The 20th Century Fox Studio Auction-1971

Hello Dolly sets at the 20th Century Fox entrance. Picture taken from rooftop on N.Y Street.
Not only is this land worth a bundle, there’s oil underneath it. Slant drilling takes place from the Beverly Hills High School Campus. The rich-get richer!
Oil wells surround this studio as well as MGM Lot 3. Backlots and oil fields work well together.
Hello Dolly set- Fox does their NFL Pre-game show where this section once stood.
This Auction Catalogue was provided to me by Mr. William Daly. My friend William is the oldest remaining MGM trespasser still around to tell tales. He was caught under the moonlight by MGM security with whistles, flashlights, and night sticks on MGM Lot 3 in the late 1950’s. I’m honored to have made his acquaintance.
Cleopatra Art
Custer’s Last Stand- Art
Planet of the Apes-Storyboard
Hello Dolly…
Bottle of Scotch in the hands of Humphrey Bogart.
Royalty sleeps here…1971 waterbeds became popular, times were changing.
This is what I want!
This is a full-scale glass-sleeps two “Where would you put this? It could double as a pool.”
Throne for sale...The King and I
Carved and painted Oval Chaise. Decorated with flowers and rococo foliage. “Let’s Make Love “starring Marilyn Monroe.
Bid won by Joe DiMaggio…Marilyn-not the camera boom. The Yankee Clipper was her best buddy. The original Mr. Coffee brought class to all his endeavors.
Chariot above- intricate details attached below.
Details around the rear wheels…
The dead traveled with windows…
Used in -Old Chicago
Old Chicago…
Wild Animals, Snakes, and Freaks- that often describes the scenery of movie backlots…

The Titanic doubled for The Queen Mary. Just remove a smokestack.
Lifeboat from-Titanic
The Tennessee
The Kaga-A model of a Japanese Aircraft Carrier.
The Tennessee Model Battleship
The Siranuhi-Model of Japanese Destroyer
The Kirishima Battleship
The Neosho
Galleon…

The Niagara…
River Queen from Swanee River
Von Ryan’s Express
German Tank-Desert Rats

The Seventies begin…

A year after MGM sold its soul to the devil-20th Century followed suit a year later. Never has there been more access to chariots, airplanes-full scale and miniature, and ships for sea. “Costumes needed, step right up. We’re giving them away.” “We’re going to build a modern city on this sacred ground,” that’s the pitch.

Groundbreaking started in the early 60’s and real estate was about to skyrocket. This entire city known as Century City was pure backlot. Its size rivaled MGM, which is a short trip down Motor Avenue. All the studios on the Westside succumbed to inflated real estate. Lot after lot was auctioned off to the highest bidder. The equipment and props used on these lots were no longer needed, and deals were everywhere.

MGM and 20th Century Fox decided to cash in their chips. Desilu would also succumb to this huge cash cow real estate is providing. I imagine the Hogan’s Heroes tree stump would have received bids. Or the dog houses, guard towers, and door handles from Stalag 13. The Mayberry Courthouse door handles should be in a catalog. The fuel pumps at the filling station and the soda ice box. Desilu/Culver gave their stuff away, or in some cases-forgot it was there. Such as my recent discovery of Marion Davies’ original Make-up trailer. You know the one I discovered in a backyard, that was pulled around by horses. Bunkers full of old TV shows were sat abandoned and neglected.

RKO/Desilu fizzled out…No auction, no mention-the land that time forgot!

Legendary items left to fend for themselves, ending up in the hands of kids with a keen eye. No bids required, yours for the taking.

But the big two players, Fox and MGM, couldn’t dump stuff fast enough. Bring your checkbook. This is where adults become kids again. These sales were once in a lifetime and closed the curtain on how the studio system once worked.

I started sneaking into the 20th Century lot in 1974, after about a year of scouting. It turns out, the Pico entrance had a climbable tall fence without any barb wire. The problem there is Stages surround you as you land inside. You’re boxed in with no hiding places, so running is an option, from point A, to point B. Point B is either a tiny little Western Street, used in an episode of Starsky and Hutch, also The Rookies, S.W.A.T. and Charlie’s Angels were in full swing.

Movies going on were The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Young Frankenstein. These were shows that I semi- infiltrated in various locations on this lot. This isn’t like my studios; the main lot connects to backlot streets. Stages are dominant in the landscape. The main lot is a semi backlot. But this lot once had a backlot, and it was big enough to become home and office for thousands of residents.

I remember a Friday night Jimmy and I were on the 20th Century lot; we snuck in by climbing a chain link fence on Pico Blvd, right next to the L.A. Rams ticket office, across from Rancho Park Golf Course. This area is all stages with little or no hiding places. We felt like novices, we barely know this lot other than from the outside looking in through holes in the fence. We became alerted when we were looked at suspiciously by crew transmitting with walkie-talkies. Jimmy and I separated in two different directions. I turned a corner and chose a bush to hide behind that was exactly my size. No one saw me- so I’m safe if I never move. Trailers are parked outside the stages; it appears I may be here for a while… you know how these things go.

I’m pretty pinned down, but I’m protected in the shadows, just me and some spiders who probably wonder what I’m doing here. To my amazement, I see something hidden inside this bush that right now- is the center of my universe. There is a round reel of film inside a box that says –Young Frankenstein.

“I’ll be damned, that’s my show,” I think to myself pressed up against the stage wall. An actress in a western costume is talking to some guy on a bike as I peek through the branches that surround me. A red light spins every time filming commences on stage, like on a police car roof top. I’m not sure what I’m hiding from. No one is chasing me, I’m just a little scared is all. “I can’t believe there is an entire reel in this box”… I saw all the exteriors filmed at MGM, and now I’ve found a reel in this nicely manicured hedge at 20th Century Fox. So many thoughts cross my mind. “How, why, what… this has to be a theft and I’m sitting right next to it! It’s my favorite monster movie ever.

Someone was going to pirate this film or this reel anyway by all appearances, and this hedge I’m hiding in was involved in the plan. A drop off point maybe. This hiding place I’ve chosen, and the contents here could land me in prison. It’s one of those things- you want it- just can’t have it. I was just trying to hide during a perilous moment, and I end up in a bush with a soon to be released- box office hit.

