Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Holidays! and Good news / Bad news

Anybody remember me?  Sorry it's been so long....something about cooking for 43 at 5 different dinners here, cards, wrapping, mailing packages and 3 weeks of decorating.  It was great!  So to relieve my Post Christmas Traumatic Stress Syndrome, I put a ladder up from my library side today and reached in as far as I could under the eaves and managed to pull out a box labelled "Film Stuff."  That's a very scientific technical term, I know.  So the good news is that there is a lot of Magnum stuff in there.  The bad news is that, other than this photo of these 3 studly 80's  guys in their shorts, everything is unfortunately in slide form.  The other good news is that there is lots of stuff I can put on ebay and maybe make enough money to buy a slide scanner for my Mac.  The ones you see for $99 everywhere (I even bought one once) only work on PC's.   And no, I'm not sending you the slides so you can scan them!  So there will be some new posts of what looks like quite a few sets I haven't shown.  You may have to identify most of them as the slides aren't labelled.  Some boxes say "Luther Gillis Den, Guesthouse," "Whorehouse," "T.C.'s LR & Office" and some blank ones.  I think there still should be more slides somewhere, but I could only reach in so far.  The real access to that space is full of stuff.  There is also paper work, stationery, and even an asset list of set dressing for a year among other things.

The man who bought my Magnum jacket a few months ago would be amused to know that instead of the jacket at Christmas, we received this card.  It almost seems strange to see it say "Merry Christmas" on it.   I forgot the jackets took a long time and we were given this card instead.  A little "Magnum humor"  (very little).  The other is a page that we were given (at least mine seems to be an original) of an ad Tom took out in Variety magazine.  In case you don't know, no one ever says "Thank You" in this business.  I always say that fact you haven't been fired yet is the only thanks that you will ever get.  Tom was different and was very appreciative. 

So, not the most exciting post, but that's probably going to be it for my inagural blog year of 2008.  I'm going to be away from my computer until January 12 and will start posting again soon after.  I really appreciate all of your encouragement regarding this blog.  May all of my good karma pay off soon with a job in 2009! 

The picture is of  my crew members,  Al on the left and Russ on the right, and me with the great legs in the middle.  It was taken outside my office.  Tom's office was off on the right, next door to mine.

I will look forward to posting more next year as long you keep enjoying them!

Hauole Makahiki Hou!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Higgins' "Other" Bedroom Set

In the hopes that I might find some pictures, I climbed into a storage area under a stairway in my home that I open about once every few years.  I did find a Magnum file that had my original start papers and things from my employment.  I did find some photos printed from some slides.  They were labelled "Higgins' Bedroom.  I do remember doing an another bedroom for him later.  I'm guessing this might have been part of a flashback or something because the walls are just painted and not the usual aged plaster look.  Ironically there is virtually nothing from his original bedroom set posted earlier so there must not have been any interest in continuity.  There is also nothing of mine in this room which tells me it must have been closer to my "end" as the decorator or maybe even after when I became the assistant to the person who replaced me.  I still did many of the sets even though I was never given credit for them.........another long story that I can't put in this blog.  I do have a few more sets to post and then I have got to dig out my oldest files and hope I find the mother lode.  Maybe I could post some "Jake and the Fatman" sets and drive you all crazy trying to figure out which Magnum sets they were?  That wouldn't last long since you're all too smart for me on this subject!

     One of the few benefits of unemployment, I mean "availability," is I can really do up Christmas.  With no TV sets to dress, that leaves my house and lots of Christmas stuff I haven't had time to dig out in years.  It doesn't pay much, but it keeps me off the beach.  Hope all you anonymous people out there and my loyal 14 followers are having a good holiday season as well.  Posting again soon!

Aloha,  Rick

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

'Twas the Week Before Christmas.......or thereabouts

This is my "Magnum Christmas Story."  Sorry, it doesn't involve Santa, little children or puppies.  We were doing some sort of terrorist training camp out in Kahuku on the North Shore of Oahu (like no one would notice) right before Christmas one year.  Normally set dressing does tents, everything in them, and even camouflage netting.  Sometimes the net might be part of the set and sometimes it is used to hide something in the distance like the camera truck, inappropriate signs, or buildings.  The Kahuku location chosen was perfect in every way except for a large trailer home that was used by the caretaker and his family too near the set.  My crew hung a very large camouflage net to cover the house so that it wasn't noticeable from the set.  

