Tag Archives: Universal Studios Theme Park

Universal Studios backlot fire

Woke up this morning at 5:30am to the sound of several loud pops, like someone slamming their car door shut over and over again. Figured it was the Times’ delivery dude making his usual racket, and though I was tempted, I somehow resisted the urge to throw open the window and bitch him out.

Then, a few minutes later, I heard helicopters. Circling. Overhead. Forever! I’m not kidding, it sounded like they were landing in our front yard. Realizing that the last few hours of my Sunday slumber were completely shot, I opened the blinds to see massive plumes of dark smoke swirling skyward.

In my groggy state, I actually entertained the notion that my “Lost” obsession had really gone too far this time and that the island’s black smoke monster was coming to take me home. But NBC4’s trusty Ted Chen quickly put those concerns to rest when he reported that a massive fire (of unknown origin) was roaring through the Universal Studio’s backlot.

And the footage he showed was insane! Flames and red hot ash shooting into the air at Universal City — which is like, minutes from our place — it looked like a Goddamn volcano! And it smelled — and continues to smell — like what it really was, burning sets, props and scads of videotapes from the Universal vault.

I know it’s terrible, but at least that big old fire on Barham last year smelled organic, you know, like trees and shit. Everywhere we went in Burbank this morning — still looking for that elusive Wii Fit — smelled like burnt plastic. And with no wind in sight, I think it’s gonna stay that way…

According to Ted Chen — who referred to the Universal-backlot-shot “Bruce Almighty” as a “classic” in his frantic, man-on-the-scene reportage this morning — the Universal videotape vault is completely backed up elsewhere, so nothing truly valuable is gone forever. That goes double for the film archive, which was nowhere near the fire. So, whew…

But, man alive, that backlot tram tour is gonna be real short ride in the next few months. With almost all of New York Street and the “Back to the Future” town square set leveled, the aerial shots look like a war zone.

Seriously, that backlot is totaled. And with the fire contained, but smoke still billowing skyward as I type, I don’t imagine there will be much to salvage anywhere on that lower lot.

But there is some good news in all this…according to the last thing I heard from my boy Ted, the MTV Movie Awards will still be taping live tonight from the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal, and despite the fact that the “King Kong” attraction was burnt to the ground, the theme park will be open for business as usual today starting at noon.

Hooray! Nothing says summer theme park fun like riding “Jurrasic Park: The Ride” with a damp towel clutched to your nose and mouth the whole time.

So, while we desperately try and make up for lost sleep — the fire is over, go home helicopters! — wanted to thank the firefighters for putting that thing out hella fast, Universal Studios Theme Park for bravely keeping your doors open to tourists (even during the worst of times!), and most of all, thank you, Ted Chen for making this morning’s chaos so, well…classic!

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“Passions” world-record!

As you may or may not know, one of our favorite shows, the twisted, supernatural sudser “Passions”, left the NBC schedule (after a bewitching 8.5 years on the air!) in September and moved to Direct TV’s subscription-only channel “The 101”.

Heidi Mueller (Kay Bennett) & Juliet Mills (Tabitha Lennox) @ PASSIONS event!

Since we don’t have Direct TV and have watched “Passions” daily since it’s inception in the summer of 1999 — come on, who wouldn’t watch a show with a talking doll and a witch? — the news of the move was kind of like the end of era, not just for us, but for our poor overworked Tivo, Snape, as well.

But just because we can’t watch “Passions” anymore, doesn’t mean that the trials and tribulations of the residents of Harmony have ended. Not by a long shot!

Emily Harper (Fancy) & Erin Cadillo (Esme) from PASSIONS

So, we were delighted to hear from a friend of mine at NBC that the bulk of the “Passions” cast was appearing at a fan event celebrating the character Tabitha’s 300th birthday (she’s one of three witches on the show) at Universal’s CityWalk.

Cast of PASSIONS @ Universal CityWalk!

Andrea Evans (Rebecca) & Kim Johnson Ulrich (Ivy) @ PASSIONS event!

Gathering as many costumed fans as they could, the producers were hoping to break a world record for most people dressed in costumes in one place. And though the crowd hardly looked big enough to break any records, the annoying dude with the mic (not a “Passions” cast member!) assured us they did.

But world records or not, the main draw for us was a chance to see all our old “Passions” favorites in person.

Cast of PASSIONS onstage @ CityWalk!

Christopher Maleki (Spike), Phillip Jeanmarie (Vincent) & McKenzie Westmore (Sheridan) from PASSIONS!

And talk about access! Security was so lax — guess they didn’t expect much of a turnout for a show that now airs exclusively on Direct TV! — that we had the rare chance to meet and greet almost all of our favorite actors from the show. Yeah!

Everyone was crazy-friendly and totally approachable, even when I called them by their character names. Yikes, stalker much? Sorry, guys.

Nicole Cox (Endora Lennox) @ PASSIONS event!

And since they were all dressed in Halloween costumes, it made the event kind of coolly seasonal too, so needless to say, we had a blast!

Below is a picture of Christine posing with her favorite villain on the show, the murderous hermaphrodite Vincent Crane, played by actor Phillip Jeanmarie. Yes, I said murderous hermaphrodite. Harmony’s full of them.

Phillip Jeanmarie (Vincent the hermaphrodite) & Christine @ PASSIONS event!

And I managed to pose not just with the super chill Justin Hartley — who originated the role of Fox Crane and has since appeared on “Smallville” and in the short-lived-cult-favorite “Aquaman” on the WB — but also with the Golden Globe award-winning actress (daughter of Oscar-winner Sir John Mills, sister of Hayley) and witch of the hour, Juliet Mills (Tabitha Lennox).

Wow…all that was missing was a pitcher of Martimmies! So cool!

Me & Justin Hartley (the original and best Fox Crane) @ PASSIONS event!

Juliet Mills (Tabitha) & Me @ PASSIONS event!

Although we couldn’t stay for the autograph signing afterwards, we did get to see the Guinness folks take a group photo for the record books and got so many great pics of our own, that it hardly mattered.

All in all, a great send off to one of our favorite shows! Vaya con dios, “Passions”!

Marianne Muellerleile (Crazy Norma) from PASSIONS!

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