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SOUTH BAY / COVER STORY : A Tour De Force : From LAX Tower to 'Pulp Fiction' Diner to Stars' Hangouts, Pop Culture Landmarks Dot Landscape Here

April 20, 1995|TED JOHNSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Just imagine what the commissioner would have thought of the 1976 movie "Carrie." The most memorable scene, in which a blood-soaked Sissy Spacek wreaks havoc on her high school prom, was shot in Hermosa Beach's community center gymnasium at Pier Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. The gymnasium now houses the Hermosa Beach Historical Museum.

"We've cleaned the blood up," museum director David Johnson said jokingly.

One of the few series to be set in the South Bay and filmed here took place at King Harbor. It was NBC's "Riptide," about three guys who lived on a yacht, owned a robot and solved crimes. The show lasted two years.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula, meanwhile, is a gold mine of moviedom. Take the former site of Marineland, near Hawthorne Boulevard and Palos Verdes Drive South. That's where Harrison Ford's character Jack Ryan lived in "Patriot Games." (It was made to look like Maryland). Go farther east to Portuguese Bend, where the 1983 ABC miniseries "The Winds of War" mimicked Hawaii. And Wayfarers' Chapel, where Jayne Mansfield was married in real life, served as the happy ending for the movie "Innerspace," in which Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan's characters wed. That scene, too, was made to look like it was another locale, a city in Northern California.

The one movie that does showcase the peninsula and makes no attempt at hiding it is "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," Stanley Kramer's 1963 madcap comedy about a Las Vegas-to-L.A. scavenger hunt for buried treasure.

From a vista on the grounds of Wayfarers' Chapel, looking out to the ocean, can be spotted the palm trees lined up in a "W," where the treasure was hidden.

Kramer says the film crew made the "W." "We bent the trees to look like the "W."

"That's probably our most famous film," said Rick Otto, a Rancho Palos Verdes city official in charge of film permitting. "Every once in a while I get a call from somebody who is a fan of the movie who asks where it was shot and if the palm trees are still there."

Just a few miles from the "W" is Walker's Cafe, where a scene from "Chinatown," Roman Polanski's 1974 classic starring Jack Nicholson, was shot. A few people still mention it when they come into the cafe, 700 Paseo Del Mar in San Pedro.

Peninsula residents say producers are lured by the area's scenery. But when Ansel Adams, one of this century's foremost photographers, came to the area, his lens was pointed not at the vistas, but at Chadwick School and its students.

The prep academy at 26800 S. Academy Drive was a haven for the sons and daughters of celebrities. Adams set up the school's first darkroom, and illustrated a 1941 Chadwick catalogue, now considered a collectors item.

Also sought by collectors is The Sardine, an alternative newspaper that was banned at the school in 1963. Its editor was Jann Wenner, who went on to start Rolling Stone. He and his friends hung out at The Parasol, 2690 Pacific Coast Highway. It is now Coffee Shop University, but the place is still shaped like an umbrella.

Writer Christina Crawford wrote a book that includes her Chadwick experiences, along with a few unflattering words about her famous mother, Joan Crawford. Her book was "Mommie Dearest."

Southeast of the Chadwick campus in San Pedro is the Sacred Grounds coffeehouse, 399 W. 6th St., which was one of writer Bukowski's favorite haunts, when he wasn't illustrating the inventory at Either/Or. Before his death last year, he frequently stopped in for coffee and cheesecake.

And moored just offshore, at Berth 84, is the 70-foot schooner the Swift of Ipswich, once owned by actor James Cagney. The vessel is now used by the Los Angeles Maritime Institute to teach youths from disadvantaged backgrounds how to sail.

Up the Harbor Freeway in Carson is the fire station at 2049 E. 223rd St. where the television series "Emergency!"was filmed, according to the book "My Carson Your Carson."

Nearby in Torrance is Torrance High School at 2200 Carson St. While no Chadwick, the school has been seen by millions, as West Beverly Hills High School on "90210."

Bo Derek, when she was Mary Kathleen Collins, went to Narbonne High School, 24300 S. Western Ave. in Harbor City. Derek, famous for her role as the "perfect" woman in the movie "10," dropped out of high school when she was 16 and met movie producer John Derek, who was in his late 40s.

But for those who came of age in the 1960s, there is surely no South Bay spot more sacred than Hawthorne. It is here that the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson lived in a house on 119th Street, attended Hawthorne High School and drove a 1957 pink-and-beige Ford Fairlane and hung out at Foster's Freeze at 11969 S. Hawthorne Blvd.

The anthem for the Beach Boys generation is, of course, "Fun, Fun, Fun," which, biographer Timothy White reports, was inspired by this very burgers-and-shakes joint.

So no South Bay cultural foray can be complete without cruising Hawthorne Boulevard on a Friday night with these lyrics blaring from the radio:

\o7 Well, she got her daddy's car

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