     I think it was the art director who ultimately found the old plane that special effects head, Jack Faggard was to blow up.  Jack was a really good "powder man" and known for his big explosions.  In the film business, while explosive powder is used, it is more for show often blowing harmless pieces of cork as debris.  The actual damaged look might be created later by tools or paint and much more controlled than what might appear on the screen...still, it is an explosion and not always 100% predictable.  On the day of the explosion, all the usual precautions were taken, crew cleared, and the family of the home was allowed to watch from a distance.  Off went the charge--a lot more than was expected--and it looked great!

Moving on to the next scene, the family returned to their home on the other side of our camo net hung to hide their house.  What they found was that all  their windows had been blown out, their Christmas tree was on the other side of the room along with their presents.  Whoops!  So the show paid for new windows, another Christmas tree and I'm not sure what they did about the presents, but I'm sure there were a few more!  The shock wave of the blast had traveled through the netting and right at their house.  Possibly special effects hadn't noticed how close the house was behind the net or maybe it was just a mis-directed blast.  In any case, it was almost not a very Merry Christmas for the family who luckily had watched the explosion.  And they all lived happily ever after.  The End.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's time to play....NAME THAT EPISODE!

This is another one of those sets that looked good then, but would probably get me fired today in its simplicity.  I think the painter would be in the same boat as the paint aging is pretty bad, too.  I have no idea which episode this was from but we built this from scratch in an area known as Sherwood Forrest on Waimanalo Beach--even though I think it was supposed to be in the mountains somewhere.  

I thought it was good that you see that we didn't build any more than was necessary--hence the half of a water tank.  It looks like the Greens Department had a ways to go getting some planting around the base of the cabin.  There is very little age or uniformity in the dressing out on the deck.  This sort of "screams SET" and doesn't look believable to me now.  I've already checked--the fireplace rocks do not line up with the ones in Agatha's house (which sounds like I'm succumbing to "Magnum Mania" for detail!)--although it is strangely the same size.  The stones all look too uniform and plain for supposedly being lava rock.  Well, not much more to say about this set since I don't really remember any more stories about it.  Since there is no way for me to top the last 2 postings, here is something less exciting for you to ponder.

As I am getting close to Thanksgiving, I may or may not have time to post again this week.  Robin Masters would be right at home with my overindulgent feast, but unfortunately Higgins has the week off and I'm doing it all by myself.  OMG, I'm slipping into Magnum dementia!

Happy Thanksgiving to all and let's be thankful for what we do have whether we are celebrating with turkey on Thursday or not.

Aloha,  Rick

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Look what I found.....The Guesthouse Set! (and ME!)

Who would think I'd ever put this photo of me on the internet?  Well, I sure won't be mistaken for Tom Selleck!  One day the Art Director, Archie Bacon, and I were walking by the unprotected, uncovered Ferrari and I just happened to have my camera.  Like a couple of naughty kids, we took turns taking pictures of each other sitting in the car.  Yeah, I'm SO cool that I didn't even know how to open the door from the outside or the inside so I had to climb in and out!  This was the "driving " Ferrari.  They also had a "tow" Ferrari which they used behind a camera truck for when you saw Tom inside the car "driving"--which he wasn't.  Again, cutting back and forth between actual driving shots and sitting behind the wheel shots, it looks pretty good.  That's the soundstage behind me on the left.

On to the guesthouse photo--it turns out I did have one in my portfolio.  That means that when Indiana Jones comes over and we go on a quest in my attic to find the long buried photos, there could be more (?).  I know you all have seen this set more recently and more often than I have so pardon my first impression on seeing it for the first time in decades--what a dump!  It's much smaller than I remember and almost looks dirty with those walls.  Ok, please, no hate mail and death threats--it's just my first thougts after all these years.  You can see the make-up tables being stored inside the set since space was always a premium on that stage.  George Sumner was a personal friend of John Hillerman so that painting had to hang prominently over the fireplace.  It would not have been my choice since it photographed so dark on camera.  Basically the furniture was pretty much run of the mill sort of middle class Sears contemporary items.  I had forgotten there actually were windows on the camera left side of the set and the smaller one on the landing.  Normally a set would be lit for filming and then the lights taken down and used elsewhere.  As you can see, the basic lights were left up on the catwalk all the time because this was a permanent set.  The guesthouse set was fairly close to the side wall of the soundstage--the back wall maybe 6-8 feet away which made it difficult to have a higher ceiling since the roof sloped down at that point.  You can see the small ceiling sections over the entry door.

