Poppi TV Pilot… Hot Set!

Hector Elizondo has been cast for the TV role of Poppi, based off a movie starring Alan Arkin. I found this out on a call sheet while saying Hello to my security guard friend, Ken Wood. It will be filmed on Brownstone Street, on lot 2. This location will be the featured spot in each episode’s opening credits. That means that I have recently been able to watch the filming of several MGM TV shows, including Medical Center, Shaft, Hawkins, Adam’s Rib, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, and now Poppi.

Attachment-1

Once again the guard shack works as a TV guide. Often now, we learn about things before they have been promoted or even in some cases, before they have even been filmed yet. This TV series will shoot its first scenes right smack in the middle of New York street. This show is the first thing shot on this location since Soylent Green, other than one Medical Center episode and a Lemon Up shampoo commmercial.

Medical Center is the center cut of all these series, as many on this list will quickly fall by the wayside, never to be heard of again. Chad Everette is a hot potato and his role as a doctor is a spin off of Dr. Kildare. His show is a smash hit already.

Contruction has begun two weeks prior, on Brownstone, preparing for the first day of shooting. A hardware store, a barbershop, a laundromat, and a liqour store all are being dressed as actual facilities. Across from this main set is a bakery that is packed with real goodies, along with fake rubber imposters.

img_0377.jpg

Shops above are same as below different decade…

img_0374.jpgIMG_0372

Actual mail boxes and news racks from Poppi, barber shop and barber pole below Law Office, above

The series jingle that will open each episode will be shot against this NY backdrop.

Poppi turns the corner to many kids, who are playing in water, which is being strewed from a hydrant. When they see Hector Elizondo, they run up to him, all wet, shouting “Poppi, Poppi” and then grab his hand, as he heads up his tenament stairway. This is how this day begins for us on the backlot.

Four weeks later, this will be the opening sequence on all six episodes that make the air waves on Tuesday night primetime on CBS.

Day one, a new MGM TV show. Another piece of MGM history… all the movie equipment, extras, and activity makes my blood rush… MGM and the backlot are alive and well.

Today still being summer, I bring a handful of guys with me, and we sneak our way across the backlot. We get a front row seat for today’s activities. I get to watch a fellow director do his thing. My three minute feature shot on the Desilu Western street screened to a packed garage of locals and was a smashing success.

I  want to thank everyone who helped capture the old west with me…. blah blah blah…

Hal Needham, special thanks to you… You can throw me through a window anytime! 

Now it’s my turn to learn from the pros and we could not have a better view, right down the street corner, two uninterrupted angles with the principal cast right below.

img_0373.jpg

Our view, above, looking down. Fire hydrant dead center, bottom of picture

My group of cohorts and I sneak up a stairway and we’re all in one building, upstairs, above the bakery. We can see the food displays inside, right through the floor boards. We remove a wood plank for a better view.

The day quickly speeds by… for us anyway. The same scene is shot over and over and over, and we are stuck up here because MGM has a security guard on set and he is sitting close enough to see my troop, if we exit. We are bored.

Their Panavision camera keeps getting reloaded as this scene apparently can’t be shot enough times. Well, my group is very antsy. We are now fishing into the bakery below, with make-shift hooks from curtains attached to drape ropes from a nearby window. We have a large area upstairs to goof off in, but to exit, we must funnel down one stairway, that is blocked currently by a certain Garth Bluff, MGM’s gentlemen officer, who has decided to take a nap. Every time we so much as think of sneaking by, he makes strange little snorts, so we’re not sure if he’s really asleep.

Hungry, bored, and up for a challenge… we hook a big fish, not a guard: a bag of donuts. It gets reeled upstairs stealthily, and no one sees it pass upwards out of the bakery, and through a fabricated hole in the floor. This is has become the thing to do, as Poppi’s TV show across the street, becomes a secondary item.

The director in me wants to shout “CUT ALREADY” to this repetitive opening scene, across the way.

Being a kid is the funnest option here. Next, we hook a bag of muffins. We only want fresh stuff, not stale, or worse…. rubber fakes.

We are stuck up here, but this happens once in awhile in our trespassing lifestyle.

Even during crew lunch, this area has security centered on this set. In fact, Carl, another guard, comes in and for a bit, we have two guards to outsmart. At 5:00, this day finally wraps, as the last reverse angle and overkilled scene is done.

The set is dressed and is considered Hot. That means it can’t touched by anybody. It will need a night watchman. So, a guard will sit on it all night and a second one will patrol the rest of the backlot. I have seen this act before and we need to make hay as the sun sets…

Security guard Carl follows the last crew member to the main gate, so he can lock this backlot up. He leaves and is gone for about five minutes, as this shit takes place. The HOT SET just got hotter… as we finally climb down after 8 hours, surviving on donuts and muffins. 

We had a bag of danishes that ripped and fell back inside the bakery while fishing, earlier. Well now, we are inside this bakery as security vanished, and we are picking up fresh sweets…

The rest of my gang is grabbing props. I roll a wagon from the hardware store and load it with bakery items and this takes about three minutes. Jimmy and I work together on this.

We casually pull our red flyer wagon down New York Street’s 5th avenue, as we head towards the Boystown fort. We wanted to be the first to leave this area. Set watch is just returning to this Hot Set. Guys are walking with rakes, shovels, and even the barber’s pole that was spinning below us all day.

IMG_0369.jpg

Red wagon full of goodies passed down this street when security came back…Below, we are at this end of NY street as all hell breaks loose at the Brownstones on the opposite end.

img_0368.jpg

This set is in chaos as Carl reappears. Kids are still on Brownstone grabbing stuff, as shouting takes place. Security is terribly out manned!

Jimmy and I are far from the epi center as we carry the wagon over a footbridge at the lake and then cross over into Boystown where we bring the groceries upstairs. Chases are taking place all over NY street like the Laugh In skits. Everyone gets away and security has some explaining to do…I’d imagine… 

The Bronco arrives with the big blonde specialist behind the wheel, racing around chasing ghosts…ghost busting…we eat with entertainment taking place all around us.

A security fire drill of sorts is taking place…Jimmy and I pig out in our fort of forts with frosting all over our faces…”there goes Pat and Berry,” running by, as I point over to Small Town square. Jimmy and I bust up as we eat the evidence…

IMG_2234

This is the funnest place in the world, I think to myself, as we stuff pink Snoballs down the hatch…

This show was cancelled soon after the six episodes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Funeral for a Friend

Today’s post is written by Maureen.

We had just moved into an apartment a couple blocks away from our house. No pets allowed, but I did keep Fred, a goldfish I won from a fair. I even bought him a bridge for his bowl.

A Grim Discovery—

On coming home from school today, I notice that Fred had jumped over the bridge, right out of his bowl, and is now behind my dresser. Must have flopped around back there until he drew his last breath.

Our beloved pets of the past were all buried in our yard at our old house: Friggin the cat, Willard the rat and a stray bird that we tried to save, were all there. I live in an apartment now, with no dirt, and no place to bury Fred. But, there is plenty of dirt across the street, at MGM. Donnie showed me the way in… Should I?

The Burial—

I quickly change my clothes. I am wearing the army pants I got from The Surprise Store. T-shirt, hair in bun. I look like a soldier. A soldier on a mission. A mission to bury Fred. I put Fred in a brown paper lunch sack and grab a spoon for digging, before heading out.

SurpriseStore.jpeg

I climb the telephone pole with the barbed wire to get inside. I go to the little river where Donnie and I have ventured. Fred would want to be buried by the water. I dig him a little grave, put him in, say, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” and then cover him up with dirt. I put some eucalyptus caps in the shape of a heart, and am ready to get the heck out.

I go back to my exit place and think to myself… Well, I’m already in… why not explore a little? Maybe even brag to Donnie a little, about how far I ventured on my own. So, I start off.

