A trip to California is one of the highlights of life to anyone born on the East Coast. It is such a difference from the uptight culture that rules this area. I have been lucky enough to make several trips to the West Coast. To quote Randy Newman: “I Love L.A.” I normally stayed well north of the city, usually in the area of Ventura or Santa Barbara. It is a wonderful drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, past Pepperdine and Zuma Beach. Then, a left on Sunset Boulevard and follow that right into the city. That has always been my favorite route.
On my last visit, I took a little side trip.
In the early 1930’s, Hollywood underwent an enormous transition. Silent films were out. Talking pictures became the source of box office revenue. Many actors and actresses who were popular as silent film stars were unable to make the jump to talking pictures. The lucky ones found jobs behind the camera. The unfortunate ones found little work and ended up on the street.
Hollywood did not forget their family and Old Actor’s Homes were created to care for those down on their luck. Many a forgotten starlet survived thanks to the generosity of the famous and the wealthy.
And so, somewhere, lost on Sepulveda, near Pico, I came across a large Victorian building surrounded by wrought iron fencing and a large gate anchored into brick columns. The sign out front told the story.
It read; “Scary Plains, Where the Frightening Find Rest.”
I had stumbled on a home for down and out monsters!
I parked the car about a block away and walked back. There was an intercom at the gate. I pressed the button and waited for a reply.
“Yes-s-s-s?” a voice hissed through the speaker.
“Excuse me, sir,” I said. “Am I to understand that this is a home for Hollywood monsters?”
“Who would like to know?” the response came.
I identified myself and told them I was with Bloody Whisper and would like to do a story on Scary Plains. My request was met with some silence. For a moment, I thought that I would be turned away. Suddenly, the latch on the gate clicked and they began to creak open.
There was a sign that pointed to the office. I followed it. For a nice day, there was little activity on the grounds. I noticed numerous lawn chairs in a wide range of shapes and sizes. I was greeted at the door by a man in a white lab coat.
“Welcome, sir,” he said politely. “My name is Dr. Lawrence Talbot. I am the head physician here at Scary Plains. You say you are with Bloody Whisper?”
I answered in the affirmative.
“Several of our residents read that website. Do you know Brundlefly Joe?”
I had to admit that I never had the pleasure.
“Oh, we just love his coverage of ‘Scream Queens,’ he said. “It’s so much better than that ‘iZombie’ show.”
I quickly tried to change the subject.
“Could you tell me a little about Scary Plains?”
“Well let’s see. Scary Plains was built in the late 1920’s, just before “The Jazz Singer” came out and changed everything. By that time, there were several monsters whose careers were over even before talkies. Some of the film community got together and had this place built for their benefit. As the years went on, we’ve expanded. Many of the residents’ peers have been contributors to the upkeep of this facility. Why, the King Kong Grant alone keeps our doors open most of the year. Whatever else we need is usually provided by the Godzilla Charitable Trust. That is the great thing about monsters: they never forget.”
I could hardly believe what I was being told. Here were creatures that had leveled cities and pushed humanity to the brink of extinction, and they still found time to care for their fellow thespians that had fallen on hard times.
“Would it be possible to get a tour?” I asked.
“I don’t see why not. I do have some new residents registering in about two hours, but that should be enough time for a tour.”
Dr. Talbot led me down a hall.
“You should meet one of our oldest resident. He’s been here for nearly a hundred years.”
I was led to a door with the name “Harry Golem” on it. The doctor knocked.
“Harry, are you decent?” he asked and he poked his head in.
He opened the door enough for the two of us to enter. And there, seated on a reinforced chair, flicking though the channels on his television with a remote was the Golem from the silent era.
“Harry, as you know, was in a number of films in the 1910’s and the 1920’s. He was pretty famous in Germany during that time. But, with the war and the anti-German sentiment in the States, he failed to have the cross-over success that others had. So his roles dried up.”
Harry turned slowly and looked at me. He nodded sadly.