Today on this lot in Century City, there are still reminders and some existing sections that date back to when all things glittered Gold, before they were all sold for cash…

Do I hear 100 dollars for this empty bottle-SOLD!”

Written and lived by Donnie Norden

The Love-Ins

Lysergic acid diethylamide...LSD
It’s time to get Psychedelicized…1967
This isn’t a show about the 60’s. It’s a real life culture experience made in the time it existed as such. But if you weren’t around at that time…Welcome to the land of Green Tamborine’s.
Often, this set on MGM’s backlot 2 is a police precinct. After this picture, it went from a public library in Soylent Green. It would change next into the 56th Precinct in a TV series MGM made called Popi.
56th Precinct…Popi
This depicts our young society back then… Tune in, turn on, and get out of Vietnam.
Girlstown, Boystown, MGM High-School, Reform School, call it what you wish…we lived the Love-In lifestyle here too.
Hey…. this is better than the Universal Tour!”
Hi-LSD tram”
Before drugs…James MacArthur takes a walk through the Formal Gardens
After drugs look…Formal Gardens. This overgrown path takes you from the Colonial Mansion to the Bewitching Pool. In the Twilight Zone episode-A Thing About Machines- Bartlett Finchley gets chased to his death by his Rolls Royce.
Checkmate...These chess pieces won’t stop laughing…
Susan Oliver gracing the stage. Esther Williams pool is located where the hut is in this photo.
The Magic Bus…
I’m feeling it…it’s fantastic Dr. Barnett
Go ask Alice- before she’s ten feet tall. This White Rabbit is leading another trip down the rabbit hole.
There’s 12 of me,,,enjoy”
Is the Mad Hatter -Jimi Hendrix?”
This area in front of Boystown is as big as a football field and doubles as any park U.S.A
In 1969, Elvis completed passes here in The Trouble with Girls
This was my balcony seat when filming was taking place on this street.
Another view from upstairs.A couple Dozen Twilight Zones used this Brownstone street. Try to name them…
A picture of a dressed set on the TV series Popi. I had a great adventure on the set of this short lived series starring Hector ElizondoHole in the Fence Book Two. Picture taken from window featured in story. My camera, a Minolta SRT 102, had a long and heavy telephoto lens on it. This enabled me to zoom in on guards or movie stars and all things in between. The size was a hindrance, bulky and awkward. So when I got chased, I cradled it in my right arm like a football, with my left arm free to straight arm any resistance. This was a major boost in my picture taking in these studios. This picture is taken from window our tripster sets flight from.
Reopening of the 3rd Eye- it’s cultivated by the power of drugs like Peyote, Mushrooms and LSD. All part of this belief system. It’s still a popular method to connect to everything, both seen and unseen.
San Francisco is the city of hippie origin – “How about a little Eric Burdon and the Animals about now.”
“I can fly baby-this brown windowpane gave me wings”
This has always been the social district.
Drugs didn’t kill him…the fall did !
The last ever picture of this window and building. It’s being pushed down by two bulldozers, seconds later a large cloud of dust would cover me…September 1980.

Amongst Rainbows and butterflies…

Having grown up in the 60’s, I lived this vibe. Compared to today, this was heaven. But in the the decade this film was made, Vietnam was a war our 18 year olds wanted nothing to do with. Down with War was the catch phrase. The counter drug culture developed and Make Love-Not War protests would become common place.

16 and 17 years olds commonly had long hair. At 18, you better be in college, As Creedence Clearwater put it, your either a Fortunate Son, or you have a Bad Moon Rising. But the song that fits this time zone narrative and that put Jefferson Airplane into the stratosphere was-White Rabbit.

It was released the same time this film was made-1967. The Summer of Love. This song was an invitation to feed your head. The psychedelic generation made this song their anthem.

Grace Slick, the band’s founder, says it this way…

“In all those children’s stories, you take some kind of chemical that leads you to a great adventure.”

The Lewis Carroll story- Alice in Wonderland, was way ahead of it’s time.

Grace continues” Alice in Wonderland is blatant. “Eat Me!” She gets so high she’s too big for the room. “Drink Me!” The caterpillar is sitting on a psychedelic mushroom smoking opium!”

Grace continues “This song was about the importance of education.” “Feed your head” the climax to White Rabbit, “was meant to liberate your brain and your senses.”

The 70’s culture retained much of this color, music and passion. Cocaine became prevalent, and all these drugs could easily be found in public school. Everything Jefferson Airplane sings about and more, carried over in another very colorful decade. On the MGM backlot-The sixties and seventies blended together. Sargeant Pepper would be made in 1977. Based off the Beatles album of the Sixties. The color, pageantry, and drugs continued like some Yellow Submarine trip.

This film-The Love-Ins was made by Columbia Pictures on the MGM backlot. Why they didn’t use their own backlot confuses me. They easily have backgrounds and a fancy park at The Columbia Ranch. What’s cool- is they didn’t.

Drugs and backlot adventures go together, hand in hand. It’s a wonderland weather Alice greets you or not. I have wonderful story called White Rabbit in part 2 of Hole in the Fence, second edition, coming later this year. It involves Magic Mushrooms and a chase by MGM security, the funny thing is-I was bare foot. It started in Tarzan’s Lake and I was doing my best Tom Sawyer impression. One of my fellow trespasser friends ended up in jail as everything that could go wrong-DID!

This backlot was so fun-drugs weren’t needed. MGM is a drug. But enhancement of the senses can manifest any illusion you can imagine. It’s as if these studio backlots were intelligently designed for just this reason.

You may see a White Rabbit or two, trying to lead you down a rabbit hole. You too can experience all this enchantment, simply by following me through my…Hole in the Fence!

Written and lived by….Donnie Norden

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.
Parenthood…
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 obscene.so 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.

