Saturday, March 13, 2021

Universal Studios, June 1987

I have a series of photos from Universal Studios (Hollywood), dated "June 1987". Nothing too amazing, but I always love a look at this park that I was so fond of when I was a kid. I relied a LOT on a wonderful website called, a well-organized, well-researched, very informative site with tons of history regarding USH. 

This first photo, taken from a tram, shows a backlot area known as "Denver Street". Here's some history from "Medicine Bow Wyoming" in the studio tour guide book maps was the first  Denver Street on the Universal backlot. It was built by Revue Studios shortly after MCA purchased the Universal Property (1959).  Three western streets existed when the studio tour opened in 1964, namely: Six Points Texas, Denver Street, and Laramie Street. 

Denver Street as it stands today was constructed around 1967 following the devastating fire that year, south of the Tower of London set. As Universal is a working studio, set locations often change completely over the years. Denver Street has moved at least twice since it was first built. 

Here's a photo from showing what the street looked like not too long ago:

Say, what's the deal with this house? has got us covered: Originally located on old Colonial Street the house was originally known as the Keller House and was built for ‘All My Sons’ in 1948, before being moved to Colonial Street in 1950. It later appeared in the Humphrey Bogart movie ‘Desperate Hours’ in 1955. Later on it was seen in ‘Lucas Tanner’ (1974-75) as the residence of the title character (played by David Hartman).

Until Desperate Housewives took over the street, this building was named after, and based on the design of, the Frat house in ‘Animal House’ (1978). However, that film was shot entirely on location in Eugene, Oregon (mostly at the University of Oregon), and NOT on the backlot at Universal. The real-world location for the frat house was demolished in 1986. 

The Delta house on the backlot was created in 1978 by converting the Keller house. The Delta House has one legitimate claim to being used in the ‘Animal House’ universe though… it was used in the ‘National Lampoon’s Delta House’ TV Series (1979) which was a short-lived (15 episodes) watered-down sitcom sequel to the film.


Next is this house, with a billboard out front featuring Jerry Mathers, Barbara Billingsly, and Tony Dow in "The New Leave it to Beaver" (1985-1989). Once again, was a huge help: Built for the 1996 Leave it to Beaver movie, this house replaces an almost identical, older property which was known as the Paramount House (it was originally built for Desperate Hours 1955) and was best known as the home of the Cleaver family from Leave It To Beaver.

The 1955 house is located in a remote place on the backlot and is not visible from the Studio Tour tram.
On Desperate Housewives, it was 4352 Wisteria Lane; the home of the Young family (1990–2006), Shepherd family (2006) and Bolen family (2009).

We're away from the backlot now, and in the shopping & dining area. Four cute kids pose with the scary (but friendly) Phantom of the Opera in front of the 1-hour photo store. For me, one of the biggest thrills was seeing Frankenstein's monster or The Phantom. Frankie appeared in many of the commercials and ads.

This fellow is my favorite. Which person is "real" and which one is the character? The pretty woman might be dressed for the "Conan" stunt show, I couldn't really figure it out. She's got herself some abs! And some '80s hair. I also couldn't figure out what that place is in the background. "....OTON". Any ideas?

The guy, in that red shirt and jacket, with the gold chain... he is my hero. What have I been doing with my life? He's got it all figured out. His swagger and confidence is something to which we should all aspire. I think I see a resemblance to the kids in the previous photo.

And here he is again, yucking it up in the stocks. There's nothing funnier than a device designed for torture and humiliation! I've seen other photos where the feet appear to have been painted with hot tar, for added hilarity.

That's all from this lot from 1987, but I have more Universal Studios Hollywood photos for you. Stay tuned!


Nanook said...

So much info-! And lets not forget another tidbit of info from the Universal Tour: Facade is French for false front-! Words to live by, for certain.

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

I love vintage Universal Studios! Even 1980s vintage!

I can hear Mary Alice Young's voice narrating and setting up the scene for us for photo number four.

I definitely remember seeing both the Phantom of the Opera and Frankenstein at Universal. I mostly remember them walking around the trams in the loading area, and trying to scare guests before the start of the tour.

I have several pics of me in those same stocks, from various years, starting in 1973. But I think they were there for years before that. There was another similar set-up, but without the fake feet attached.

Medicine Bow was also the setting for most of the episodes of The Virginian. Here's a much earlier pic of that same western street (from a Universal Studios souvenir pictorial). It's amazing how much those buildings have remained the same over the years:

Thanks for sharing these, Major!

Stu29573 said...

I've never been to Universal, but I'd like to go (but only to the CA original). The only bit of trivia I know about the backlot is that although people think the Simmons house in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken is the same as the Psycho house, it isn't. It is actually on Colonial Street to the left of The Munsters house. That's all I got.

Chuck said...

Note the fire hydrant in both of the Denver Street photos. I wonder if that infrastructure was installed after the 1967 fire or if it had been there for years before? Also thinking about what sorts of props they would use to hide it during an actual shoot - clumps of bushes, a stack of hay bales, maybe a giant pile of horse manure - the possibilities are endless.

Universal's actual fire station is Station 51 in homage to Emergency!

TM!, in 2019, my dad and I drove from Omaha to Promontory Summit, Utah, following the route of the Transcontinental Railroad to celebrate its sesquicentennial. We stopped in Medicine Bow for about an hour and took a lot of pictures of the train station and the Virginian Hotel, where Owen Wister wrote the novel The Virginian that the movie and TV show were based on. It doesn't look much like the Universal backlot. I was a little disappointed that nobody called me an SOB, even while smiling.

zach said...

Where's Hugh Beaumont you wonder. Surly they wouldn't make a LITB movie without him? Sadly he died in 1982.

Careful camera angles were needed to keep the fire hydrant from showing in a 19th century Western town.

