Phantom of the Backlots

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  1. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Soylent green...at night Pat sits across from me, obviously still shaken by his ordeal. His first words are... "Why did he go after me? There is one of me and ten of you!" "Never mind that," I snap back. Then I asked, "Did you get a good look at him?" PAT... in his Ted Evans Motorcycle hat and shirt "Yeah," he said, "he was hanging his bald head out the window, shouting 'Stop! Or I'll shoot!'" Okay... there is one guy we see often, with a bald head, I ponder. I have seen him on foot before... he is short and stocky. Jimmy was not with me this afternoon, but he needs to know immediately that the rules have changed. Shooting is acceptible. Pat continues, "he aimed the gun and yelled... 'Stop!'... and I jumped through an open window into the hunting lodge. Then he fired!" "Yeah, he was burnin' rubber all around the lodge... I could see it from the fence. He could have caught a handful if he realized these guys were scared stiff,"I retort. I continue... "I bet those shots made you pick up your speed a little bit... I always told you you're slow... good job Pat, you saved lives today."..."man those shots were LOUD!" We need to find out more about this Bald guy. As I tell Jim, this is a bit disconcerting. It has been going so well, this backlot trespassing thing. We almost simultaneously come up with a plan. We will ride our bikes to all the guard shacks on Lot 1, in the weeks ahead, casually visiting bored guards. We will put on our best young man charm and dig for information regarding this mean bald guy. Time to do backlot homework... on guards and their tendencies. Finally, fun homework! But there is more filming going on before that takes place and we will have to fly blind, for now. Nighttime, though much more scary, may be a safer alternative. Anyway, the next filming will be Friday night, a chase scene, involving Charlton Heston and Chuck Connors. It's on my call sheet! Well, Pat is a trooper. He wants to return to the scene of the crime with me tonight, this last Friday before Holloween. I would understand if he was a bit gun-shy. But... If you fall off a bike, get right back on! So... If you get shot at while being chased, shoot back! Same idea. Pat has moxie, I likethat leprechaun. We can't pick our guards. We play the hand we are dealt. The lot looks fantastic at night, lit up enough to be seen from space by the Apollo astronauts. Pat and I get in at the opposite end of the lot, at the train station. It is still the safest way to start and is the closest set to my house. Once inside, just follow the lights. From the look of the set, the camera is setting up in front of the public library. The very first scene of the night is being set up. Transportation has parked picture cars on the street, in front of it. Across the way, but out of view to us, is an alley way that history will show has had more shootouts than any alley in the world. This alley exits to a cemetary set that Decorations just created. We are in the same building that we watched the scoops do their job from, last week. We are looking out windows and curtains, as Set Lighting's arc lights penetrate our veil, eerily. We notice graffitti on the wall behind us, lit by a bluish lighting. It says, Merry Christmas from 20th Century Fox. St. Valentines Day Massacre 12/21/67. This gives me chills... a moment in time captured on a wall forever! Another show I need to see! This warehouse set below was built inside a garage on Brownstone street for this climactic scene... Chuck Connors is shooting it out,as I speak. The Rifleman is after Omega Man. Round after round of blank ammo, firing away. Blanks are just as loud and fire discharges from the barrel, just like the real deal. Makes me proud to know there is a mountain of blank cartidges inside a warehouse close by. From this same window, you could have seen Pat get shot last Saturday. I have seen this movie, like a trailer. Reality and show biz walk a fine line, in this gated paradise. We can see Charlton better when in between- filming. His trailer is below us. As is catering. Turns out, there is a crew dinner at mid-night. But, we also see MGM security mingling around. We go on the roof, just below the massive cat walks and soak all this in. Our vantage point now is similiar to the owlswho watch from those same catwalks. There are two owls that we see every evening and I find the spot where they sleep during the day. I wake them up one day, exploring above the alley set. There is a stack of critter bones under their relaxation areas. I wonder how many shows they have watched. Caterers and food attract rodents and then these guys swoop down for the kill. Being in the business I'm in... Trespassing... I will cross paths with these birds ...often. This set tonight has stars... not the million extras the day scenes had. Just the heavies showed up tonight. An intimate little chase and shootout. We have had more people involved in our shootout than this show has. I look over and relive our chase, in between the filming of their chase scenes. This is a really cool feeling. Like we are making our own history. The view we had on the caterer from the top roof of the picture just above this one. We case the catering area, as drivers' lunch begins at 11:30 pm. Problem is... we are not old enough to drive and do not look like Teamsters. That plan probably won't work... to eat lunch with grizzly show biz drivers and B.S. with them while we get our food... "Yep, I traded my 10 speed KenWorth for a 12-speed White Freightliner... I love driving the open roads... pass me the ketchup would ya brother?" No, too much can go wrong here, we just do not look like truckers! They look gnarly, much tougher than guards. Tatoos, pony tails and red bandannas... I just started shaving a year ago, and I look like a catholic boy. Pat looks worse... he is so short, he would need a booster seat to drive a big rig. These are the things you think about when you become hungry and bored. If something goes wrong with these guys... we could be getting chased out of here by a honeywagon, or a motor home, or the big mean water truck that is wets down the street. We decide to leave, as the clock strikes midnight... the latest I have ever trespassed. For now anyways.. Another show is being filmed at MGM, it is called Westworld. MGM is still producing quality movies as we move towards 1973 This show would have been filmed on Lot 3... but it was sadly torn down. I will post a photo tribute to Lot 3 at a future date. I have much to share... The backlot used for the western street scenes were filmed at The Burbank Studios backlot. This is the first MGM feature that needed to find a western street, due to the sale of Lot 3. The decimation of MGM Lot 3 starts the official decline of movie backlots. Lot 2 does not have a western street, but Desilu has a mighty fine one... just 'cause it's always fun to play hookie as a cowboy. I am eyeing a saloon on that street that would make swell fort. Coming soon... Who shot Pat Rich?