There was a door to the right of the TV set that really did lead into Tom's bedroom set.  There was also a small wall portion that could be used as part of the "4th wall" but was seldom seen.  I think that is my leadman Russ Maki standing on the set.  

Many have asked what happened to all the items.  I am amazed at how many of those items did survive the "great purge" when they tore down the old set dressing building a few years ago.  It's funny how when things are taken away from their original environment, they just become "stuff."  Like after my parents had died and we sold the family home, I brought things back to Hawaii that had been in that house for decades.  Somehow without the wall paper and windows and familiar surroundings, the things just weren't the same.  What few items that may or may not still exist in the new storage area,  are the property of the State of Hawaii Film Office and would not be for sale--so don't ask!   I'll be the one getting in trouble for even mentioning it!

I found a few other surprises--even a "funny" Christmas story (and photos) about an explosion we did that accidentally  blew out the windows out of a house and sent their Christmas tree flying across their living room.  Have to wait for Christmas for that one!  Again, thanks for all your encouragement and comments.  (don't stop now!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Echoes of the Mind" 2-Hour Season Opener

This has to be one of the biggest and best sets I've ever done--in many ways.  This episode stared a fairly unknown actress playing the good twin/evil twin (yes, that plot again) in a 2 hour season opener that Marco will tell us which one--at least I remembered the title he told me).

The location was amazing!  One of the great homes of Honolulu happened to be empty.  In the mid 80's it was for sale for $5.9 million.   It is now the Contemporary Art Museum although some elements of the home remain.  A chance to furnish several rooms in this home (and have the budget to do it) was a dream come true and I ran with it!  There were still amazing resources back then to choose from:  Robert Rose / Kreiss Collection, Orientations by Greg Mills,  Consignment Center, Rattan Art Gallery, and   Treasures of the East were all world class decorating resources (and all gone now).  I remember the black rosewood bench along the wall cost $16,000 (relax, rented for 15%).  Well, it was almost a purchase when someone sat on the arm and cracked it.  This was one time I didn't let my usual honesty get in the way.  We glued it and never said another word!

The most memorable and wonderful event to come out of this design was my meeting the late Betty Ho.  Betty was one of "the little old ladies" who did these amazing, creative flower sculptures ("arrangement" is too common!) for the Honolulu Academy of Art (ironically the former location of the home by the builder of this home).  Anyway, I'd heard that Betty had a group of ladies who could do some large scale and elegant arrangements for this set.  I needed something elegant, opulent, and overscale to help fill these huge spaces--like a 60 foot living room and a 30 foot wide window.  We became immediate friends and remained so for 20 years until her untimely death.  I learned a lot from her but mine never seemed to match the elegance of hers.

By comparison to most of my sets ( as you may have noticed), this one is not as "full" as most of my sets are.  My reasoning that it's easier to take something out than have to find something to put in didn't really apply to this set.  It was 80's contemporary with Asian influence in a tropical setting.  I also did a bedroom and some outdoor spaces, but I don't know if I have photos of those areas or not.  These photos are just the ones I've had in my old portfolio.

This season the producers gave me a photo made from a frame of film that showed my name in the credits.  It has Sharon and Tom sitting on that striped day bed with Higgins looking on and my name.  It's still framed and I don't want to take it apart to scan.  I guess you can always stop motion at the end and see for yourself.

Anyway, I don't think I will be topping this set in the blog any time soon so I hope you enjoy it.
As always, your comments and questions are appreicated!

Aloha,  Rick

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cheesy to Sleazy Photos that didn't fit in part 1 or 2

I I guess I made these photos too large as I got the "error" notice when I tried all of them in the Part 1 post.  P.S.  sorry about my typos--I shouldn't have the TV on next to my computer when I'm posting.  Unfortunately not watching Magnum reruns!

I don't remember where I got all those great mannequins, but they really worked out well.
A friend of mine who was the main scenic artist for the opera here painted the Mona Lisa with the bikini top.   I hate to tell you but that is my statue of Venus de Milo.  She's been living in my bathroom for 20 some years (without the pasties on).  So much for my degree in art history--more like desecration of art history.  Thanks for looking..........Aloha,  Rick

From Cheesy to Sleazy Part 1

This has to be one of the most outrageous sets ever done on Magnum.  Well, thank you--it was all my idea!  My neck was on the line, but unlike today, I had the trust and encouragement from those above me.  Sadly, those days seem to be gone.  Even more amazing, we had ONE day to dress this empty store on a Friday, we shot it Saturday when we were allowed greater control over traffic on this otherwise busy street (Nuuanu Ave.) and then we struck it (removed) on Sunday.  By Monday it was like it was never there.

