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.
Watching the old Rockford Files episodes are quite worthwhile, architecture wise, as they are a documentary of mid-1970s Los Angeles.
The pilot episode of Rockford is on Hulu, which sets 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.
- 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:
- Holiday Inn Santa Monica at The Pier: This appears in a distance shot.
- Cole Steel file cabinets: Unsolved and inactive cases are put here by the police. Rockford only gets to work inactive cases.
- Water Pik: These are in the background in a drugstore that Rockford visits.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rockford had a Colt Detective Special, though as a convicted criminal, he did not have a permit.
- Pengiun Shirts: The killer wore a yellow penguin sport shirt.
- Ford Country Squire: One of many cars seen in the background.
- Pep Boys: Shows up on the route to Santa Monica Pier.
- UPS Truck, looking much the same as today, is prominent in a highway shot.
- Lord Calvert appears on a billboard.
- The heiress Mrs. Elias in the pilot episode sat by the pool with a classic green bottle of Sea & Ski suntan lotion.
- Yuban coffee can be seen in the background at Tail of the Pup
- Big Blue Bus, also known as Pacific Palisades 9, rolls into Santa Monica Pier. It is a GMC Flxible, I think.
- Champion Spark Plugs. Ads for these are seen on a wall in Las Vegas.
Local Brands and Streetscapes
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.
- Tail of the Pup, the famous Hollywood Hot Dog stand.
- Cox Paints on Santa Monica Boulevard.
- The music hall Gazzari’s, home of the Real Don Steele.
- 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.
- Cyrano, Luncheon, Dinner and Cocktails. Not sure if it is still open.
- The Lobster, Santa Monica, a restaurant that overlooks the ocean and pier.
- Santa Monica Ford, seen in the photo here.
- Bi-Rite Drugs. Not sure where that is.
- Mayflower Hotel: Rockford drove past this on the way to dinner. It’s now Now the Hilton Checkers.
- 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.
- Malibu Spic and Span Cleaners, just across the street from where Rockford had his trailer.
- Canaday’s Used Cars. I don’t think it is around any more; it was apparently on Santa Monica Boulevard.
- The Glen Campbell Open, which appeared on a billboard in a background shot.
- Old World Restaurant, which I think was on Sunset.
Catch the entire episode on Hulu.com and see it for yourself.