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EST. SEPTEMBER 8th, 1997
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    Random Poll: Just how big is big momma?

    a) Big momma is so big, she can get group insurance rates.
    b) Big momma is so big, she gets clothes in three sizes: extra large, jumbo and oh-my-god-it's-coming-towards-us!
    c) Big momma is so big, when she gets on the scale it says 'to be continued.'
    d) Actually, big momma is so big, when she gets on the scale it says 'One at a time, please!'
    e) Hey... uh - the movie is about 'Big Momma' not 'Yo Mama'. Get your head out of the toilet.

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    Extended Special Report [A Story of Passion, Controversy, Espionage, and the LAPD ... all Up In There N’ Stuff] - Page 2

    Perusing the Alleyways of Paramount

    Thy Gates that leadeth into Paramount.
    Paramount would be our first studio tour and having traveled from all 360 corners of the globe, we were certainly looking to be impressed. We set out during the early hours of the day packed in mini-vans like limp sardines as we were trucked from our North Hollywood hotel to the parking lots outside of Paramount.

    Filing one after the other in what would become recognized as “the herd”, we entered Paramount in routine fashion which involved repetitive metal detection and full strip searches. The group of 50-something individuals was split into two smaller parties after we briefly shopped in Paramount’s studio store and dropped a collective $50,000 sum into the pockets of their merchandising division.

    The view down the front avenue of Paramount.
    As I’m only capable of being in any one location at any time, I can only speak for one of these groups in respect to their Paramount touring experience - up in there n’ things. Our guide, a stocky, shorter woman whose age I can’t even begin to estimate (as much as she could have been 18 - she could have been 65 and retired), would make for interesting conversation throughout our tour of the facilities. Her uncanny ability to describe thousands of details surrounding locations within the studio and its extended history in film by using only a few select descriptive terms, such as: over there, over here, up in there, n’ things, and n’ stuff - simply amazed me to no end. It is under her guidance that I learned bits and pieces about Paramount’s business that I could have never gotten from anywhere else, such as this behind-the-scenes investigative insight that she offered us while showing us a set for one of their television programs, “Now, over there, that’s where the cast does their thang in there, next to the fake walls up in there... over there n’ stuff.” But, I found myself thoroughly educated when she explained the usage of a small park within the confines of the lot “over there and up in there ...*long pause* ... n’ things ...*longer pause* ... n’ stuff.” I was thankful that she was able to get all of her thoughts in on that one. Really - I do her true style of communication very little justice.

    A few of Paramount's Best Picture Oscars.
    Paramount’s tour covered a large part of their lot where we moved from the set of Kiss Me Guido which is a sitcom (“situation comedy”, a concept that was first instituted with I Love Lucy) brought in to finish off the season of the original time-slot holder that was cancelled. We also ventured into another stage area where construction workers were hard at work building an apartment to be included in an upcoming Tom Cruise movie. I can’t recall the name of the movie at this time, but the film is so far out there that it was not possible to locate the name of the film at various locations across the Internet.

    Since we were not able to get into the set of Frasier (they raised their mighty fists and turned us away), our guide promised to show us Kelsey Grammer’s car instead. Well, that didn’t happen either - but instead she showed us a Mercedes of Mel Gibson’s (who is only 5’4, by the way - and I’ve seen his wardrobe to prove it). I refused to believe that Mel drove anything other than old American muscle cars in post-nuclear war scenarios, so I wasn’t quick to be convinced - but that’s something different all together.

    Our tour guide showed us the likes of the Entertainment Tonight, Soul Train, and Star Trek: Voyager sets as well as looks at some of the props that go into these shows. I walked away with memories of my 3rd grade art class. Oh, how the camera lies so well.