Soldier On—

I continue straight ahead. The other side of the fence is Culver Blvd., but you never even think of that busy street when you’re inside. Two different worlds entirely. I march on. The boys in my neighborhood growing up would never invite me to play army with them, but I am playing now. I come upon a stray cat. It is meowing at me like it wants me to pet it, but when I come close, it is skittish. Yet, it keeps teasing me to come closer. It runs to a structure that looks like a house, then to another one… leading me into open space, which I know is not smart, but I soldier on.

Mission Aborted—

Then the dreaded noise! The jeep! Shit! Did he see me?  

I look like a boy. I hope I don’t get shot with a salt rock. The guard comes tearing out of nowhere right toward us. We split up. I do a baseball slide under a house, just to find that the back was fake and completely missing. A small bush is my camouflage. I see the cat jump over the fence and right out of here. That is not a viable option for me. Too tall, too sharp at the top, no foothold. Donnie would be so disappointed in me if I get caught.

I wait. My legs are shaking involuntarily, and I just keep silent. I wait for what feels like hours. And actually… it probably has been. I decide to give up. I wave my arms in the air in surrender. If I had a white flag I would be waving it. I only have a spoon, which I’ve been clenching so tightly, that I can barely straighten out my fingers.

No guard. He has long gone. I surrender all the way back to my exit point. How embarrassing to surrender (to no one) all the way across the lot. I will NOT be bragging about this. RIP Fred.

Airplane Room Party

As the clock strikes midnight, me and my mob exit this old train, single file onto its loading platform, under a crescent shaped moon. Two owls follow our every move. The first stop on this journey tonight is the depot itself, huge by any standard. It gives everyone a chance to see what’s inside this facade.

Inside is a false ticket window, with a giant clock above. Let’s just say I really haven’t begun the tour yet. But everyone OOOHS and AAAHS, and I can tell already, that tonight is going to be different than most.

As we step out of this cavernous building, we see Maureen’s new residence. How perfect… it couldn’t be better placed. This can work well for us, as her bedroom is conveniently overlooking the studio… peeking right over the fence, back at us. This is one swanky, fancy apartment, strategically placed with a movie studio view. I am fortunate to have such an oasis so divinely placed, to go with all my forts.

It’s midnight at the oasis… send your camel to bed.

IMG_0194.jpg

Bottom window, left, is Maureen’s bedroom window. Just her, her mom, and her pet Goldfish.

Things keep getting better. Everyone walks close to me, as I highlight each path we take, with bits of MGM history. We pass through Piccadilly square, complete with old red phone booths.

“Romeo and Juliet was filmed across the way, as was many Combats”… as I point.

I am now cruising in the middle of the night with people I barely know, and some smell really nice. It is going well. No Bronco…. yet, anyways. Mind you, being on the backlot at night is like being in a foreign country. Signs are barely visible and usually not in English. If it’s your first visit, you have no clue where you are at.

Behind this square you can make out the Great Wall silhouette, with a shanty Chinese street in front. Part of my crowd wanders on their own, to an igloo, completely out of place by the Great Wall. It is as if they have never seen one before.

IMG_0183.jpg

“There’s better stuff than this… lets keep going.”

We continue on into German village as my group stops on a cobblestone street, center of town, just below the church. My guests have never traveled so far, so quickly. Like a time machine…

We cut through small town square, methodically. I recommend that they do not wander away, as I am not entirely sold that we are alone. We make it to New York Street, particularly, 5th avenue. The sight of all the great MGM musicals. It is enormous, long, and empty. This place trips me out, as it is doing to my group of 16…

IMG_0146.jpg

The path walked this night…

img_0150-e1563466647386.jpg

I did a head count… names I will remember, some other time. Six are girls. We walk down the center of Manhattan, looking up at these five story buildings. We have been spotted. The owls are tracking us, as they fly from catwalk to catwalk that surround New York City.

I lead them to a wooden front door that appears very official, and on it is a big sign that says: Public Library. “That sign was put up for Soylent Green,” I tell the guests. Everyone reacts as if they have seen it at the theaters… good for MGM. I tell them what it was like to be here… “You see the scoops dumping people in trash trucks and Charlton Heston being hunted by Chuck Connors in a chase that starts right where your standing!”

I own this crowd, like a teacher in a class room. I point out this exact doorway and its steps, which lead up to where we are. The Blackboard Jungle—starring Glen Ford, Sidney Poitier, and last but not least, my idol, Sgt Saunders—uses this exact same angle. This is a very troubled Public high school. I will be in the same school next year, with these folks. My group is congregated very similiarly… we are in the exact, same area, where groups of school kids gather, in that 1955 Richard Brooks classic.

This building’s backside exits to a large steel hangar used to store large, valuable props such as airplanes… real airplanes.

There is A hole in the wall, which we of course, made, to go inside this locked building. We leaned a wall against it, to hide its existence. Walls are easy to find here; it is where they are stored, along with stairways and fireplaces, just waiting to be reused, like socks.

img_0125.jpg

Airplane hangar prop storage center picture.

Well, 16 people follow me inside, one at a time, by squeezing through this long, narrow passage. It is extra dark inside. Only skylights allow what little moonlight we have, to come inside. Large aircraft stand out, as your eyes focus and adjust.

These planes are separated in sections allowing the camera and equipment room to set up. We have two jet cockpits, completely real. Fuselages are behind the cock pits, separated by just 10 feet of air, behind the pilots’ chambers. I point out that these were used in Twilight Zone, the one with William Shatner, where he sees a monster outside his window. Also, the episode where the plane goes back in time.

My audience must feel like they landed in the Twilight Zone. They should… my favorite prop inside here, is the Time Machine, from the episode titled Execution. I lift the plexiglass door upwards and step inside this capsule…

img_0135.jpg

Time Machine above… It sits on a platform that has wheels, so it easily moves.

Everyone is intoxicated, literally and figuratively, as couples make thereselves at home in  first class. Plush reclining seats make for comfort, in what is a jumbo jet’s first class seating. A winding stairway next to the stewardess’ food prep area takes you above this compartment.

At this point, people are everywhere in this hangar, and music is playing on someone’s little boom box.

The party we left in the crest is now in full force in this large pleasure hangar. Couples are making out in first class. I pass through, like the captain just looking forward, as I climb into the cockpit. Hell, someone has to fly this thing. Tim follows me inside, and sits copilot alongside me.

img_0184.jpg

As I pull the levers back and forth, and pretend to fly, I am already high. Tim lights up a joint, one of several being torched right now, inside this hangar of ill repute. Tim also unfolds a paper as I stare ahead, occasionally looking at him, on my right. I’m in my moment…

But, Tim’s moment is about getting high, in a different way. Cocaine is offered to the captain. I have never seen any, yet now, I have it right next to me. I decline, but I watch him snort some lines on my instrument control panel. He says, “get used to it… at Culver High school, it’s very popular.”

I think, what kind of school am I headed to anyway… Everyone’s higher than a kite, and we haven’t even left the ground…

I turn the controls over to Tim; at least he won’t fall asleep. I climb down and check out what’s going on around here. Since last time I was inside this facility, a lot more stuff has been stored. The Marx Brothers have  pictures of themselves on a large foam backing. You really can’t have a party without them, so there’s that.

A golf cart with a football helmet mounted on top, like at football games, is inside here. That wasn’t here before. It has a key. This is a score. I want to get chased by the Bronco in this bad ass rig, I’m thinking. I can’t get it out of here with the sliding doors locked. Shoot…

Well, I figure out forward/reverse and I step on the gas, and I am now driving a football helmet; not just any, but… the Dallas Cowboys’ helmet, with the big star logo on its sides. Everyone is tripping out, as I drive in circles back and forth, then pull up to the Time Machine.

Inside, a smoke filled game is going on. People are getting high insde, as the smoke is captured in this tiny sealed unit. You get high, whether you light up, or not. I stare inside the smoke dome from my seat in the mobil helmet. I see a girl inside, barely visible through the haze… stripping.