Leo the Lion

You enter this rooftop through a trap door, a lion sits above you. “Ars Gratia Artis” (Art for art’s sake) proudly promulgated.
MGM Lot 1 … Culver City, CA
The more modern 70’s Lion, greets visitors here in 1974…
This picture of the Lion preceded Loew’s control…Leo actually sat on a different rooftop after this merger. This sign replaced the Triangle Sign. Stage 6 was still to be built. 3 film companies would soon combine ranks. Metro Pictures, Goldwyn Pictures and Louie B. Mayer Pictures. Combined we have MGM studios. Marcus Loew had controlling interest.
Controlled by Loews Inc…
The Loew family estate in Long Island. (Pembroke) was torn down in 1968 by Arthur, who lived in a smaller house on the property in 1977.
Marcus Loew
Nick Schenk…
Another big-wig in the early days at MGM was Nick Schenck. This is his home also in Long Island. Purchased in 1942, this 20 acre estate has a 30 room main house. It included a private movie theater and a 200 ft dock. These insights were forwarded to me by a gentlemen named LeGrand Clark. I deeply appreciate his insight regarding this subject. He had the pleasure of having relatives who could see this estate from across the harbor. Thanks LeGrand, great name you have sir!.
My recall tells me there was a lion up here…My picture is from the iconic water tower looking down on stage 6. Yep, I’ve been on top of that water tank also.
This is the ladder up to the top of the sign…
This is the catwalk in between the MGM sign that stood above Stage 6. It now advertises for Columbia Pictures. Two different movies can be advertised at the same time.. One facing west, one facing east. This work platform is what you don’t see from the city below.
No matter how hard she tries, she can’t replace my Lion
Captain of the MGM Air Force, dead center with the white head. Some nights we would lay on the grass on Maple Street and just stare at the sky and stars, owls silently move about, until you hear a high pitch squeal. They always catch their “man.” Often, one stood a top the church steeple, silent, then an owl “Hoot Hoot” greeting. Truly part of this backlot. They still operate at the highest points of Lot 1-Sony.
One picture was all he allowed. He flies off towards MGM lot 1. You can see the wings spread open, gaining lift in center window-top. I’ve seen these owls fly up to LEO, with offerings. The owls long proceeded me and watched with me all things in all my MGM stories. I’m so happy this continues to this day. In my early morning excursions with my dog, I saw an owl hunt a possum and fly away towards the giant marquee. These owls must be included when we talk MGM history.
I belong on the roof!
The iconic stage 6 with the sign on the roof sits just beyond the water tower...
View from roof of 6…See what the Lion saw
Looking south, towards MGM lot 3
St Augustine’s church, going to school here, I always adored having the Lion watching down on me in the school yard. Leo and God.
South view again from 6…
See the watering hole- better known as the Backstage. It’s that Auburn colored building. It has poured drinks for all your favorite stars over the decades…
A door to adventure…
Where the Lion once perched…
Leo’s first move after his divorce was across the street from here, where he married again, briefly.
An old paper that would reflect on the movie studios fate in the years to come, get use to this sad tune…
The film corp removal, its exit from the city. It is not the original.

Marc Wanamaker shows frustration for the overall well being of this piece of MGM history. The founder of Bison Archives, the motion picture photo database he has put together is unrivaled. I donated several of mine to his preservation of priceless, timeless photos. He and I share the same thought process here, all the unfixable damage has already preceded this event.
Off in the distance is the water tower and MGM sign from a theater roof top on New York street, MGM lot 2. The square building is the scenic art department that blocks the view from the backlot. The water tower and sign are partially obstructed.
The MGM owls often traversed this skyline and flew to the water tower in the distance. Imagine seeing this area tarped over with black canvas for night shooting during daylight. That’s what took place up on these catwalks..
MGM sign in distance features the movie “Why Would I Lie ?”…1980 End is near. A few cars still sit in Park Avenue from Chips. The wood in this area is being salvaged and taken by truckload to Mexico, if you ever wondered what happened to New York Street on Lot 2.
The MGM sign silhouetted looking west from the roof of the Culver Hotel.
This picture of the iconic MGM sign at night is from the film Melinda
Unlike many stars, Leo follows simple direction…
The Historic Triangle Entrance built by Thomas Inc.
The same original-well maintained walkway, across from St Augustine school. “I was pretending to be in MGM” as I rode my bike to school everyday, until I crossed this street -and that’s where discipline begins. Let’s finish with a good prayer…I have even prayed while hiding from MGM security, on the backlot, I was running out of options and-it worked!
I love this place...A frequent expression of mine. My sister Nancy was taller than me then and her MGM moment involved meeting Elvis Presley at The Veteran’s Auditorium during the filming of Viva Las Vegas. Everybody’s got a story it seems...

Climbing some ladders today…we begin:

This is a salute to this iconic moniker that used to sit perched a top Stage 6 on the MGM main lot. This Lion illuminated at night and looked down not only on the MGM property, including their backlots, but this entire city. You could see it from the 405 freeway. That certain section of buildings exclusively captures MGM, past and present. The three iconic identifiers are the Scenic Arts building, The Water Tower, and the Lion on the tallest stage on the main lot.

I fell in love with this studio long before I started sneaking in MGM. In the sixties, on my way to elementary school at St. Augustines, I looked upwards at Leo in passing every day. The only thing changing it seemed was the calendar and the films promoted below Leo’s proud roar. By the time I made it to school, I roared into class.

How could I not, I left an hour early because I liked looking through Holes in the Fence all along my journey. My lunch pail was THE RAT PATROL. Lucky me, I passed by these desert squad vehicles often, often staged up by the main gate. I couldn’t drive yet, but I imagined myself not only behind the steering wheel, but also at the handles of the 50 caliber machine guns. It was an adventure for me just to get to school. I’d rather be “On Location”

At night, the lion was like a porch light from the backlot perspective. My life wishes eventually led me to the top of this sign on top of Stage 6, but also, The Water Tower, I was able get up on the very top with the help of scaffolding. For me, these were lifetime goals. Over the course of my life, I’ve made my own history in every iconic building or set on this property.

Legendary MGM security guard Ken Hollywood took special care of me. It was Ken who hooked me up with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire while filming That’s Entertainment.All this took place with the Lion looking down watching me, like my personal pet in neon form. Old MGM guards were very kind to me, sharing their studio experiences with me at the guard shacks I always stopped at on the way home from school.