  2. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Soylent Green Going to school five days a week is a grind. I ride my bike and leave early every morning. My journey to St. Augustine happens to lead me along the studio's fence lines. First, I pass the backlot, and I peek through the many existing holes as temptation stares back at me. Eventually, I arrive at school, with an arm full of books and Pee Chee folders and a head full of MGM daydreams. This is my normal routine, but on this morning, I am flabbergasted by the images appearing on the backlot side. It is as if a circus had arrived. Tents, with movie extras in rag tag looking clothing dominate the landscape. There is a calm order as people are dressed by wardrobe, touched up by make up artists, then fed breakfast by caterers. I can see all of this from a hole which has transformed itself into my personal color TV set. This hole is about 12 inches wide and 2 inches in height. Strategically placed, it is the best hole to see things from on the entire fenced lot. It is located on Montana Ave., just south of Overland. New York street towers above this fence. Trucks of every size and shape are squeezed into the perimeter of this massive set. All this is in the foreground of my hole. Orange dump trucks, some parked, some driving, are being positioned on the the iconic N.Y. street, itself—the street most famous for MGM musicals. I have no idea what I am looking at quite yet, but I must head to school or I will be tardy. All day, my body is in class, but my mind is on the backlot. I tell my best friend, Pat, a leprechaun looking lad who is tough as nails. He is going to go with me when the school day ends, to figure out what is going on at lot 2. I have a couple of other pals who have been bugging me for a tour and I am inviting friends from both Culver and St. Augustine for a large site seeing tour this Saturday. That is still days away. Today, Pat and I will take the plunge into the backlot under feature film conditions. That means people are everywhere you turn, on this set. As the clock on the school wall hits 3 pm, Pat and I are on our bikes heading to the circus. We stop and peek inside the same hole that captivated me this morning. Let me just say that it's even better now. KAOS is being filmed. Garbage trucks that I saw this morning, are scooping people up on the streets. I told Pat this is going to be cool... but not this cool! We climb in at the train station, after parking our bikes and dumping our books off at my house. I have never seen so much activity on the lot. We encounter set "dressing;" craftsmen are positioning props, such as tables, chairs, and porch lights, to give a different look to a regular old building. Obviously decorating the mansion for another show. They see us walk by, watching us, as we act like we belong. The Bronco passes by without seeing us... another plus. We arrive at the perimeter of NY street after a long methodical, calculating journey. On the way, we identify the movie through a cardboard sign in a car windshield, Its title is called Soylent Green. We climb to the top of a five story building to observe below. The fence is a short distance away from this structure, which is handy in an emergency. There is a guard on set that we recognize. He seems to be guarding the large craft service tables, full of delicious looking goodies. We see the iconic MGM sign and water tower in the distance from our perch. The Lion is roaring today. We cannot believe what we our watching. There is a huge building getting the brunt of the action and it obscures our view. This is the hub of activity as rioters are being scooped up. As time passes, it is starting to get dark. The assistant director calls a wrap and immediately, like ants below, things are rapidly put away. That is our queue to leave also. We glide to my house, still captivated by what we just witnessed. No one in my neighborhood has a clue about what is going on just a couple blocks away. Everyone is locked into their daily routine. Mine happens to include backlots. Anything can and does happen here. Word spreads like wild fire. Two schools are impacted and many kids are becoming curious about this event. Extras are being used and many locals, or residents without jobs, are in this mob scene. 20 dollars and a box lunch are the offerings. I arrange a time to meet all the volunteers at my house, for a grand tour, this Saturday. Be there or be square! There is still more filming before then, as I am reminded, on my way to school the following morning. Day two... more of the same, but by Friday, the entire set is empty of actors and extras. Just workers moving stuff around. I figure it is over with, now, and it's a set strike, so, when I give a tour tomorrow, we will be hunting souveniers in this area. A hazy morning is upon us and the magnitude of what we are about to do is apparent by all the biycycles parked in my driveway. Pat brings a couple guys I never met who go to Venice High. Gerald, a kid on my block, also brings guys from Culver. Pat and I are Catholic boys and three