Wow, I have seen this capsule many times in reruns of this show, but never quite like this. A stripper capsule, sending strippers back and forth through time. If Rod Serling could see this prop now!

img_0169.jpg

Over yonder, a space capsule on a wood platform is shaking like it wants to blast off, I can only imagine what’s going on inside.

There is so much noise we can probably be heard outside, on Overland. The public street that sits just outside, a hundred yards away. Where is MGM’s specialist guard when you need him… he must be home resting.

Remember this, you big behemoth: Crime Never Sleeps.

If you’re keeping score: Donnie 4… George minus 1

“Space Oddity,” by Bowie, magically plays on the radio, as people take turns inside all the fun things, like an adult amusement park.

I’m glad Maureen didn’t stick around for this… The captain calls WRAP at about 2:30 am.

Welcome to Hollywood, drive safely.

I think I’m a hit in my new school and haven’t been to one class yet!

Pictured below, is Fernald on the left, a Fireman, who has been at MGM forever. Beside him, on the cart that says “Fire Dept.” is Big George, the specialist just hired to hunt me down.

IMG_0180

img_0122.jpg

Above and below: Cockpit in its later years, on its last flight…

img_0121.jpg

img_0124.jpg

 Above…. Where this green fence makes a right turn, is where this night began, climbing the barb wire pole. That green fence is the old one. We had a sharp metal fence to deal with…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISORDERLY CONDUCT

A letter from St. Augustine has been mailed to my parents. Its states:

Your son will no longer will be accepted in this school. Please find an alternate 8th grade elsewhere.

So, I have been paroled with a year chopped off my Catholic prison sentence.

Multiple examples of problems include…

  1. First and most concerning:  When I jeopardized a fellow student’s safety by attaching him, by his belt, to the flag pole rope, and then proceeding to string him all the way up to the top. Like a flag.
  2. Next and quite amazingly, is that the nuns have seen me jumping out of MGM and say I am corrupting fellow students. Apparently, I’m teaching them how to break the law.
  3. Finally, I’m not an altar boy. Unfortunately, it always conflicted with pro-football on Sunday morning TV.

Three strikes…I’m out.

They say they’ve seen me jumping out of MGM. I think it was merely heresay… rumors on the schoolyard… I guess that oversized late 60’s stationwagon doubles as a patrol car. Under cover sisters. What happened to simpler times when nuns were like Sally Field and just sang songs all day, like in the Flying Nun?

Well, I’ll be a horse’s ass. My normal conduct is intolerable to the archdiocese. I’m expelled!

Terrific! I can’t wait to tell my friends I’m going to public school. Culver Middle School will be where I continue to develop my skills. Maureen, Jimmy, and Danny, also attend this school.

Pat’s family also received this letter. He calls me to tell me his parents are upset and he must go to Loyola. Sad… first it’s all boys. And second, there is a fence around that school 20 feet high. If you need a fence that high, bad things must take place inside.

Culver will be a country club for me, while poor Pat will be in maximum security prison.

I have gotten word of a public school party, set for Friday night in the elite Culver Crest neighborhood. Maureen and Danny want to go and I will have an opportunity to make new friends, so I can’t wait for this night to begin.

A band is playing as we walk into the backyard of a splendid home that has views of the ocean. The band’s name is Monkey Chow. People are drinking and smoking as this is now becoming the norm, everywhere I go. Around 11 pm, Culver City police shut this highly attended party down.

As everyone rapidly moves towards their rides, I mention to the crowd that we could all go to MGM and I will take you on an adventure. The response is huge, as I head for the gate, “follow us!”

I hop in Danny’s tricked out Pinto with Maureen sitting shot gun. A caravan of cool cars now follows us down Overland Avenue like a parade. We all end up as close as we can to the now famous train station entrance that we use the most.

Maureen has moved from Huron to Elenda, which is where I’m parking all the partyers’ cars. We take up the entire street, like a film crew base camp. Her new apartment overlooks MGM, behind the train station. Like a fort, with utilities. She can see the backside of Mexican Village, China Street, with its castle, and the German village church that we spent the 4th of July in.

She lives with her mom and obeys her curfew, as she says goodbye to this traveling party.

I can’t wait to be able to drive, as I walk past a van full of stoned out, soon to be trespassers. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cheech and Chong pop out of the back. I dig the surf racks on its roof. A Karmann Ghia is in front of the van. A Plymouth Duster and a Corsair precede these, as this simple quiet street is invaded by a traveling circus.

What will my first car be? My sister, Nancy,  who is ten years older, has a 67 GTO

Well, it’s time to climb, as we congregate at the barb wire pole for a safety meeting. I demonstrate proper techniques to safely climb barb wire and add a disclaimer, “If I run… you should, too.” I know none of these people by name, except Tim Gray. He is a bit actor who works out of Central Casting. He graduated from St. Augustines and goes to Culver high.

I assist a female, wearing a dress, up and over this sharp fence. It takes a hands-on effort, as I touch women in places I have never touched before. Just doing my job. She makes it safely, as I follow her and her invisible plume of perfume, over and into the backlot. I hope the scent doesn’t give us away. Like a skunk.

The rest follow, as we wait. I’m a bit nervous, only because everyone is kicking the fence as they attempt to climb. It is pretty loud, but finally, we are all on the adventure side… We go inside a Pullman train and let our eyes adjust to the darkness.

MGM’s owls have realized we are here. One sits atop the cross that sits above the church, staring down at us, hooting loudly. I’m thinking and plotting, as my group sits in anticipation of their tour through LaLa Land.

I interrupt their daydreaming and tell them we should give this a few minutes… “so get comfortable on board this train and relax.” I need to make sure we don’t get trapped. It was kinda loud entering…

A joint gets sparked up and makes its way down the train isle, to each customer. Like a train ticket getting punched. It calms the nervousness we all have.

“I know this place inside and out. You can not have a better tour guide,” I say, patting myself on the back. I think, I’m safe if anything goes wrong, they will almost all get caught, most likely. No risk… No reward. I take a hit off the party joint… MGM will need to add a paddy wagon to its fleet, for this haul, I laugh to myself.

The clock strikes 12 Midnight…

To be continued… Airplane Room Party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

9:AM Call Times

I expect a long day. We need to get five scenes done today… all action. The last shot can’t even begin before 4pm. That is when a guard comes on for nightime set watch.

Pat, Danny and I ride together. All three of us are wearing cowboy hats and boots. We have Daisy rifles, bungee corded to the cross bar of our 10 speeds. We look like The Wild Bunch.

We stop at the cantina fort briefly, on our way to the saloon, where we run into two carpenters. They are smoking a joint when we walk in on them. It’s only 8:45AM. They have tool belts on. After surprised looks all around, I was handed the joint with a question, “What train did you boys ride in on?”

Do we not look cool in our cowboy boots, hats and pendletons? I’m puzzled, but go along with the ruse…

“I never smoked a joint with guys wearing tool belts before…” I laugh back. “Real men wear holsters, like me,” I shoot back. Then I pull out my loaded cap gun and fire off six  rounds, up into the air. That gains me some respect. “Try that with your claw hammer.”

My new friends’ names are Tom and Chuck, both carpenters. Chuck, ironically, looks exactly like Charles Manson. He is strangley quiet, and pretty high for 9AM. So much so, I want him in my movie. Damn strait!

They mention they are building an entire southwest village over yonder. Their show, starring Warren Beatty, will be here several months. 

So they got Beatty, I think to myself, impressed. I look over my rag tag troupe, it’s all I can afford! Just the way producers must think, is all. We’re competitive.

“Mike Nichols is the director,” he continues… I think briefly… I wear multiple hats, when directing… it’s my Dodger cap. If weapons are used, I switch to a army helmet, usually,  from Combat. Today, a cowboy hat will be in order.