In 1981, I was hired by MGM film labs as a reel router. My job was to get reels of film to various stops needed for laboratory processing. Six reels per film, Victor Victoria was our hit, starring James Garner. CHIPS was the hit Tv show along with Highway to Heaven. I met Michael Landon on the main lot. Lorimar Telepictures owned the studio, and the MGM sign was replaced, but my checks said MGM. It still had contract fulfillments.

MGM Film Labs was the last department to capitulate, and MGM was officially no more as this department faded to black. I was there, my dream job. Rumors persisted prior to this decision so I crossed my fingers, wore a rabbit’s foot, and prayed to God for this to never end. But God had other plans-bigger and better in the long run. You probably are already aware I had a long fascinating career at Universal Studios. Still today, I walk around the Sony lot as if it were 1972 again.

I want to graciously thank Mr. Steven Bingen for including me- of all people– to his latest latest work of art. It’s now available on Amazon. I’ve earned my MGM stripes along with couple scars to go with a knocked out tooth. MGM was that kind of place. Steven’s book is the type you see proudly displayed at Barnes and Noble, the kind of book you turn pages with white gloves on. Decadent to say the least.

It’s a complete contrast from my old green fence covered book topped off with barbed wire. You have to trespass to enter my book. Beware of splinters and yes- security. I can get you a helmet, their’s a room full.

I very much look forward to yet another fabulous Steven Bingen book, I can’t thank him enough for including ME. I wish his books existed when I was trespassing, that would have helped.So why don’t we all meet in the middle of the lot that will always be MGM. Beneath a lady holding a torch and a sign promoting Bullet Train– in a place where- A Lion Once Roared.

Written and lived by…Donnie Norden

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.

Strange Neighbors-Code 3

Colonial Street, Universal Studios. The Leave It to Beaver House foreground, during Christmas.
R.I.P. Tony Dow, Universal Hall of Fame. The Beaver’s House on a sunny day…
Same house-different address…
Original Colonial Street location. Producer Bungalows replaced this area. It was moved, yes, the entire street. Welcome to Hollywood. The Long and Winding Road-wait -is that Paul McCartney?
Kid’s go to school here- pull over!” You’re correct- that’s the Beaver House in the rear-view mirror.
We just passed the Beaver House, now passing the Munster’s, he’s not stopping, speeds up to 50 mph”
Beaver House inside search…
All clear...
Beaver’s house is clearsuspect at Munster’s house”...
1313 Mockingbird Lane- Munster’s House
They could be anywhere around hereDamn-Trespassers!”…Beaver house side view beyond officer Malloy.
Blue jeans- long hair….very fast”
Munster’s Houseopposite end of street...”I’m sick of chasing you!”
Have you seen two kids running around?”…” No-Are they still on the loose?”
Have we searched the Pink Palace yet?”
I’m not searching in here…”
Thanks for protecting our neighborhood…
We have fine law enforcement – that’s why we live here.”
My favorite house on the lot. Let’s peek inside, shall we?…
Bottom floor, just inside the front door where Butch Patrick exits with a club in his hand
Although Lily Munster seldom cooked, Teri Hatcher did. So Desperate Housewives built her character a nice kitchenette. That TV series took over this street for eight years. Disney was in charge of this entire street. No other filming was allowed. Disney and Universal compete heavy against each other, tour guides were not to promote this show. The view out the kitchen window looks at The Beaver House across the way. The original street location had both houses on the same side of street.
This is the stairway that takes you to the second floor
This is the turret section of the Munster’s home-interior.

The turret exterior, on the right upstairs. French doors took you out on a balcony when The Munsters lived here.
Today’s version of 1313 relocated.
The Beatles had a sleepover in 1965 on the Universal Lot. MCA -Music Corporation of America…Not movies-music is the(M). Lew Wasserman, rest his soul, stepped up and offered our facility to a band that is so big, hotels wanted nothing to do with them. Dodger Stadium’s first concert. The baseball team won the World Series in 1965.

How did I miss this one“- I wasn’t hired in yet, but soon after-I too gave Michael Jackson a tour on that exact trolley. We paused while inside the ice tunnel, and my tour guide gave him the microphone as I slowly backed up, went forward, backed up -just to force him to sing his way out…As the tunnel spun endlessly, Michael sang a verse of (Beat It). We had a captive audience-stuck in a spinning tunnel of ice.
Paul McCartney with wife Linda-clutching a refreshing Jaws cup- and Michael Jackson. In the years to come, M.J. not only took the VIP tours often, but he shot two large videos on our lot. Paul was here in 1965 with the Beatles on a sleep over-with the entire band in tow. Beatles, Munsters, and the King of Pop, one big summerfest .
Michael Jackson appears so shy…Paul fits right in-Castle Dracula on your tour map. Quincy Jones and his 28 Grammys complete our show… “On behalf of the boys in the band, we thank you for this audition “

On a quaint little neighborhood on the Universal Backlot…We Begin

There are so many iconic homes are on this street, it’s hard to disguise what can still appear as clear as day. Every house on this street has a star attached to it, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Barbara Eden, Eva Longoria, Marcus Welby, The Cleaver Family and my favorite-The Munsters.

Recently, I was watching Adam 12 and criminal activity was taking place where all these stars have studio homes. Reed and Malloy attempted to make a traffic stop on a speeder in a Chevy Nova, naturally he resisted. Quickly things escalated and backups arrived and scoured the street. I became fascinated, this street has very noticeable structures and all were in play on this episode. Two houses we all know and grew up at were the focus of police attention.

First, the Beaver House needed to be investigated, while the suspect ended up across from the Munsters’ residence. At this point, I’m all in. A potpourri of iconic film sets need police to secure it. This is better than my TV dinner. My mind races as the police search everywhere- my gosh, this could be me running from building to building. Before my long career, I trespassed here, I met Barbara Eden on this street in Harper Valley P.T.A.

I hung out with Dan Pastorini and Greg Evigan along with Sam – the chimp. Bear is his stage name. These were all fine trespassing moments. I never could have dreamed back when I banged the bushes to hang out here, I would eventually have a full backstage pass career here. Before I worked here, I knew these buildings inside and out. As a production electrician, I would need access to all the buildings on this lot. Inside are the shooting stations that we tie our power to and distribute around the set.

