Tag Archives: michael jackson

Michael and Farrah in the Santa Clarita Valley

For many, it was the “day the 70s died.”
 
The sobering announcement on June 25, 2009 of Farrah Fawcett’s death from cancer, followed by the truly shocking news a few hours later that Michael Jackson had died from a drug overdose, saddened an entire generation who had grown up alongside the careers of these legendary performers.

It’s interesting to note that both Jackson and Fawcett had several ties to the Santa Clarita Valley.

Jackson came to Vasquez Rocks in 1991 to film part of the music video for the song Black Or White, a musical plea for racial equality. This video from his multi-platinum Dangerous album uses locations from around the world and contains one of the earliest examples of “morphing” in film.

In the Vasquez Rocks segment, Jackson dances with Native Americans atop a platform while riders on horseback encircle them. It was an appropriate location as literally hundreds of Westerns have been shot here going back to the earliest days of film.

The Black of White single was the biggest seller of 1991, and the video, which was released simultaneously around the world, was one of the most watched ever.

Incidentally, the video’s director, John Landis, was the director of the ill-fated 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie segment that claimed the lives of actor Vic Morrow and two small children during filming behind the Magic Mountain theme park in nearby Valencia.

A few miles southwest of Vasquez Rocks at 15564 Sierra Highway is the Halfway House Cafe. It was here that Fawcett’s December 1995 Playboy spread was said to have been shot. This issue was the magazine’s biggest seller of the 90s.

Halfway House is frequently seen on film and television and is the site of Cindy Crawford’s famous 1991 Pepsi commercial where she drives up in a Lamborghini wearing blue jean cutoffs and a white tank top. (BTW, Halfway House is also seen in Landis’ Twilight Zone: The Movie.)

At the time of Fawcett’s death, her 24-year-old son Redmond O’Neal was incarcerated in a Santa Clarita area jail on drug charges. He was given a three-hour release to attend her funeral.

This past Saturday, Jackson’s jacket from the Thriller video went on auction and brought in $1.8 million. According to reports, the jacket’s sale will benefit another local Santa Clarita Valley institution – our friend Tippi Hedren’s Shambala Preserve – where two of Jackson’s tigers from Neverland Ranch are now housed.

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Quite A Lady

Tippi Hedren.

I couldn’t let the month end without sending belated birthday wishes out to a very special neighbor of ours.

This woman, like many good neighbors, works a lot around the house, does a ton of volunteer work, as is famous for loving her cats.

But in her case, the house she putters around is called the Shambala Preserve, and much of her volunteer work goes towards housing and feeding her cats – some which weigh hundreds of pounds!

You see, this special neighbor happens to be movie legend Tippi Hedren, who rescues lions, leopards, ligers, tigers, and bobcats at her preserve near Acton, California.

Tippi’s Shambala Preserve, which is maintained by the Roar Foundation, grew out of a film that she starred in and produced in the early 80s called Roar, which was filmed at Shambala’s current home on Soledad Canyon Road.

She began rescuing exotic cats a short time later, and today Shambala houses over 70 exotic wild animals, including Michael Jackson’s Bengal tigers which she acquired when Neverland Ranch closed.

Working around wild animals is a cakewalk compared to the stress Tippi must have felt making her film debut in 1963 for legendary director Alfred Hitchcock in The Birds.

Before this, Tippi worked as a model. Hitchcock was first captivated by her striking Nordic beauty after seeing her in a television commercial. She was directed by Hitchcock again the following year in Marnie.

While her days with Hitchcock are well documented, most people forget that she also appeared in Charlie Chaplin’s final film in 1967, called A Countess From Hong Kong. In all likelihood, Tippi is the only person to have ever worked for both of the two knighted English film masters.

Countess was filmed in London after Chaplin was exiled from the United States. Tippi co-starred in the film with Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, and Chaplin’s own son Sydney.

Tippi, who celebrated a birthday on January 19, works tirelessly to support Shambala, to get laws passed that prevent the breeding of exotic cats as pets, and somehow still finds time to appear in the occasional film and television role.

