Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vacay - Day 4 – August 26th, 2014

View of Hollywood sign from Studio 19
Simi Valley had a much slower pace than L.A.  It still had people living on top of one another and sprawled out within the confines of a valley, but it was still a much more comfortable atmosphere than we experienced yesterday. 

New York Facade and Subway entrance
There were two main places in mind for today: Paramount Studio and Studio City for a taping of The Odd Couple that was scheduled for opening this fall on CBS.  But before those were scheduled to happen, we had to fuel up – with food.  The car tank was still looking pretty amazing despite all our stop and go travels up and down the west coast.
Our hostess suggested a place called the Firehouse Café.  There is a little café in my hometown called Mugshots and it was run as a business by police officers.  So, a placed called Firehouse Café – quite obviously – was themed, too.  It had photos of firemen, especially the retired ones or those who passed on in the line of duty, and framed articles about the heroic efforts of firemen putting out the wildfires that California would suffer during the long dry months of the summer season. 

The breakfast there was large portions and only cost $17.10.  And as soon as it was done, we returned to the friend’s house to shower and pack up for our day out.

First stop, back to L.A. for a tour of Paramount Studios.  This was the cheapest tour offered at $53 a person.  Warner’s tour was a dollar more a person and Universal was more an amusement park attraction plus a tour and cost almost as much as going to Disney Land. 
Cafe in Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull
We arrived early and were parked across the street.  This was good because we were able to get a good photo of the gate where executives and actors would come and go.  We went along a side path parallel to the gate to get signed in with security and brought out to a waiting area, al fresco.  Momentarily we were walked down to the gift shop where we picked up some water and used the restrooms.  Then we waited on the rest of our group.  There was a young lady who was our guide who stopped by our table as we waited and talked with us a bit to find out where we were from.  She was a native of L.A. – born and raised – so learning we were from Michigan brought on a lively discussion about the rigors of living in a sub-tundra.  She never experienced such colds that plummeted below zero before and couldn't imagine surviving that way for months.  When she went to Arizona where her parents moved, she had described the 40-degree cold nights as insufferable.  Poor thing.
Good Luck Gate
Anyway, we first stopped at a podium with famous people photographed for their shows that Paramount owned.  Next was a prop warehouse where items from the newest Star Trek movies, Transformers, and Bad Grandpa were housed.  I regret not having taken a photo of anything there, but my battery on my phone was running low and I was hoping for other photo opportunities.  Our tour continued on a extended golf cart next and we were told about Studio 19 being haunted by the little girl from Poltergeist.  Even though Poltergeist wasn't filmed in that studio, she was a fan of Happy Days and that was where it was filmed. Apparently Scott Baio was reported to have felt someone leap on his back for a piggy back ride during a taping of Charles in Charge. We moved on to a place where Lucille Ball and Ricky Ricardo once had dressing rooms on the set – and how Lucy had the door of his dressing room cemented in because of all the women who would visit.  There was a daycare nearby and a small stretch of greenery where parts of The Brady Bunch were taped for the outside of the school.

I loved watching Cheers and was surprised by one story where the actors would exchange the fake alcoholic drinks for the real thing and challenge each other.  Once such challenge resulted in them running around the studio naked, finding some wet cement and embedding their hands and footprints with their signatures.   Apparently, Woody Harrelson couldn't remember it happening, but the hand and footprints matched his size.

Susan Sarandon and I have the same sized hands
We went to the New York portion of the set where the last Indiana Jones movie had a scene shot.  That excited me since I am a big fan of those movies and Harrison Ford.  Our tour guide had a tablet that she played certain scenes on from YouTube.  There was taping recently done there because the fake subway entrance had a marker on it.  The streets are full-sized and there were a lot of car commercials shot there as well – especially the ones with the giant hamsters.

We were a quiet group and had very few questions, so the tour moved on quickly.  Our tour guide didn't seem too thrilled with that.  I think she would have preferred we were more engaging.  There was a parking lot that was specially designed to be filled with water and surrounded with blue screen for “ocean” scenes.  The opening to their theater was converted to a hotel lobby for another Harrison Ford movie – Clear and Present Danger or one of the other Jack Ryan films he did.  And there was a gate that you touched for good luck.  We all touched it.  I only hope it brings me the luck I desire.