My job requires me access to the same buildings I used to hide from security in. My, how times changed.

This street would be moved, one structure at a time, to an upper lot location as the studio landscape was altered and producer bungalows would become a creative campus area. Backlot sets were relocated even deeper in the backlot. In this remembrance, I want you to see what the two homes featured in this episode look like inside. These interiors you walk into now are not the same as they originally were-they were restrengthened, and old rotted wood replaced.

This is necessary if you want another 50 years of movie and TV production to happen here. These sets are now built to last, secured and sealed from weather. Yes, flat out livable. There is one bathroom next to the Beaver House and not every house has water. But wood floors, carpets and drapes brighten up what once were drab interiors.

This episode of one of the best police shows of its time triggered so many memories. Tram guests love this street. Cameras can’t click fast enough as tourist’s heads swing side to side. Many not understanding a single word being spoken. One set is equal to a thousand words in any language. The studio offers tours in several tongues, and it was fun to hear these sets talked about in German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and just good old broken English.

I couldn’t understand 90% of the tour, but the faces and reactions said it all. Guides and drivers laugh at how many pictures of us in action are across this great big planet. Since tourists rarely see movie stars, they photograph us. We feel very honored to have this privilege. On coffee tables everywhere foreign flags fly, you may see a tiny piece of memorabilia with yours truly behind the wheel of a Glamour Tram.

Adios, Auf Wiedersehen, Sayonara, Zaijian, Arrivederci… so long everybody.

Written and lived by…Donnie Norden

A Day with Maverick at TBS

My adventures on this backlot all start with this set. It’s behind a barn that we enter this facility. This is always the first thing we see. Let the adventure begin…
Kami Cotler at her favorite set. I wish to thank her publicly for allowing me to share a quote from her on the back cover of my book-Hole in the Fence. She’s the coolest Walton of all.
“I think those big kids over there are trespassing”- “yeah, they stink up the treehouse every time they’re here, where’d they come from?”…. “Jimmy-we’ve been had,- time to move on!”

“Do you smell what I smell John Boy?”- “I figured it was yours Grandpa, it’s what it smells like outside your trailer all the time”…
Ike Godsey’s Country Store…
The General Lee in the TBS Jungle.
“Hairpins and curls, touch ups done here”… Make-up on Laramie Street.
Laramie Street with a facelift for Maverick
When Howard Duff took an unexpected plunge, Morgan embraced me like I was -Mark Harmon.
These guys are often at this studio, I’ve met them also, at MGM Lot 2-1977.
Mr. James Garner on the field of The Rose Bowl following the Raider’s thumping of the Vikings.
James with actor/football star John Matuszak. This legendary character Maverick on Sundays is all things Raiders.
This is our call sheet and activities taking place…
Technical stuff needed for a long day…
Livestock is a big part of westerns…
All my years of trespassing has molded me to spring into action when a director yells “CUT”-I gotta go meet the star… “I’m a Maverick myself sir-I just rode into town”
Wood plank sidewalks, benches and chairs, lanterns, horse tie-offs, and canvas bags of merchandise that when opened are full of saw dust.
A sound stage version of Laramie Street.
Laramie Street– After snapping this photo-I fell partially through a hole in the roof, I barely escaped, like being stuck in quicksand. This is the view from the roof of the Bank being filmed at today. This was a very long fall had the roof not caught hold of my belt and camera strap. That story is in my book Hole in the Fence …Waltons 1975.
I survived of course, and next we drove around this backlot wearing Walton clothing we found in the trunk of the car. We were the Waltons on that deserted holiday weekend. A lot went on in the backlot while people celebrated elsewhere. So Fun….

101 Hollywood Freeway- 1982

At 55 MPH-We Begin…

Our thirst for a backlot adventure has taken Jimmy and me out to Burbank this Friday afternoon. We pass Universal Studios after exiting the 101 freeway onto a street named Barham. It intersects with The Burbank Studios, and another road called Hollywood Way, where Columbia Pictures backlot ranch is located. Our destination is any one of these studio backlots. Just to see studio backlots again is refreshing.

Culver City officially destructed every set ever built on their backlots. Townhomes, estates, and industrial warehouses have replaced 5th Avenue, New York City, Tarzan’s Lake, Mayberry, Stalag 13 and on and on. No morals, scruples or guilt seemed on display. A pure money grab, I barely recognize the city I grew up in.

Now a days, we drive to the valley to get our fix of Hollywood. We never know what shows we will run into and that will depend on what lot we choose to scale the fences at. Our decision is sometimes made and based off the challenges of being seen by homeowners living on the streets we park on. We try not to display ourselves as unusual, so we kind of read the tea leaves, so to speak.

But today we grab parking just outside a rusted old ivy-covered chain-link fence with the typical 3 strands of barb wire on top. On the other side is a thick jungle with a berm blocking a rooftop. We are entering the TBS lot behind The Waltons house, and the shed is where we take cover, next to some empty chicken coops and farm tools.

Since this area is deserted, we swing for a bit, on the Waltons tire swing. Pumping feverishly, taking turns, trying to reach higher heights on each leg kick. The treehouse sits vacant above us- no sign of any Walton family today.

The beauty of the valley is we never know what to expect show wise, and these Hollywood lots are always busy. This is like climbing into your TV set. Look over there- it’s Richard Thomas or John Boy, wait there’s the General Lee with Bo Duke. Is that Mr. Roarke and Tattoo? That’s how trespassing at a place like this works.

Flamingo Road let us watch them film last time we were here, they were filming at the lagoon up yonder. We watched as Howard Duff was attempting to dock a hydrofoil. As simple as that may sound, it didn’t go well. This large fan that looks like a studio wind machine was a bit tricky at low speed and suddenly flipped, tossing Mr. Duff headfirst into the swamp. I was standing next to Morgan Fairchild who was watching this scene with us.

At first, there was some concern, but as his head popped out of the shallow pond, laughter erupted. Morgan Fairchild, who was sipping tea, turned and stuck her head in my shoulder, trying to hide her laughter. Like I’m crew or something, I’m trespassing, but the star of the show is trying to control her laughter by putting her head on my shoulder.

