Tuesday: Studio Visits, Twice
More L.A. shenanigans (including stuff from the previous day):
- Tuesday — This was our full day at beautiful Burbank, home of the movie and television industries! Our time there actually began late in the previous afternoon. Driving in, our first stop was a bucolic ’50s-era residential neighborhood next to the Disney and Warner Brothers studios. Christopher found out the address of Mabel Monahan, the victim of famed murderess Barbara Graham played by Susan Hayward in I Want To Live! We located Monahan’s home in this peaceful neighborhood and I took pictures of C. standing in front of it (I drew the line at knocking on the door, however). Damage done, we checked in at the Burbank Best Western and ate at the Bob’s Big Boy a stone’s throw away. This is the famous Bob’s with the huge, nicely preserved googie sign out front. As it turned out, the homey and uncomplicated cuisine of Bob’s was a perfect capper to an action-filled day. The next morning, we set out for the Warner Bros. studio (also walking distance from the hotel). Originally we wanted to tour the Disney studios, but apparently Disney is very stingy about tours and one has to know an employee to get in. Hmph. Instead, we opted for a deluxe five-hour tour of Warner Bros. This tour is more intimate and involved than the basic tour we took ten years ago, allowing people inside the sound stage themselves and a meal in the commissary. It sounded like just our thing. Arriving, we found out that the tour entrance was moved from the older part of the lot into a neighboring building’s lobby. The ticket desk was inside a fancy area with a giant mall-esque gift shop and a Starbucks, which didn’t bode well in my opinion. Luckily, once the tour was under way our qualms vanished. Our tour guide was a knowledgeable industry veteran, a friendly chap who took requests from our small group of 12 on what to do. Our tram went through the studio producers’ offices (designed to look like various office buildings for shoots), a jungle with an incongruous fake snowy lake plopped in the middle, and a street filled with more offices made to look like typical suburban housing. We went through the oft-filmed area with a public park and gazebo, which was dressed for the TV series Eastwick. The tram also went through the New York City street, familiar from so many old Cagney/Bogart movies. Somebody requested going to the costume shop — this place was a wonder. Literally a giant warehouse filled with racks of clothing, arranged by style and period. I saw a section of African-inspired garments, followed by an aisle full of 1960s dresses. Next was a sound recording room, followed by lunch. I was pleasantly surprised to find that our meal was served in the executive dining room. I ordered spaghetti carbonara and peered discreetly around the room for celebrities (none were found, although our guide pointed out the head of Warner Bros. TV production at one table). This was the best meal of the trip. It even included yummy lemon cake for dessert. More going around in the tram amongst the huge studio buildings. We’re huge Big Bang Theory fans and delighted in spotting some dress extras walking around for a taping that day. We even saw B.B.T. star Johnny Galecki, smoking a cigarette under a tree located opposite the building where his show was rehearsing. Our guide took us to see the Two and a Half Men set from the audience seats. After that, we got to walk around amongst the sets for Chuck and The Mentalist. These were cool to look at up close, since they kind of looked real but also had incongruous elements (like the lighting) that made them fake. Ah, Tinseltown. We saw a garage with some famous cars, visited a museum with displays of famous W.B. movie costumes (Bette Davis’ jewel-encrusted gown from Dark Victory was the best), then walked around the preserved Central Perk set from Friends and got our pictures taken on the couch. Very touristy, but very fun. The entire tour was so memorable and much less hurried than the normal tour. After it wrapped up, we needed to hurry and check out of the hotel, then race across town to the MGM-Sony studios for a sitcom taping that night. We made it — barely in time — for the taping of an episode of the David Spade/Patrick Warburton show The Rules of Engagement (we had been trying for Big Bang Theory tickets, but the show was sold out). This was such an interesting experience, one that I’d always wanted to try. The crowd was a bit young and white trashy, and the studio grounds seemed not as well-maintained as Warners. We got ushered in forming a single file line, with Christopher worming his way to the front so he could talk with the studio page organizing things. That turned out to be a bad idea, actually, since we ended up sitting tucked away on the very edge of the seating. The stage was arranged with all of the sets needed lined up in a row, with some even tucked away around the corner. A warm-up comedian was there to keep the audience excited, which was needed since this taping went on for almost four hours! Most scenes required two or three takes, with a small army of writers on hand to tweak lines for the maximum laughs. The show itself was okay and sporadically funny; mostly what got my interest was watching all of these people doing makeup and hair, watching playbacks on the monitors, getting sets prepped for filming. This particular episode had two scenes set in restaurants, and it was so fascinating to see the extras pantomiming their conversations, acting animated even when the cameras weren’t running on them. As the taping started getting tedious, the people running the show brought out food — first pizza, then candy. In the end, I was applauding simply for the effort all these people put into this show. Leaving the studio, we drove to nearby Venice Beach for our last hotel stay, getting somewhat lost in the process. The Hotel Erwin was hard to navigate into once found, but the room was nicely done in a trendy, funky style. I sleepily took a few photos before crashing into bed for the night.