The tour ended and we had a lot of time before were needed to be in Studio City for our studio audience experience.  We decided to find the Chinese Theater.  It was crowded.  The walkways and parkways were overloaded with tourists from every corner of the world.  I found so many handprints and footprints that amazed me.  Susan Sarandon and I have the same sized hands.  Shirley Temple was such a small child when she placed her prints into cement.  The top cast of Harry Potter and Star Trek the original series had a block of their own.  The Harry Potter cast even placed their wands into the cement.  John Wayne had tiny feet for the impression of such a large man. 

To the side of the Chinese Theater, there is an entrance to another mall where there was musical stairs to walk up and down.  It was interesting, but only half of the stairs were working.

On our way back to the car, we walked along some of the Walk of Fame.  I was disappointed I couldn't find Robin Williams hand/foot prints or Hollywood star, but I saw so many others.  It was lunchtime and we needed to move on. 

A note to be aware of: there is no parking on the side streets on Tuesdays between noon and 3pm.  Even though it may look like there is plenty of parking spots and the large print on the signs say you can park from this time to this time, look for the fine print for the exclusions. 

Traffic was getting insane as everyone was on Wilshire Drive looking for someplace to be, probably for lunch.  We nearly got hit at an intersection by someone flying through while we were driving safely and within reason for speed.  I finally did a little research and found someplace closer to our next place to be over in Studio City.  It took us through some steep foothills to get there, but the traffic calmed down and we found ourselves in another place of slower pace and a calmer atmosphere.  It was called The Counter and it was a place of custom built hamburgers.  There were organic options, vegetarian options, and antibiotic and hormone free beef available on the menu.  I had that with spinach, tomato, Swiss cheese, and pickles with a basil pesto sauce and grilled vegetables.  It was delicious!  I don’t think I ever had a better burger in my life. 

The CBS studio was just down the road from The Counter and we arrived at the right time as a good portion of the audience seating was already filled.  It took the better part of an hour and a half for the seating to be filled.  Our MC was Mark Sweet, who we discovered was from Detroit originally.  It was his job to keep the studio audience engaged, let us know the setup of the scene we were about to see, and explain terminology of the business such as tag, reset, etc.  It was exciting to be there, seeing the actors I have only seen on a static screen moving back and forth in front of me as alive and real as I was.  Seeing this side of filming was also an eye-opener.  The seated audience was up by the lighting for the stage and there were screens in front of us that we could see more of the action on that appeared just as we would see it on our television screens back home.  We were limited in how many could go to the restroom at a time, especially since whenever one woman stood up to go, at least twenty more tried to join them.  Honestly, I could hold it like a camel.  Or maybe I don’t have a sympathetic bladder like other women. 

To get us started, our MC had a dancing contest.  There was a pregnant woman - who was two weeks from her due date - that decided to show off her belly dancing and a young Asian man from Hawaii who would do pretty much anything Mark asked of him, including removing his shirt and his theoretical pants.  The scenes started and we were entertained by the actors and bloopers.  It was slow at first, but soon the actors relaxed with this new audience and were interacting with us.  We were given sandwiches, water, and candy during the taping – which was wonderful as we were there for five hours.  The bloopers were getting more and more fun to see.  Thomas Lennon was a huge goof and would do things to set off the crew as well as the audience.  Matthew Perry wasn’t far behind and tormented us for not laughing at him tossing a half-eaten meatball David Foley put into his hand.  We honestly didn’t see it as the camera panned after David Foley and we missed the action of the tossed meatball.  The audience consisted of people from Ireland, Britain, New Zealand, Brazil, and other parts of the world I can’t recall any longer.   One man from New Zealand entertained us and the crew with a rousing song from his country. 

I could go on and on about the bloopers, retakes, observations, but I think I’ll save it for the book.  Needless to say, it was the best night of my vacation and I would love to do it again.  But, it was time to go, and we had to find someplace still open to eat.

Pizza sounded good and easy and there was a place with high marks on the internet called Reno’s Pizzeria nearby.  It ended up being the best pizza I can remember having.  The restaurant was pretty bare of people at 9:30pm and the owners appeared to be Sicilian.  It reminded me of the pizza described in Eat, Pray, Love when the author was in Italy.  Pizza there was around $30 with the drinks.

Stop by next week for our last day in California.

Happy Reading!

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