Right place-right time is how the magic works. MGM, over the last decade, trained me for this very proficiently.

Every road here can lead to its own adventure and in four weeks or so, you can watch and relive this day as the show gets aired on network television. In many cases, we see scenes that get cut or go afoul. Such as this Hydrofoil, that outtake will be cut out and only lived or remembered by those working…or trespassing!

From a tire swing hanging from a tree house, we begin foraging through the jungle. No one is home today at The Waltons House. We pass by the lagoon that is full of water and go inside a cabin that overlooks this pond. We smoke a victory joint in a location today void of human life. We christen this moment with a billowing cloud of happiness. These evolve into shapes like figures as the sun highlights different patterns as these plumes travel slowly along hugging the green water. We sit on the porch relaxing, before we head over to Laramie Street, our next location. At this point-I feel like Grandpa Walton.

In front of Ike Godsey’s Country Store, we are greeted by horses with saddles, tied to a large horse trailer. Jimmy and I exchange “Hellos” to these 4-legged actors. We scratch their snouts as they kick at the dirt. Lots of action is taking place over at Laramie Street, we see cowboys riding and kicking up dust. The western street is off-limits, and we could accidentally walk into a camera shot. The town bank is where most of the activity is. The side streets surrounding Laramie Street have trailers for make-up and transportation equipment. We peek inside each trailer door that is wide open while walking along the wooden sidewalks that lead to the saloon. We go upstairs to get the feel for what’s taking place on the street below.

Bingo, we see the star just across the way- It’s James Garner. The cardboard show identifiers in the vehicles indicate what we now have verified, this is the TV series Maverick.

We watch James messing around off camera, as my mind races. I love cowboy TV, I want to go meet him. Jimmy my friend, and I are plotting our next move. I tell Jimmy-“He loves the Oakland Raiders.” Our eyes follow his every move. ” Let me break the ice, we will talk Raiders football…follow me!

Out of the saloon we go and cross the dirt road like we belong here- casually positioning ourselves within speaking distance. We sit on chairs that are part of set decorations. Barrels, boxes and benches line the wooden gang planks. James is standing alongside an elevated arc light, with one hand bracing against the crank- evator that lifts the 10-k light and housing. A lamp operator wearing leather gloves stands on an A-frame ladder. He too chimes in on Raider talk.

Knowing timing is everything and his time is valuable, I act like I know him. “It’s so nice to see the Raiders dominate again.” I get out of my stool and stand directly side by side of- Maverick!

“Jim Plunkett turned that team around” is his response as he wipes his brow under his cowboy hat.

“Al Davis added that key piece- he’s the guru of football” I try to impress…

“No-one scouts talent better than Al, all the misfits from other teams put us over the top” Mr Garner replies.

“Big John Matuszak is a great example, my favorite player is Jack Tatum” I pump Raider knowledge. “This is a team full of Mavericks– I work that in cleverly, I’m so excited right now…

“The Snake is one Raider I miss, but Jim got us the trophy” answers Maverick himself.

This conversation is progressing well, here I am, trespassing, standing with the legendary star who I first saw at MGM on a show titled-They Only Kill Their Masters- 10 years ago.

Jimmy is still seated listening to James and I talk football when all of the sudden…

BOOOM!

The smoking dragon that we are standing under just exploded! The fresnel, or glass lens just blew up. Broken glass narrowly misses our star. Maverick and I jump for cover, it’s like I’ve trespassed into my own scene with James Garner.

This arc light is now the center of attention and is fittingly how this visit to The Burbank Studios ended on this Friday, March 12, 1982.

Through the smoke of a damaged Arc light-we disappear...all in a days work.

Written and lived by…Donnie Norden.

