Most of the places you see on TV shows are located on studio lots. But there are many others scattered throughout southern California that you could see any time, though you might get in trouble knocking on the door. This has become a hobby of mine (visiting, not trespassing), and during my several yearly trips to Los Angeles I’ll usually schedule at least an hour for one drive-by of a landmark that is part of our television heritage.
Here are some of my favorites, as well as one that I finally plan to cross off my to-do list later this year.
The Brady Bunch House
This was the first classic TV site I tracked down. Though more than two decades have passed since my first visit, I can still recall what a strange sensation it was to actually stand before a home that I only knew as part of a fictional world. I’ve been back several times since, and every time, for the briefest of moments, it still feels like stepping into TV land. The house doesn’t look the same as it did on the series – there’s a wrought-iron fence surrounding the front to keep weirdos like me at a safe distance, and the upstairs window you see on the show was never actually there. But the shape of the Studio City dwelling, especially when framed by the mountains in the background as it often was on The Brady Bunch, remains unmistakable.
If you’d like to check it out, head west on Ventura Blvd. to Tujunga Ave., turn left and then make a right on Dilling St. You’ll know it when you see it.
I wonder how many people who drive by 189 N. Robertson in Beverly Hills even realize they’ve just passed the office where Charlie Townsend summoned his Angels. The two-story red brick edifice was shown in almost every episode of Charlie’s Angels, though you’ll never seen any of the Angels (or even Bosley) entering or exiting the building. Whenever I’m doing research at the nearby Margaret Herrick Library, I always take Robertson back to Wilshire, hoping to see Jill Munroe’s Cobra parked out front.
Last year I was enjoying a deep-dish pizza at actor Joe Mantegna’s Taste of Chicago restaurant. I was seated at the window facing south, when my friend asked, “See anything interesting?” I took another look at the Rite-Aid across the street and told him I didn’t. Then he started whistling the Waltons theme, and suddenly it dawned on me – the mountain behind the condos and shopping centers was Walton’s Mountain. Perhaps it took longer to register because one doesn’t expect a peak associated with Depression-era Virginia to be looming majestically over Burbank.
I used to love watching Emergency on Saturday nights. Paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto reported for work at Squad 51, a real fire station (actually Station 127) located in Carson, California. The site has since honored its TV connection with a plaque dedicated to Emergency writer and producer Robert A Cinader, who also created the series. You’ll find the station at 2049 E. 223rd St., just off the San Diego Freeway.
No need to charter a plane to a remote island to see where Mr. Roarke and Tattoo greeted their guests. The building where Tattoo rang the bell at the start of each episode is the Queen Anne Cottage at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. It’s in the city of Arcadia – take the 210 Freeway to the Baldwin St. exit and follow the signs. Even without the classic TV connection, it’s a beautiful place to spend a day.
Near the beginning of almost every Batman episode, you’ll see the Batmobile speed through a hidden passageway before making the 14-mile drive to Gotham City. What you’re looking at is the Bronson Caves in LA’s Griffith Park. This is one of those instances where the reality of the location falls far short of its fictional fame. Once you’ve made the quarter-mile hike from the parking lot on Canyon Drive, you’ll a rather undistinguished cave entrance, basically a mouse hole-shaped opening leading into a short tunnel. The surrounding scenery is nice, though.
For more than 20 years, General Hospital opened with a shot of an ambulance speeding toward a stately white building. This one is really easy to find – it’s the old Los Angeles County General Hospital, now a wellness center of the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. Get on the 10 Freeway and look to your right, just before the 10 turns into the 101. The address is 1200 N. State St.
The Hooterville Cannonball and Water Tower
I haven’t visited these yet, as they are located in the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park in Jamestown, California. That’s a 6-hour drive from Los Angeles and almost 3 hours from San Francisco. But I love Petticoat Junction. It’s everything that Comfort TV is supposed to be – simpler times, kinder characters, and optimistic, uplifting messages. So this fall I plan to climb aboard that little train, and think about a time and place where life was like that, even if it never really existed.