The second half of the guided tour can take up to two hours depending how busy we get. “There are occasional malfunctions,” our instructor Dennis tells me. “And encountering a film shoot in progress can slow us to a crawl.”
We simulate our tour guests boarding the tram and practice shutting the safety gates that keep them inside. “Watch your arms and legs please,” I say to my mannequin friends. I also remember to pull up the wheel chocks, avoiding a common mistake among rookie drivers.
With my guests seated upright per Dennis’ instructions, this Glamour Tram is ready for the long-haul of the backlot tour.
Tour guides use call sheets that are provided daily by the Operations Department. These furnish the guides with the latest material for them to pass on to studio visitors, and also include any variations on our regular route.
I’m an expert at reading call sheets, so when Dennis has us look them over, I immediately notice that Knight Rider is filming today! What a perk these are–especially since I can use them to plan extracurricular backlot excursions on my own time. You have given this info to the wrong guy!
After my first turn, the tour takes us through the studio’s property warehouse and a narrow isle that barely accommodates the tram. Everything you can imagine is in here, props stacked on props stacked on props. To the left is a Ming Dynasty statue. To the right a Renaissance painting. But don’t touch!
Night Gallery, Rod Serling’s hit TV show, has many unusual paintings for us to see.
Vintage signs in various languages also decorate sections of the massive storage area. Steering the tram out of here is tricky though because of a tight squeeze between the large sliding doors. Dennis has us practice this exit over and over.
We now continue down a main road shared by the entire studio. When the tour is busy, you can expect grid lock in this area, and there’s not much of interest for the guide to talk about. On one side is a garage for transportation repairs, on the other is office space. It can turn into the 405 freeway on any Friday evening, with vehicles barely making progress. I get paid 20 bucks and hour so I’m in no hurry!
Today the main road is unusually traffic-free, and we easily move on to our next destination: the iconic World Wide New York street. It’s long and extremely picturesque, but today it’s empty, as if a pandemic has hit.
The quiet is broken, however, by the arrival of Trans Am at the far end of the street, and it’s headed our way at a good clip. “Here comes the Kitt car,” Dennis says. “Hasselhoff loves to interact with trams and their guests.”
“Wow… but my guests are fake!” I think out loud.
The Kitt car pulls alongside of the tram, and David is checking out my collection of stiffs. Perhaps he recognizes one or two he’s worked with in the past. Eventually we make eye contact, and he flashes his large white tooth smile.
Then, as quickly as he arrived, Hasselhof punches it, and the Kitt car disappears around a corner. “You can expect that a lot of that” Dennis tells me.
Of course I’m looking forward to that. I bet he’s even more social with a tram full of real people!
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…page 6
Remember, this blog is best navigated like a book, start with page one, after character introduction…Thanks!