burbank

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Now, this is a post that would lend itself to overdoing on the Amazon Associates links. I will try to restrain myself to only maybe two or three.

Warner Brothers was founded by, well, four brothers with the surname of Warner — Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack. I’m not 100% certain why Jack has always been the only one whose name I know off the top of my head. I’ll have to ponder that one. The Warner family originated in Poland (though Jack was born in Canada) and began in the movie business by owning theaters. Somehow they parlayed that into actually making movies and moved from Ohio (how’d they get from Canada to Ohio? I’ll have to look into that) to California.

The Warner Brothers’ first studio was on Sunset and Bronson (and has the scintillating name of the Sunset Bronson Studios today).* The studio had the money to move to nicer digs in Burbank after the release of The Jazz Singer, the first ever “talking picture” — a movie with sound. The Warners accomplished this when they purchased a company that owned movie theaters and which had a one-third stake in First National Pictures, a different movie studio. They purchased the other two-thirds of First National later that year and First National owned the land in Burbank where Warner Brothers is today.

Over time, Warner Brothers continued making movies and also diversified into animation, television, music, and publishing (with their purchase of DC Comics). Looking at the official company history page, I kind of both would love and hate looking at their corporate structure chart. “Warner Horizon Scripted Television”?

Anyway, so the tour. As I think I’ve mentioned before, Thomas and I went on the tour back in the mid-90s and I wanted to see how the property has changed and also to give Alex a chance to check it out. As you might expect, a lot was the same (if you lowered me gently from a helicopter into the middle of the backlot, it might not have taken me a dreadfully long time to figure out where I was, and I certainly would’ve known by the time I found Stage 16, which is the tall one with the WB logo on it that figures prominently in the company logo that runs before movies these days). Quite a bit has changed as well.

The tour starts out on a tram where the guide takes you around the backlot. This is where the outdoor scenes for a bunch of movies and television shows have been filmed. There’s a generic midwestern town and a generic city street, for example. There’s a generic little corner of a Paris street there as well, which was used in Casablanca, but I think I missed the photo of that one.

branch with extra leaves attached, 2017

I got a kick out of this. It’s a for-real tree with extra clumps of leaves tied onto the branches. Why would they do this? Because maybe the director’s vision has the trees fluffier than in real life? To change the apparent season? Anything like that, probably.

There also used to be a generic western town, but that area has been replaced by a generic suburban street, the buildings of which double as offices. That area may have been in use when we were there because I don’t remember that area, though maybe the tour guide just didn’t point out that they were also offices.

One of the other things that must have been in use that day was the jungle set with a water tank that has been any number of ponds, lakes, lagoons, and ocean shorelines. When Thomas and I took the tour, the guide gave a list of just some of the things that were filmed there. I’m sure the list would be even longer today.

Let’s see if I can stick an Amazon Associates link into a picture caption:

Daily Planet Building from Lois & Clark, 2017

Generic City Street — this in particular was used as the Daily Planet building in Lois and Clark (and, in fact, was in use in just that way when Thomas and I were there). As you can see, there are stairs down to the “subway,” though they just stop at the bottom.

Hey! It looks like it worked!

*And here I took a break of something like 20 minutes to figure out if we ever got there in the 24 Hours of Happy thing and looking at the studio on Google Street View, it sure looks familiar. And, no, I don’t think we ever get this far down Sunset. It looks like we only go as far as Gower.

We did so much this day, that looking back I’m all, “Are you sure that was all one day?” And, well, I guess it is.

As we’ve covered before, Alex is a vehicle buff. His particular interest is in airplanes, and I discovered that there is a museum, called the Blackbird Airpark, in Palmdale, California, near the Palmdale Regional Airport and Plant 42 Plant 42 is a manufacturing plant that makes vehicles for the Air Force and NASA).  Blackbird Airpark has both types of Blackbird airplanes — the SR-71 and the A-12 (I’m kind of scared that I remember those letters and numbers).

So, in the morning, we headed off to Palmdale. We got there without incident, only when we got to the airpark, none of the planes that we’d been promised were there. They were great planes, including one of the 747s that carried the Space Shuttle, but Alex was still disappointed. Once I went to hide from the heat, I did some research and discovered that we were in the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark, next door to the Blackbird Airpark. I found the open gate between the two, told Alex where it was, and went back to hide in the shade (July in the desert is not Olivia-friendly).

After Alex had photographed everything he could at the Joe Davies Airpark, he came to get me and we went over to the Blackbird Airpark, where I hid in the gift shop/museum while he took more pictures. He came in, got some souvenirs, talked to the workers for a while, and we headed back to Los Angeles.

B-52, Palmdale, California, 2017

The B52 at the Joe Davies Airpark. Everyone sing along with me. “Here comes a stingray . . .” And, yes, I know that the B52s were named after a beehive hairdo, but my fondness for the band led me to take this picture.

