Okay, FYI? My apartment is pretty near this hill – and right on the other side of it (by the media tower) is the famous Hollywood sign! So it’s kind of fair to say I moved to LA over 20 years ago to seek my Tinseltown fortune and have ended up living just on the backside of the dream…
I hope that doesn’t sound bitter (well, not too bitter, anyway). Because the truth is that after all these years, there’s still something magical to me about the creation of TV and film. And even though a lot of that magic happens right in my neighborhood, I’m still tickled when I also find it on the road!
Some people are of different minds over this matter, though. A relative once got into a dispute with fellow cruise ship passengers who were fans of the TV series Northern Exposure (a wonderful show from the 90’s about a New York doctor who becomes a fish out of water when he’s forced to practice in a small Alaskan town). This couple was willing to accept that Dad’s cousin lived near where they shot the series – but they refused to believe that it was not actually in Alaska. After agreeing to disagree about it, they were never seated together at dinner again.
Luck of the draw? Possibly. Or maybe the couple just didn’t want to think they’d been fooled by a show they truly loved.
I get that. Years down the road, the smart and soulful Northern Exposure remains dear to my heart too. But me? I like to consider myself “charmed” more than “fooled” by it. I’m not bothered that Cousin Valda was right. Roslyn – the town that doubled for Cicely, Alaska – is actually in Washington about 80 miles outside of Seattle. And it may not be the “New Alaskan Riviera,” but when my folks (also big fans) and I were driving through the Great Pacific Northwest, it seemed fitting to stop by and say “hello.”
As of a few years ago, there were plenty of spots along Roslyn’s main street that called forth memories of beloved Cicely residents like Dr. Joel Fleishman, Maggie O’Connell, Ruth-Anne and Maurice!
And sure, I knew it wasn’t “real” – but, just like I can’t keep from reaching a hand toward the screen at least once during any 3-D movie, I couldn’t help checking to see if Holling might be tending bar over at The Brick. And although it wasn’t morning, I wouldn’t have been surprised (or disappointed!) to find hunky Chris Stevens at the radio station, sharing his Homericly homespun philosophies.
I also kept an eye out for bunches of naked men running down the street (hey, don’t judge – that actually happened in an episode of the show!). Or I’d even have been happy enough to spot a moose. Maybe just one rangy moose wandering along the quiet streets – but no such luck.
Still, Mum, Dad and I had great fun spending an afternoon wandering around Cicely (I mean, Roslyn). It felt like we’d had a visit with an old friend!
Not all of my TV “friends” are quirky and endearing like the inhabitants of Cicely. I’m also a huge fan of the 60’s British spy series The Prisoner – and I have to say its title character was more a cranky and intense type of friend. I couldn’t blame him. The Prisoner (played by the incandescent Patrick McGoohan) was an agent who resigned his post in a very angsty manner and found himself spirited away to “The Village” – a community with an idyllic façade that masked a sinister and brutal agenda. Was it a place where retired operatives were put out to pasture? Or was this an enemy plot to deal for that all-important commodity, “information”? Regardless, a ticket to The Village was always one-way.
The Prisoner was a complex and riveting show that I have to admit I sometimes couldn’t get a handle on – but I was always fascinated and it always made me think. Back in 2003, I got the chance to purchase my own ticket to The Village (a.k.a. Portmeirion in Wales) which I had to hope would turn out to be round-trip…
There were my usual challenges getting there – to the point where I thought there really must be some conspiracy (it sure couldn’t have been my own directional ineptitude). I’d caught a bus in Caernarfon, Wales and journeyed to the lovely town of Porthmadog (my spell-check is going nuts right now) – but I missed the bus that continued on to Portmeirion. A local informed me that the town was just a short walk over the next hill and that I couldn’t miss it. I should have smelled trouble though because people who know me know that’s just not true – I can always miss it. But I was feeling optimistic and decided to give it a try. I mean it looked easy enough – even for me!
I wound up crisscrossing back and forth on this hillside, up and down over fences, across the same set of train tracks and through fields full of sheep that had awfully suspicious expressions and offered me no advice at all. To top things off, the shoes I’d picked that day were more senseless than sensible and they totally turned on me.
Eventually, a railroad worker and his wife took pity on me (probably after the fifth time they’d seen me limp past…) and offered to drive me the rest of the way. It was nice of them and might have felt like a relief, except that my back seat companion was a hyper-active Jack Russell Terrier with absolutely no respect for personal space. So yes, I was back on track, but I was definitely worse for wear – my feet were blistered, I was starting to get soaked through with rain, and every bit of skin on my face had just been licked clean off.
If there were interrogators in The Village, I was ready to talk…
“The Village” may have been a dangerous place, but Portmeirion is delightful! The brainchild of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, it’s a collection of fanciful buildings alongside an estuary and is meant to give you the feel of a Mediterranean city. These days, you can dine, shop, stay overnight and leave whenever you choose – as long as you keep track of the incoming tide.
Part of the pleasure was in identifying places I’d seen in the series. Like the building that once served as the abode of a grudging Number Six (each Villager was referred to by a dehumanizing number) which had been turned into a store where you could shop for all things Prisoner. And, really, everywhere I looked, a scene from that remarkable show came to mind!
Despite my difficulties getting there (I so wouldn’t be any good at espionage…), I had a super time taking in Portmeirion – and, in the end, it was another completely charming location experience!
Except that I got impaled on a flag pole…
Okay – not really.
My next post will finish off the topic with two more movie locations I’ve come across in my travels. In the meantime, here are a few places I’ve visited that have also been featured in films. Care to identify the locations and the films I’ve got in mind?
1) I arrived at this enchanting place by train – not by car or by flying – and certainly not by both at once:
2) This bridge was very important for a fresh-faced young Diane Lane to reach by sunset – and not just because of its “wistful” beauty:
3) This cathedral plays an important role in the movie – but it must have been thought that the expense of actually traveling there to film it would have been for the birds: