Here's what the Iverson Movie Ranch obsession is all about ...

For an introduction to this blog and to the obsession a growing number of vintage film and TV fans have with the Iverson Movie Ranch — the most widely filmed outdoor location in movie and TV history — please read the site's introductory post, found here.
• Your feedback is appreciated — please leave comments on any of the posts.
• To find specific rock features or look up movie titles, TV shows, actors and production people, see the "LABELS" section — the long alphabetical listing on the right side of the page, below.
• To join the MAILING LIST, send me an email at and let me know you'd like to sign up.
• I've also begun a YouTube channel for Iverson Movie Ranch clips and other movie location videos, which you can get to by clicking here.
• Here's a link to Garden of the Gods, the best-known section of the Iverson Movie Ranch (featured in the movie "Stagecoach," the "Lone Ranger" TV show and hundreds of other productions).
• To go right to the great Iverson cinematographers, click here.
• Readers can email the webmaster at

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The 1952 aerial photo

Iverson researcher Jerry England came up with this 1952 aerial photo of the Lower Iverson Movie Ranch, which has proved to be an invaluable resource. It's not as clear as we would like, but it's the only "map" of its kind that has surfaced from the filming era depicting the Lower Iverson.

Among other things it shows the location of Iverson's Western town, sometimes called El Paso Street or Iverson Village, toward the top right corner, just below the 118 freeway (approximated by the thick black horizontal line) and just west of Topanga Canyon Boulevard (approximated by the thin black vertical line). On that site today is the Indian Hills Mobile Home Village. A number of researchers have had a hand in identifying landmarks on the aerial shot, with special thanks going not only to Jerry England but also to John Emmons and Bill Sasser. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

A similar shot exists of the Upper Iverson, but it is much less clear than this one. I'll post it at some point, but so far I'm stalling because it's just frustrating to try to find anything on it.

Take another bow, Bobby ... er, Wrench Rock

"Fury at Showdown" (1957)

I can't ever get too much of this especially weird rock, so here's another star turn by the leading man of the South Rim — usually referred to as Wrench Rock, sometimes called Indian Head or Upper Indian Head ... and referred to by me at one time, before I knew any better, as Bobby. This shot is from United Artists' John Derek Western "Fury at Showdown," and it's pretty definitive Wrench Rock — so much so that I've adopted the shot as the page header for the blog.

Needless to say, Wrench Rock is the unusual rock figure in the center of the photo, hovering over the rider. The larger rock to the left of Wrench Rock came to be known briefly, among Iverson aficionados with an active sense of whimsy (myself, mainly), as Bobby's Girlfriend — inspired by how she always seemed to be batting her eyelashes (presumably an illusion created by some flora growing out of a crack about two-thirds of the way up). The two rocks together form something that has been called Devil's Gate — a reference to the gap between the two rocks, which originated in "Death on Sun Mountain," the second episode of the long-running TV show "Bonanza."

Also in this shot is Pyramid Peak, which is the pyramid-shaped hill profile in the background, almost perfectly framing the horse's ears. That's the name it has taken on in the research, anyway, but it may in reality be Rocky Peak. Rocky Peak is over in that direction, but I've never been able to nail down exactly which of several peaks in that area is Rocky Peak. At any rate, that pyramid-shaped peak is in a LOT of movies.

Wrench Rock today — largely hidden behind a tree

It's hard to get a decent shot of Wrench Rock from that side these days because a tree has affixed itself to the rock's eastern profile. (That tree is probably the shrub seen in the 1957 shot.) But you can still make out the profile, somewhat, lurking behind the tree.

Click here for other views of Wrench Rock.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Chewbacca strikes me as eerily similar to the "Star Wars" character. A few of the people I've shown the photo to say they don't see it. Let me know if you have an opinion one way or the other. I also see a little bit of Jabba the Hutt in the figure to the left of Chewie, but that's beside the point.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chinless Wonder: Isn't it ironic? (The Classic Rock that started this whole thing)

"Overland Stage Raiders" (1938)

The fuzzy black-and-white shot above is from a VHS tape of Republic's Three Mesquiteers B-Western "Overland Stage Raiders," starring John Wayne, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, Max "Alibi" Terhune and Louise Brooks. While the picture quality, especially on my screen shot, leaves much to be desired, it's an important movie to me, and an important scene: This was the first time I spotted an Iverson Movie Ranch setting in a movie.

