Backlot Entrances

It is posted that rules exist and this is off-limits. That makes it all the better. This is not for the faint of heart. Preparation, the same thing I use for tests at school, was necessary. That starts with getting into the backlot property…and what better way, other than to be unseen!

Each lot was entirely different, and that starts with the fences to keep trespassers out. We ignore the warning signs… how climbable and hidden is our entry? We have only wood fences with knot holes to peek through. That’s helpful. We have metal corrugated steel fences, held up by wooden supports. They are old and easy to climb. I would boost one guy up and he would reach down and pull the other guy, or guys, up by one arm.

We perfected this boost-up method, after our Hole in the Fence, left by a fallen tree, was repaired and we needed another way inside. We only needed two people and both could be inside, in thirty seconds. This went on for a decade.

Lot 2 was surrounded by a fence that was roughly 70 percent new and very sharp on top. This technique did not work on this style fence. Every fence was different and many styles existed. The rusty, old, chain link style—you know the kind…with three strands of rusted, barbed wire running across the top,exists around MGM lots 3, 4 and 5…and also, almost entirely around Desilu.

Barbed wire climbs are the worst!  You must climb the fence support poles to gain entry. This is impossible to enter or exit while being chased, so running to that style fence with the hopes of escaping is not very shrewd. Know your fences is a rule of thumb.

These fences allowed us to see inside. Often, we could not climb in, due to work going on within view. So, we would go to plan B. The fact is, getting to know the fences was like homework, and sneaking, not only in, but also out, was the pass or fail test.

We learned how to make our own entrances, using the same obstacles that would keep most kids outside of this make-believe world. We added strategic gates to the sharp metal fence. If you can’t climb it, secretly go through it!


These fences were the first level of security. The next involves humans with badges and…oh yes, dogs with collars.

Desilu fences have Dogs on Duty postings on them. This was truly a scary alternative and it is how Desilu kept us out as long as they did. It took us a couple of years to come up with a courageous plan. But backlot passion was pulsating through my veins and all backlots were to become mine.


This is the chain-link fence where the stars entered Lot 2. The Red Bronco in the background is the security vehicle that was usually on patrol.

Written and lived by Donnie Norden




The Hole in the Fence

It’s a Saturday morning and my best friend, Jimmy and I, are riding our Stingray bicycles along the studio fence line. Suddenly… Low and behold… We notice a large eucalyptus tree has fallen and has made a huge hole in the fence. We stare through the hole, dumbfounded.

We see entire villages, city scapes, and even the Great Wall of China. But we have to muster the courage to climb over the tree, and through this newly created hole in the fence.


Future Book Covers (Original art work by Donnie)

What will happen to us if we climb through? What happens if we’re caught? We’re little kids…they can’t do anything to us! 

We stare through the hole for what feels like hours… trying to come up with reasons not to go through. Jimmy is more hesitant, but I say, “we’re kids, Jimmy! We can outrun them!”

The temptation of seeing these sets in a way we weren’t able to before, is too much for us to resist. The daunting NO TRESPASSING signs are no match for our budding curiosity. So,we climb over the fallen tree, and go right through the hole in the fence.

We suddenly find ourselves hiding behind aged tombstones in the middle of a huge cemetery. We’ve become explorers… or, as the studio would later refer to us, “trespassers.”

Written and lived by Donnie Norden