My simple response is, “impressive… feel free to party.” Now that we’re passing joints back and forth, I feel comfortable enough to ask my new pals if they can fix the ladder that goes up to the roof… “since it’s very old and rickety.” We need every escape route we can get… They laugh as we depart separate ways.

Well, bad news. Maureen politely turned me down. She insists that westerns went out of style years ago, but I had to remind her, we just saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and loved it. She is still sweet enough to give me an autographed 8″ by 10″ for future-better parts. You never burn bridges in Hollywood…

IMG_7324.jpg

This is her quote: “This movie is just a bunch of boys cocking and aiming their guns… just blasting away, is all… No plot, No cares, No thanks!”

It’s much more than that, silly girl. We have a card game gone bad, a saloon fight, one shootout, one draw, a hanging, and a chase by the lot sheriff… And I am not talking Andy Griffith.

That last scene was confirmed by Tom. He said that when the crew leaves at 4pm, one guard will be on duty. Little does that guard know, what fire he is jumping into… at exactly 1600 hours.

We will capture this day on film for eternity…

Barry is my camera man. He brings this beauty to the set to capture what will take place today.

images.jpeg

“We have three minutes of film, Barry warns me. Panavision, but at a value. He also brought a pair of walkie talkies. Very handy.

We go upstairs and eat breakfast. I bought donuts from a nearby Winchell’s on the way to the studio. That purchase went like this…

We walk inside the donut shop in our hats and boots and stand next to two Culver City officers, also wearing hats and boots. I give a half-assed, sideways glance.

We knew they were inside, so we parked our weapon-laden, tricked out bikes away from their tricked out black and whites with shot guns.

“I’ll take a variety dozen, throw in some jelly ones.” …Please.

I glance again at the lawmen as they sip their coffee, peering back at me.

“Have a good day,” I smile to everyone present and tip my hat. We ride on out towards the warm sun.

I also brought little boxes of Kelloggs cereal for the crew to munch on, along with bananas. We drink water out of faucets located everywhere on the lot.

Frosted Flakes, donuts, and away we go…

It’s 9:30, “Lets get that first shot!” And I rally my men.

First scene: Danny tosses Pat out the saloon’s swinging doors, as camera faces inward from street.

ACTION!… Pat comes flying out the swinging doors, backwards, and falls into the dusty street. Jerry is scraping dust up with cardboard and tossing it in the wind for that dirty old west feel. Nice touch.

Then Jerry rolls a tumble weed over Pat as he lays there motionless…

img_0035-1.jpg

Danny walks out all handsome and calmly says, “You were cheating… You better not come back inside or we’ll shoot ya next time.” We can’t record sound, so we emphasize with gestures and slow lip reading delivery… CUT!

I kick the dirt and adjust my hat, as I replay this scene in my mind… not bad at all. I flashback to Chuck Connors in Ride Beyond Vengeance. He fought at this exact spot, in 1967.

Second scene… New set up. Middle street. Load the cap guns… Danny is challenging Pat to a draw. I want camera to be looking length-wise down the street, for a feeling of distance and lonliness. I confer with my camera man. Cap guns loaded. Okay, FIRE ON THE SET! Wait for your cues.

“Wait… traffic coming,” a crew-cab, stake-bed truck is headed right towards us. The driver and its occupants all wave to us, as we smile and wave back. We fit like a nice pair of leather gloves around here.

“Well, Jerry…” I say, “take a walkie talkie and stand in front of the saloon… hold any traffic, please.”

“Danny, I need you to take 10 steps, turn and fire from the hip, keep your torso low,” I direct. “Pat, after your 10 steps, fall backwards, like you did so well, on the last scene, like you got shot in the belly.”

Pat quips “Why can’t he die this time?”… “Because HE is my good looking star” I quip back. “Bobby Sherman politely declined my offer.”

“Hold traffic, Jerry!”

Pat and Danny line up, back to back … “Barry, roll film…”

ACTION… The boys walk off and fire after 10 steps… Pop, Pop, Pop.

Pat lays wounded, agonizing, slightiy rolling, as Danny stands over him gloating… “I’m the fastest gun in the west…” Danny ad libs. I remind him that there is no sound but I like his spunk!

I feel like Hal Needham directing Burt Reynolds…

CUT… Next set up, the hanging tree.

Jerry orders a pizza as Pat hangs a noose from one of two trees, center of town. Jerry is a jack of all trickey trades. We prep and rehearse under the tree as we are told… “Pizza guy on way.”

img_0055-1.jpg

 

Hangman, Hangman, wait a little while, I think I see my friend coming, riding many miles… he didn’t bring no silver, or even gold… what did you bring me my brother, to keep me from the Gallows pole? (Pizza, hot and fresh, with a ice cold 6 pack of coke… that’s what!)

I call lunch, as I pay my Pal, Jesus, the delivery guy. He said he wasn’t sure which set called for free delivery… Yep, it’s nice when my movie is confused with a Warren Beatty feature. Their rolling phone must have Chris’s pizza stenciled on it, also.

I grab a hot slice and a cold can and head to my trailer, which has a hay bed. Okay… its a barn. “Trailer” just sounds better.

I lay staring at the barn ceiling above me, with sunlight shining inside, with various patterns. I go over our film in my mind, front and back… casting was harder than expected, females did not want to touch it… It smells like horses in here. I shut my eyes, I keep thinking of Maureen, and I don’t know why.

I have a film to direct, so no time for that.

We’re back… 

Each crew member has crashed somewhere around this town, in chairs, in cots, on rugs, etc. They all look like the derelicts, as everyone slowly returns to the Hangman’s Knott.

“Sympathy for the Devil” can be heard playing loudly at the set being built just over yonder. We are all rolling stones around this lot.

“Pat… get up on that ladder!” (We found an old, wooden A-frame). “Look dead… You play it really swell, by the way,” I snicker. “Slowly turn your head, like your corpse dangling in the wind, keep it downward.”

“Jerry, create more background dust,” I yell, at special effects…

“How does it look in the view finder, Barry?” “Looks great…” he nods approvingly.

CUT. Next set up…

It’s a shootout, at the saloon. Danny inside, looking out at the street. Pat approaches with a rifle. Not just any rifle… a DAISY.

Rapid fire, bolt action… shoots as fast as you can cock it. I pour a can of 3 in 1 oil down the barrel, that creates smoke when fired.

I will need to hold traffic for this violent scene. Jerry walks to the intersection between these two movie sets with his walkie…

Barry and his camera are outside, just behind Pat, as he walks the wood planks in front of this Happiness saloon…

Pat, make eye contact, as Danny flips him the bird from inside. Pat has had enough agony today and now can now release all his tension…

As Danny stands with his finger exteneded upwards inside, Pat steps sideways on to the dirt street and opens fire, rapidly cocking and firing, just like Chuck Connors. There’s that name again… this shot is similar to the opening credits in the Rifleman. I saw him shooting at Charlton Heston most recently on the Soylent Green set. That man likes to shoot and I love him for it.

Glass is shattering as fast as Pat pulls the trigger. Danny ducks for cover… CUT.

We all applaud. Great shot, fellas, I’m thrilled with that scene. I can’t wait to see the daily’s.

B.B. guns and backlots work great together… this will become a frequent hobby on both backlots, very, very soon.

The Martini shot is all the filming we have left to do. We cut it close, but have 40 seconds, more or less, of film left in the view finder.

This is a one take money shot… scheduled at 1600 hundred hours, or when security sets itself up for the night.

We waste no-time preparing this one shot opportunity. The camera needs to see a wide angle, so I position Barry on a grassy knoll that oversees both movie sets. He will have a walkie with him and will just pan the camera, filming the chase sequence from up top the grassy knoll.

Being that we will all have to leave town immediatly, I instruct Jerry to strike our set of props, safe up the saloon stairway by blocking the path upwards to the office. Most importantly, have the get away vehicles (bikes) ready to roll, and facing in the direction towards home.

Barry and I will need our bikes hidden in the big main drainage pipe that feeds the creek, which faces the Culver Fire training facility.

