Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Thursday, November 11, 2010


High atop groovy Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills, there is a street and a section named Lookout Mountain.  It's rather aptly named, as it turns out, and not only in the context of the spectacular vistas.  The name also works if you shift the meaning more to the kind used in the Shangri-La's epic 1964 hit "Leader Of The Pack".  You know, the part right after she begs him to go slow, she screams "lookout, Lookout, LOOKOUT!!"

On the one hand you have the rustic, unmatched beauty of a steep hillside that has been a draw to the creative and famous since the beginning of filmdom:  Clara Bow, Tom Mix, Garbo, Harry Houdini, Bessie Love.  You also have the birth of the Hippies with Vito Paulekas, Szou (his wife), Carl Orestes Franzoni (his constant sidekick) and their legion of followers.  And finally, as everybody knows, you have the birth of the Southern California 1960s rock explosion with residents, Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Frank Zappa, Jim Morrison, Stephen Stills, The Mamas and The Papas, The Byrds, Love, Little Feat, The Lovin' Spoonful, The Association, Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, The Monkees, Van Dyke Parks, and on and on.

There were darker forces too.  Over the years there's also been a string of suspicious suicides and grizzly murders, most famous of which were Ramon Navarro and the Wonderland Murders.  And come to find out, it wasn't just young girls who were comin' to the Canyon.

Into this heady, theatrical mix of star dust, astrology and acid trips, whom do you think would be the least likely occupant to enjoy a stay of thirty years?  Could it be, dare I say, The Military/Intelligence Complex!?!?!

Originally occupied in 1941 the 2.5 acre property was used as an air defense station.  However, from 1947 until 1969 (supposedly, though some say years later), it was a secret government film studio, perhaps the world's only completely self-contained movie studio. With 100,000 square feet of floor space, the covert studio included sound stages, screening rooms, film processing labs, editing facilities, an animation department, and seventeen climate-controlled film vaults. It also had underground parking, a helicopter pad and a bomb shelter.  While operational, the studio produced some 19,000 classified motion pictures.  The facility retained as many as 250 producers, directors, technicians, editors, animators, etc., both civilian and military, all with top security clearances - and all reporting to work in a secluded corner of Laurel Canyon.  To date, only a few dozen of it's film products have been declassified.

Imagine, cold war shenannigans and Cass Elliot, Peter Fonda and Jim Morrison all happily coexisting!

Mitchell, Crosby and Clapton hangin' in Cass Elliot's backyard, 1968


normadesmond said...


Avram Marian - Gabriel ( Graham ) said...

You've seen the movie of Jim Morrison Last day?
I've seen on http://jim-morrison-fanclub.blogspot.com/
It's strange the death of the Lizard King.
What you think?

punxxi said...

I know this isn't really the place for it, but since I didn't see a comment area on the FIHT blog, the kids absolutely loved your tour and tell me I should take it next time I'm in Cali. Jym says he is going to post your link whereever he can...I think that is a very good recommendation,eh?

FelixInHollywood said...

Jym and his family are terrific and we had a blast on the tour. Now get YOUR butt out here - we have Hollywood history to discover!

Stephen said...

What a fascinating post...you never disappoint. This post makes me wish I could drive around the canyons & explore again, like I used to do in the 1970s.
Do you suppose the Military Studio ever made a musical? Maybe "Bombs Away!" ?