Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Don't Touch That Dial...

One of the great parts of being in the Publicity Department for the tour at Universal Studios in the late 1960s was the fun weekends you could have with your kids.

Stand in line with all the other people at Disneyland? Not hardly when you could drive them around the Back Lot on a Saturday for a private excursion and let them mess with the props!

This giant phone eventually ended up at the Tour Center where thousands and thousands of kids gathered... to look at the signs that said "Keep Off." Hey that thing had a huge rotary dial and someone could get hurt. And sue the big old studio.

"The Incredible Shrinking Man" was the film that created the phone, a light plug and socket more than 6 feet high and a mammoth-sized 35mm camera.

A few months ago I returned to tour Universal Studios in the San Fernando Valley and it looked VERY different. Nothing was the same except they still had a tour of the lower lot using 3-car trams similar to what I remembered from my days there.

But now, each tram had tv monitors that showed Whoopie Goldberg telling you about all the sights and short clips from movies filmed on The Old West streets and the New York Brownstones or the Psycho house/Bates Motel outdoor sets.

Back when I was there as a publicist, I wrote scripts with awful puns for the tour guides to use as they roamed the Back Lot, talking on the mike while riding backwards in the trams loaded with 90 camera-toting tourists.

I remember some REALLY bad jokes. ("...and the road up past the Bates Motel is called the Psycho Path." Groan.)

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