schools are represented here. We strart by playing with my Combat ammo magazines... we pour out the gunpowder, then light it. Enough said... This fires everyone up and the mission is on. "That is a sample of what awaits," I proudly say. By the time we get to to the tracks, we have a dozen kids. I don't know all their names so let's call them The Dirty Dozen. I lead them down the train tracks as I think to myself, this could backfire... too big of a crowd. But, I will get away for sure, if we have a security issue... These guys will be lost inside here. This mission starts like a game of follow the leader. We have all day and plan to cover all we can. We are very adventurous, due to all of our experience in recent months, of doing this stuff. We visit all the same stuff we visited earlier... same sets, different kids. Train depot first. Kids love trains. Snow room next. Kids love snow. Then, we run into German Village. We look at Combat bomb craters that still exist on this street. A moment of silence for the greatest show ever. Everyone sees the battlefield that my ammo was used in. Very impressive, indeed. I am a rockstar at the moment, and The Dirty Dozen follows me like puppies. We run across an old foot bridge that extends over the lake and into the jungle. There, we try to silently weave our way through the jungle. We are close to the Soylent Green set. We approach as cautiously as a mob can. New York Street towers beyond this jungle and we are close. These guys want souvenirs, and so do I. I think the best place is the huge building that was a hub in the rioting scenes I saw earlier this week. We run across a New York street. There are about 10 intersections around these parts to give the appearance that it goes on forever. The building we enter is big enough to hold an airplane. Inside is Soylent Green and Soylent Red, and smashed windows and glass everywhere. It hasn't been cleaned up and it is exactly how the shot was finalized. We walk into that moment of time. We all stuffed our pockets with this colored bread. Rolls, biscuits, and dyed bagels. We do not know what this show is about and I am like a detective. I am figuring that Soylent Green is food... that is what this set is about, hence the name. At that moment, I see a call sheet on a table and that is a treasure. All the info I need to plan ahead. This is gold. I stuff it in my back pocket. Each pocket on my blue jeans is full. The Dirty Dozen has filled their pockets also. We are packing Soylent Green. I fulfilled my obligation at this point. I delivered this group to a huge movie set and we are leaving with the coolest souvenirs, so that we can relive the whole event again, when this show comes out. Confidently, I walk out under the famous theater marquis that extends onto 5th avenue. This is the hub of New York street. You have seen it a million times. . This is the front of the theater street where this part begins... I am still buzzed from our find, when I see, then hear... the Bronco speeding towards us... Oh darn! Decisions... deciscions... everyone stares like a deer in the headlights. Waiting on my move, I pivot and run back inside. A quick 180 degree had this group tripping all over themselves... literally, as everyone runs into each other. The Bronco is hauling ****. I reckon he'll get out and run inside, lookin' for us. But the guard stays behind the wheel and chases the one rogue kid that goes on his own. That would be Pat, my pal from St. Augustine. He diverts the security away from The Dirty Dozen, and I use this moment to run quite a distance, to the fence. Fake palm trees are blocking the fence. They are laying flat, are tricky to navigate... if you're scared. It appears this group is. I sit on top of this section of old fence and survey my troops, when suddenly, there is a clowd of dust, a motor reving and a guard shouting, "STOP!" Low and behold ...two gunshots! The Bronco has been chasing Pat for over a minute already, that's a lot of running from a car. My last visual on him is now by the lake at the hunting lodge set. I lost sight of him right before Bang, Bang happened! Pat takes one for the team. Catholic boys are tough, mind you. Now a syndrome identified as rubber legs kicks in. None of these guys can climb, they are so scared. I climb back in to help a couple of guys get back out, I could have been home safe already. Eveyone makes it, as they topple over to safety... like their life depended on it. We all run back to my place, minus one. The bikes leave rapidly, in sucession, never to return. Their one memory of MGM. Enjoy your Soylent Green!... Any more volunterrs? I wait an hour, as the last bike operator arrives... Pat... safely. No blood, no holes, just a bit dirty. I sit him down and pour him an ice cold Hawaiian Punch, then calmly ask... "What just happend?" This ravaged call sheet was in my back pocket during the chase. The bottom of this sheet has has an advance that tells me ... night filming is ahead. I haven't done night tresspassing yet... daytime is scary enough... Coming up, part two - Soylent Green... at night.
