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Brands of Jim Rockford’s L.A.

April 11th, 2010 · 9 Comments

By Garland Pollard

Jim Rockford James Garner
LOS ANGELES – What guy doesn’t want to be Jim Rockford? Well, perhaps living in the trailer was a bit tiresome (how come they let him keep it in the parking lot?), but the rest of the life as L.A. private eye is way cool. It would be fun to drive about L.A. in a Pontiac Firebird with Mike Post and Pete Carpenter’s harmonicas in the background.Andaz West hollywood

Watching the old Rockford Files episodes are quite worthwhile, architecture wise, as they are a documentary of mid-1970s Los Angeles.

We caught the pilot episode of Rockford on Hulu.com, which set up the premise of the series. The pilot includes Rockford’s office in a trailer at 2354 Ocean Boulevard, Malibu. The episode is not just filmed in L.A.; it includes interesting views of the Clark County Courthouse, Las Vegas, and its funky Aztec-looking patterns.

Some points:

  • The advent of online, digitized video is a potential boon to tourism officials. Heretofore, many of these episodes were hidden in vaults, but now that they are available online, all the time, with advertiser support, they can be mined to help promote visits to locations. A tourism location becomes far more interesting when it has a story, and the fact that television shows were filmed there helps to build that story. Most major cities have dozens of these locations, and it is up to tourism officials to make sure they are cataloged and mapped.
  • With the advent of online video streaming, it is so much easier for companies to find places where their products have been seen over the years, and begin to collate these for the public. Company PR departments and brand managers should have lists of where their products have been seen on old television shows and movies.
  • Today, companies are all about trying to place brands in television shows, and shows are all about trying to sell placements. That’s fine, but what is very interesting is how a good producer and location manager can create a style from what sort of images are already out there.

Back to Rockford. We took a look at the show at tried to find out what brands we saw during this pilot episode, which aired in 1974 on NBC. Brands included:

  1. Holiday Inn Santa Monica at The Pier: This appears in a distance shot.
  2. Cole Steel file cabinets: Unsolved and inactive cases are put here by the police. Rockford only gets to work inactive cases.
  3. Water Pik: These are in the background in a drugstore that Rockford visits.
  4. Broxident: It was the first brand of electric toothbrush, and it was also in the drugstore. The electric toothbrush brought to market in the U.S. by Squibb Pharmaceuticals Inc.
  5. Continental Hyatt House: First the Gene Autry Hotel, it was renamed the Continental Hyatt House. In 1976 it became the Hyatt on Sunset until February 1997 when the hotel was renamed the Hyatt West Hollywood. In January 2009 the hotel was renovated and renamed the Andaz West Hollywood.
  6. Rockford had a Colt Detective Special, though as a convicted criminal, he did not have a permit.
  7. Pengiun Shirts: The killer wore a yellow penguin sport shirt.
  8. Ford Country Squire: One of many cars seen in the background.
  9. Pep Boys: Shows up on the route to Santa Monica Pier.
  10. UPS Truck, looking much the same as today, is prominent in a highway shot.
  11. Lord Calvert appears on a billboard.
  12. The heiress Mrs. Elias in the pilot episode sat by the pool with a classic green bottle of Sea & Ski suntan lotion.
  13. Yuban coffee can be seen in the background at Tail of the Pup
  14. Big Blue Bus, also known as Pacific Palisades 9, rolls into Santa Monica Pier. It is a GMC Flxible, I think.
  15. Champion Spark Plugs. Ads for these are seen on a wall in Las Vegas.

Local Brands and Streetscapes

Santa monica Ford

A quick note for local companies.

Many of the things that are cool about a local brand have to do with classic signage and consistency of approach over the years. So be careful about your image. Many local restaurants and businesses change according to corporate mandate, fashion and local regulations, and the changes are not always good.

Below are some of the local Los Angeles brands seen in the first episode. Many are around, though they have been changed.

  1. Tail of the Pup, the famous Hollywood Hot Dog stand.
  2. Cox Paints on Santa Monica Boulevard.
  3. The music hall Gazzari’s, home of the Real Don Steele.
  4. Mayfair Music Hall and Palace of Varieties, now boarded up, was once in the 1970s home to British variety shows. The episode shows the whole interior of the building, including one of he acts.
  5. Cyrano, Luncheon, Dinner and Cocktails. Not sure if it is still open.
  6. The Lobster, Santa Monica, a restaurant that overlooks the ocean and pier.
  7. Santa Monica Ford, seen in the photo here.
  8. Bi-Rite Drugs. Not sure where that is.
  9. Mayflower Hotel: Rockford drove past this on the way to dinner. It’s now Now the Hilton Checkers.
  10. Peacock Bar: Rockford and Lindsay Wagner went here. Nice outdoor directors chairs. Don’t know where it is and would love some help from readers.
  11. Malibu Spic and Span Cleaners, just across the street from where Rockford had his trailer.
  12. Canaday’s Used Cars. I don’t think it is around any more; it was apparently on Santa Monica Boulevard.
  13. The Glen Campbell Open, which appeared on a billboard  in a background shot.
  14. Old World Restaurant, which I think was on Sunset.

