Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hey, there's a portion of my car on national TV!!!

In the first year of CHEERS, they still edited the show on film (later they would transfer the film to tape and edit digitally). One time my partner, David and I were asked to go over to editing and check something out. We walked across the lot to the building where our editors were located, trudged up the stairs, glanced out the big window that greeted us at the top of the stairs, and we both just stopped dead in our tracks.

It hit us both instantly.

That was the view out of Lucy and Ricky’s hotel room in Hollywood during that famous season of I LOVE LUCY. They must’ve taken the photo for the backdrop from right there.

This is one of the cool things about living in Los Angeles – recognizing locations in TV or movies that I know or have been to.

And it’s especially great when it comes as an unexpected surprise.

Here's another example: I grew up in Woodland Hills, a suburb of the San Fernando Valley. About ten years ago I’m watching a rerun of an old ‘50s action/crime show called HIGHWAY PATROL. This starred Broderick Crawford, an overweight middle-aged balding alcoholic as the head of the CHP. (Imagine getting that guy through network casting today? Now the same part would be played by Elizabeth Mitchell.)

Quick side note: Crawford really was an alcoholic. In fact, he had so many DUI’s that his drivers’ license had been permanently revoked. This caused a big problem because how can the head of the Highway Patrol not be able to drive? So a concession was reached. Crawford was allowed to drive but only when the camera was running. So the director would yell “Action!”, Crawford would drive the car, the director would yell “Cut! Let’s go again!”, and Crawford would have to exit the vehicle so a crew member could drive the car back to the original spot.

Anyway, I’m watching this show (probably on cable channel 863) and Crawford is driving down a street. Suddenly I recognize a storefront. Neider’s Auto Body. Holy shit! It hits me – he’s driving down Ventura Blvd., right where I used to live! I, of course, hadn’t seen that street in a million years. But it all came flooding back to me. He passed Dillaway Realty. I knew instantly what he would pass next – the Pool Supply store, then the Gulf gas station, the freeway underpass, and Love’s BBQ.

Sure enough the tracking shot continued. There was the Pool Supply place, there was the Gulf station, and then… what the fuck!? There was no freeway underpass. This must’ve been filmed a year before the freeway was erected.

I can’t tell you how absolutely weird that was. Truly, like being in a time machine.

And that was just one example. The Bob Hope movie, BACHELOR IN PARADISE was filmed in my neighborhood. The tract house he lived in was the same model as mine. (The interior was different though. Ours didn’t have Lana Turner.) There were scenes in the Woodlake Bowl where I once sprained my thumb! Landmarks popped up throughout the whole movie.

And this was not a rare occurrence.  I was very excited one afternoon to come out of the Woodland Hills library and see that they were filming a scene from THE FBI there. Efrem Zimbelist Jr.(who had his license) pulled his car to a stop right in front. And there, in the shot, for all to see, was the back fin of my Mercury Comet! The night it aired I actually invited friends over.

This is one of the perks of living in a company town. Seeing old neighborhoods and places long since turned into Costcos.  It's a real blast from the past. And it makes up for the horrible downside.

For every nostalgic wistful moment I’ve had, there are an equal or greater number of moments when I’ve been really pissed because traffic is snarled due to location filming of some fucking idiotic movie or TV show. Streets are blocked off.  Temporary "No Parking" signs are everywhere.  Equipment trucks and cable as far as the eye can see.  Giant lights blind you at night.  “Why can’t they film this goddamn thing in Pittsburgh”?! I’ve been known to yell.

But then I see Neider's Auto Body and realize I'm the luckiest guy in the world.  

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