Because it was a long day (and ultimately Friday night), I had to call for extra security since every hooker in downtown Honolulu was trying to come in and shop!  Also, anyone who was leaving work on Friday afternoon and saw this "new shop" going in on Friday must have been surprised when they went to work on Monday morning and no trace of it existed.

The location was amazing - an old 50's (maybe even older) store interior that had hardly been touched.  There were 3 bays on one side of the store and 3 bays on the other with a center area.  Given that the name of the store was "Never on  Sunday" (in reference to the movie of the same name where the girls took Sunday off and the fact that it was a front for other activity), it gave me the idea to do a different theme for each of the 6 bays using lingerie.  This presented another problem.  Where were we going to get all of this lingerie and who was going to know how to put it all together?  I joked that my crew only knew how to take it off--not put it on!  I had seen an ad in the paper that a new lingerie shop had opened in a small shopping area.  Dealing with an independent owner is always much easier than dealing with a corporate entity like, say, a Victoria's Secret chain store.  We obviously couldn't afford to buy all of the clothing and it's a little strange to rent underwear!  Well, set decorating is not all carpeting and drapes as you might have learned by now.  So I went into this shop, explained myself to the new owner, and she agreed to not only supply the outfits, but also "install" (so to speak) the merchandise. I probably should have been a used car dealer with this sales ability.   Luckily she came through since we only had the one day to set up (it costs money each day you rent a location), had there been a problem with her not showing, we would have had a huge problem.

Something I have recognized over the years that I seem to be able to do well is to look at a pile of STUFF and organize and make sense out of it (with the exception of  my own desk, of course).  So I walk into this shop with my crew, this woman, a pile of our stuff and her stuff, try not to trip over the carpenters who are also installing their walls and get to work.  I think they call it total chaos?  I sort of picture in my mind what I want to do, but I'm flexible enough to go with what we have.  I've worked for decorators who belong to the "Let's try it over, let's trying if over here" school of decorating.  It's fine when you have days to move and try and change things, but it's a pain when you have only 1 day.  The fact that decorators work on a flat rate (and not hourly) might have something to do with it!

It helped that Bernie Kowalski (standing in white out in front of the "before" picture) was one our best directors. Creative, understanding and fun, I felt that I could be a little more creative and have some fun.  Sometimes we work a little harder for the "good" directors.  Everything came together on this one.  Bernie walked in Saturday morning and loved it all.  It's amazing how the director, assistant director and director of photography can walk onto a set for the  first time, look at the set, figure out their moves (blocking) and be able to convey it all in pieces to the actors (they digest little bits at a time better between visits to their motor homes).  When it all works within the time and budget constraints and everything comes together (miracles do happen regularly), it's a great feeling.  You even get 6 weeks to pretend they saw all of our hard work on the screen before watching the episode and seeing somewhat less.  Sometimes by then a couple more episodes have passed and it's hard to remember all that was done earlier.  

I hope you are all getting a little more insight into what went into all those episodes--and still goes on with most shows today.

Aloha,  Rick

From Cheesy to Sleazy Part 2 - More Photos

Additional Photos - please see part 1 for further informtion

An accidental discovery lead to something I'm fairly certain was left in the show.  When I sat down on the sofa opposite the mannequin at the other end of the cushion, it slid towards me--almost like she was propositioning me.  After showing the director, as I recall,  "Rick" / Larry sat and did a double take when the mannequin slid towards him.  Yes, you did see the sofa again in Higgin's bedroom.  It's been in my bedroom for 20 years now.  This set really was a fun, creative departure from the kinds of sets we normally did.

Aloha,  Rick

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cheesy Sets of Yesteryear - Hospital Set from 1985

I recently watched some episodes of the original seasons of both "Perry Mason" and "Superman."  What struck me most was what passed for credible sets back in the 1950's on television.  I've seen high school plays with better sets than "Superman" and even "Perry Mason" re-used sets week after week and just changed the sign out in front or the drapes inside.  It's what was acceptable back then on the smaller, "snowy" screens with the "rabbit ears" antenna.  Just getting decent reception in the days before cable was about all you could hope for.  Oh, and maybe an occasional plot.

