The other day, Kimi and I got to hang out with the Lone Ranger, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Mae West, Harold Lloyd, Hopalong Cassidy, Ozzie and Harriet, Mae West, Jed Clampett, George and Gracie Allen, and Mr. Ed.
Actually, we got to be at a place where these stars (and hundreds more), used to be found. It’s called Hollywood Center Studios, which, as its name implies, is located smack in the middle of the old studio district, just off of Santa Monica Boulevard.
We were there as a guest of our friend Jeff, who is a cameraman working for a Comedy Central show starring Norm Macdonald.
During breaks from taping, Jeff led us around the studio, which dates back to 1919 and became the home of comedian Harold Lloyd a few years later.
It was here that Howard Hughes made his big budget flop Hell’s Angels that same decade after the place was wired for sound.
During the 30s, Mae West and Hopalong Cassidy made their films here, and in the 1940s, the Marx Brothers made A Night In Casablanca on the lot, and for a time Jimmy Cagney was part owner of the studio.
In the 1950s, new owners made the lot available for television production – something the big studios initially refused to do – and it became the television home of The Lone Ranger, Ozzie and Harriet and Burns and Allen.
In 1951, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz came to Studio 2 to film the pilot episode of I Love Lucy and ended up staying for their first two seasons.
Some of the best loved shows of the 1960s were filmed on the lot, including Green Acres, Mr. Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Perry Mason, and The Addams Family.
Since then, it has appeared in dozens of television shows and films, like The Player and When Harry Met Sally, and was often seen in music videos for stars like Jackson Browne, Prince, and Michael Jackson.
After visiting the sets of Wizards of Waverly Place and So Random!, we met Jeff back on Studio 2.
It was here that Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel first filmed in front of a live studio audience, creating the then revolutionary three-camera filming technique.
On this day it was empty except for the tables set up by craft services to feed the Norm Macdonald crew and guests (meaning us).
While we ate, we could see from pictures on the wall that if we turned the clock back 60 years, we would be dining in the Ricardo’s living room.
It was a place we had been invited to dozens of times over the years. We’d finally made it.