Catch the entire episode on Hulu.com and see it for yourself.

More branding stories of interest:

Parrette's Ten Basics of Ad Creation
Companies: Create Your Own Saturday Night Live
The Future of NBC Radio in a Comcast Universe
Note to NBC: Time Habits Critical to Media Brands, Most Brands
Briefs: MCM Revival, International Among Top 25 Collectible Trucks
Shutting Auto Dealers Caused Job Loss

Tags: Media · Regional Brands · Tourism

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bill Kazupski // Aug 3, 2010 at 1:31 am

    What about the #9 Pacific Palisades bus they showed in the opening segment. I love looking at the 1970’s Los Angeles area sites. I sometimes use google maps to go along the streets as they were filmed in the Rockford Files just to see the changes since the 70’s.

    That drug store you wrote about I beleive was located at 7500 Sunset Blvd.

  • 2 Crankin // Jan 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    The Bi-Rite was on the SE corner of 3rd and Santa Monica Blvd in Santa Monica. On Google street view, you can still pan to what’s left of the Mayfair theater.

  • 3 William James // Feb 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    So, does anyone know the house in the pilot of the Rockford Files? Has the dark slate/blue tile around the pool with a view of LA in the background. This house also appears in other Rockfords (dwarf episode) and two Columbo’s (Murder by the book and the Most Crucial Game). There are others as well. It has a hidden driveway of sorts but modern look with two large double doors.

  • 4 Beacham Owen // Aug 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I would like to know the brand and model of Jim’s trailer in the show. It might be a 1960s Blue Moon “park” model but haven’t been able find a match — would love to know.

    The show is for sure a great time capsule of Southern California. One episode was shot in Wrightwood in the San Gabriel Mountains. The old bungalow-style motel that that Jim stayed in is still there, and looks today exactly like it did then — even the interior.

  • 5 Kurt // May 5, 2015 at 10:15 pm

    CYRANO

    Cyrano looks like a dinner theater more than a restaurant. Note that the sign has in temporary lettering luncheon and dinner, where a marquee feeling of the nights event might normally appear. The word cocktails of course is permanent as is Cyrano and the 5 glass bulbs plus the stage like drawstring across the front entrance makes me believe it might be more than a restaurant.

    In any event, I was watching this first episode of the Rockford Files via Netflix and paused the playback in order to research this fabulous looking place. if I were to drive by it, I would have spun the car around and poped in and had a meal regardless of how crappy the menu might have been! What a cool looking place.

  • 6 Garland Pollard // May 11, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    glad you researched it Kurt…i just noticed Rockford on netflix as well….

  • 7 Anthony, quasi-humanoid bipedal Library of Alexandria // Jul 20, 2016 at 2:57 am

    Thanks for the article. Just saw this pilot episode and want to share a few things. The Mayfair marquee listed Martyn Green (famous British actor & singer) and Gene Bell. The latter is what caught my eye…not sure if this is an inside joke referring to the wrestler/martial art expert/stuntman/actor but considering that Wliiam Smith appeared in this episode, I wouldn’t be surprised (Smith is also into martial arts among other things, he’s a very interesting character worthy of reading up on)

    The blue bus you mention is actually a GMC “New Look” commonly referred to as a “Fish Bowl” The Flxible buses were built by Flxible Co. of Loudonville Ohio (why do I even know such trivia?) Although both buses share a superficial similarity, the Flxibles have a more severe “face” due to the flat panes of windshield glass (the GMC’s had curved windshields, hence their nickname)

    Lastly, there are continuity issues involving the Firebird as it changes between a ’74 & ’75 Note the backlight (rear window) which changed to a wraparound style beginning in ’75

    Sorry for having clogged dear reader’s brain with this drivel (all of which is sans google…all from memory)

  • 8 Garland Pollard // Jul 30, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    I am thrilled you clogged such issues, and love when folks find continuity issues. Only a few can tell difference between two years of Firebirds…

  • 9 Anthony, quasi-humanoid bipedal Library of Alexandria // Jul 20, 2016 at 4:41 am

    Forgot to mention that in a longshot of the pier there appears to be an extremely rare Peugeot convertible…the same model that Columbo drove!

    As both series were Universal productions and due to the rarity of the car it’s probably the same machine (or one of the show’s duplicates)

    Perhaps use of this footage was an expidient or mistake…maybe both series 2nd units were on location simultaneously…and at the same time even. Or not. Who nose? Who cares? Who am I? Drizzle drazzle drone, time for this one to go home. Halp Mr Wizard!

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