  3. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Guest starring...Maureen I wish to share this entry written by Maureen herself. It is the same story...HURON . What is unique is this is her tale, same afternoon. We had not seen each other to talked in well over thirty years. She was at a high-school reunion as conversation quickly turned to MGM stories. Everybody has them in this city. A mutual friend told her about the stories or memoirs I have been writing. Next, thing you know, she came knocking at my front door. My folks have passed on, and I have returned to the scene of the crime. I live on Huron... again. She looks the same now, as she did then. We hit if off like yesterday. A wonderful reunion. Our lives, of course, have important people in them now... kids—now grown up—and spouses. But our conversation was all MGM. And, the decade of the seventies. It turns out it is not just me who cherishes those times. I am thrilled that my old pal has shared memories with me about that decade. I only have a few members left from my Hole in the Wall gang. These stories are priceless to most who have, at any time, put their boots on the ground, in MGM's historic back lots. This is for those veterans. And today, this story is by Captain Maureen. She earned her stripes! This post is her take on the previous Huron story... Enjoy! Maureen and her nephew... notice MGM in background...German village and China St. Her words... Growing up in the 60's and 70's, it was boys vs girls on our block. You would have to scan the tree line when you ventured outside for Donnie and his side kick, Jimmy. They would pelt stuff at the girls from the sycamores that tower over our heads. I first caught a glimpse of this boy with strawberry blond hair while he was stealing apricots from my tree. He would use my backyard as his personal short cut, while playing "war" with his friends. I kept an arsenal of oranges, or whatever fruit was ripe, handy, in case he ever got within range. Then as we entered our teens, things changed. We began to coolly observe each other from across the street. We even talked to each other. I asked him, "where did you get such a real-looking helmet?" He responded, "MGM," before inviting me to go inside with him. I said "yes," without hesitation. So after that, I would sneak into MGM with Donnie. I had no idea what to expect. All I really knew was, there was an ominous fence around this place, with no trespassing signs posted all over it. But now, I would get to see the other side! We began by climbing loosely hung barbed wire, which was draped around a pole. There were wide open spaces forever, it appeared. What a backyard this city boy has... I thought. He warned me of the dangers we could face. "They might chase us and we can't get caught, so don't make much noise... be on hyper alert, and follow him to escape." "OK... got it," I answered. Donnie took pride in showing me around. I was genuinely surprised about his knowledge of these sets and films attached to them. It was really hard to believe this 13 year old, apricot-stealing boy from the neighborhood, would know so much about old movies. He seemed earnestly in awe of each set and was very respectful to this place. It was not just sneaking in "for fun," but also a privilege. To this day, I am not sure if this was our first date or just kids playing. Either way, it is one of the best memories of my life. My personal tour guide would take me on many adventures through MGM, in the years to come. I'm glad I had that apricot tree, growing up! Well I applaud her for sharing this same event through a different set of eyes. Ironically, shortly after, she would move from Huron to Elenda. The above picture is her in the carport of her apartment that sits directly across the street from our lot. It gets better: her bedroom window was in front of the building and looked directly into the backlot. Like having a legal fort... so cool. Lots of MGM stories will take place in the image shown above, both on and off the lot. Let's just say, I climbed that fence across the street a million times... or at least it felt like a million times. Thanks Maureen for being a trooper! Next, there is something big going on at New York street, a huge movie starring Charlton Heston. It is titled ...Soylent Green...Stay tuned!
  4. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    The backyard includes that lake, as pictured below.
