Sunday, April 12, 2015

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. 

This was a re-post from many many years ago. How many of you even remember it?

40 comments:

Wilton Gramercy said...



My first time in LA, I was amazed at the street names which doubled as film titles or characters. I guess that happens when screenwriters pass these roads day in, day out.

Yolanda Ave
Magnolia Blvd (flower shmower)
Mulholland Dr
etc

Where they missed a trick was Haskell Ave. Should have been a hard-boiled detective's name for sure... cause you know his Chief would have been like, "HASKELL! Get your ass down to Laurel and Branford. Your witness has turned up in an import car boot." On goes Haskell's tweed jacket and his packet of stuyvesant dropped into his top shirt pocket... gun in holster and he's away. Gruff.

Pat Reeder said...

I remember this post, but I've been reading your blog for a long time.

You're lucky to have grown up in L.A. I'm from Dallas. The only time I see old film footage of our downtown, JFK is getting shot in front of it.

jcs said...

Interesting post. I just read on Wiki that Frederick Ziv, producer of HIGHWAY PATROL, left the TV business when networks too greater control of their programming. Ziv complained: "They demanded script and cast approvals." Those were the days. His statement indirectly explains how he was able to cast Crawford: Almost no network interference up until 1959.

Tom Quigley said...

16 years removed from living in LA, I still get a kick out of seeing some of the places I remember when I see a familiar sight or building that maybe might not be so obvious to people living outside the area: the drug store that the Brady Bunch used to go to on Laurel Canyon Blvd. in North Hollywood, the Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. while the chase scene is happening in the movie HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE (actually, a whole bunch of familiar buildings in that scene), the Marriot Hotel in Woodland Hills that was used as the exterior of the hospital in DIAGNOSIS MURDER, etc.

In addition, I once played a reporter in an episode of THE PRETENDER and when it came time to film a scene that required a group of cars to be parked in the background, they asked me to bring my car around and park it, which I happily did, since it also involved an extra pay bump for me. So now you can not only see lil' ol' me, but also see my 1995 Honda Civic DX in an episode of the show.

VP81955 said...

I live several blocks from 6th and Rampart, which in the mid-1970s was the site of the car wash used in the film..."Car Wash." (I saw the movie when it came out, at a time when Los Angeles was the last place this native Easterner envisioned ever calling home.)

Alas, it's not there anymore, replaced by a mini-mall anchored by a seafood restaurant. However, not far away, in a park on Wilshire Boulevard, remain the basketball courts used in Ron Shelton's 1992 comedy "White Men Can't Jump."

Thomas Mossman said...

Living in the Valley, and having used to work in Glendale, I would go home on the 101. At Lauren Canyon, in Valley Village, looking north from the freeway, you can see a Gelson's Market and a Jack in the Box. Both of these I was surprised to find already in existence in a 1967 (maybe '68) episode of Dragnet, and both are still there.

My dad works at the big VA hospital in North Hills, which has been used for everything from Grey's Anatomy to Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween.

Gerry said...

This happened a couple of times when we lived in Washington Heights back in the 80s. Two minor movies, Kate Hepburn's "Quigley" and John Cassavetes' "Gloria"' were both filmed in our neighborhood.

When one shot in Quigley required a doorman as Kate entered the building, our friend Peter, an actor who worked parttime as a doorman, stepped up to offer to play the doorman and pulled out his SAG card. Hepburn's response was, "My God, they're everywhere!"

When "Gloria" played in theatres we all went and hooted and laughed at every familiar street corner and building. It was like watching a home movie!

thirteen said...

Speaking of window views, the view from Commissioner Gordon's office in Batman 66 is exactly the same as the view from Jim Phelps' apartment in Mission: Impossible. It's of midtown Manhattan not long before the Pan Am (later MetLife) Building was put up in the '60s.

Remember, facts should be loved for themselves alone.

Barbara C. said...

Well, growing up in Louisville and my dad being Army Reserves out of Ft. Knox I get flashbacks from watching "Stripes".

But watching "Elizabethtown" killed me. I'm like "That's very clearly the tunnel on eastbound I-64. Why in the hell is he on I-64 when I-65 is a straight shot from the airport to E-town? And no one calls it Elizabethtown....it's E-town!!"

Carl Tyler said...

So I was in London a few years ago presenting at a trade conferences. A year or so later I was sitting in the cinema watching "In the loop", and I was thinking oh I recognize that street, I stayed in a hotel near there. Then up on the bug screen walking down the street was me! I hadn't even realised it, I had been filmed walking down the street. My girlfriend who was with me, thought it was all some kind of setup.

Angel J said...

I drive past Dave's house from "Breaking Away" all the time. And all the other locations from that movie, the ones that still exist anyway.

estiv said...
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Oat Willie said...

There was an episode of "Supernatural" set in my own Grants Pass Oregon. I was already prepared to not be surprised that it had no resemblance to the town as pictured (didn't show all the transients for one thing).

