Watching SCV Change On TV

By Darryl Manzer
"Way Back When"
The Signal
Sunday, September 24, 2006

'm an addict — and my addiction is any movie or TV show filmed in the Santa Clarita Valley.
    My addiction started at an early age. The first time I saw on screen a place in the SCV that I recognized, I began looking for those movies, shows and, heck, even TV commercials that portrayed something familiar.
    A glimpse of a street in Valencia or the administration building at Hart High, the Big House in Mentryville, Melody Ranch, Old Town Newhall and many other spots in the valley I can see right here in Virginia.
    In 1962, after a fire destroyed most of the buildings at Melody Ranch, the studios used what was left to shoot an episode of "Combat." We heard some explosions at Placerita Junior High. Classmates who had parents working at Bermite were a little worried. But it was only a TV show. Were they ever glad to find that out.
    When animals were used in filming, it wasn't unusual to see an Africa USA truck parked on San Fernando Road in Newhall with a lion in the cage on the back. The Newhall Land and Farming Co. must have rented whole herds of cattle for "Rawhide" and other Westerns. Horses and riders were always available as extras and wranglers to control the animals. Yep, some movies used real cowboys.
    The list of movie stars who have filmed in the SCV contains many of the greats (and some not-so-greats). John Wayne, Charlie Chaplin, William S. Hart (of course), Tom Mix, the entire cast of "Blazing Saddles," Frank Sinatra — you name a star, and there is a good bet that he or she has acted in a film shot in the SCV.
    Through the years, I've been able to watch the valley change just by watching those movies and TV shows. Where once was a vast pasture filled with cattle today is suburbia and fast cars. Only in the movies are there adequate parking places and non-congested streets. Sometimes I'm saddened by all the growth I see, and at other times I see that "home" is still there, no matter the growth.
    Friends here in the East often question me about being so near Hollywood when I was growing up. I try to tell them it was no big deal. The actors and actresses I've met seemed to be just about like anybody else out there earning a living — except they get paid a whole bunch more.
    Really, meeting Clint Eastwood when I was 12 years old was no big deal because I was more interested in what was for the lunch I had been invited to eat on the set of "Rawhide." Seeing someone famous walking down the streets of the SCV wasn't all that big a deal, either. Some of the "stars" lived in the SCV then, and some still do today. They were just the neighbor down the street or across town who happened to show up on a movie or TV show.
    Way back when, those actors and actresses didn't really get involved in politics, either. They practiced their craft of acting in a professional manner and stayed away from anything that might discredit themselves or the studio they worked for at the time.
    Today it seems that every actor or actress has something political to say. Your governor, for instance. But he is an exception in that he placed his money, time and talent(?) where his mouth is and stepped forward in a truly active role in politics. He didn't do it through an agent or publicist, per se.
    It is the others who take a vocal but uninformed role in trying shape the political scene by using their name and fame to sway the people into voting for or supporting a specific cause. For example, as much as I like his movies, I can't stand it when Mel Gibson makes a political or religious statement of any kind. Same goes for Miss Streisand and Mr. Pitt. Really? What do they know about life as we know it?
    I watched them get driven into the SCV in a gas-guzzling limo or SUV — and then I hear them speak of "saving the whales" or "global warming." Their actions don't match their words. Sometimes I swear it is something like what I imagine Elizabeth Taylor would sound like as a marriage counselor. "Do as I say, not as I do."
    So I enjoy the movies for what they are, and not for whatever political statement the actors are espousing. Hollywood deals in entertainment and imagination. While it might portray the cold, harsh realities of the world, those who act in the movies and on TV seldom do anything unless it will get them their next role, next movie, next ride in a stretch-limo SUV. I get to see the SCV as they act.
    Sometimes I do wonder just what some of the more "far left" actors would think if they knew that the SCV, for the most part, stands nearly to the "far right." Hypocrisy knows no bounds. Especially in Hollywood.

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley and eventually relocated to Boulder City, Nev. He can be reached at His older commentaries are archived at; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].