The Hill Above… DESILU

Once upon a time... A hill overlooked a movie studio, like a balcony in an Opera House.
December 11, 1916. Culver City was not incorporated yet. But Heinz 57 Pickles were thriving. This hilltop reflects the setting that lured Thomas Ince to build a studio here. The 57 was lit up at night. That’s a light standard in between the five and seven.
Sgt. Carter often visits this area, so he can BLOW HIS TOP!
When filling up at Goober’s Gas Station, this hilltop is what you see. Pumps just out of frame on the left. The creek is behind these trees.
1976-right before the 40 acres backlot is no more. Looking toward the hilltop from another hilltop, on the Desilu lot next to Stalag 13. A road separates the studio from this hilltop. You can see Jefferson Blvd. in this photo of mine. Barney ticketed this Highway in his side car mounted Motorcycle. Just looking for speeders is all. ” If you give them an extra 5 miles an hour then they’ll want 10″
The studio man-made hills is the area in left hand side. Hogan’s Heroes has its Bridge located here. That is the hill Sgt. Carter drives his jeep to…to escape Pyle. This area was catering and all the tables and crew for GWTW fed here. The bridge was not built yet and these two small studio hills are man-made. But this rooftop I’m on top of existed going all the way back to 1927. King of Kings set, Cecil B. DeMille.
Scarlett O’Hara in line for lunch, lower corner standing. Boxcar 8142, upper left, along with the mangled one just right of it was used in the fire sequence in the Burning of Atlanta.
Boxcar 8142 (left) and the one on the right which is filled with explosives.
It’s been blown up a few times…Once again, you can watch all this safe and sanely from our hilltop. You’re not trespassing when on the big hill. That’s Baldwin Hills-not Desilu. This is the exact area GWTW lunch was served.
Notice a structure on top of the big hill. Howard Hughes is in charge of this mountain top. The Hughes Tool Company has a research and development project at the summit.
“HELP ME!”
Waiting for LeBeau and balloons. I have the scene script involving this moment. The trees at the very top of this picture sit inside a fenced and secured area inside this Hughes Tool Company Compound.
Waiting for LeBeau and Balloons….
Periscope up…
The studio paved paradise and put up a parking lot. That S.U.V. is parked where Klink’s office once was. It’s summer in the picture from Hogan’s Heroes, the brown hillside is dried out. It turns green for much of the year. The white snow is all fake, paint on the roof, and powder on the ground.
Duke-keeping tabs on the race between Gomer and Yellow Bear.
Carter put all his money on Yellow Bear to win. But, against all odds, Gomer pulled out the win. The Little League Field sits on the hill above Sgt. Carter’s cap. That’s home plate!
This factory can be seen in several TV shows and films. A legendary laundry cleaners used by the studios. J.B. French sits one building south of this. Sadly, it went out of business after decades of service at this spot.
A dedicated crew hard at work.This facility sits directly across the street and clearly into the backlot with the town church looking directly down upon it.
James MacArthur, Chuck Connors, and Claude Akins star in Ride Beyond Vengeance. This 1966 film shared our favorite TV Land backlot. Bernard McEveety directed this fun adventure. The French laundry is the building distant behind the Bar and Grill. Where Mayberry gets things dry-cleaned. These sets date back to GWTW.
As of 7/5/22-Building remodeled and painted black. Across the street from Mayberry.
J.B. French sits…Out of Business.
“Slow it down”- The J.B. French building is in the background.
Behind that billboard is a road named Hetzler. It takes you to the top of this hillside.
Jefferson Blvd., Culver City. This public highway separates the studio property from this hillside. The popular “stairs” leading to the Culver Scenic Overlook Visitor Center looks down on this. You park your car to visit this hilltop along this stretch of Highway patrolled by Culver City Police these days. Yes, you too can get a speeding ticket right here.
Close-up of traffic stop. The creek behind this fence separates the backlot from Jefferson Blvd. at this point in time pictured, Desilu owns this side also, Tarzan’s jungle.
Tarzan…RKO style.
This RKO Tarzan inhabited this area along Jefferson Blvd.
A real hilltop- Overlooking Tarzan’s set.
If Ince Blvd. did not dead end at the 40 acre’s backlot, it would continue right up here. Ince Blvd, and the iconic water tower in a picture from up here overlooking Gomer Pyle’s Camp Henderson.
Vintage Panorama…same spot.
Almost exactly same angle as the B/W overview picture. Picture One of a three picture panorama.
Continue panning -second picture in sequence of four. Picture two. From here, center of backlot was the Western Street and Mayberry R.F.D. farm. Before that- King Kong’s walls from 1933 would clearly be looked down on from here. Of course, The Burning of Atlanta would take place five years after Kong for yet another landmark film. Fire trucks lined this hilltop for protection on that December night in 1938.
This quadrant below was Mayberry. Andy Griffith’s Courthouse and the Mayberry Church would be the sets in this section. You could see Barney write speeding tickets from here. Picture three of four.
Trails at the summit.
Now the same panorama three picture- but vintage. Picture One of vintage Panorama.
Picture two of vintage panorama…. I can see my dressing room, a black spec from this distance, in far corner of the lot. The Atlanta Rail Depot is the center building. No trains ever visited that station. Notice it has no tracks. Mayberry are the sets most right in frame. The very west end of the street. It’s more-so Atlanta. Mayberry hasn’t been dreamed up yet. Give Danny Thomas a bit more time, he’s got some popular TV series coming!
Picture three…this one is pre- Gone With the Wind. The King of Kings sets from 1927 are on display. Elvis Presley would use these same sets in Harum Scarum, 1965. Cecil B. DeMille had this section built.
The Culver Studios lot from the Howard Hughes R and D compound. Inside the hangar I’m on top of is a radar, it moves on a track inside and outside this hangar. I met an engineer that worked up here, long after it shut down in 1973. He was reminiscing up here, these guys always watched the goings on in the backlot below.
From the top looking down with Clark Kent. The Tara Plantation can be seen left of his arm. Stalag 13 not built yet is what that means. Marion Davies’ trailer is situated behind Tara set. It was there and active long after Marion received a new one in 1926. The original horse drawn trailer is caked in history.
T.V. was just starting to take off- as is Superman. The backlot will have two new sets in the near future. Gomer Pyle’s barracks and Stalag 13.
This picture was taken at the Ron Smith Little League Field. The mountain has the radar installation, the two green buildings top of hill. It’s that area Superman is attempting to take flight. Home plate actually looks down on the Desilu backlot. MGM had a guard with the name Ron Smith. He was a great guy and excellent security guard. He caught me in a rowboat in Tarzan’s Lake.
Before and after. The landscape changed forever. Cement buildings and asphalt roads replaced the dirt streets and wooden sets.
The tall eucalyptus trees yonder still remain where Goober’s Gas Station was situated.
1976-The End is Here... Bottom left- what looks like a concrete wall is the film vaults. It’s the only thing still standing. It’s as if no one knows they’re here. All the blast doors appear shut. A yellow water container sits exactly where the 40-acre guard shack was situated. Those trees in the middle were the ones in Camp Henderson.

Amazon Studios as it appears today. About 40 percent of the lot is original. Two big stages and The Plantation Building escaped remodel. I prefer the old studio in every way, shape, and form. It needs a water tower. MGM or Sony, Warner’s, and Paramount have the last towers left in show business.

On a hill once controlled by Howard Hughes… We Begin.

Paramount Pictures uses a mountain for their Moniker. They had it built on their backlot. It’s most famous for the TV series Bonanza. The Mod Squad filmed their opening credits inside it. It had a storage area that could double for a strange set.

But RKO/Desilu had a real mountain bestowed above their backlot, and it’s as legendary as the studio below it. From up on top of this dirt playground you could watch Hollywoodland develop from its preliminary infancy to robust, viable, commodity. Plus, the Hollywood stares back at this Hughes Radar hilltop. You can even see the Paramount lot in the distance with its tiny little composite snow painted mountain.

In my desperation to explore the Desilu backlot, I used this hilltop to map what’s below me in the late 60’s and early 70’s. This was my private balcony that overlooked this legendary backlot. Baldwin Hills has horse stables up as does 40 acres backlot below. Horses are king here, and bulls make good beer commercials. Wildlife thrives along the old creek bed, which divides up two sections of Desilu.

It was from this hilltop I verified what the Desilu fences had warned against- “Dogs on Duty.”