What gave it away was the Elders — the line of light-colored, vertical structures seen in the background just above the center of the photo. The Elders themselves technically aren't at Iverson — they're a short distance south of the former movie ranch, across Santa Susana Pass Road, in the hills above Chatsworth Park. But they appear in the background in countless scenes shot at Iverson, and they have proved to be useful markers for Iverson shots, thanks to their distinctive shapes.

Closer to the foreground of the movie shot is Chinless Wonder, the dark figure on the left. Chinless turned out to be elusive, taking almost a year to track down. For most of that time my leading theory was that it had been destroyed to make way for Redmesa Road and condo development. Sadly, a number of important rocks in that area were in fact destroyed when the development took place, but it turns out that Chinless Wonder survived.

Doglips: Chinless Wonder from a different angle

Eventually a lightbulb went off and I discovered that not only was Chinless Wonder still around, it was simply an unusual angle on a rock that I already knew well — one I had come to call Doglips, which you can read more about by clicking here.

Chinless Wonder as it appears today

Unfortunately, because of a thick growth of trees where the camera would have to go, it is not possible to accurately re-create the angle that produces Chinless Wonder. But I've come as close as I could in the shot above, peering out through some foliage to the north of the rock. I know it's not easy to see that they're the same rock. For one thing the lighting is just about opposite: The movie shot was taken in the morning and my shot was taken in the evening. But if you look closely and compare whatever little details you can spot, it works out.

I generally avoid calling things "ironic," because it's an often-misused label and it seems as though most of the time it's just flat-out wrong. But in this case, I'll make an exception. Given that Chinless Wonder, as it appears in the above shot, seems to be making a point of proudly pushing out its prominent chin ... OK, it's ironic.

This post is part of a series on "Classic Rocks" — sandstone giants located on the former Iverson Movie Ranch in Chatsworth, Calif., that became a part of not only America's physical landscape but also its cultural heritage, through featured roles in old movies, cliffhanger serials and early TV shows. Other entries in the series can be seen by clicking here.

The links below should take you to various Amazon listings for items related to "Overland Stage Raiders," including the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the movie:

This little boy's blue about Man in the Moon

"The Yellow Rose of Texas" (1944)

Here's an oddity from the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans movie "The Yellow Rose of Texas." There's no mystery about where this shot was taken — the camera is just north of Garden of the Gods on the Lower Iverson, looking south toward Stormtrooper, the round-topped rock near the left side of the screen. But where that near-perfect "Man in the Moon" crescent came from, right in the middle of the shot, who knows? I've been all over that area and haven't seen it.

Here's the same shot as above, with Man in the Moon pointed out to make it easier to see.

Another version of the same "Yellow Rose of Texas" shot, with a few other Iverson Movie Ranch features noted — along with details about which features have survived and which have been destroyed. Sadly, "Man in the Moon" is NOT among the survivors.

Here's a detail shot of Man in the Moon, which I've saved from the days when I didn't know how to annotate photos. It may still be easier for some readers to see it in this format.

If you're interested in seeing more of this sort of thing, click here to check out the "Tricks of Light" thread. For more about Man in the Moon, try this one.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What remains of the Happy Slab

The Happy Slab is a neighbor of Batman Rock (also known as Chief Um), located a short distance to the west of the big chief. It appears in many of the same sequences as Batman Rock, albeit less conspicuously. The screen shot above, from Stagecoach (1939), shows the proximity of Batman Rock/Chief Um, a portion of which is visible at the top left of the screen, to the Happy Slab, which appears directly behind and above the driver of the stagecoach. You may be able to make out the "smile" that gives the Happy Slab its name, although the shot isn't very clear. (Click on the photo for a larger view.) The Slab faces to the right, and also has a little "eye."

You can get a better look at Batman Rock here.

