When Mrs Laurel and I had a few days in Los Angeles following a cruise in early 2015, to my embarrassment, I never gave a thought to the obvious opportunity to visit some of the locations that the Boys made so famous. That was until the taxi to the airport drove through Culver City when the light bulb went on, by which time it was already too late. At this point if I could have, I would have kicked myself.
So when the opportunity came to visit the area again, the decision was an easy one, so prior research was undertaken and plans were put in place to maximise the limited time I would be allowed - around several apparently essential shopping trips etc!
We drove into Los Angeles on Wednesday August 31st 2016 from the north on route 101 and I already knew that the 'Music Box' steps were just off this freeway and Sunset Blvd in the Silver Lake district of LA, so the location I had wanted to visit ever since I saw the masterpiece as a boy naturally became the priority. The area to the left as you look upwards is now built up, but the steps are largely unchanged other than a lot of foliage and a metal rail has been added presumably at the behest of the health and safety brigade. They can be found between 923 - 925 North Vendome Street, Silver Lake LA, though when we arrived the approach had been closed for road works so some swift GPS recalculation and an observant daughter were very welcome.
I had really wanted to park at the house opposite where Ollie stopped the cart carrying the piano which is also still there so I could utter the immortal "steady Susie" to Mrs L, despite anticipating the inevitable (and hoped for) reaction 'I'll steady you in a minute, and don't call me Susie'. Alas, it was not to be; no space, and even if there had been, her knowledge of the films is very limited (a total lack of interest will do that), so a play on a quote from 'Perfect Day' would be a little too much to expect.
The climb to the non-existent house 'up thur at the top of the stoop' was more challenging than I thought, though this was more down to the 96 degree heat than my total lack of fitness! I meant to - but forgot - count the steps to prove I'd done it. There are 131 apparently.
While at the steps, we met a couple from Merseyside who were doing a similar tour, but in their case with Fin in mind. Their daughter who was showing a similar level of enthusiasm as Mrs L can be seen sitting on the steps in one of my 'now' photographs. One thing I was amazed by - and I could be wrong - but that really looks like the same lamp in between the two garages that was there in 1932!
Just over 3 miles to the south is the alleyway between the 'We Faw Down' apartment buildings. Stan reused this location - and virtually the whole climactic scene - for the final sequence of Blockheads. This can be found at 2914 West 8th Street LA and has changed hugely since the movies were shot. The grass and foliage has now been replaced by concrete and car parking grids, (which were virtually full when we were there) and iron railings now cover the entrance that Stan and Ollie ran into. The building at the back of the alley has also been rebuilt.
The mansion used as Colonel Buckshot's residence in 'Another Fine Mess' is only a couple of miles away and was a location I knew I would find but was not expecting to be able to see very well as it is set well back from the road and behind railings. However, a large film crew were there on the day and I struck up a conversation with one of the security guards - a retired member of LAPD's finest and a really nice chap who knew that the property had been used in a number of films, but not that a Laurel and Hardy short was one of these. After pointing out that I was illegally parked, he thoughtfully suggested that I might also want to go just up the road to the Music Box steps, which was very kind of him...
I asked what was being filmed and he told me that some CBS show that I won't have heard of (and probably never would) had just wrapped for the day, and while he couldn't get me into the house he could certainly take me to the entrance - including the steps that Stan and Ollie ran down in the wildebeest costume before they pinched the bicycle. I didn't need to be asked twice, and as you can see, there is virtually no change to the facade of the property. It stands at 3500 West Adams Blvd, LA.
The steps were mostly covered to protect them from the feet of the crew, but an interesting coincidence is that the picture I took in front of the steps has a vehicle parked on either side of them, just like in the 'then' still. I hadn't realised that at the time, but it is funny how things come together.
At this point, I began to sense a degree of impatience from a certain shopping mall deprived individual, and bowed to the inevitable. 'Twas ever thus