Before I praise myself  about my sets, the 1985 set photos I am showing from this top 10 TV show would get me fired today in 2008!  The design with flat, uniform colors, no aging or character from the art department is bad enough, but the set decorating is about as thin as you can get!  Compared to what we see today on "E.R." or other shows, this looks pretty amateur--yet it was good enough in 1985 for Magnum.  In my defense, L.A. actually now has real hospitals that have closed because of mergers or lack of earthquake upgrades but are available for rent by film and TV production companies.  When I worked in L.A., I could "do" a hospital set by doing..........nothing!  There is also a company (actually more than 1 now) that rents anything from an MRI machine to 1930's operating tables.  In Honolulu it is always a challenge to create a hospital room outside of a real hospital.  So this is a "state of the art" hospital set built on the soundstage in 1985.

I guess the moral of this post is that our tastes and standards have gone up considerably as our sophistication, awareness, and size and quality of our TV screens have increased as well.

Side Story Ramblings:

This reminds me of a standard in Hollywood.   I was naive enough to think that when I finally got into the Hollywood Set Decorators union, that I was now "available" to do films and television--or anything!  Wrong.  As has been explained to me:  First there are the BIG feature Set Decorators who do "Batman" and "Pirates" and "007."  That's all they do.  They have no life and live out of hotel rooms in exotic locations.  Then there are decorators who do regular films.  Even they have to be careful not to do too many of one type or they get pigeonholed as only doing comedies, or slasher films or period movies.  Then we make the jump from the big screen to Television.  Or as some would have it, the jump from heaven to earth.   My favorite Hollywood line was from a decorator I was working for in a more lowly position.  She actually said to me when I spoke, "Do I need to know you?"   How can you be upset over that?!

Moving on down the line are MOW (Movie of the Week) or mini-series decorators, cable shows, network shows, 3 camera soap operas, video, etc.  From the charwoman up through the footman to the head butler for sure.  The argument with feature decorators vs. TV is that their screen is so much bigger and the detail is so much more important, etc.  I always laugh at that and say if I had your time (often a month for 1 or 2 sets) and your budget (hundreds of thousands and up) and crew (dozens), I could do bigger and more detail, too!  The final irony of it all is that film screens have gotten smaller and smaller over the years and television (especially HDTV) has gotten bigger and better.  Unfortunately old stereotypes and egos die hard.  I've had the opportunity to work with some wonderful, talented decorators who understood that I was there to make us all look good so please don't think that everyone doesn't need to know me!  The Hollywood union does not allow you to work in any other capacity than your single craft.  By also being a member of the Hawaii union, we are allowed to work in 3 different areas so it is possible for me to be a Production Designer, Set Decorator, or Swing Gang here.  I figure you can always learn something from everyone--even if it's how NOT to do something!  Ok, go collect your prize at the door and thanks for reading!   Aloha

Additional Hospital Set Photos - 1985

I hadn't even finished the title and the blog listed me twice with no way to delete.  So even my mistakes are published for all to see!  Anyway, these are additional photos since I have made the files large enough for you to see details and I can't post more than 4 or 5  per blog entry.

Additional Hospital

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Set Construction and How They Are Built

Thanks to Dave from Perth, here is another topic you might enjoy knowing about. Or not.  Even though construction was not part of my Set Decorating, I had been a carpenter-designer-painter-electrician for 15 years in the theatre before Magnum so I do know a bit about behind the camera construction.  Ok, stay will be tested on this later.

Basic wall units are called flats (just like in the theatre) only the frames are built on edge and covered with a thin plywood (sometimes called door skin).  You put enough flats together and you have a wall. The camera obviously can see closer to these walls so they not only have to be covered with something (texture, wallpaper, surface decoration, etc.)you have to be careful about the spaces between the flats since they are usually made in 4' wide modules because that's the normal width of the plywood.  One of the ways you can always tell a set wall from a real interior wall is by all the jogs or angles in the walls.  Sometimes they are small jogs only about 1 inch and sometimes maybe a large architectural element like a pilaster (engaged column) to break the flatness and hide the seams.  These jogs are so you don't have to cover a flat seam and sometimes to be able to take the wall completely out.  These are called "wild walls" and are designed to be removed from the set so that the camera can shoot from a different angle and not be hampered by the wall.  It's the only way you can film  inside a small room or space.  Even when Tom was crawling in a tunnel, one side of that tunnel was open for the camera and could be put back later.