This set me back, it was almost impossible to gather a group of trespassers bold enough to explore here since… after all “You could be eaten alive.” Eventually temptation won out, Robin Hood-myself, along with a group of Merry Men, banded up together to go where no kid has dared to challenge- the 40-acre plot of backlot land protected by these The Dogs on Duty!

We slowly progressed, almost inch by inch-in pitch dark landscape, towards the first Stalag 13 guard tower we could climb up in…

The genie was officially out of the bottle for all things Desilu going forward. Dogs on Duty must be Dogs Asleep, thankfully.

Normally I take you through old sets, but today let’s look at the POV of Desilu from both looking down on it- and looking up at it. It’s a fun hike and the top has views of the Hollywood sign one direction, the Pacific Ocean the other. Overhead, a continual parade of aircraft lining up to land at LAX. This mountain top is a strategic vector as planes begin descent. Radar experimentation takes place up here, and that facility is operated by The Hughes Tool Company.

Everything that ever took place on the Ince, RKO, Desilu backlot could be clearly viewed from up here, and I’ve been told by engineers who worked up top here that’s exactly what took place. The Backlot was a T.V. set and this radar facility was like an antenna connecting you to the Outer Limits.

I find it fascinating that Howard Hughes ended up choosing this area for this secret facility, these hills extend to his aviation plant and airport. That’s the place the Spruce Goose was built. The real estate controlled by Summa Corporation is where Playa Vista occupies today… What didn’t Mr. Hughes delve into?

Nicolas Cage would film 8MM up top here at the summit after the facility was abandoned. On Jefferson Blvd. below this hill top-CHIPS, The A-Team, and Hunter, starring Fred Dryer-followed up the The Andy Griffith Show with more street credits.

To sum this all up, this mountain appears attached to the 40-acre backlot and indeed it is. Just traverse a creek and highway that lies in between. My biggest all-time regret is not photographing all this area with the backlot still standing below. You felt as if you were part of the studio up here. The church tower and the Mayberry Hotel were the tallest sets on the backlot but they were easily looked down upon here. This view made Desilu look like a game board with actual moving game pieces making T.V. shows below.

This area was to become upscale homes but thanks to the Santa Monica conservancy, it was spared an unrecognizable fate. I think a studio shrine needs to be included at the visitor center that sits lost and unenlightened after climbing the mile high stairs. This hilltop needs a good tour guide…

Written and lived by… Donnie Norden.

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, preā€“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!

1972…

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

Jaws- This time it’s personal…

Neptune’s Follyin dry dock. Universal. Being prepped to withstand a special effect hurricane
There’s a tram over there-watching us work!”
Boo– scared ya!
This should workMario, just a little farther!”
Where did Mario go?
Let’s just get back to shore for more cocktails”…
A shark disguise-he’s a fake- halibut dressed up as a shark.
Jet engines create hurricane conditions and deafening noise aboard the Neptune’s Folly. Dump tanks tower in the background, behind the Champion cranes. These tanks allow a mass profusion of water for stormy conditions. Sound has to be dubbed in later due to the ear-splitting noise. Three Musco lighting towers, parked behind the Big Sky attempt to illuminate our storm. This was an overcast summer day- at the backdrop.
Calm before a hurricane…the clouds never move, they’re painted on.
The Star– a tourist favorite
Shark Profile…
All our lakes have sharks…there’s money in it!-The Orca is docked here.
Fire was added when it was felt we needed to- scare kids worse!
Bruce spits hydraulic fluid as he snaps his jaws…
Each car gets attacked, 4 attacks per tram. This is the hardest working employee on this lot.
Who’s next?…The most terrifying shark of all- greets kids!
My son Hudson (foreground) and our friend David with Bruce, the shark. Named after Spielberg’s accountant, according to the tour spiel. This is how our tour shark sits after hours… “Can somebody put me back in the ocean please ?”
The shark at the backdrop- hydraulics bring to life the the frightening attack sequences.
What a cool jet ski...

Released in 1987…

The film that is, the shark is still in captivity. Every tram that circles Cabot Cove is attacked by this creature that lurks just below the surface. In my experience driving trams, this is the most popular animation still going on the tram tour. I’ve seen children cry when finding out the ride is closed for repairs. To attack trams as rapidly as need be, this shark moves both forwards, then backwards. It has to reset itself and the amount of moving parts that creates this tram attack is a constant work in progress. This old Great White is very high maintenance…

In the sequel to Jaws- Mr Spielberg handed the job to another director, Joseph Sargent. Sidney Sheinberg, who discovered Steven, put his wife in this remake. Lorraine Gary starred in this sequel with Michael Caine and Mario Van Peebles. This was the sequel to Jaws 2. The joke on the set is Lorraine is on a paid studio vacation. She’s getting paid a lot of money to sip cocktails on the beach.

The cast was mentioned by every tour guide, about 80 times a day, since trams actually could watch scenes filmed at our backdrop. This is one location on the tour where filming is often seen by tourists. It’s because the Ice Tunnel- or Mummy’s Tomb in more recent times- is adjacent to our giant backdrop. You have to pass this set to experience the last tram animation on your tour.

This was the first set I ever witnessed jet engines create wind effects. The electrical department (40 shop) handles Ritter Fans that require DC power to operate. We also power the wave makers; those are used to create a choppy water surface rather than a calm pond you could skip pebbles on. But Special Effects operate gasoline blowing devices including the jet engines used on this shoot. The sound created is like a jet plane taking off. Hearing protection only goes so far, no sound is recorded when under these conditions.

The buzz around the lot was this edition of Jaws was lacking something, besides just Spielberg. The cast was so so at best. The shark delivered its part well. We knew it was a flop before it flopped. I’m surprised this shark hasn’t resurfaced, pardon the pun, into another Shark box -office attempt. Like a Jurassic Park of the ocean, where sea creatures rule.

Considering sharks date back over 420 million years, it’s amazing we only did three of these…not counting the 3-D version. Steven Spielberg was busy focusing on land sharks -kinda- with Jurassic Park ready to replace the Great Whites.

Fear sells tickets, if you don’t think so, every animation on the tram tour is framed with fear. It’s not just a small world at Universal- it’s an extremely violent world- also.

Keep your arms and legs inside the tram at all times…

Written and lived by Donnie Norden