We went to Universal Studios a few weeks ago. I hadn’t been in years, but we had family visiting and we wanted to do something fun.
As we planned our day, I went back into my photo album from the 1980s and took a photo of me back in the day when I was a tour guide there. I sent it to my kids, and they’re like, “Mom, we know, and you were a stage host, too.” Ah, the simplicity of a summertime job. I worked there for two years, during the summer and on the holiday weekends. I was in college back then so my break between semesters allowed me to do so. I still lived at home and had nary a care in the world.
I was there back in the day when Jack Wagner was on his way to becoming famous. Ed Masterson was also a tour guide and continued in the industry and became very successful. In fact, in 2019 he was voted SCV Man of The Year.
For many of us, it was a “stepping stone” to continue in the industry and develop careers in the “biz.” I loved being a tour guide, but when I graduated college my dad said, “Get a real job!”
When our family was recently visiting, it was nice to see how Universal Studios had changed over the years. There were so many new rides, and especially ones for kids, from The Minions to The Secret Life of Pets, and even a visit from a dinosaur in the Jurassic Park area in full view and walking around. One of the newest attractions was The Mario Brothers and everyone who went in that area looked like they were having the time of their life.
We decided to take the tour. It was about an hour long. It brought back so many memories from when I once was sitting at the front of the tram, with my microphone in hand and sharing with the crowd. One of my cliché moments would be when we’d pass by the “Psycho” house where Norman Bates’ mother allegedly was living while he worked at the Bates Motel. If you recall, Norman’s mother was dead, and we find that out at the end of the movie. I would take my microphone and point to the “Psycho” house, and I’d say, “Do you know what the road leading up to that house is called?” and then I’d say, “The Psychopath!” and the tourists would laugh.
The tour was fun. We all got 3-D glasses to wear when the tram went into the tunnels and “King Kong” and “Fast and Furious” were among the stunning and exciting visuals. The “Jaws” attraction was still there, with the same effects that I remember from years ago. It was a fun day to say the least and to me it seemed a lot less expensive to go there than some of the other theme parks in Southern California.
Ah, the memories abounded. I recalled that if we were driving on the back lot and a bunch of crows or ravens were there, I’d say, there’s the cast of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds.” It was a magical time and while we were given a tour guide’s notebook that was our script for the tour, it allowed each of us to also inject our humor for the guests.
At times actors like David Hasselhoff were on the back lot filming “Knight Rider” and I even became friends with Jon Erik Hexum, the actor who accidentally shot himself with a prop gun during the filming of “Cover Up.” Even though it was a blank cartridge, the impact of that blank hitting his head caused a fracture, forcing a bone fragment into his brain that caused severe hemorrhaging and, sadly, even after five hours of surgery he didn’t survive. Six days later he was declared brain-dead. I remember coming home that evening and my mom had written me a note that he passed away. It was surreal to say the least.
About a week after our visit to Universal Studios, I climbed up into the attic of my house, where the “cool and vintage Jen things” live, and got my original notebook from when I worked there. A time when the trams had plastic-covered advertisements for movies that were coming out or that were already in theaters. I still have the “Conan The Barbarian” placard from the tram in my “Hollywood” memorabilia collection.
It was a wonderful time back then. As I sat there reading the notebook and the script we were given to use and to make our own, I was reminded of a time when I believed “all that glitters was gold” a time when you were able to make your mark on something that tourists came from all over to enjoy. We would begin our tour with a welcome to all of our guests and it went like this: “Welcome to The Universal Studios Guided Tour, E.T.’s home away from home.” Gosh, I’m aging myself with that little anecdotal information, insert emoji rolling eyes right here. I’ll end with this: “I’m ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille!”
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.