Ron Rettig said...

My family lived in Cheviot Hills in the 1940s and early 1950s and at the time the area was often used for location shooting as it was located right between Fox on Pico and MGM on Washington with Motor Avenue connecting the studios. I think Modern Family is shot in the neighborhood nowadays.
This was an era when Clyde Beatty's Circus paraded elephants and Calliopes down Pico and put up a circus Big Tent where the Westside Pavilion is now situated.

David said...

I live in New Orleans. It's an easy city to spot in movies and television shows, since most of them rarely show any part of the place other than the French Quarter or the old cemeteries. Maybe a shot of a car zipping down the highway with the Superdome in the background.

Hamid said...

Pat

What about the show "Dallas", both the original and the recent reboot? Didn't they feature familiar locations in Dallas?

Mark from Pittsburgh said...

They do film plenty of stuff here in Pittsburgh. Mostly movies although a few TV shows have given it a try. It generally isn't too intrusive. We were Gotham in the last Batman movie. That was a little disorienting to watch for a Pittsburgher because at one point Batman is fighting Bane and they shot the two sides of the fight in two different parts of the city. They'd cut to Batman and he'd be very recognizably in the Oakland section of the city near the University of Pittsburgh. He'd throw a punch at Bane who'd then fall down in the in the equally recognizable Downtown section of the city a few miles away. Hell of a punch...

normadesmond said...
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YEKIMI said...

I remember it. And good old Google street view can let me remember where I grew up in Florida. Checked out a street shot of a house I used to live in when I was a kid. I was amazed that a little tree that I had planted back in 1962 is still there and absolutely huge now. Most of the rest of the neighborhood has changed big time....woods I used to play in as a kid is now a housing tract. A little sandlot that we used to play baseball in was still there...up to three years ago when they decided to build houses there. A lake that used to have a gator in it till it ate a residents dog [twice!] and as a kid I watched them pull a person out that had drowned was still there totally surrounded by houses now. Wouldn't be surprised if birdhouses are now selling in the high five figures in that area. Moved back in 1982 when got a job as a DJ at a station and was amazed at how much had changed but also how so things had stayed the same. Amazingly, the barber shop where I had my first haircut back in 1961 is still there. Don't think the original barbers are still around....unless they have their skeletons stashed in a back room somewhere. Makes me wistful for the place especially on those snowy, cold days....and I mean so cold that Frosty the Snowman is beating on your door asking if he can come inside.....when I see a picture or some news article about the area.

vicernie said...

as I was reading the post, I kept thinking, "I've read this before." same feeling you get when seeing the past on screen. of course more often now, I recognize Vancouver or Toronto posing as New York. even the Canadian wilderness of Alberta and British Columbia will stand in for Washington state in an upcoming movie about Lewis and Clark. but you really have to know your mountains.

Johnny Walker said...

I remember parts of this from your book (buy now from Amazon, etc. etc.) but otherwise it's new to me! :)

Still working my way through your Emmy TV Legends joint interview. It's great stuff, but I'm worried that we're not going to get everything covered in the time the videos have left... (currently 50 mins). Will we finally hear more candid stories about your troubled time on MARY? How it nearly pushed two people out of an industry they'd previously weathered through all kinds of storms (not to mention the storms of being repeatedly fired in radio previously)? Looking forward to finding out.

(Did you record any additional material that's likely to be released after certain events occur...?)

Johnny Walker said...

Also: Who has a suit of armour in their living room?

VP81955 said...

I also should note that I lived in Westfield, N.J., between 1995 and 2004, where its picturesque downtown was used for quite a few projects, most notably the opening credits for the NBC series "Ed."

Albert Giesbrecht said...

I know what you mean Ken, an episode of 21 Jump Street was filmed in my neighbourhood in 1988, and it's fun to see the stores that are no longer there.

D. McEwan said...

I had one of those moments this week. I was watching Passage to Marseilles with Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre on TCM a few days ago. The final scene [SPOILER ALERT on a 1944 movie] was a memorial service for Bogart's character with Claude Rains and others standing on a cliff overlooking the the English Channel.

And I recognized it instantly. It wasn't the English Channel, it was the Pacific Ocean (Which is considerably wider), and it wasn't English cliffs, it was Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes Estates, California.

There was no chance of my not recognizing it. I went to First through Fifth Grade at Lunada Bay Elementary School, one block from this location shot. I saw this view every day of my childhood, though usually without Claude Rains, unfortunately. My school days friend Dick Worth lived directly across the street from this location.