Many of the Magnum permanent set walls had a form of plaster (usually dry wall paste) we called mud.  I did address this in an earlier post, but it created the look of rough, aged plaster and also bridged any gaps in the walls made up of smaller flats.  Many walls were wall papered and sometimes painted walls only had something like masking tape that was painted to cover the crack between the flats.  This seam could always be cut with a knife if the wall needed to be taken out.  They sometimes pre-painted more masking tape if they had to recover it if the wall went back in place.

The basic construction framing material is wood--weather it ultimately looks like marble, stone, brick, or tile.  Tile was usually ready made wallboard tile or sometimes even scored masonite which is sort of a thin fiberboard with a smooth surface.  So 500 words later, it's time to answer David's question about bricks (are you still with us David?).  By the time Magnum was around, Universal Studios had one of the best molding (moulding) mills in Hollywood.  They could make just about any kind of trim.  They also had vacu-form wall surfaces like bricks, stone, and things like "dirt skins" for caves and exterior ground.  As I recall, the bricks in Higgin's den were vacu-form plastic (heated plastic sheets over a form, air pulled out, plastic conforms to the underlying shape).  They came in large sheets and could be painted. They also had "Z-brick" which were a fake brick veneer, but only came in about 3 or 4 variations.  Got any old pancake houses near you?  I do and it's still full of Z-brick. (sounds sort of like "brick" with a French accent).  It's getting late......  Another way of doing bricks (we used this in the theatre a lot) is to take a large sheet of 2 or 3" thick styrofoam (sometimes used for roofing insulation) and a rough file or rasp and digging out the foam for the grout area.  You can do large blocks of stone or smaller bricks or even stones with this.  Sometimes a soldering gun with a wide tip is used--but it does give off a toxic gas when it melts the foam.
     The 1970's and 80's had a lot of things like "Mediterranean" spindles, geometric plywood cut-outs, filigree panels, and other peculiar architectural elements that were used.  Often times you would see some sort of "entrance screen" into a room near the doorway.  These were used to help block the view beyond the door when it opened or to see the bad guy hiding before the good guy did or sometimes for the camera to shoot through.  Furniture and architectural elements located near the camera in the foreground are called a "cutting piece".  It's a way of providing foreground interest or sometimes to create the illusion of the 4th wall when all there really is is a low cabinet with a vase on it.

   Thanks for staying with me if you did.  You can pick up your diploma on the way out.


Saigon Bar Set built inside the living room on sound stage

I I I      Ithink this was my favorite set ever built on the stage.  Well, maybe a tie with Agatha's!  Again, you experts can supply me with the episode and plot, I'll supply the set photo.  Amazingly this was built inside the living room set and actually used the same walls.  I really lucked out in finding this bar and the art department built me the back bar.  I think that painting behind the bar might still exist at the studio--no you can't buy it!  I can't believe all the set dressing that was available back then here in Honolulu.  This is another impossible set to create today unless it was all shipped from L.A.

This was supposed to be a once grand hotel in Saigon.  Today you could pull 27 pages of research off the internet of authentic places--back then we faked it.  Not too bad even if I say so myself!  The front desk area was built for this set.  I think this was the final setting up before filming as there appears to be 2 extras behind the desk.  I used existing light so unfortunately the color is a bit off, but you can see all the practicals on (visible light fixtures on the set).  I really wonder what happened to all that rental furniture--from Consignment Center and Eurasian Antiques.  Coincidently, both owners died in 1990 right when I went to L.A. for 2 years on "Jake in the Fatman."  Nothing ever replaced them--personally or commercially.  

You can really see the old catwalks in some of the photos.  Because the roof of the warehouse / soundstage was angled, there was more catwalk headroom in the center than near the walls.  The way up to the catwalk system (other than ladders) was the curved staircase in the entry hall.  It was kind of an abrupt transition from civility to dangerous practicality.  A couple of series later some (before the new soundstage opened), someone ordered the removal of all the catwalks with the idea they could be replaced.  OSHA did not allow it.  Lighting the set became much more difficult but at least you could built a set wherever you wanted rather than where the catwalks were.  A mixed blessing.

Ok, keep those cards and letters coming!


Shameless Commercial Interruption and MAHALO

If television shows are, in fact, fill between commercials, here is a commercial:

I am selling both my "Magnum, P.I." watch and "Jake and the Fatman" watch on ebay.