    Martin Blythe of Paramount.
    After saying good-bye to our tour guide, not only were some of us longing to hear her speak the ways of the Paramount world in her wild tongue, many of us were longing more to sit down in a Paramount conference room and finally talk DVD. Enter stage-left head PR guy, Martin Blythe, who began his DVD career directing the DVD PR flow at Buena Vista before taking the reigns at Paramount. Martin is a classy guy who takes his work seriously and genuinely does what he can to make sure our voices are heard and in turn get the information from Paramount that we can. Now “can” is the keyword here. It becomes increasingly clear that Paramount doesn’t let Martin be as forthcoming as we would like. Such are the ways of company politics. Aside from discussing upcoming Paramount releases, Martin touched briefly on a few topics. In particular he mentioned Paramount’s stand-point on Special Edition’s and how they avoid to term particular releases as “special editions”, but that they simply include all relevant materials they have for any title they release to DVD. Martin also talked about re-visiting earlier releases that did not contain anamorphic transfers and that it was very likely that re-releases of these titles would become available in the future. He had no comment on Paramount’s plans for DTS tracks at this time. Finally, when asked about Paramount’s stance towards rental pricing with DVD, Martin responded with a sullen “no comment”, surely foreshadowing of the future. Full DVD release details will be discussed in the ‘Studio Day 2000’ section.

    Finally, after falling behind and losing all hope that I would ever see home again (I had been talking privately with Martin and lost the group), my traveling partner and I used what logic we had left and tracked them down where we treated ourselves to lunch in Paramount’s cafe.

    Star Sightings:

    William Sadler, Actor. [Heywood of Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, Roswell (TV)]
    Mel Gibson’s Mercedes-Benz, gold and parked in a reserved space.

    Walking with Warner

    Warner Bros. Studio from the outside.
    Warner Bros. DVD PR people either couldn’t or didn’t want to take the time to talk to us, but that was fine with just about every one of the people present as we couldn’t have enjoyed the tour we went on through their lot any more than we did. Since there was a lot of ground to cover, it could have been a long, drawn out, grueling process to cover as much square-footage in the time that we did, but it was our tour guide who certainly made the experience an enjoyable one from start to finish. Tour guide John Boylan’s (with a military background and from what I heard through the grapevine, 30 years of experience at Warner alone since the beginning of their private tours) dry and witty sense-of-humor and endless historic knowledge kept a large chunk of us fighting for a front spot next to him so that we could hear everything he had to share - and this guy had a story for everything. John is certainly a terrific character through-and-through and handled this very large group with relative ease and control. Warner Bros. offers 2-hour private tours at a hefty expense of $26 per person, but with John on board, it was certainly worth it.

    Tour guide John leads the way through the backlots of Warner.
    We were an active bunch that day. The group tackled a lifetime’s worth of touring throughout Warner that is unparalleled by most Olympic marathon runners. Warner’s personal museum would be the first stop we’d make and it was there I soon would discover that celebrities of the past and present are of extremely small proportions. This conclusion is based on closely identifying with the costumes that were draped over mannequins of varying sizes to fit the clothes. From Mel Gibson to Brad Pitt to Tom Cruise to Jody Foster to Marilyn Monroe - these people were small!

    Our tour took us into a building that housed a famous soundstage used over and over by some of the most famous composers of past and present. Upon evaluating how much money might have been invested in that room, my brain came back with an overwhelming “E” for “Error” - like what a calculator might return when it can’t produce a result that high. John next ushered us into a large theater where sound-mixing for an upcoming movie was actively going on. Once our large group was situated within the room, our jaws simultaneously dropped as we stared on in awe of the very large screen three Academy Award winning (for Matrix) soundmixers were using to accompany them as they casually LISTENED to their work. Oh, and the excerpt of footage they were working with comes from an upcoming film called Proof of Life with Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan.

    Set of E.R.
    The remaining portion of the tour (a very large chunk) had us perusing the various outdoor stage locations for hundreds of Warner Bros. films - from New York Street to a small suburban neighborhood which housed the likes of the family from Growing Pains to Boss Hog in Dukes of Hazard. We traveled around and into the set of E.R. that possesses a true beauty only skin deep. We walked through Warner’s personal, constantly changing wilderness that potentially provides them a convenient backdrop for Vietnam or thick swamp lands if the need arises. This tropical forest, which houses several hundred species of plant NOT native to California, seems oddly out of place, but not nearly as much as did the ghost town we stumbled upon next. This locale was the home to a number of Westerns in its time as well as the location where an unnamed camera man called Mel Gibson a “shorty” behind his back on the set of Maverick - ah, well - tour guide John can tell you the rest of that story.

