Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lights, Camera, Action! The Magic of Hollywood Comes to Canoga Park

by Charlotte Rudnick, Quilt staff


The creative forces of Hollywood, California, the third most popular movie-making capital of the world - after only North Carolina and Canada - made a rare visit to the West Valley today, specifically to the streets of Valerio, Deering and Eton in the residustrial Valeerington section of Canoga Park, to “shoot” portions of a television program in and around the nearby homes, muffler shops and pipeyards. 

According to industry sources, the results will be edited and, later, broadcast over television.

Yet Valerio Street, already befettered with steel plates, traffic cones and parking restrictions due to ongoing work on the Canoga Park Dial-Up Access Initiative (See the Quilt, 4/11/14 edition - ed.) was no more the worse for wear with the addition of a few extra detour signs and temporary No Parking placards. Indeed, those working on the production made sure to erect “All Businesses Open” signs so potential customers heading to one of the area’s many local sandblasteries to have their blue jeans artificially weathered were in luck - all were open as usual. 

And what of the production itself?

“They’re taping Wilfred today,” says Golden Time Security traffic coordinator Nick “Junior” Szalay in between chatting with a production assistant, or p.a., via walkie-talkie. “And I’m going to need you to stay behind these cones here, ma’am. ...No, just a couple pedestrians. We’ll be okay in about twenty seconds. There’s a UPS truck coming that’s going to make some noise, but after it passes, you’re good to go, over.”

Setting up for Wilfred's "on-location" filming. Photo: Parker Glassport for the Quilt.
A half-block up the street, a crew of about a dozen ready the “scene” as a handful of actors mill about in the alley. While some of the cast look vaguely familiar, the genial, mustachioed septuagenarian, star of Cocoon, The Firm and Mutant Species is nowhere to be seen.

Who? No, ma’am - Wilfred. Wilfred. It’s on FX...?  Show with the guy in the dog suit? Stars Elijah Wood. Really, I’ve got to keep an eye on traffic here, I can’t keep answering quest--  Hey I just told you - you have to stay behind these cones, lady. They’re here for a reason.”

Our interview is interrupted by the frantic honking of a car horn followed by the squealing of tires - and as though by magic, the movement up the street immediately stops as all heads turn southward. A second later, the security guard’s walkie-talkie crackles to life with an angry voice demanding to know what is going on.

A detour sign conveniently leads a curious public away from road
work and towards the filming location.  Photo: Parker Glassport.
“Some asshole snapping pictures with his phone backed into the street without looking and a car nearly hit him. ...Yes, I know how Randall gets. I’m getting rid of them right now, over... You two need to keep moving. This is a closed set, we have all the permits, and you see that cop up there on the motorcycle? I say the word and he’s down here ticketing both of you for interfering with--”

Perhaps the beloved actor and reported cockfight enthusiast could be found elsewhere: The production takes over roughly two blocks of the neighborhood, and, in the parking lot of a collision-repair shop along Valerio, a row of canopies has been erected with long tables and chairs set up underneath. His role as a public advocate for diabetes awareness being well-known, it seems plausible that the 8-time Waltons guest star might be here, maybe snacking on a delicious Milky Way or chewy 5th Avenue candy bar to elevate his blood sugar before his next big scene, or depending on his numbers, slurping down some wholesome and bland Quaker oatmeal to lower it.

Ladders, brooms and chairs are among the items needed to make a TV show.  The red
box at the right is a mystery, but may contain life-giving insulin. Photo: P. Glassport.
“Oh, we’re not ready to serve lunch for another hour yet, but there’s the craft service table over there with all kinds of snacks and bottled water,” says Eileen Grange, server with It’s A Wonderful Lunch Production Catering. “ are with the show, right? Um...if you’ really need to go. What are your names? Look, I can call over to Junior and he has a list. If you’re not supposed to be here, you’re going to get in trouble. One time they arrested these--”

Back on the sidewalk, local residents offer conflicting accounts of the whereabouts of the 79-year old star of such coloned titles as Cocoon: The Return, Where the Red Fern Grows: Part Two and Ewoks: Battle for Endor.

“Yeah I know Wilfredo,” says a man on a bicycle who stops briefly to chat, “He lives one block that way, mein. It’s the second building after the corner, last apartment on the left. Upstairs. He’ll hook you up, mein, whatever you need.”

A young woman taking her daughter for a walk disagrees. 

“I don’t think it’s 'Wilford,' no. It's 'Clifford,'" Melia Strobl of Variel Avenue tells the Quilt, "They’re doing Clifford the Big Red Dog, I think. I saw a man in the dog suit, but it was gray. I think they change it to red using the computer, after [filming]." Nodding to her two-year old staring up curiously from her stroller, she continues, “Elizabeth, she watches it on PBS Kids. Not Wilford. It’s called Clifford. It's about this dog. This big, red dog.”

Two unidentified characters from The Wilford Show look "off-camera," likely towards
the show's star who is probably riding a horse while checking his blood sugar.  Photo: FX
Even if the co-star of such TV movies as Murder In Space and Rodeo Girl managed to elude our cameras, fans of the erstwhile Gus Witherspoon (Our House, NBC 1986-88) can be sure that the Wilfred cameras were rolling right here in Canoga Park today. Like many Quilt readers, we’ll be tuning in to see our beloved friend on the small screen again when he returns in all his gruff but lovable glory on June 25th on FXX. It's the right thing to do.

Correction: Eating Quaker Oatmeal has been shown to lower cholesterol, not blood sugar. We regret the error.

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