Now back to our regularly scheduled post even though I don't have a regular schedule.

MAHALO to all you anonymous people who can now post comments on this blog!  I may not know who you are, but I'll take applause anywhere I can get it!  Thanks for your positive comments and next is my second favorite set ever on Magnum.

ANYONE can now leave a comment on my blog

Sorry, I just had pointed out to me that you had to join to leave a comment here.  I just checked the box so that anyone can now leave a comment..........OMG, what have I done?

Don't worry about me.  I'll find work glass is half full after all.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Computer Room (or 80's High Tech)

This was a set that Archie Bacon (Art Director) designed.  I don't think this one was drawn on a paper napkin!   It was pretty advanced for the time--high tech Robin Master's Estate in the 80's.I like the fact that it matches what a basement in that type of house might have been like.  That gray switching device on the wall above the printer I recognize as something that I think had been in every show I've done in Hawaii.  I know I used it on "Baywatch Hawaii" in the lifeguard station and probably used it on "LOST" at some point.  The TV monitor used a technique called a "burn in" which could make it look like something was on the screen when it was really added later.  It looked pretty good, but no one could walk in front of it.  Later came a 24 frame sync. box nd now we can do green screen and you can walk in front.  I know at some point they used a computer I bought (an Amiga!) which none of us could figure out.   I did figure out  "Crystal Hammer" which was sort of an advanced "Pong."

I don't think this set was complete when I took the photos.  I'm not sure what's happening with that entrance hall and stairs.  It looks like they are using some pre-existing walls but again, not complete.  It's kind of funny about this set.  It's like the last time I was asked to do a "surveillance van"  I said you mean like with reel to reel tape recorders?  I had to tell the producers that you can put everything you need in a briefcase (now probably an i-pod) so there goes the set--same with a computer room now.  You can buy that at Costco --but it was a great set back then in the for the 80's.  (Sorry, couldn't figure out how to get rid of a photo once it had been uploaded)


Found More Photos of Agatha's & Higgins' Rooms

Not much to say here (Wow, did I say 
that?).  Found these additional photos and thought I should post them before we get too far away from the original posts................

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Logos, Brand Names, Art work, Legal Stuff.....

I just found out about "Magnum Mania" and saw an interesting comment about "Ormel Beans" or something like that.  In TV (even back then--more so now) you cannot show any logo,  brand name, trademark image or even something like the Energizer Bunny.  It can be considered a form of advertising and/or product placement.  In feature films, there are entire product placement companies that will give you things to use if you show their label.  In fact, if you see a can of Coke in a major film, Coke probably paid $50,000 to get it there.  If they add a line, "Hey, how about a Coke?" you could probably add a couple of hundred thousand more.  It's the opposite in TV.  Show a can of Coke and you have now eliminated any possibility that Pepsi is going to buy a commercial or be a sponsor.  As was pointed out to me once,  TV shows are nothing but fillers between the commercials.  It is true if you think about it.  (sad, but true)

On Magnum, we regularly "greeked out" (no, not a racial slur) labels or logos.  I remembered on an episode where someone fell into a truck of pineapples and crashed into a display of them or something to that effect.  Dole gave me dozens of boxes with their pineapple logo and name on it.  We covered up the "D" and turned them into "Ole Pineapples."  I was worried that we could get in trouble not because we had covered up the "D", but "Ole" sounded Spanish/Mexican and Mexican pineapples were/are major competitors of Dole.  Anyway, no one said anything.  There was also an old rule (now gone) that if you showed more than 3 or 4 of something, it was ok because you weren't featuring one brand.  So a magazine rack with Time, Newsweek, etc. was ok.  Now, you can't show ANY names.  Even on "LOST" which is  ultimately a Disney owned show, we could never show anything like Mickey Mouse in a kids room.  All magazine covers were custom made and cleared that they did not exist anywhere.

As far as the art work on the walls during Magnum days, there were never any restrictions.  Anybody's art work was fair game back then.  I used Peggy Hopper since her work was"in" and   photographed well, I later used a lot of Gary Reed's and other artists.  After all, their work was being seen by millions around the world, right?   Even things like the Gaugains,  Picasso, and others used on the permanent sets were, well, just used!  How times have changed.