Believe it or not, this is the Happy Slab today. All that's left is a little less than the bottom half. Condos have been built around it, and like Batman Rock, it sits beside a parking area. My guess is that as part of the condo construction project someone decided they had to blow off the top half of the Happy Slab because of concerns that the relatively vertical rock, which already had a lean to it, might be unstable and would be unsafe in close proximity to housing. It's just a theory.

If you look closely you can see that what is now the top of the rock doesn't have the dark coloration that's seen on the rest of the Happy Slab, which illustrates that the top hasn't been exposed to the elements for nearly as long as the rest. You may also notice that the rocks above and to the left of the Happy Slab also appear in the "Stagecoach" shot.

Did we not notice a giant Rooster Foot in the suburbs of L.A.?

Rooster Foot, on the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch

Here's a contemporary bird's-eye view of a large rock configuration I call Rooster Foot, located on the South Rim of the Upper Iverson. You can probably spot the shape, as it takes up much of the left half of the photo. The two houses also seen in the photo are representative of the estates that now occupy much of what was once the Upper Iverson Movie Ranch.

In case you're not seeing it, here's a labeled version of the same photo pinpointing Rooster Foot.

In case you still don't see it ... here's a comparison of Rooster Foot, Chatsworth's giant rock formation, on the left, and an actual rooster foot, on the right. If you still don't see it after this, I'm afraid I've done all I can.

The bird's-eye view of Rooster Foot is loaded with famous movie rocks. Among those pictured here are the Cul de Sac Crew (just above the cul de sac, visible in the photo), Wrench Rock (also known as Indian Head, Upper Indian Head or Bobby), The Cliff (which I often call T-Cliff because of a large letter "T" that has been carved into it over the centuries by natural forces), and others. You can read more about these features and see photos of them by clicking on the links in this paragraph.

Along the top edge of the Rooster Foot is sort of a trough or gulley where many a climactic fight scene was staged, often culminating in a dummy drop off The Cliff. The edge of the cliff at the northernmost end of this gulley is generally known as Lookout Point.

Rooster Foot Gulley — site of many climactic fight sequences

Here's a closer view of the recessed area, or gulley, above Rooster Foot, where a lot of those fights were staged. You may be able to recognize it from the bird's-eye view by the dull green color of the foliage. That's Oat Mountain in the background, a fixture in the backgrounds of countless B-Westerns.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Clayton Moore, aka the Lone Ranger, talks about saving the Iverson Movie Ranch

Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger

A while back I landed on an interesting article from 1986 about development on the site of the former Iverson Movie Ranch and in the nearby hills above Chatsworth, Calif., which were once home to other movie ranches — Bell Ranch, Brandeis and Spahn, among others. The article was posted on a website about Charles Manson, who around the time of the infamous Manson Family murders in 1969 was headquartered at the Spahn Movie Ranch, located just across Santa Susana Pass Road from the entry gate to Iverson. The Manson website has since gone away, but I saved the article, which I've reprinted below.

The article, written by Los Angeles Daily News staff writer Michael Szymanski, ran in that paper on July 13, 1986. It refers to various upcoming development projects, most of which have long since become reality. One of the main sources quoted in the story is Clayton Moore, who played the Lone Ranger in the 1950s TV show, which shot heavily at Iverson. Sadly, Moore died in 1999. But here he speaks eloquently about the need to protect the area's movie legacy against development.

Here's the 1986 article from the L.A. Daily News:

Showdown at Spahn-Iverson Ranches

Developers Vie For Movie Land

Nowadays, it is trucks -- not horses -- that kick up clouds of dust near the red rock where long ago a masked rider reared his fiery steed and hollered a hearty "Hi yo, Silver."

Construction crews thunder past the Lone Ranger's old haunts in the hills above Chatsworth. A fence encloses the cave mine where the stranger who brought law and order to the Old West forged his silver bullets. The high-cliffed perch where his faithful companion Tonto would scout for trouble now overlooks the Simi Valley Freeway.

"Those hills bring you back to the thrilling days of yesteryear," said actor Clayton Moore, 72, the Lone Ranger for half his life.

"The Old West is right here in our back yard, the west corner of the Valley, and we can't lose it. There's nothing like it anywhere."

The Lone Ranger and Silver

In the old days, no one dared to touch Kemo Sabe's mask. Today, his Secret Hideaway is going condo.