Tippi will be at ChaplinFest this weekend to help us honor the 75th anniversary of the release of Chaplin’s landmark silent comedy Modern Times, which had its final scene filmed just a few miles from the Shambala Preserve. ChaplinFest kicks off the evening of Friday, February 4, and continues all day Saturday, February 5 at the William S. Hart Park.

We will be placing a monument honoring the final scene inside the park on Saturday at 3 PM, and later that evening, Tippi will be interviewed by Leonard Maltin before a dinner and a special screening of Modern Times inside Hart Hall.

Tickets are still available! For information, please check here.

And speaking of ChaplinFest, did you happen to catch our article on the cover of AOLNEWS.COM yesterday? You can read it here. Here is a picture from the home page yesterday.


Smile

Those who heard it will never forget Jermaine Jackson’s version of Smile, which he sang as a touching tribute to his brother Michael at his memorial service at Staples Center in July 2009.

The song he sang that day is a haunting melody that’s familiar to all, but few know where it originated.

In 1936, multi-talented Charlie Chaplin composed the music for Smile as the theme for his epic silent masterpiece Modern Times. The song is heard during the film’s final scene in which the Little Tramp encourages his crestfallen companion Paulette Goddard to “smile.” The revitalized couple then amble off together down the highway in search of a new day.

John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics to the melody in 1954 for Nat King Cole. Since then, it has been covered by dozens of artists, including Michael Jackson on his HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I album in 1995. Jackson later said that Smile was his favorite song.

The final scene of Modern Times was in actuality the end of the entire silent era. Chaplin had resisted talkies for a full decade, fearing that once his Little Tramp’s voice was heard, the magic of the character – which had enchanted the world for over two decades – would be gone.

The bittersweet strains of Smile set the proper tone for Chaplin to bid farewell to his Little Tramp character, just as it did for Jermaine Jackson to say goodbye to his little brother.

In February, Kimi and I will be helping host the 2011 Santa Clarita Valley ChaplinFest in Newhall, California to honor the 75th anniversary of the release of Modern Times. The highlight of the festival will take place on Saturday, February 5, when we will place a plaque at the site of the final scene of Modern Times, which was filmed nearby.

The "Modern Times" plaque.

To learn more about the festival, click here: 2011 Santa Clarita Valley ChaplinFest

To see the final scene of Modern Times, click here: Modern Times finale


Star Trek: Part 2

Vasquez Rocks, near Agua Dulce, California.

To continue with our celebration of the 44th anniversary of the debut of the original Star Trek television series this week, we will take a look at Vasquez Rocks, a Los Angeles County park near Agua Dulce that was used as a filming site in just about every series and film in the long Star Trek franchise.

Vasquez Rocks is a 900-acre collection of jagged rocks jutting out of the ground at 45-degree angles like compound fractures piercing through the Earth’s skin. The rocks were named for legendary bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, who was said to have used the area as a hideout during his reign of crime in the mid-1800s.

The area has been used for motion pictures since the earliest days of filming and has been seen literally thousands of times on film. Every cowboy of note filmed here including John Wayne, who began his career as “Singing Sandy,” the very first singing cowboy, in a series of B-Westerns shot here in the 1930s.

More recently, the rocks have served as backdrops for dozens of films, television episodes, and commercials. A host of music videos have been shot here as well, including a portion of Black or White by Michael Jackson.

Vasquez Rocks has functioned as something of a totem for Star Trek, having shown up in three of the films, and in episodes from at least four of the television series. The rocks appeared four times in the original series, including the episode called “Arena” in which Kirk has to battle the reptilian Gorn.

Bad acting meets lousy special effects. Captain Kirk battles Gorn.

In Star Trek, last year’s reboot of the film series, the rocks modeled for the planet Vulcan, which imploded due to a black hole placed inside the planet and claimed the life of Spock’s mother (played by Winona Ryder). Although the area is only seen in the movie for a matter of moments, park officials claim that the filming took several weeks.

Vasquez Rocks has become so linked to the Star Trek franchise, that whenever news leaks out that a new movie is in the works, fans have been known to show up at the gates to catch a glimpse of the filming, merely on the assumption that the park will be used in the film.