Neither of us should have to run, if all goes well. We can exit the studio calmly, like David O’ Selznick.

That leaves just Pat and Danny to act this scene out. Perfect, the’re both crazy.

I can look down from a higher vantage point and cordinate this Gone With the Wind type final scene. The running of Atlanta.

Exactly in the same area as that climactic scene was captured.

We are ready as the clock ticks…  4pm.

Workers, including Tom and Charlie Manson, pull away in their personal vehicles. The studio stake bed work truck sits, parked by the mill, where all the saws and wood are located. How does Charlie boy spends his nights, anyway?… 

There is a tension, a nervousness, in the air. We can only hope this comes off as planned. Jerry has the other walkie. We need to know when we are set for escape. Barry will work from my visual commands. We only have a half minute of film, don’t forget…

I run down to my actors when I notice Danny has a rifle. “What if he pulls his weapon when he sees you with this rifle?” Then, I think for a minute and change my mind… “Actually, go with it Hancock, I love it!”

“He would probably shoot Pat, anyway.” Danny and I laugh, as Pat gives a sour glare. “That only happens at MGM,” he spits back.

I go back to camera and check with Jerry on Barry’s radio…”is the getaway ready?”

“All good here,” he responds, “and guess what?… The Cantina fort has a new ladder going up to the roof.”

Thanks Charlie and Tom, you can never have too many carpenters as friends around here, I think proudly… I didn’t even need a charge number.

“(A) Camera… be ready, start filming right as they shout their lines.” I run down to do last check with talent… “Be ready to deliver your lines when I twirl my right arm up. I have a visual on all this. Security is at the saw mill… start getting closer, so when I queue you, he sees you, and starts his pursuit.”

Places and… ACTION

“Hey stupid, we’re over here,” Danny and Pat yell that and even more choice adjectives.

Nice, the sheriff is pissed and in a full speed pursuit. I’m safely hidden. This chase is mine to enjoy. I tell myself… this is better than Deliverance and Billy Jack combined. 

That’s a wrap!

As everyone disappears through different doorways to their waiting bicycles… The film is in the can.

That’s all Folks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemons with a Twist

This new specialist that MGM hired, just to get me is disturbing. Life on the Backlots has been progressing just swimmingly up until now. A large speed bump is now in place. But, I have more experience than him, on the MGM backlot, and I know every building and bush, intimately.

Advantage Donnie, but due dilligence is still needed to find dirt on this specialist guy, named George.

Jimmy and I begin our detective work on this matter, the very next day. We begin by canvasing the neighborhood in which he lives. Gertrude, the old lady who lives next door to him, is out watering her yard. I politely ask “Hi, do you know George next door?”

img_3197.jpg

Above: George’s house, a block away from mine, and the MGM backlot.

Gertrude responds, “Sure, I watched him grow up… how do you know him?” I respond, “I ran into him at MGM. He is a security guard.”

“Oh he is”… (short pause). “He always wanted to be a cop… he tried for Culver City P.D., but he was too large to fit in the police cruisers,” she giggles.

I like Gertrude already… 

She continues, “Well, MGM got him a big, old jeep to drive around in, so he can pretend to be a cop,” as we both laugh.

“He never had many friends… kinda a loner”…”Yep, I snap. “Now he’s the Lone Ranger at MGM…  he traded his white pony for a red Bronco!”

“Does he still live here at home?” I keep rattling on… “Sure does, that’s his van over there,” as she points.

“Cool, I will visit with him later!”  thanks Gertrude.

I ponder… He could be looking at me right now, as I gather info. Yet, he has no idea about my name, appearance, or address. He still thinks my name is John… like that Dillinger guy. He can’t even get first names right…  Score Donnie: 3, George: minus 1.

MGM now has two guards, Ron and George, that are big enough to play on the LA Rams Fearsome Foursom.

Okay, this was a coup of info. Now we know his vehicle and when he is home… or at work. Next, I need to watch his tactics while on duty. Backlot homework is required. He is on the night shift, so I will observe him from the highest vantage points the lot has to offer.

The German village church, offers tremendous views, all easy to get to. And a man his size cannot squeeze up this climb to the top of the belfry. What we see patrolling is one gung ho dude. Drives with lights off, speeds around, gets out and walks into buildings. Very disconcerting to James and I.

I take precautions on the lot now… less wandering, and more hiding. We have a network of peep holes in the fence surrounding the lot… many we struck ourselves. Strategically placed to observe the backlot safely, from the outside, looking in. These knot holes have never been so handy.

Late last evening, I was patrolling… looking for him. I peered through a hole that looks down Brownstone street, which is part of New York street. I arrive just in time to see the Bronco, lights off, rolling slowly down this slum. When the Bronco comes to a stop, the Jeep is staring at me but the occupant has no clue I’m watching him through a tiny hole.

I am not sure it’s George until the door opens. Oops… make that both car doors open. A big silhouette exits the driver side on this pitch dark street. And a short, stocky figure exits the passenger side. It’s Bronco Bob himself.

I can hear them talk, as they turn on their flashlights and raid a New York warehouse. The garage they are inside of was used in SAINT VALENTINE”S DAY MASSACRE. This is where the bloody carnage took place in that 1967 Roger Corman classic.

IMG_0019

Above: The tall buiding on the left side, is the set I am describing, as viewed from the crew parking lot. Peep holes exist all over these fences

Also, Laurel and Hardy filmed many scenes on that exact spot – the same one they’re now securing.  In Air Raid Wardens, a dump truck dropped a load of dirt on Oliver Hardy, right where the Bronco sits. These two unlikey looking figures look just like those legendary stars. The size difference is even more ridiculous with these two goofballs.

Beams of light shoot out erratically through the many orfices this five story building has to offer. George’s partner tonight, is the most hated guard on the force… and he’s Pat’s shooter!

Maybe Bob is training him in… firearms.

MGM teamed these two up, oh shit, I think… Yipes, I need to tell Jimmy. Now!

The lot is a bit unsafe. Random security raids, dual guards that carry guns and big flashlights.

The bar has been raised around here in an effort to capture Public Enemy# 1.

Jimmy and I now routinely patrol one side of the fenced propery as these two patrol the other side.

Tonight we roll up on every hole we’ve got… peeking in, when I suddenly notice a large figure on top of a second story stairway, completely within view and unprotected, by walls or cover. He is looking out the opposite way, overlooking the lot, and is completely oblivious that we see him. I point upwards at him, and we take a good look at MGM’s specialist.

IMG_0005

Above: This is our side of the fence this evening, stairway just out of view, to the right.

img_0016.jpg

I signal to Jimmy let’s go, as we sneak away to briefly discuss this unprecedented opportunity. We are on the legal side. He does not see us. He makes a tempting target.

We don’t have BB guns with us, but a lemon tree poses next to this pow wow we are now having.

“Well, these will have to do,” I say. We start picking these yellow fruit projectiles. As fast as we can, we stuff these hard yellow balls in our now bulging pockets. Lastly, I pick two  very rotten ones off the ground… just to make a mess of the target. These two will be launched first. Jimmy loads up, also.

Game time—We leave our bikes next to the lemon tree and walk out of view, back to our target. He is still there. Twenty feet away. We both are extremely good at throwing.  Jimmy is a little league baseball star. I’m a qaurterback in a Catholic prison.

We position ourselves, and we communicate with our eyes. With a nod of my head and a wink of the eye, we open fire!

Bulls eye!

First shot is money, rotten money, and the first sound is a double splat. The gushy lemons are direct hits. George looks down at the villain he is being paid to apprehend.

Like a deer in the headlights…

Frantically, as we continue to fire away, sounds change, as the harder lemons are tossed. There is a “clunk” sound when you miss and hit wood. But a “thump,” followed by a grunt means a strike of flesh. He ducks for cover but this roof offers none. He must go back down the stairway he came up on. We are now throwing the hardest lemons of the batch, and I put mustard on these babys!...