On 1,011 acres of desert and scrub brush, hills and rocks, in the far northwest corner of the San Fernando Valley sit the Spahn and Iverson ranches, among the last bastions of wilderness in metropolitan Los Angeles.

This backdrop for B-westerns is now a battleground for competing economic, political and cultural interests: developers, environmentalists, movie buffs, preservationists, city and county governments.

Some construction is under way and more is planned -- including a 290-unit condominium project. But Los Angeles wants to annex the area as soon as possible from the county to limit development.

It is where Charles Manson and his "family" lived -- and murdered. The handful of residents today, hoping to erase the sinister side of the canyon's past, say hippies still roam the area.

It is where the rare pink salamander and nearly extinct Santa Susana tarweed plant survive with century-old stagecoach trails, ancient Indian sites and footpaths that linked Spanish missions.

It is where sandstone rocks balance precariously atop one another like totem poles. Others are cemented together -- relics of mythical forests, medieval castles, dense jungles and desert planets from more than 2,000 movies.

"It's where I'd mount my big stud horse Silver, and Jay Silverheels would mount Scout and we'd race through the hills and pretend it was the Civil War days of the Lone Ranger and Tonto," Moore recalled.

Jay Silverheels as Tonto

Today, plans are approved to build a private club with tennis courts, a school, a church for an expected 3,000-member congregation, and 290 two-story townhouses -- all within a year.

Movie fans and wildlife devotees are fighting development together but have mixed goals for this jagged terrain.

Stunt men want a museum and studios that could attract filming again. Environmentalists want untouched open space for animals, including a nature corridor under the freeway.

And the Lone Ranger?

"The Duke (John Wayne), Bill (William S.) Hart, Tom Mix, they all would like to have seen it stay the same as the days they filmed here, I'm sure," Moore said.

"But they're all in that big ol' ranch in the sky," he said, "and this ranch is the next closest thing to it."

Humphrey Bogart dug in these tall cliffs around Stony Point for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre." Gary Cooper stalked these dusty streets in ''High Noon." A Pakistani village was set there for Shirley Temple to tap into the nation's hearts as "Wee Willie Winkie."

The Iverson Ranch, where these scenes were once shot on its 600 acres, is now only 12 acres. Joe Iverson is 90 and frail.

"The Lone Ranger Rock, where he reared Silver at the beginning of the old TV shows, is right there," said Robert Sherman, caretaker of the Iverson Ranch and author of movie history book "Quiet on the Set!"

"Ghost of Zorro" (1949): Clayton Moore and Pamela Blake

"This is the cave that Zorro poked his head out of, and there's where the chariot races were shot for 'Ben Hur,' " Sherman said. "And Elvis did 'Harem Scarem' near those trees."

It was Alaska for Charlie Chaplin's "The Gold Rush," jungle for parts of ''The African Queen," dinosaur territory for "One Million Years B.C." and a battleground for tanks and planes in John Wayne's "The Fighting Seabees."

Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers and Sherlock Holmes came to life in those same cliffs. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, the Three Stooges, Ma and Pa Kettle -- they all filmed there.

Westerns reigned supreme on this desert set -- Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, ''Gunsmoke" and "Bonanza."

The Garden of the Gods, the most spectacular canyon in the area, was a favorite location. Now, much of it is owned by Cadillac Fairview Industrial Development Inc., a company that plans to donate 60 acres to the state. The rest will house condominiums.

The famous movie rocks of the Iverson Gorge now share space with the Cal West Townhomes

"The rocks will remain the dominant feature, of course; they are so much bigger than two-story buildings," said project manager Lawrence "Buz" Cardoza, the developer's agent.

Clark King, deputy director for the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy that will take over the 60 acres, said he doesn't believe -- as Sherman dreams -- that movies will ever flourish in the area again.

"Too much development is being planned," King said.

Some filming goes on. Recent episodes of "Dallas" and "The Fall Guy" were filmed at Iverson's. Scenes of "Knight Rider" and "Murder, She Wrote" were filmed at the old Spahn Movie Ranch.

"Spahn Ranch has a bad history," Sherman said. "Folks around here sort of want to forget it."