  5. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    HURON That's my street, and all the kids who live on it know my new hobby. Trespassing. My helmets and ammo made a big impression. While playing Combat and running through the neighbors yards I met a girl while I was shooting the neighborhood kids with my Daisy B.B gun. I poured oil down the barrel to give a smoke effect. Now, I just tolerate girls mind you, but, she is different and I thinki kind of fancy her. I always thought she would have made a swell boy. Her name is Maureen. The prettiest girl around these parts, and she asked me to take her along on the next trespass. Understand, most the boys are scared, but the prettiest girl around is all in, that is, if she can climb. Well this Saturday morning she strolled down to my house in comfortable pair of running shoes. I warned her that I guess this is illegal but...she rubbed her hands together and said" Let's Go" We walk the tracks and get to the barb wire pole ladder behind Grand Central station. This is where the rubber meets the road, literally. If she climbs this successfully, it's a good sign we will work out. She is dressed in cutoff jeans and a T shirt, not a whole lot of protective clothing. I am going to get a kick out of this! " There you are, thats the climb, I will go first, watch where I grab." I say. I'm now inside as her pretty little head pops above the fence, followed by her pretty behind. The prettiest climb I have ever seen. Slo- motion, pretty, like a TV commercial. She jumps down and looks thrilled. I dampen her enthusiasm by letting her know she needs to do it faster... next time. Silently, I am Frigging impressed. I showed her the trains and sat in the seats and talked stuff, not sports, not army, just stuff. There was really no where we had to be...any set is cool. Somehow, I am relaxed.This is going well, this girl thing. I feel brave and we cross the field to Boystown. We find a bench on the bottom floor that I wanted to bring up to the top of this building so we could sit and view the Tarzan lake from a nice high vantage point. She helped me get this bench up to the top os this 4 story maze. I could not have done it without her so she is already paying off. She is covered with dust but even looks prettier. Plus, none of theguys smell this good. The first piece of furniture is in the new Penthouse fort we are building. The Red Bronco came in, did the rounds, and left. We can see the main gate from here, that's big. We know we arealonewhen the guard exits that gate. Not sure when he comes back, but, he is gone now. I lead her down from this building and we run across a dirt road holding hands and cross over to Tarzan Lake. There, I have a row boat. The perfect way to end this afternoon. We floated around listing to a transistor radio playing 93 KHJ...The real, Don Steele. Charlie Tuna, Humble Harve and Robert W. Morgan. Boss Top Thirty hits. Classic radio on a classic lake. A pretty girl framed by this setting listening... Yes, it doesn't get better than this. This area is secluded and a guard would probably have to leave the vehicle to see us...that rarely happens. We even dose off as we sit low in the boat. Hazy sun reflects through the trees and off the water. A pair of ducks mingle around us, as does a bull frog. This lake is loaded with crawfish. This is like dream, this legendary place is my new backyard. And, I have new friend to explore with. We dock and step off into the jungle that is magical, gigantic and bristling with life. I stepped on a twig, as it snapped, a million birds took off. That can work for us, remember that, I think to myself, if the birds suddenly take off, someone may be coming. The only problem the lake has for us is that it is located in the middle of the lot, so you have a long run from here to the fence if things go bad. Better off hiding, most likely. I am always thinking ways to keep ahead of my pursuers. Small stuff adds up. I'll take any advantage I can. We climb out over a old green wood fence. We picked a spot not barbed and Maureen has already earned that badge, anyway. I take her to Winchells donuts, on the corner of Overland and Washington for some sweet rewards. I thought to myself as I was going to bed..."Girls aren't so bad after all !"
  6. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Meanwhile... In Gotham City My friends and I have an advantage at this lot in that we can see in everywhere. Chain link fences with vicious guard dog signs surround the lot. Baldwin Hills provides a balcony seat. We do a small hike before sneaking in and see what obstacles await us. Most importantly, the dogs. We have seen a pattern: the dogs do not roam, they have a guard handler. What this means is, we are just hiding from a guard. The dogs come in "to play," if security sees you. He won't catch us, but they may. But, they do not freelance. Precision stealth is required. I am getting good at this stuff. In the past, I saw Batman and Batgirl. Both were filmed on the street right outside its main lot on Ince ave. One late afternoon, the main gate was open and grips were moving a large set of giant, studio-crafted clam props that were to imperil the caped crusaders. I won't ruin the ending but... The workers saw our amazement with this huge set of clams and let us run in and check it out. Well, for a kid that wore a cape and mask as I rode my Stingray bicycle from lot to lot, this was too cool to be true. I even clothes-pinned playing cards on to my spokes for sound effects. We are told that this episode will be on in about four weeks. Every episode is two parts. When it aired, Jimmy and I are the only kids on the block able to say, "I was inside those clams, too!" Through the chain-link backlot fence, I saw the Bat Mobile