We pelt this large, blonde, behemoth to no end. He continues to take a beating, as he almost tumbles down the stairs. Like Bull Fight coming to its inevitable ending.

What fun we have. Well, we had to meet this specialist, sooner or later. You just got a taste of what you signed up for, George… Sorry if it was a bit sour!

Put a badge on the guy below and this picture sequence comes to life… as things went down that night!

img_0008.jpg

IMG_0012IMG_0015.jpgIMG_0016.jpgIMG_0018

This last picture is where George first tried to hide before realizing he better move…

If you are keeping score Donnie: four. George: minus one…

 

 

 

Hole in theWall…Casting Office

The production office we have created at Desilu’s saloon is must see TV. Its location, dead center of an old Hollywood Ghost Town, just reeks of history. Both past and present. Desi Arnaz would be proud of this upstart company, built on his old property. He is just one of many huge movie stars that have frequented this iconic watering hole.

It’s Friday night and word has spread around town about entry level film opportunities.

Apply in person inside the saloon at Desilu studios! Operators are standing by to assist you... (that would be me… of course).

I’m getting a lot of calls at my Huron home from many interested parties coming out of the wood work, so to speak, wanting to see our “production facility.”

I oblige…

In one mass swoop, I invite the whole mob, Catholic school and Public school, to an event, tonight.  Invitations only need show up… Names include Barry and Jerry Sullivan, Pat Rich, Danny Hancock, who is my next door neighbor and also the drummer in a rock and roll band. Jimmy and Gerald fill out this troupe. Gerald is affectionately nicknamed Little-shit. A name coined by MGM’s Bronco Bob in one of his many run-ins with the shortest guy in my neighborhood.

Ironically, Bronco Bob is the shortest security guard on the MGM force and it is quite a picture to see these two yell at each other, back and forth through a fence. It is really fun to watch those two go at it.

Tonight, we will all meet up at the saloon, around night fall. Danny wants to shop for alcohol before we ride across town. That means ask a pigeon to buy it for us. More to the point, scan the parking lot for the coolest looking person, then ask them if they will purchase alcohol for us, for a couple extra bucks. Rejection is par for the course. Like catching a fish. I watch Danny, as he works the 7/11 parking lot. He gets a bite, and a paper bag exchange is made.

I take mental notes about how this alcohol stunt is done. We open the bag in my backyard. Ronrico Bacardi 151 proof, and Jack Daniels 80 proof. I ask Danny what these numbers mean and his reply is that the higher the number, the higher you get… Makes sense, I suppose.

We triple brown bag it before we leave my house, so that these bottles don’t fall out. My Mom is at church, playing Bingo. My Dad is at work, driving the Big Blue Bus, along the beach, in Venice. I’m just a free bird.

Pat and the Sullivan boys are already upstairs at the saloon. A posse consisting of Jimmy, Danny and “The Sundance kid” (yours truly), ride into town together on bicycles, as the sun sets in the old west.

It turns out the Catholic boys have been dialing away, on the studio hot line, all over the USA… for over an hour already.

Yes, long distance is included in this package. Everyone is excited. I elevate my voice to take command of my troupe: “you can’t have a World Head Quarters with out long distance… what did you expect?… First class all the way!”

While I’m talking, Danny is ripping open the paper bags with the whiskey and rum. The Sullivans also brought alcohol, Old Engish 800… tall cans, of course… Two of them sit open on top of our wooden whiskey drums. Figures… those British blokes! Blimy

I check to see if the main gate is open, but all employees, it appears, have started their weekend. No pizza can be delivered through this gate tonight, unless we meet the delivery man outside the main gate on Ince or better yet, just have him slip it under the main gate fence. I’m covering all my bases, as a producer and director must.

Before we get louder, I take a walk to make sure security is not sitting at the rolling tool shed and lumber pile that sits where Stalag 13 once did. A sheriff would probably hear this large mob.

I gotta stay two steps ahead at all times. We might be falling into a trap. But, all seems clear. All clear here… the lot is ours… let the casting begin. I return to the office and smell a strong aroma of pot, filling the air. Older guys party hard, I observe. 

This is what it’s like to make a movie in Hollywood, I guess… lots of smoking, and drinking, and shouting and laughing. Like a poker game. 

I puff on my first joint ever and randomly spin the my rotary phone dial. I dial area codes to who knows where. Like a pot luck… pardon the pun.

A woman picks up on the other end.

“Hello?” I identify myself as a casting agent at a major Hollywood studio. “We are currently casting for a female actress to co star in an upcoming feature to be filmed here in Hollywood.”

I ask her name as she stays on the line…”Lisa,” she cordially replies, as all my drunken cohorts pull their chairs in closer to try to get a listen in… “well Lisa, my pleasure to speak to you this evening, what city would you be located in?” “New York City,” she answers.

Bingo! The big apple, I think a million thoughts yet, I stay cool, calm, and collected.

“Well, can you describe yourself a bit?” Before letting her speak, I mention we are looking for a woman in her twenties… with a curved figure… medium to large breasts… The part being casted is for a wench, set in the old west. We’re trying not to let our laughter escape.

Click. Dial tone. She hung up. Cross her off the list. “Your turn, Gerald,” as I roll the phone his way. This repeats itself, for hours on end.

My turn again. I get a female on the line. I start the spiel about a Hollywood film with an open casting call and quickly get interrupted by a raspy voice, “Don’t ya think it’s a little late to be calling about a movie extra part? … You sound like a drunk teenager…” she continues to blast me.

I snap back… “It’s never to late to find talent… this is a 24/7 business!” And with a flimsy “goodnight,” I quickly slam the phone back on its cradle, as my friends bust a nut. My friends all chime in, “what did she say to you?” I am flustered and simply retort… “I could tell I can’t work with her type.”

I am bewildered... how did this happen… it was as if she could see me… she chopped me up like a Samurai.

I follow this conversation, by taking my biggest swig yet, of the Jack Daniels in front of me.

One crazy conversation after another. Pot smoke, along with cigerettes, fills the air. We have a tiny candle on top of the whiskey barrel that dimly illuminates our shit faced expressions, along with the cloud of smoke that hovers above.

My older, lightweight friends start passing out, one by one, and the cots fill up quickly. Luckily, there are plenty more down stairs. My buzz is mostly adrenaline. I sit in amazement, trippin out on what we have accomplished, so far. This is always how I pictured Hollywood movies being made.

I take a couple of swigs out of the whiskey bottle, as it passes in front of me and quickly follow each one with a 7-up chaser. Now, I realize why we brought these green cans. 7-up works with whiskey. Coke works with rum. I am taking a crash course on growing up tonight.

Barbara is on the phone in Chicago and is very interested in this role. I identify myself once again as a casting agent for Hole in the Wall Productions, based in Hollywood and ask her directly, “do you have the look of a wench? Specifically… a curved body with big breasts?” She says, “Yes, I do… I am an exotic dancer at the Playboy Club here in Chicago.” With each sip, I get more bold and brazen.

“Bingo,” I quietly shout… as my crew drools.

She asks if airfare is included to Los Angeles.” I reply, “if you are hired, we will reimburse all the airfare. ”

She continues bartering the airfare, and expects a hotel… she wants in, but… we can’t agree to terms.

I barely have pizza money. I can only imagine what this phone bill will cost. Thank God I am an executive… we get perks!

The female costar will probably be Maureen, anyway… if she will take it. She will work for scale, I’m pretty sure. Let’s call her and see if she’s home and has interest in costarring… beep, beep, beep. Her line is busy.

If I go home tonight, I will go tap on her window.  I may just sleep up here tonight, in my office.

I am realizing just how gullible many women are… Yes, I am at a Hollywood studio. Yes, we are imposters. Women really seem into this Hollywood shit, and buy practically everything I have to sell.

Many women stay on the line, attentively describing their assets, as we become more polished with each and every call… at BULLSHIT!