Any art work used on any set today is (in legal terms) considered a form of reproduction.  Even if you own an original painting or other artist created work, you will never own the actual rights to display that on a TV show any more than you could use the image on cocktail napkins or calendars.  Only the original artist or legal guardian/owner of the work can sign a release--even with museum works as well.  It has turned into a nightmare for decorators and a huge business for companies in L.A. who now rent "cleared art."  I remember doing a show once and wanted to use an artists work (who had agreed) and brought over the release for her to sign.  It was in a very  "legalese" language and even contained a clause about "theme park usage" and "forms of media not yet known" , etc.  I probably would have been scared to sign it, too.  She didn't sign.  So compared to now, Magnum was in the "good old days" for yet another reason that you now know!

There was an episode with a character who was supposed to be doing a sort of John Wayne imitation and Mr. Wayne's family controlled estate was approached about some posters or memorabilia.  That would be a NO!  Images are very protected as to when and where they can be used--not to mention what they can charge to use them.  I was having a hard time finding some black and white photos I needed for a MOW I did earlier this year.  It was getting too difficult to find and too late so I just took my own photos, ran them through photoshop and framed them.  I was warned by the producer to still sign a release for them and state that they were created on company time and with company purchased materials lest I come back later and demand compensation.   Great for artists (and lawyers), pain in the --- for decorators!  

Yet another bit of TV trivia for you to ponder..........

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Library Set from "Rapture" 60422

In looking over these photos of the mostly unfinished library set and/or being shot, I can only guess I wasn't able to be there for the completed set before the film company showed up and pulled it all apart.  That was always a challenge due to my unpredictable schedule. They pull out walls and furniture to allow for lighting equipment and the camera to film on any stage set.  They will do a "master" shot that captures the scene in a wide angle and then move in for close-ups.  It's not uncommon for an actor to be talking one!  When they edit it together, two actors are talking to each other.  Anyway, what decorator wants actors, and lighting and sound equipment covering up their set?  Sometimes there's not much time before the set is dressed and when it's being pulled apart.

What I remember most about this set was a pre-production meeting with some of the writer/producers.  I think one of them was Rueben Leder.  While discussing the look of this new set, I often was running the availability of local set dressing through my head so I wouldn't come up with an idea that I couldn't produce.  I knew that a friend of mine's father had just donated his large collection of animal heads to the Hawaii Opera Theatre prop department.  He was a contributor or they wouldn't have been too thrilled with housing this large and heavy stuffed animal collection.  I suggested various trophy animal heads for the library walls and semi-jokingly said "How about a water buffalo?"  So Rueben called my "bluffalo" (bad) and I felt kind of cocky since I knew I could supply it.  The joke was on me because I didn't know that the water buffalo head weighed a few hundred pounds!  There was no way that it could be hung on any set wall without causing it to collapse.  The carpenters had to build a whole rig to hold up the head and put the whole unit on wheels in case they needed to move the wall.  You can see it hanging crooked with 2 ladders in one photo.  I'm sure my poor crew was taking a break from trying to hang it.

I see I used my green brocade dining room chairs on the set.  I think this was a set where they decided on the day of shooting that the real library table I had in the middle of the set was too small and they wanted a larger table, NOW!  So I sent my crew to my house with the big truck and they got my very large dining room table.  It's also where the big ding in the top of my black walnut table came from--no compensation since it was the decorator's table.  Anyway, I guess it worked out fine.  The books don't look very impressive and were, in fact, real books and weighed a ton.  One of the things I did when I became decorator was to make all the books in Higgin's den fake so it was easier to move the walls.  They couldn't complain about that since it didn't really change the look--only the weight!

On this set you can see a small ceiling piece in the corner--no bigger than it needed to be for whatever scene and angle they were shooting.  You can also see a little of the catwalk system above used for overhead lighting.  I don't think we had the OSHA safety requirements that they have now or this nasty piece of engineering would have been condemned.  I think one of the reasons for the locations and shape of the permanent sets for Magnum was based on the location of the old catwalks left from the Hawaii 5-0 set days.  Higgin's Den was in the same location as McGarret's office.  In fact, their desk chairs were almost in the same exact spot!  I know that story sounds like the tail wagging the dog to have adapted the sets to the existing catwalks rather than building new ones, but I'm pretty sure what's what happened.  I think if they had changed them much, they would never have been able to use such unsafe, wooden, hanging from a ceiling system as they had.

Well, not much else is coming to mind about this set.  Again, I don't think it was used again or I would have remembered that water buffalo!  At least you got some pictures on this post.