drive by, and I got chills. Ironically, in the future, this Adam West, Burt Ward series turns into a billion dollar enterprise. Guess what... I worked on three of these blockbuster features, as time went on. I was the only guy on the set that could say he saw the the original series in real life. Above shows the camera assignments at the time of this Batman TV show The Desilu backlot still has sets used on this TV show. As we enter, this show is no longer on the air... We will enter from the La Ballona creek today, after previewing from the hills above. It is a Saturday and no filming or anything is taking place. Jimmy and I climb up the creek cement embankment and peer through bushes at Gomer Pyle's Camp Henderson. So close we can taste it. It is also the closest set and... heck, I like the show. Especially, Sgt. Carter. We duck inside the barracks where there are lockers and cots inside. A flag pole sits motionless out front. We recognize everything from TV, but also because we have been looking down on it for years from the hills. Separated by fields and trees is another camp we have already conquered: Stalag 13. Rather than risk that open distance, we head towards a village that can only be partially seen from the hills. The next move from Camp Henderson is to run to a small rural gas station. It is Wally's service station. The same one Goober and Gomer worked at in the Andy Griffith show. Gomer has his old set right next to his new one. In fact, Gomer Pyle Transportation Dept. parks their army trucks in front of this set when wide camera angles catch this. The gas pumps and soda machine sit here like they could be used for service. No sodas inside it. Too bad... we checked. This trespassing stuff makes a boy thirsty. A couple of pits adjacent to this station catch our eye, only because when we found them, it triggered a memory. Opie played in these in an episode. That's good enough for me. We jumped over them and climbed in them. Not just any pits... but, famous pits. Anything can be fun here. We are certain no one is here, so we are covering ground today, taking advantage of this gift. We briefly explore a cantina, or village, Spanish style. When you exit certain doors, you find yourself on Western Street. Ride Beyond Vengeance, starring Chuck Connors, was filmed here, and a major shootout in the TV series, The Untouchables. The episode to see is The Alcatraz Express. They blast this street with Tommy Guns a blazing. When you are standing in these exact spots, you don't want to move. Just soak it all in. Listen close and you still hear the gunfire. You are here, and here has been captured for eternity, on film. I love these backlots... so much history. We know the property will be for sale soon, as greed and poor planning will replace the irreplaceable. A parking lot will soon replace paradise. For now, we pray for this not to happen. We are trying to cover a lot of ground and we have made it to Gotham City, which is also Mayberry... which was also Chicago street for the Untouchables. In the early sixties, Elliot Ness would shoot this street up on their scheduled backlot film days, then "One Bullet Barney Five" would be on patrol on Andy Griffith the next day. The property dept. just moved props and signs around. Amazing what can happen in 24 hours around here, and we were wrong. There is a blue truck with a guard walking around by the big church on the end this street. He is alone... no dogs that we can see. It's time for these crusaders to back track outta here, I have no more tricks in my utility belt today. Today, we explored areas 26, 27, 28, 29. We stopped at the depot site from Gone with the Wind, building 17. A guard was at a hot set by the church... building 12 Stay tuned, same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.
  7. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    This fire was Boystown, Logan's Run just finished filming this set a week prior. The same person that lit the church fire, lit this fire. I had a fort inside this building. I cried, I was asleep at home but smelled the smoke coming in my bedroom window that morning. King Kong would build the Skull Island set on this exact footprint. The law wasn't punishing this guy but we did! Enough said...
  8. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Grand Central Station...All Aboard! From the sky, this is how the trains appear. All lined up with nowhere to go. They actually go back in time on their travels. Almost always different eras. Particularly, beginning in the sixties. The train station is best portrayed in the 1952 movie, the Bandwagon, starring Fred Astaire. It was in sync with the times. We are climbing in today, where you see the green fence in the above picture ( "dog legs"). The actual train gate exits for trains to enter Lot 2, at this site. It's our usual spot to begin, but today lets spend the afternoon here. No planning, no what ifs, just play here today. Explore inside and out, up and down and all around. All with the comfort of knowing we are next to the fence if security wants to punch our ticket. Building 90 is the lot blue print ID number for this depot. I just call it "the train station." Two fellas I met on this show. That's Entertainment. i will post Autographs they gave me in later posts. These trains sit motionless and have no engines. They get pulled by large tractors when they need to be positioned. This same run down station in the years to come, will get an infusion of fix-its. This site will be used for a few more features and a famous rock video. Young Frankenstein,with Gene Wilder, bids a fond farewell with Madeline Kahn here, in 1974. The Fortune,starring Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson, were filmed inside these trains, as was Al Capone,starring