You simply tell them what they want to hear, promise them everything but deliver on nothing. Create an illusion… I am starting to understand this Hollywood business.

When men answer, we hang up.

All I know is… I’m a 13 year old smooth talker, who is presenting himself as a young casting director, with a long distance line at a major studio. This is what I do… Who needs school, anyway? I’ve made tremendous strides in just a short period of time in the film business. In class, my tires just spin in the mud.

My last call of the night is to my Mom, as my head spins in the opposite direction of the phone dial. “I’m safe and sound and will be staying at Pat’s house tonight.” I ask her what she’s up to, so as to beat her to the punch. “Just watching Johnny Carson,” she says, before continuing… “I was going to make you a tuna sandwich if you were coming home.”

“I’ll take a rain check on that! … by the way,  how was Bingo night?” I ask, as I imagine a tuna sandwich in front of me… I can almost see it and taste it, as if it were right there, next to the empty whiskey bottle.

“I won 10 dollars so I’m home celebrating.”

“You have fun celebrating, Mom, you earned it.’

“Okay, say Hi to Mrs. Rich for me, Donnie.”

“Will do”… Click.

Little does she know, I’ve been celebrating all night, also…

Bingo… backlot style.

As Gene Autry put it best: “I’m Back in the saddle again!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public Enemy #1

My friends and I can’t get enough of these studio backlots. We go back and forth, across town to Desilu, or just around the corner to MGM. It is like we live here. It has become a purely addicting lifestyle, especially to me.

An office, along with two forts, is how we stand at the moment, and more expansion will be taking place soon. Jimmy and I are scouting for more prime real estate. We would like a penthouse in Manhattan, and MGM can provide this with its five story high New York skyline that appears to go on forever.

Night time has arrived as we sit in the Boystown fort. Jimmy and I shoot the shit, back and forth. We hear the sound of the Bronco’s engine close by. Both of us man our peep holes that we cut into the wall, like a machine gun turret, so we can look out safely, yet not be seen.

Surprisingly, the Bronco parks directly under this overhang we are peering down from.  Just as we try to figure out who is inside and in charge of the jeep tonight, a search light is activated. It is mounted on the driver’s side of the Bronco. Its powerful beam sends us diving onto the floor.

Light shines brightly through the planks of wood that we lay upon. “Oh shit,” we both murmur. We contort sideways to give less visibility, as certain body parts become illuminated from the light beaming through the floor boards. It’s like a sci-fi movie and the mothership has arrived.

We think to ourselves the same thought, does he know we’re up here and… who is this?

We are stuck on the floor in the peculiar way and shape, a bit degrading, considering this is our sanctuary. We can barely move as I look at Jimmy’s abstractly lit face laying next to mine.

After what seems like an eternity, the Bronco finally pulls away. Alarmingly, the Bronco has turned off all its lights and is stealthy, as it heads over to the colonial mansion across the way. We dust ourselves off as we watch from a perch on top of Boystown.

The red brake lights briefly flash as the Bronco stops in front of the mansion. This building has eight windows, four on the first floor, and four on the second floor, evenly spaced. The front door on the brick porch is ajar.

Suddenly, the searchlight reactivates, and its beam is focused directly inside the front door of this famous set. One by one, each window gets a beam directed upon it.

Who is this guy... we become flabbergasted!

He is taking his job way too seriously…

We decide that we have had enough fun. We work our way out of this fortress and run across the open terrain. We figure this was just an abnormality… a bored guard, is all.  We slowly walk home after jumping the fence, still kidding and joking.

No big deal, this is what we do. Adrenaline rules…

We are just the next block away from our homes on Huron, passing Charles avenue. As we joke, we hear what sounds like the Bronco, behind us. We both hear it at the same time and turn to each other and joke, “sounds like the Bronco.”

We peek behind us, just ’cause … and at the exact same time, we are shocked. It is the Bronco. It is on the public street, just behind my home. That damn close…

We dive behind parked cars, I guess out of habit. We are not commiting any crimes at the moment. We watch as the Bronco turns right on Charles, with its lights on this time, as it comes to a stop on this dead end street. We run behind parked cars, only our heads protrude above. It is like we are still in MGM.

This same Bronco that we just dealt with on the backlot is now in my neigborhood! It is mind boggling… this hated vehicle is hunting us down, wherever we go, it seems.

Just like that evil diesel in the Spielberg movie, Duel.

The Bronco stops in front of one of the houses that we pass by every day, and a very large occupant exits the vehicle in his black uniform and heads inside the house. He is as big as a Sasquatch.

Wow, this is way too much to process…Who is this guy?

Truly, we need to follow up on this… and we do.

Well, just like when Pat was shot at, we get our answers at the studio’s west gate the folowing day.

img_0901.jpg

Les Green is on duty. Not our favorite guy, but he will do. He fills us in with his slow drawl…’The studio wants you…John,” as he stares menacingly at me.

“And your blond friend,” he continues.

“They hired a guy specifically to capture you…” he drags his words, while tapping his pencil on the table in his shack. The tension builds.

“His name is George. I’d look out if I were you”

I take a deep gulp… I think to myself, these fools still go by the alias “John,” that I gave them long ago. But I have the big guy’s first name and address.

Score: John 2 – George 0.

“I’d stay out of there if I were you,” he says, as he points to the backlot across the street.

“Okay, I will,” I say, as we pedal away, shocked…

“First of all,” I tell Jimmy, as we ride alongside the backlot, “I won’t stay out… and second, I am flattered that the studio needs a specialist.”

It is time to gather some dirt on this large guy named George.

 

 

 

Free Delivery

I love summertime. No school… no rules… lots of fun. I have had a prosperous couple of weeks constructing forts.

Although it is vacation time for kids, the backlot at Desilu is a working property, with employees clearing brush and taking measurements, in preparation for something big, it appears.

Trucks take men and materials back and forth from the main lot, which has the big stages, to the rustic old backlot. This operation is developing exactly where Stalag 13 recently stood. Also standing above the main lot, looking down, is the iconic Desilu water tower. The name DESILU still sits etched on its side.

My neighborhood pals, Jimmy, Danny, and Gerald, all want to visit these forts that have sprung up, practically overnight. Much the same way the production company across the way showed up, appearing overnight. We fit in perfectly and our timing is impeccable. Opportunities and resources exist like never before… at our finger tips.

The main gate on Ince is open when work takes place on the backlot. A lone ranger sits in   a shack that is very similiar to the forts I have been working on. And… we both have phones.

We begin by climbing into Fort Cantina, a simple but slightly crude design stares back at my three guests. This is the lesser of my three studio offices. It is an improvement over what existed before, which was a dirty, filthy space. Color and comforts now replace emptiness. It is like a hippie pad.

Billy Jack  is written in chalk everywhere on this lot… everywhere inside these buidings. I think to myself  “hmmm… I need to see that movie. It must have been filmed here.” It wasn’t. And it kinda stinks also, so I don’t understand why it is written everywhere here.

Well, being as my friends today have already seen the Boystown job that Maureen and I did on the 4th, I can see that they are unimpressed by this paltry effort. It’s like moving from Malibu to the projects. The guys I am with today, are older by a couple of years and they all go to public school. They seem harder to please, anyway… as if they were too good or stupid or something!

Okay, one fort down, one to go, I think to myself…  while still trying to impress my older friends.

We head towards a doorway in Mexico and pop out through a doorway in Texas. We approach the saloon. Ohh, the magic of Hollywood.

All these public school guys have been up here prior to the Catholic school boy remodel, done a couple of days ago. I am a bit worried that this fort may have been discovered, due to the phone cord leading up to it. Barry, as it turns out, did an extremely professional installation. He cleverly ran the wires roof top to roof top, making it difficult to trace, with out extensive climbing across rickety rooftops.