“The last work he had was a small cameo in that Roddy McDowell movie ‘It,’ which featured a younger Golem. Not that Harry didn’t try out for the role; he did. But, the producer wanted to go with someone younger and less stiff. He was quite grateful that his small shot in the film didn’t end up on the cutting room floor.”
I thanked Harry for his time. He nodded again and then went back to his remote and the television. As I left, I found that he had finally settled on “Deal or No Deal.”
“It really is a shame,” I said. “I loved the movie ‘Der Golem.’ He was great in it.”
“Yes, he was. You know, he never talks about those days. I think it is too painful for him.”
I reminded the doctor that the Golem never spoke in any of his films. He thought for a moment and agreed that that could also be why he never talked about his career.
Another door was marked “Mr. Gillman.” Dr. Talbot knocked and it was answered by a sound that was part growl and part gurgle.
As we entered, the doctor warned me; “Just call him Mr. Gillman. He thinks the other name that people call him is insulting.”
I looked and there standing, drying himself off with a towel was the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
“Isn’t he–” I began, but was quickly cut off.
“Mr. Gillman,” the doctor insisted.
Gillman raised his hand, or claw, toward me. I grabbed it and shook it. It was like being offered a wet flounder. It was not only cold, wet and slimy, it stunk too.
“We’re only going to stay a moment, Mr. Gillman,” Dr. Talbot said. “We know how busy you are.”
“Busy?” I asked.
“Oh, yes. Mr. Gillman is working on a script for the movie that will be his comeback. You know, he hasn’t had a starring role since 1956. But that is all going to change, isn’t it Mr. Gillman?”
Gillman nodded vehemently. He turned and went back to a typewriter I’d failed to notice off in the corner. He sat down and began typing.
“We should go,” the doctor whispered. “He won’t even notice us now.”
As we left, the doctor shook his head.
“Poor thing,” he said sadly. “He’s been working on that script since 1968.”
We moved on through other hallways seeing others who were hopeful that their turn would come again. We passed some Critters, who hadn’t worked steady since the early 1990’s. The Fly was found at the cafeteria. Of course, he had his own table due to his eating habits. He hadn’t seen a paycheck since he consulted on “The Fly II” back in 1989. We then passed a room where the sign was being taken off the door.
I asked about it.
“Oh, that’s where the Blob lived,” the doctor remarked. “Did you know their making a new film in 2016? And he’s the star. He was so excited when he found out; he ingested two of our interns.”
Shortly, we left the building and I found myself in a garden with numerous statues.
“This is our Garden of Remembrance. There are monuments to all those who’s time ended before they would have a chance to make that big comeback.”
He began pointing out some of them.
“This giant toe is a tribute to The Amazing Colossal Man, who was only in two movies. The producer killed him off in the second film, so, no more sequels. This is a fang from The Spider. He had a small role in “Big Ass Spider,” but any money he made was immediately turned over to the Internal Revenue Service to pay his back taxes. When he went, he owed the government millions.”
Suddenly, the peace was broken by some loud roaring and other unearthly calls.
“We’d better get in,” Dr. Talbot said. “We don’t want to be around when those two get started.”
“Who?” I inquired.
“Mothra and Rodan,” he said. “Those two are furious. With the current success from the “Godzilla” reboot, they thought that they’d be in one of his pictures. But the phone didn’t ring. All of Mothra’s money from his “Rebirth” trilogy went to pay alimony for his five ex-wives. And Rodan made some “Second Banana” appearances with Godzilla back in the early 2000’s, but he always felt he should have his own film series. Godzilla kept promising him, but nothing has happened so far.”
The doctor looked at his watch.
“Oh, my,” he exclaimed. “Where did the time go? I have new residents coming in. I have to get to the office. If you follow me, I’ll show you out.”
We hurried along to the office, which was empty.
“Oh, good, they haven’t arrived yet. I hope you liked the tour.”
I told him I did and thanked him for his time.
As I was heading to the door, I passed what had to be the new resident. I heard Dr. Talbot’s voice in the background.
“Ah, Mr. Pinhead! Welcome to Scary Plains. Can I call you Pin?”