    Eventually our tour would take us to the set of West Wing, the shooting stage for Spielberg’s A.I., a warehouse full of millions of dollars worth of rentable furniture and other antiquities that Warner had purchased from various studios over the years, a million dollar basketball court that had been given to George Clooney as a token of Warner’s appreciation for his work, and a whole lot more which I’ll just let John fill you in on when you get your shot at the studio.

    Drew Carey's parking spot complete with Drew Carey's Porsche.
    Footnote: I hope that none of what I wrote here will get ‘tour guide’ John in trouble with his boss, should he read this. John took careful precaution throughout the duration of the tour to insure our own well-being, safety, and he exercised a healthy dosage of confidentiality on part of Warner when was apparently necessary.

    Star Sightings:

    Alex Kingston, Actress. [Dr. Elizabeth Corday of E.R. (TV), and the better known Cook the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover]
    James Michael Tyler, Actor. [Gunther of Friends (TV)]
    Drew Carey's Porsche, Maroon and Parked.
    George Clooney, some dude. - just kidding, despite hearing about him in every other sentence coming out of our tour guide’s mouth, we never saw him.

    After Hours, Part 2

    It had been a long day of traveling by foot. Between my buddy and I, our feet resembled badly beaten prunes that had been left in a refrigerator down in a dark cellar for too long. Maybe it had something to do with our cheap shoes, though we can’t remember - we burned them shortly thereafter. Despite our need to see a qualified foot doctor, my buddy and I decided to locate the first nice Mexican restaurant we came across for some quality L.A. food and a few margaritas (to calm that growing self-pity again).

    Many of the other attendees worked their way over to Universal’s City Walk to drop in to the IMAX theater there for a showing of Matrix on the big screen. Two hours later and the individuals who had witnessed this marvel were raving about the splendid presentation.

    Two hours later - we were still looking for that Mexican restaurant and ready to pull each other’s hair out.

    Starting our journey in North Hollywood, somehow on a busy Thursday night, we found ourselves in a bad part of town near Santa Monica beach - and never touched rubber on a highway. It was pushing 10pm and a good part of what was opened was starting to close and call it a night. So, short of killing one another over not being able to decide on a restaurant (he wanted Italian or Japanese, I wanted Indian or Thai - we both wanted Mexican, but those sort of restaurants don’t seem to exist in L.A. county), we finally settled for Coco’s. And when you walk in and out of a place and fear food poisoning before and after the meal, you know you’re still capable of making really bad decisions with your stomach.

    That night our senses had built an amazing tolerance to noise pollution thus the blazingly active freeway was but a mere whisper floating throughout the room. Of course, if we opened the door to the balcony, we would be thrown 15 feet into the back wall. We avoided the balcony - unless one of us was mad at the other.

    A view outside our hotel window that evening.
    Our new found ability to generate peace and quiet was all the better for us to further enjoy the events that were about to happen next. Sleeping quietly in our beds, causing a minor tussle by rolling over from time to time, our filter for the freeway seemed suddenly to fail us. Blast! We had not accounted for the possibility of drive-by backfirings. But, in fact - this was not the case. After hearing a series of what was six or seven loud BANGS, we deciphered that something was clearly wrong and that what we heard was not a Ford Pinto on a good day, but the sound of bullets being dislodged from guns in a major way. Of course, we ran to our window (thankfully we did not trip and fall in the dark, I had forgotten to turn the lights on) and peered out to see what was the cause of all this chaos. A dozen police officers were running this way and that in the parking lot between our 3rd floor room at the end of the building and the major vain of cars on the other side of the fence. Police cars soon followed as they tore threw the lot. I sweated my own form of bullets as each one came increasingly close to our parked car below. All I needed now to top things off, was a small blonde girl to walk in and proclaim, “Theeeeey’re BAAAaaaack!”

    Grief-stricken, here is me hoping our car hasn't been shot.
    For those that care, it later turns out that the police had been pursuing a vehicle from outside of the county which, of course, ended in a foot-chase in our hotel parking lot. The police pursued the individual to within feet of our hotel room before he chose to open fire on people who were likely much more trained in getting their bullets to their target. Suffice to say, down about a block from the hotel, the escaping individual met an end that will not afford him another chance to make a series of better decisions should he had faced a similar scenario again.

    But the LATE LATE Show was on and maybe Florida had closure after their 12th recount. We flipped on the TV and didn’t sleep for awhile.

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