I push open the swinging saloon doors, as my older friends follow. We move props out of the way, that we purposely stacked to block the stairway, when we left last time. That signals to me that all is good upstairs. Step by step, we reach a working saloon, which is now located on the second floor. Careful not to stumble…

Like prohibition days… drinking activities, and yes… phone calls, take place now, upstairs, hidden out of view. You can never be to careful, after all. Elliott Ness has passed through this town before, enforcing drinking ordinances, by the barrel of a Tommy Gun.

My pals quickly size up the possibities this fort has to offer. We know it’s easy to escape, just jump. It has casting couches… actually, cots — even better.

Across the way, is a barn fully loaded with hay—stacked high and all over the floor. And it also looks lie someone made hay-bed. This can be used for auditions. Large hay stacks surround the front of this old barn, while some old farm tools and lanterns hang inside.

Dolly, the white horse, lived in this barn and the nearby farmhouse, in a color episode of Andy Griffith. Ronnie Howard would visit Dolly at this barn.

Bob Crane has a kissing scene in an episode, on this exact hay pile with Claudine Longet, in Hogan’s Heroes. It was filmed inside this barn. She is so pretty, and French, too… ooh la la. Bob seems to really like kissing scenes… in every episode, he is hanging a big wet one on some guest starlett… just sayin!

This barn will fit our needs perfectly, like a stage, but full of hay!

My associates and I talked, prior to inspection of this location, about possibly producing, and filming, our own films. Now is our chance.

Hole in the Wall Productions is officially open for business. We nod and smile accordingly. That puts us currently on the hunt for talent, and movie equipment. Scripts will be simple, we will only produce action movies. To start with, we need a movie camera and a plot.

“We would be foolish not to”, I continue on, “we have a bonafide office with a direct studio line that the studio pays for, and a backlot facility, loaded with sets and laden with movie props.”

If anything goes wrong, we just run. We can relocate our assets, later!

We are… The Real Deal.

I finish pumping out my presentation, and as fast as I spit it out, it gets full approval. Proudly, the board of older kids agree to work for me in my film company. The phone line seals the deal, I’m sure. 

This will be our World Headquarters, upstairs, in a tiny saloon, located in the heart of this iconic backlot ghost town. 

To close the deal and celebrate, I order a pizza from Chris’s Pizza. It is the priority number on this metal cased phone, with enlarged letters and numbers written in felt. 

We spin the rotary phone and dial Chris… “yes we deliver.”

“Okay, we will take a large Pepperoni with four ice cold Cokes delivered to the Western Street saloon, located on the Desilu backlot on Ince Blvd.” I wait for a response…
“That’s one large pepperoni pizza and four cokes… Desilu western street saloon… 25 minutes!”

“Thank you we will be waiting.”

Eating has never been this easy! 25 minutes later, turning into our street, comes a white VW bug with its distinctive sound, kicking up a trail of dust. We walk outside as the  delivery guy rolls to a stop, where horses normally get tied up, next to a drinking troft.

We exchange money for pizza and Coke as I exclaim proudly to the foreign delivery guy, “remember this location… our show will be here for quite a while.” 

He looks around, impressed, as I slip a dollar tip into his hand and wave farewell, “’till next time!”

The little VW drives away towards the exit, as I think to myself I have no show… but, I do have an office with a phone, so let’s get to work.

A short photo gallery, pertaining to the previous three stories begins now…IMG_3166.jpg

The photo above is of the Cantina fort viewed from Baldwin Hills.

Below, the arrow on the left points to the saloon on the corner, while the arrow on the right points to the Cantina location.

IMG_3169.jpgIMG_3158

Above: The Desilu main lot above.

Below: The Desilu water tower and its logo.

img_3164.jpg

IMG_3160.jpg

Above: A back door entrance to the saloon. This same doorway is where Batman apprehended the villain, False Face.

IMG_3115.jpg IMG_3159.jpg

The saloon sits at the opposite end of  this street… below is my toy Tommy Gun.

IMG_3171.jpg

Desilu Saloon

Upon basic completion of the cantina fort, we go scavenging around for more movie stuff. We walk and joke at the same time as we pass through a doorway in our cantina village, which exits through another door on the old western street.

I recently watched a late night rerun called Alcatraz Express, starring Neville Brand as Al Capone and Robert Stack as Elliott Ness. This show is bad ass. Instead of a Chicago backdrop, which this lot has, the script needed a small California town called Cloverdale.

Desilu’s western street filled that bill… and this episode culminated with Tommy Guns a Blazin!

IMG_3101.jpg

IMG_3110.jpgIMG_3106.jpgIMG_3109.jpgIMG_3111.jpgIMG_3112.jpg

Told ya!… this not so quiet little town has a legendary saloon right in its heart. I spin this story to my pals who drink it up, like a smooth bottle of whiskey.

Which is appropriate considering we just entered through the swinging front doors of this saloon. This saloon is stacked to the to the brim with props. Many cots from Hogan’s Heroes ended up being stored in here.

Tall stools surround the dusty old bar. Nice stools for drinkin’ I suppose. We squeeze in between large wooden whiskey barrels, which are stacked high, on top of each other.

Well this is a Bonanza, fittingly enough. Bonanza filmed multiple episodes on this tiny street… and inside my saloon

IMG_3134.jpeg

A fort buiding Bonanza presents itself. We decide… rather than bring stuff to the Cantina fort we just built, let’s just build another fort upstairs in this saloon.

One by one, we lift these old cots uptairs where we have spacious quarters, unlike the towering mess of props, below. The obstacles inside partially block the stairway, which is good because the only potential problem is that this second story is easily accessible by this stairway.

Not something you want in this business of fort construction. We get four cots upstairs, and a couple of large whiskey barrels to be used as tables, surrounded by four drinking stools. Though easily accessible, it is just as easy to escape. A balcony is adjacent to this set up we created. It is an easy jump from here to your waiting horse below, or the dirt… whatever comes first.

“Let’s go look for some finishing touches…” we all agree. We head over towards where stalag 13 stood, until recently, and inside a rolling steel wheeled trailer, used as a construction office, we find a rolling phone.

More like a muscle car than a phone. It sits mounted inside a metal box, on a tripod with wheels. Barry, who is two years older than the rest of us, realizes that all you have to do is dial 9 to call off lot.

Scribbled all over the silver metal housing is the various phone numbers for different departments on the main studio lot. Also the number for a local pizza place, called Chris’s Pizza, which is across from St. Augustine, and I eat there often. The owner is very nice. The best pepperoni pizza around and they are hidden under layers of greasy cheese. I did not realize they deliver.

We ponder, should we roll this large office somewhere else and hide it… or just take the phone? We decide on the latter.

We take this phone and roll it to the saloon, a block away. Barry disconnects a couple of wire nuts… tip and ring, he tells us these wires are called, and begins trying to buy the needed slack, so that we can rehook this phone up in our fort.

Pat and I bring it upstairs while Barry and Jerry work on the wiring reroute. We hear some banging around and look down as Barry throws up an excess coil of the needed wire connection. Retwist the wire nuts, lift the handle off the cradle …voila… we have a phone capable of calling long distance.

I test it by calling my house and after several rings, my old mom picks up the other end. “Mom it’s me,” I proclaim. “Are you in trouble?” she replies.  I say, “no, no, I’m testing a phone in a saloon, in Desilu.”

“You should call your father… he’s probably in a saloon, too.” We laugh. Our first call is a success. We all take turns, as we can’t spin this rotary dial fast enough.

Why not start a production company, we decide.

Hole in the Wall productions, we will call ourselves

In just a few days, I now have offices in both MGM and Desilu.

Well,  I proudly proclaim to my crew, “Good job fellas, you can hang your hat high on this  one, cowboys… We continue throwing jokes around: “Call now…” And, “just call us toll free!”

IMG_3114

Caped crusaders… policing our town…right outside the saloon.

IMG_3116.jpg

Gotta have a sheriff or all hell will break loose…

IMG_3122.jpg

Next up… Free Delivery… Same Bat Time… same Bat Station.