Marina del Rey has played a starring role in Hollywood for decades
By Michael Aushenker
There’s no place quite like Marina del Rey, and Hollywood location scouts know it.
A testament to the harbor’s individual character and beauty, the film and television industry has had a love affair with Marina del Rey since the 1960s.
Scenes from the 1966 Frank Sinatra vehicle “Assault on a Queen” were shot in a submarine parked in the harbor, and Sally Field took flight over the harbor in late 1960s episodes of “The Flying Nun.”
In the 1970s, it was “Starsky & Hutch,” “Charlie’s Angels” and “The Incredible Hulk.”
More recently, Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro broke bread at The Warehouse Restaurant for 2004’s “Meet the Fockers,” and Aaron Spelling’s “90210” headed to the Marina del Rey Marriott to shoot scenes for its 2008 season-one opener.
More than 700 film, television or commercial advertising productions took out film permits in Marina del Rey between Jan. 1, 2013, and March 26 of this year, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors.
These shoots included everything from “Germany’s Next Top Model,” the Loyola Marymount University student project “Be The Church,” and reality shows “The Lonely Island,” “Breaking Amish,” “The Millionaire Matchmaker” and “The Beauty and the Broker.”
There’s been lots of episodic television, too — “House of Cards,” “NCIS:LA,” “Jane the Virgin,” “Modern Family,” “Revenge” — with plenty of commercial shoots (Budweiser, Orangina, Panda Express, Samsung, Starbucks, Chase Bank) in-between.
The most requested addresses during that time period included 3400 Ocean Front Walk and locations on the 4000 block of Admiralty Way and the 13000 block of Fiji Way.
None are as in demand year-round, however, as 13650 Mindanao Way — a.k.a. Burton Chace Park.
Since it opened in 1972, Burton Chace Park has been an active filming locale, especially for TV shoots, said Beaches and Harbors spokeswoman Carol Baker.
“Our department is film-friendly. [Chace Park] is a beautiful location because it has the park, but you also have the marina,” she said.
“Location Filming in Los Angeles” co-author Harry Medved recalled that myriad ‘70s cop shows filmed their car and foot chases there, including “Starsky & Hutch” (as did Todd Phillip’s 2005 big-screen adaptation/lampoon of the show starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson).
Former location manager Ned Shapiro recalled filming episodes of “Hart to Hart” there in the 1980s.
In the last decade, “Monk,” “The OC,” “Prison Break,” “Cougar Town” and “The Office” also shot on location at Burton Chace.
Of course, some productions run smoother than others.
Park staff were kept busy for days during shooting for the Lifetime movie “Liz & Dick,” starring Lindsay Lohan as Elizabeth Taylor. While Baker did not single out Lohan (who had a reputation for tardiness at the time), Baker confirmed “they were waiting for the talent on the set.”
On the flipside, Baker gushed that “Dexter [the serial killer played by Michael C. Hall] got married in the park’s pergola!”
According to a March 1977 article in The Argonaut, more than 110 film permits were issued in Marina del Rey in 1976, up from 25 the previous year. At the time, single-day permits cost $125 for interior shoots and $100 for exteriors — though “disruptive” action sequences such as car or boat explosions cost a flat $200.
“Raymond Burr had Burton Chace Park converted to a cemetery for his upcoming television series” [possibly “Kingston: Confidential”] while a month before “Karen Black regained her misplaced identity in a rented beach house on the Marina Peninsula for an NBC Movie of the Week” [“The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver”], reporter William Franklin wrote at the time.
Franklin also talked to Vietnam veteran and former disc jockey Stephen Traxler, then 31, about his directorial debut: “Spawn of the Slithis,” a “Creature from the Black Lagoon”-esque low-budget horror flick about a radioactive waste-produced amphibious mutation. Traxler shot most of the picture in Marina del Rey and Venice.
Franklin asked about “possible sociological implications of a monster rising up from the depths of the Venice Canals to threaten an affluent area like the Marina,” to which Traxler responded, “Nuclear power plants … concern me more than the polarity between Venice and the Marina.”
“Clearly, Hollywood’s love affair with the Venice and Marina areas is far from over,” Franklin concluded, adding a suggestion that Hollywood revive “Sea Hunt” here.
Reached by phone in March, Traxler did not remember The Argonaut interview about his B-movie, which he made for $100,000 across just 14 days.
“We made it for peanuts. We didn’t pay ourselves for a year,” said Traxler, who outside of the marina took advantage of the pre-gentrified Venice canals.
“There were still a lot of poor people,” he said of the canals. “Everybody was so happy to help.”
Between the canals and scenes of the still-going-strong turtle races inside Brennan’s Pub, Traxler considers “Slithis” a rare “historic document” of the area.
After “Slithis,” Traxler forged a long career as a producer, associate producer or production supervisor on feature films, including “Windtalkers,” “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde,” “Out of Time” and “Waterworld.”
Now 69, Traxler lives outside Santa Barbara and creates the show “Under the Covers” for classic rock station KTYD.
In this era of runaway production and foreign subsidies, times have certainly changed since Traxler made “Slithis.”
But in today’s Hollywood, where the remake is king, maybe another “Sea Hunt” isn’t a bad idea — that is if it’s not already in development.
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