Ben Gazzara, in the years to come. Two different Al Capone movies depicted the legendary gangster here. Rod Steiger also played Capone here, in 1960. Planet of the ApesTV show was filmed here also. All the kids sat on ladders that I set up, so the rules-followers-children could watch from the legal side. Let them see what they are missing. We are a spectacle. During this filming, Roddy McDowell walks over and greets all of us in full ape gear! Magical! He was from the legendary MGM stable of kids, so that makes it even more special. More on these shows as they arrive in the future. These are the scenes all the kids got to see peering in from ladders during Planet of Apes This is the view as you finish your climb inside. You can still turn back. Some kids actually do... turn around shaking. I must be a special needs kid...I need this place. It's becoming my home. The whole station would get fixed up for future filming. This old timer of a building would see a bit more glory after this picture was taken. There are catwalks for set lighting above, this turns out to be a nice place to hang out, and very safe considering the fence is behind it. It will become a regular hang out and briefing center, as I grow into my role as a tour guide/ Phantom. The Phantom you never knew! This set is dressed to look worse than it was, for The Phantom TV movie of the week, which is still to come as our story goes on. Behind this station is an annex. Let's open the door... a long, dark corridor exists, dimly lit by sunlight, creeping in through little holes and cracks in the wood. This place is filled with snow, both powder and plastic flakes. It is a special effects lock up. This is where they keep fake snow. As we venture farther in, we find lights. And as we turn them on, we see that it is snowing behind us. The breeze has picked up these plastic flakes and they are getting airborne, everywhere. We get to see a Hollywood snow storm on a sunny afternoon. We close the door and that kills the breeze. We can regulate this effect with wind. Usually, large fans are used with these flakes, and they get tossed by the barrel in front of the spinning propellor. The only problem is, having this door open will be noticeable to security and there is only one way out... the way we came in. Snow days will require either a fan or a look out by the door. Everything we experience here on this lot will fit our needs as we categorize everything we experience. Kids being kids, this is a blast. In this shot, you see public street Elenda as the backlot towers above its property line. Fences can't contain all that's inside. The train station and the annex is located in the bottom right-hand corner of the above picture. Understand, this place is huge, city after city, country after country. You could get lost. That's why we are exploring in daylight. We are getting prepared for night time trespassing, but not yet. We are always a bit afraid. It is part of the experience. It is scary in daylight; I can only imagine this place at night. I see filming through holes in the fence at night. Areas that are usually dark become so lit up that they can probably be seen from space. The other night, we watched a movie being made through a knott hole in a fence. We would later learn its title: A Picture of Dorian Gray. Horses and carriages went by us with the hoof sound on cobblestone... it's a wonderful sound. You become very in tune with your surroundings as a Phantom. Sights, sounds, smells, and even changing light patterns and doors opening and closing in the wind. Very spooky stuff on top of dealing with monsters... or guards. There are a couple of owls that sit on top of the catwalks to top it all off. Hoot hoot... they are quickly becoming my friends. This view is the church on a hill that normally is our next move from this depot. I loved the Rat Patrol. This sequence uses both the nomadic station and Grand Central These two stations are a sling shot away. I will sign off with a music piece... the very last thing filmed at Grand Central. We have explored a third of lot 2, but next, it's time to go across town and check on Gotham City. Desilu is next up. Enjoy and thanks to all you old Trespassers who have shared stories with me.
  9. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    I lived on Kong, you will not believe those stories and pictures but not yet, look me up when your in these parts. Too much to tell on posts. We need a bigger TV. You and I must have crossed paths. Do you know Brian McMann or D. Hancock by chance, older guys by a couple years?
  10. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

  11. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Hi, I am very familiar with that fire, it started in the church. I was inside it earlier afternoon. Sadly, I know who lit it. Billy Belcher, who is now dead.I fought these guys, thugs started going on the lot breaking and destroying things and I cover this incident in my memoirs My friends joined the marines and I often gave tours to Rangers from camp Pendleton. We were security when we went on the lot. Lots of **** kicking went on there. Not my culture to ruin things so we gave retribution for those individuals. I wish to share the softer side. Your ahead of the innocent times. The stories get crazier as years go by. I will let it go at that for now. Yes, it was Friday night, I was at Culver also. In fact, We went on top of Culver auditorium as embers landed.It was then I realized it was MGM at then we ran over to see church fall. Really sad night! Soon after... the ruins of the church fire. This fire was on a Sunday morning, I remember all the craziness, this was extremely large because an entire block of 5 story buildings were lost. New York street. Circa 1967.