"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955) — Spahn Ranch, at the center of the shot, 
as seen from the neighboring Iverson Movie Ranch

A cackling old woman huddling in a corner. Thousands of flies covering a western town. Wind buffeting a car on twisting Santa Susana Pass Road.

That's how Vincent Bugliosi recalls Spahn Ranch. He hasn't been back in the 17 years since he prosecuted Manson and his family and later wrote the best-seller "Helter Skelter" about the murders of actress Sharon Tate and eight others.

"It was eerie to know that this peaceful little ranch that you could see from the road was home to those who went out by night with missions of murder," Bugliosi said recently.

He remembers a ramshackle movie set featuring the Longhorn Saloon, the Rock City Cafe and the Undertaking Parlor. He saw long-haired youths hopping out of a bus laden with mattresses and psychedelic pillows and an old trailer where the Manson crew watched the first TV news reports of the 1969 killings.

"There was an unreality to the place," Bugliosi said.

Ranch owner George Spahn, 81 and blind, died soon after the Manson clan was captured. He tipped his large Stetson hat to investigators with his Chihuahua and cocker spaniel at his feet. Squeaky Fromme, the freckled redhead convicted of trying to kill then-President Gerald R. Ford in 1975, had looked after Spahn, who let Manson and his clan live there as long as they kept it clean.

These fields of yellow dahlias are where Manson played a small flute and his "loves" danced around him like wood nymphs with flowers in their hair.

It is where he breathed life back into a dead bird, his followers believed. And where he interpreted Beatles songs in his own bizarre way and justified wild LSD trips, sexual circuses and plots to kill "piggies."

"It's where the whole family practiced to become proficient shooters," said Steven Kay, a deputy district attorney who helped prosecute the case.

Kay had scoured for bullets in a nearby creek bed where Manson practiced shooting. Shell casings still line the creek bed.

The creek bed is where Manson members said they stabbed stunt man Donald ''Shorty" Shea, cut him into nine pieces and chopped off his head. Witnesses testified they heard him scream for 10 minutes.

Ten years after the trial, police found Shea's body buried near the creek bed. It wasn't mutilated.

Dozens of youths still wander the hills, Cadillac-Fairview project manager Cardoza said. He said the "hippies" have threatened workers and damaged property.

Sherman said he has chased out nearly 200 people living in caves near his house over the past year. Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies, however, who patrol the area from the Malibu station 25 miles away, say it is among the quietest areas in the county. Last year, deputies averaged about six calls a month with fewer than 10 felonies reported, Lt. Claude Ferris said.

Beer cans, women's underwear, adult magazines and graffiti mar the scenic rocks where Manson lived -- now owned by the state. Devil's Canyon, where Manson members hid from police, is closed. Painted "Helter Skelters" are barely readable on cave walls.

"The (Manson) family lived out there to get away from the city, for fresh air, just like anyone," Kay said. "It's just not somewhere I'd go for recreation."

The Spahn movie set burned in 1970 in a raging fire whipped by 80-mph winds. Ranch hands tried saving horses as the Manson girls clapped and danced.

From the opening to the TV series "The Lone Ranger" — Clayton Moore 
in the title role, rearing up on Silver next to Lone Ranger Rock

"I just keep thinking how it must have looked to hear the horses crying and see the girls' faces as they screamed, 'Helter Skelter is coming down!' That sends chills through you when you think about it," Bugliosi said.

"No, it's not somewhere I'd go for recreation, either," he added.

The Santa Susana tarweed lives there, nowhere else.

The weedlike fern juts out of rocks. Its little flowers bloom in summer. Its leaves are sticky and sweet-smelling when rubbed.

"The plants would like nothing better than to be left alone," said Jan Hinkston, founder of the 17-year-old Santa Susana Mountain Park Association. She wants a corridor under the freeway for deer migration.

On a recent hike along the steep Old Stagecoach Trail, she popped purple elderberries in her mouth and pointed out violet-green swallows.

"Bandits attacked stagecoaches on this stretch," Hinkston said, near the Ventura County line. "It was the only trail opened to San Francisco during the Civil War. And see, you can tell where pickaxes were used to carve the road and you can see the gutters that were built for water runoff."

