseye! She’s good… she can turn a double-play, she’s that good. The cracked egg is now pulverized as I tumble backwards alongside someone less fortunate than me. From a horizontal position, I look up at the graves as the dust settles, I slowly lift myself back up. We both bust up, “keep hunting”-as I think-your time will come!

I left this simple, a six-year-old could do it and most of these hard-boiled movie stars are now recovered, except the two “E’s”…Elvis and Esther. Esther sits balanced on the edge of her own diving board. Skateboards have replaced swimmers nowadays. As Maureen examines this blue egg with Esther on it, we agree, let’s let her roll off the diving board, her final plunge. We will leave her in the pool for eternity… Elvis, with your collar and fancy hair, you just stay seated in that metal lawn chair.

We sit next to King’s egg and talk. Just Maureen, me, and an egg painted with hair, glasses, and a collar. We decide to leave him be, “Happy Easter Elvis, if you get hungry, my mom’s having a buffet, around 2-ish”

Written and Lived by Maureen Miller and Donnie Norden….

4 thoughts on “Easter Egg Hunt in the MGM Backlot”

  1. As usual such a joy to read. I loved the mention of everything I remember and Market Basket.
    I wish I could have known you back then. Great story.

      1. I used to go to the basement at Grants and look at the turtles and parakeets !
        Martins Music was a favorite and the Bakery!

      2. I forgot about the critters – good one! Records West and The Surprise Store also, Winchell’s donuts is where I’d run into MGM security. 

        M y first bank was Coast Savings .This is great, of course Martin’s Music also. Heck … Helms Bakery, 


        div>Why leave, they deliver!!! 



        Sent from my iPhone


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