This week I thought I would rewind the clock and take you on a trip I made to Hollywood in the late 1980s.
I went to gain support for the under-threat Elstree Studios as I was chairman of the campaign to save it. I hasten to add that I paid for myself, as my old Gran always said free rides come back to haunt you. Indeed when we took over the Studio in 1996 the council owners offered me a free trip to Hollywood to promote the studio at an event I thought was a waste of time so I declined. Indeed one day I will be tempted to reveal all the intrigues that went into saving Elstree Studios.
Read more: Tales from the casting couch in Hollywood’s golden age
I digress and alas my old Gran never saw Elstree Studios saved. She was struck by a violent attack of flatulence at the top of her stairs and, taken by surprise, fell down the stairs to her death. She is buried in Mortlake cemetery with a tomb stone that reads ‘wherever you be let your wind go free as that was the cause of the death of me’.
Anyway, on my Hollywood trip I was invited to meet an upcoming star called Michael J Fox and watch a television recording of his hit show Family Ties at Paramount Studios. To be honest I was more interested to sit on a sound stage that once played host to those womderful RKO musicals starring Fred and Ginger. Paramount had bought the adjoining facilities and merged them. Michael was a lovely chap and was soon launched to movie stardom with the Back To The Future movies. These days I am one of the yesterday people so would never be allowed to meet a star. I was invited back to Hollywood last year by a friend who lives there but I would hate that long flight. I went several times but it is often a mistake to revisit your past.
Next to Paramount Studios is a famous celebrity cemetery called Hollywood Forever – well worth a visit if you are a movie buff. It enabled me to stand next to the likes of Rudolph Valentino, Peter Finch and even the gangster Bugsy Seigel, who created Las Vagas before the Mob shot him to death in his Hollywood home, which I also visited. I undertook that seedy side of Tinseltown trip in a converted hearse and it was great fun both for past scandal sites and a bladder stop at the public toilet where George Michael was arrested. There were only six of us in this luxury scandal tour hearse and two of them were from New York. It was weird to learn that they were both fans of EastEnders and could not believe I came from Borehamwood where it was shot.
After the trip finished they invited me out to a plush nightspot and footed the bill, so regarding the gravy train well what can I say. Perhaps one day we can do location tours around Elstree Studios locations as what they now call ‘movie tourism’ can be a big boost to the local economy. Until next time take care.
- Paul Welsh MBE is a Borehamwood writer and historian of Elstree Studios