D. McEwan said...

Anther favorite of mine is the shot of Spencer Tracy running across a building roof in Long Beach, CA (supposedly "Santa Rosita Beach") in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In the background, clearly visible behind Tracy, is the now-torn-down-and-replaced Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, where I acted in Camelot in 1966, Kiss Me, Kate in 1967 and Finian's Rainbow in 1968. I love seeing Spencer Tracy run past a place where I've acted. (A reel earlier in that movie, you see the car chase go by a huge shot of the first rollercoaster I ever rode, also now torn down, but there are no stars in that shot, only stunt drivers.)

And "The Big W" scenes were shot three miles from my childhood home, and the building in which I went to school prior to the opening of Lunada Bay Elementary School is visible in the far background behind The Big W.

Buttermilk Sky said...

You would expect New York to be one giant set, but no, it changes too fast. When I lived there I constantly came across sites from Woody Allen movies and "Kojak" (!). I wonder how many are left. I've eaten in the Carnegie Deli, but I didn't succeed in having what Meg Ryan had.

RCP said...

I remember this post and enjoyed it just as much the second time around.

I didn't grown up in Southern California so can't attest to what has changed, but having lived here for a bit am beginning to recognize places when I see them in films or on tv - e.g, the Bradbury Building (stairway scene in The Artist), the Alto Nido apartments (where Joe lived in Sunset Boulevard). I love visiting the remaining (virtually untouched) older areas of L.A. - generic neighborhoods/streets from the 20s and 30s that evoke Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the Little Rascals, etc.

Walter said...

The lingering memory I have of the Efrem Zimbalist Jr. F.B.I series is that every time an agent would shout to a suspect, "F. B. I., throw down your guns!" the next sound was invariably a hail of gunfire.

John said...

Growing up in New York during the late 1960s and 1970s, that was a relative low point for film production in the city. But you could see some shows and some old movies that would either let you know what had been there or how what was there today looked 10-10 years earlier.

Finding out that the last exterior shot from the last scene of Humphrey Bogart's last movie, 1956's "The Harder They Fall" was filmed three blocks from my house was probably the best recognizable moment, though I suppose for the yutes today or any Selena Gomez fans, finding out the Disney used the exterior of my vintage-1898 elementary school for the outside shots of the school in "The Wizards of Waverly Place" would probably have more resonance

Diane D. said...

This is hilarious; just one big trip down memory lane from beginning to end! I never would have thought people in the business would get such a kick out of recognizing location spots. So funny!

Lorimartian said...

Around 1962, when I was 13 years old, I lived in Sunland, CA. There was a group of small stores, including a liquor store, at the intersection of Sunland Blvd. and Wheatland Ave. One day,
"Route 66" was filming there, and I had to walk right past Martin Milner to go in the store during a break in filming. I was struck by how tall he was. Little did I know that 20 years later I would be working with Leonard Katzman (production supervisor/second unit director/assistant director), who might have been on location that day, on the original "Dallas" TV series which he was executive producing.

kelly childress said...

That's exactly the same feeling I get from living in NYC. I had just moved here 20 years ago and watching The Morning After, and see not only my neighborhood but the scene looking out at Manhattan could have been filmed from my apartment.
The downside is critiquing every film from NYC. "That's not 7th ave!" "She couldn't possibly have gone from the Met to Wall Street in minutes!"

lexavline said...

I wasn't a regular reader when this post was first published, but it was because of this post that I became one about 3 years ago. I googled "Bachelor in Paradise filming locations" and voila!

Ellen said...

I grew up in Houston, "Rushmore" (the Wes Anderson movie) was filmed there, and half the fun of watching that movie is recognizing locations!

D. McEwan said...

The opening shot of Boogie Nights, when the camera pulls out of a movie theater, goes across the street, back across the street again and into a doorway was shot three blocks down the street from where I currently live, the theater being the Reseda Theater on Sherman Way. The Reseda Theater still stands, though it has been closed all of the 13 years I've lived near it.

Ah, the great civic pride of living in "The Pornography capital of the World."

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I remember.

newsboy said...

My favorite is from the Jack Benny episode that has Fox planning to shoot his life story. There are great exteriors of the studio as I remember it in the mid-1950s. There's a process shot in the closing scene, where Benny & Co. are riding in his Maxwell -- heading west on Pico Boulevard, between Beverly Drive and Smithwood. Most of the buildings in the shot are still there.

Kaleberg said...

The Naked City television series did a lot of location shooting, so it is now the go to reference for historians interested in early 1960s street life.

If you are interested in this kind of stuff, mainly based in the NYC area, check out http://www.scoutingny.com/ (His best piece was about his search for a Chinatown whorehouse. Apparently, he almost joined a group renting one when he first came to NYC.)

thxdave said...

I became absolutely obsessed with "Naked City" and locating as many filming locations as I could. I made this Google map a couple years ago but haven't updated it lately. I"m going back to older maps I've done and am adding the actual street view links but it's a slow process. I've also done "Highway Patrol", "Adam 12", "Route 66" and more:
https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zhyBZBeXoKRs.kzo2ncxiwVxQ&usp=sharing
I hope this link works.