  12. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Backlot doorways connect one country to another This phenomenon exists all over lot 2, particularly the sets I'm off to explore today. It starts after climbing in and taking cover in the old Pullman train cars that stretch down the tracks. At Grand Central station, trains are painted with a Pennsylvania Central logo on the side that the camera sees. But the opposite side is more dilapidated and reflects a London station arrival area, such as Victoria Station or Paddington. Same train and tracks. Different doors signify different countries. This is what I find fascinating about this studio backlot. Paint and props, costumes, and motorized vehicles can entirely change the location to anywhere that a show wishes to take place. In fact, just a slingshot away lies another depot, popular in Army shows such as Combat, The Rat Patrol, and Garrison's Gorillas. It is nomadic in nature and is located adjacent to the entrance of what I named German Village from all the war episodes shot here. Robert Duvall at gun point in The Enemy, 1965 My best friend Jimmy, and I, watch all these classic reruns. We wish we had an all-MGM-all-the-timechannel to follow this stuff, non-stop. We want all the history that took/takes place here, so we can recreate famous scenes exactly where they were filmed. My new hobbies have transformed me into a Phantom. This arch is one of three entrances into this tiny village. The nomadic train station lets you off here, so to speak. That station is 20 feet away from this picture. The arch at the opposite end is the second road in. The picture below shows the third cobblestone path into this usually bombed-out village. This is a production still photo on the set of The Three Musketeers, 1947 (film date precedes release date). Later on, when I meet Mr Gene Kelly in person, he will tell me this was his all-time favorite film. The doorways and buildings that you see in all of these photos, lead into one another, with some opening into The Great Wall of China, which stands menacingly, in the background. The Great Wall... if you dare to go through its gates you are in any city, any era, Europe. This is what I admire about this wonderland. History class at school is nothing compared to history lessons on this lot. It is all accessible if you walk through the right door. But, be prepared to run. We're Trespassing.. Remember that! And wear a good pair of tennis shoes. This Chinese set is very weathered and care must be taken when you ascend upwards, as some floors can no longer hold much weight. But this quality also offers character, like lines on an old friend's face. Most buildings on this shanty town square, also known as "Joppa Square," appear as old as China itself. The Great Wall is actually a complete building... the front is the Great Wall, but the backside has a frontthat is more European. . Above, Van Johnson is being paraded around after capture in 30 seconds over Tokyo Backside Mexican village as viewed from Elenda street. A path I walked every day for almost two decades. Every adventure begins and ends going down this path. The line on the map above indicates the nomadic train depot. The circle is the German village and the neighboring Joppa Square, or as I call it, "Chinese Street." The partial square is Mexican village. This set can be viewed along Elenda St.. and the picture above map is the view from that street. This is what we explored today. Stay tuned!
  13. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Soylent Green is People! ... yes, I too had the red biscuits. French bread that lasted years. I have stories and a call sheet from that movie for future presentation. It was actually my first hands on backlot blockbuster. Property masters rule, by the way. I had my own posse, don't recognize D.S.
  14. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    Tuna, I need to meet you. We must have crossed paths...and fences. I can be reached at my backlotdonny@me.com. I own the house I grew up in so the history here is rich with stories itself. I have a trespasser caught list with official MGM header I snuck out of a guard shack when the officer was busy with customers. It has who's who in Culver City, if you were caught anyways. I exist and am easy to reach. I am collaborating with fellow trespassers to paint that picture that was truly a part of the Culver city landscape. The Dark side, so to speak. First had accounts of boots on the ground, on the backlots. We must have the same friends being I was a Culver school kid after serving 8 years of hard labor at St. Augustine. I was kicked out after 7th grade for being a trouble maker. I wanted out. I ran a kid up a flag pole by his belt, and the nuns saw all this as his mother came to get him. Interestingly, one of the reasons they used to terminate me besides that incident was they have seen me sneaking in and out of MGM. I did not realize nuns patrolled so efficiently. I love just out of frame stories and Pyle phone booth was excellent. I have tons of just out of frame stuff. My entire professional career, let alone the kid stuff, was all just out of frame. I have over 30 years on block busters, not counting all the MGM lot blockbusters I snuck on, ending in 2015. Just out of frame... MGM /Desilu era, believe or not, is still my favorite era of all. Late sixties..all seventies rules. As does the music of the times. Perfect fits. Nice stuff. If your in C. C , lets hook up. I knew each and every security guard ... lots of stories there with all your favorites... stay tuned (Tuna) and send me a email Thx Cheers from Donnie
  15. Phantom of the Backlots

    Phantom of the Backlots

    . Post navigation Previous PostWhere do we go from here? Leave a Reply Hello Dargo, Mr Vallone provided me stacks of 8 by 10 pictures. Vintage classics from the MGM archives. Somewhere, I have an article on this legendary man. He was a well known figure at MGM. I have/had a lot of stuff. My parents threw out my Soylent Green not knowing its value, for example. I was so mad. Tony provided the high quality B&W pictures I will present over time. Also, the maps of lots 1,2 & 3. He knew all about me. There was a bar called Big Ed's, next to Culver Hotel. Studio folk love to drink, and my pop would talk to employees about me and how I always am on the lot so they wanted to meet me. This passionate kid kinda became a mascot for employees but a security nightmare. I found the fan mail for Mickey in a hidden spot in an empty office. Not a gift but a prize that could easily have been lost forever. There was not just one source for stuff but Tony and his story deserve mention.The pictures I have been given are extremely special to me. Speaking of bars, the Backstage, which still stands just outside the fence of lot one, legend has it was the first place the Combat cast would visit after shooting all day. The bartender would lay out 7 shot glasses on the counter at wrap! The cast would reflect on how they get paid to play army and what happened today... (and do a little guzzling)! " Check mate King two to White Rook... over' was the frequency call signs if you remember when Lt. Hanley would call Saunders on his bulky military radio. I must have herd every battle and gunshot on lot 2. Follow Blog via Email Click to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Join 3 other followers Follow

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