After a two-hour drive, we arrived at Hancock Park, home of the La Brea Tar Pits. we ate lunch at a Vietnamese food truck, then visited the George C. Page Museum*. After we left the museum, we walked around the park and looked at the displays, including the Observation Pit, which was closed when we were there. It’s strange how familiarity can change the way something looks. I swear that Hancock Park has changed a lot since our 1996 visit, but I couldn’t tell you exactly how it’s changed.

Back in the days when Thomas and I used to meet up with friends in Los Angeles, we’d stay at the Sportsmen’s Lodge and would frequently eat at the Jerry’s Deli just down the street. So, since we weren’t too terribly far from there at Hancock Park, we had dinner at Jerry’s Deli (I had to have the chicken noodle soup, which tasted just like I remember it) and left the car there while we hiked up to the Sportsmen’s Lodge, which looks almost nothing like I remember. I know that they’ve remodeled, but between the remodel and the 18-year gap, it looked very different from what I remember, but still similar enough that I was sure we were in the right place.

On the way back to the hotel, I made a big loop, and I’m not entirely sure why. I think that might have been when Alex and I had a miscommunication on which way to turn when and we ended up driving around Arcadia at night. Then again, maybe that big circle is just because the cell towers lost track of us.

*Which is probably going to earn itself its own entry after I finish the travelogue.

We began the day making our second attempt at getting to the Griffith Observatory. And, once again, we failed. So we headed off to our second stop of the day, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour. Thomas and I had done the tour in 1996, so I was interested in seeing what had changed and what had stayed the same in those past 21 years.*

I tried to get Alex to buy our tour tickets from the website while I looked for a place to park. It turned out that the surface parking lot was full, so we ended up underground, and lost our connection in the process. By the time we got parked and were back on the surface, that tour was sold out and so we had to buy tickets for one (to my memory) at least an hour later. So we spent that hour walking around the outside of the studio. We walked up Warner Boulevard and along Riverside Drive then back down Avon Street to the entrance. We walked through security and grabbed a bite at the Studio Plaza Cafe, a little cafeteria-style place in the lobby of the tour building. Then we went to wait around for our tour and ended up joining a slightly earlier one that had just gotten together.

After the tour, I figured that if we didn’t go lighthouse spotting that day, we never would so I pulled up the directions to Los Angeles Harbor Light (I generally refer to this one by its colloquial name, “Angel’s Gate Light”). This took us through the Port of Los Angeles and out onto Pier 400. Nothing looked familiar to me from our previous trips to the light, but I admitted that it had been almost 18 years and kept driving. Eventually we reached a gate separating us from the lighthouse, the guard, who seemed friendly enough, didn’t speak English (and I drew a complete blank on the Spanish word for “lighthouse” (which is “faro,” but by the time I remembered it, it was too late, but I doubt I’ll ever forget that again after this)).

Point Fermin Lighthouse, 2017

Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro, California, 2017. I’m not sure what’s up with the bunting. Leftovers from the Fourth of July, maybe?

So we gave up and headed to San Pedro for Point Fermin Light. As we head into San Pedro, I keep having flashes of driving off to the east of where we’re going for some reason, but can’t place why we were going that way. I found the lighthouse pretty easily — it’s a straight shot down Gaffey Street, but Gaffey Street winds around Fort MacArthur, so it’s not as straightforward as one would think. We walked around Point Fermin Park, took some pictures, I remembered some, but not all, about the Sunken City, and suddenly I remembered why we’d been driving through the neighborhoods of San Pedro — the fishing pier that we always took to go look at Angel’s Gate wasn’t in the Port, it was in San Pedro.

The Pacific Ocean with Angel's Gate Light in the Distance.

If you squint, you can see Angel’s Gate Lighthouse there in the distance. Cabrillo Beach is a good place to see the lighthouse; it’s not necessarily a *close* place to see the lighthouse.

So we headed off to make a second attempt to see the lighthouse and this time we were successful. We got to Cabrillo Beach and there were all of the things I hadn’t found on Pier 400 — the bath house, the aquarium, the beach. I accidentally paid for another person’s parking space (I’m not even sure how that happened, but he then paid for ours, so it all worked out) and walked out on the pier. It was getting late by then and was a bit chilly out there. The lifeguard announced that he was going home and I took some pictures of the lighthouse. As it got darker, we got back in our car and headed back towards the hotel.

Once I got home, by the way, I sent a message to the folks at Google suggesting that they might want to offer Cabrillo Beach as an alternative Angel’s Gate Lighthouse destination.

We needed food for our planned trip to the desert the next day, so we stopped at yet another Walmart, this one in Pico Rivera, which turned out to be not far from the office where Thomas tested that application so many years ago. If it hadn’t been so dark, and I hadn’t been kind of panicked when I realized that Alex was taking us to an entirely different Walmart from the one I’d planned to go to, I might even have recognized the area. We bought some fruit and some paper plates and plastic utensils and we realized that we had a microwave in our hotel room, so we bought some microwave dinners as well, then headed back to Pasadena to get some rest before our (as it turned out) very busy fourth day in California.

*Warner Brothers will also get a longer writeup once I finish the travelogue portion.