I liked The Virginian (in Living COLOR on NBC!) with James Drury. I had a crush on Betsy, of course.

Thanks, Major

Chuck said...

Stu, the roof on the tower of the Psycho House is based on the one on the Simmons House, so there's an obvious visual connection that confuses some people. In fact, I think they may have used the actual original roof from the Simmons House when they built the Psycho House.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I didn’t know that you were so fluent in French! As silly as it sounds, I’m sure there are people aboard the trams that didn’t know what “faƧade” meant. I’ve been on walking tours where a guest asks a question about something the guide literally just told us about ten seconds earlier.

TokyoMagic!, hey, now 1987 is almost 35 years ago, I think that qualifies as “vintage”. I normally prefer older views (the ‘70s at least), but in my collecting mania I would sometimes just buy slides because they were right there in front of me. “Mary Alice Young”? Wha? I don’t go to Universal much, but can’t remember the last time I saw Frankenstein (or his monster) stomping around, much to my disappointment. You know that guests would love to have their pictures taken with him. I think they had several different stocks in one area, though they may have just changed them over the years too. I love that pictorial guide photo, probably taken from way up the nearby hill. I have four or five different souvenir guides from over the years, they’re lots of fun.

Stu29573, I took my niece to Universal about two years ago, and we had a lot of fun. I have to admit that I was very impressed with “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter”, but the studio tram tour is always worthwhile. I’ll have to look up the Simmons house, I haven’t seen “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” since I was a child and barely remember it. I just got a slide of the Munster house from 1966, so the show was still being filmed, you’ll see it someday!

Chuck, good question, that darn backlot seems to burn down every 10 years. I’m sure it’s like setting fire to tinder, once it gets going there is no stopping it. That fire hydrant is so out in the open, they definitely had to do something to camouflage it. They could just put a wooden barrel over it I guess. I have no concept of what Medicine Bow looks like, especially in the 21st Century, other than the fact that it probably has flying cars. I hope you went to a saloon and ordered some redeye (in a dirty glass)!

zach, I did look up what had happened to Hugh Beaumont, but was pretty certain he had died before I even looked. The fire hydrant is one thing, what about those steel bumpers that presumably are there to prevent trucks from breaking the hydrant off (in the modern photo)? Those things would be even harder to hide. James Drury, Betsy, I’m afraid I don’t know these people.

Chuck, I know that the Psycho House has undergone changes and has been moved around, and maybe even completely rebuilt from time to time. Now I REALLY have to look up the Simmons House to look for the similarity.

JC Shannon said...

I remember taking the tour a few times as a teen. I am a fan of old movies, especially silents and the 30's and 40s. I attended an outdoor Mae West film festival with my girl friend Alice at the amphitheater one night, as well. Great memories. Thanks Major.

Sunday Night said...

"...(in a dirty glass)"
Road to Utopia!
"If trouble comes-a lookin' for me, I'm gonna be mighty hard to find!"

Major Pepperidge said...

Jonathan, I'm sure it was a factor of my age, but the tram tour was so magical when I was a young boy (10 or 11). Considering how close Universal Studios was to my grandparent's house, I'm surprised that we didn't go there more than we did. A Mae West festival at the amphitheater, very cool!

Sunday Night, I guess that line has its origins in "Road to Utopia", but I think I heard it in a Bugs Bunny cartoon! I wish I could watch all of the "Road" pictures, that would be tons of fun.


It’s interesting universal admitted the Leave it to Beaver exterior house set was rebuilt for the new series that was done for the Disney Chanel . I remember seeing the new house and later on the tour seeing the “saved” original house set .... they had it “parked” next to a house set used in a John Candy film called The Great Outdoors . It was sad to see the original in a giant dirt lot so close to another set house . It wasn’t taken care of very well - the house had two steel I BEAMS long ways thru the length of the house with the beams protruding thru the two sides of the house!! It looked like railroad tracks had been threaded thru the Cleaver’s house! It seemed like Universal had some interest in preserving the old one despite a modern 80’s duplicate had been built.

I did a model project about a decade ago and had to research the Munsters House set - it’s interesting that the house was originally built as a soundstage house for a film in the 1940’s and was saved and moved outside and used several dozen times in other films before becoming transformed into the Munster’s house .

My parents went to Universal Studios when it was fairly new for its tours - my dad had taken slides ive seen ( but am not sure of where they are at the moment) but guests were brought onto current tv show sets in between actually filming days so depending on your visit then you didn’t really know in advance what you’d even shown . But large signs show what’s actually filming that day - and what sets would be on the tour ( non tram) but on that early visit there are great close ups of grandpas laboratory from The Munsters.

There are DOG people and Cat people as there are ADAM’S FAMILY PEOPLE and MUNSTER’S people. I’m a MUNSTER’S guy.

Sunday Night said...

JC Shannon - I'm also a big classic movie fan. Including some silents. I've seen a few silents with live orchestras and a few with live theater organ accompaniment.

Somewhere I have super-8 film of the Universal backlot I took from the tour tram in the late 60s. I have no idea where it is!

JC Shannon said...

Sunday Night, seeing them in a theater, the way nature intended, is so cool. The music is a must. Great comment.

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, that must have been a wonderful trip with your father! Did you buy any of the U.S. postal stamps that came out for the Transcontinental R.R.'s anniversary? Those were nicely done.

I've only seen one episode of The Virginian and that one was guest starring Joan Crawford. The people in town were being mean to her. It was great.

Dean Finder said...

I believe that "OTON" is part of PHOTON, a lazer-tag game franchise that existed in the 1980s.

Stu29573 said...

I was thinking the same thing Deam Finder. Photon actually started here in Dallas. I played many a game as a young adult!

Stu29573 said...

By the way I drive by the original location several times a week. It's...sad.