A multicolored tile inlaid in 1939 dedicates the trail, part of 178 acres listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Adobe ruins of the De La Ossa stagecoach station stand in the Chatsworth Reservoir area. A 1.5-mile railroad tunnel still used there was built in 1904. It once was the longest in the Western Hemisphere.

During a hike with Hinkston in 1969, former Los Angeles City Planning Director Cal Hamilton found an Indian leeching basin where tribes prepared acorns.

"After that walk, I vowed to work to preserve that area because I don't think the county has been particularly sensitive to control the growth here," Hamilton said at a recent public meeting. Before he retired last month, he called for a multi-jurisdictional board to buy private land and stop development in the hills.

"This is controversial, but we owe it to the public, to say nothing to the animals and plants," Hamilton said.

A city study points out that development would decimate the rare tarweed as well as the endangered satin-brown Chocolate Lily, the Maroon Monkey Flower and the twisting Dunn and Oracle oaks.

Lone Ranger Rock, the most famous of many movie rocks on the former Iverson Movie Ranch, 
seen in the silent movie "Ben-Hur" (1925); the rock had not yet become known as Lone Ranger Rock

The study recommended the city annex the land because it has higher construction standards. Councilman Hal Bernson has worked for two years to get the land annexed, but the paperwork to start the process never has been filed.

"It's taken a great deal of research and red tape, but the bottom line is I don't want to see a lot of commercial junk here," Bernson said. "I want it to stay the lowest density, basically horsekeeping."

County officials have approved four projects in this corner of Supervisor Michael Antonovich's district. They will be allowed to go forward even if the city annexes the land, assistant city planner Nancy Scrivner said.

The projects are Cadillac-Fairview's condos, the existing 150 mobile homes in Indian Hills Trailer Park, the yet-to-be-built Faith Evangelical Church and Chatsworth Hills Academy.

Lone Ranger Rock as it appears today, in the Iverson Gorge in Chatsworth, Calif.

Most of the 220 registered voters -- who will decide the annexation issue at the next election -- live in the trailer park.

"The main reason people in the park want to be annexed into the city is because they want rent control," said attorney Ken Carlson, who represents the elderly residents who live in the "guarded community."

At the Thunderhead II Boarding Kennels, a sign says "Keep Out." The United Cerebral Palsy Spastic Children's Foundation has a large gate. Neighbors complain of gawkers, squatters, shooters, looters and dumpers.

"I'd just as soon shoot 'em as look at 'em," said Tom Buchele, who lives next to Spahn Ranch. "Every time one of (the Manson Family) gets up for parole, I have 500 people out here wanting to see where it used to be."

Because he has the only corral visible from the road, sightseers photograph Buchele's land, mistaking it for the Manson home. He has posted signs reading: "No hunting, firearms or motorcycles."

Next door, Frank Retz has three German shepherds and signs reading: "No Trespassing. All violators will be arrested and prosecuted."

Retz, 73, said he hopes by next year to use his 50 acres for 10 houses and an exclusive equestrian club with swimming pool and tennis courts.

"It doesn't bother me with this development across the street," Retz said. "People have to live somewhere. As long as they stay away from my property."

"I'm not afraid of anybody," he said. "I wasn't afraid of Manson when he was here. They were dopey kids who weren't normal."

Prosecutor Kay said Retz was friends with Shea, the murdered stunt man, and that if Manson and his crew hadn't been arrested they might have killed Retz next.

"I told those druggie Manson people to get out, and when they saw me they would run away because I told them I would beat them up to death," Retz said.

Across from Retz, the Faith Evangelist Church will be built next year, the Rev. Robert Ricker said. He said he wants to preserve the rugged spaciousness of the 70 acres -- while building a school, football field and retirement center.

"And we need parking spaces for hundreds, and ultimately, thousands of cars," Ricker said.

Despite the environmentalists' pressure, neighbors don't think development can be stopped.

"You aren't going to see someone scrap a $100 million project to preserve the tarweed," Sherman said. "I don't care how rare it is."

Bulldozers are grading Bulldog Hill, where stunt men chased outlaws, pulled them off their horses and fought them as they slid down hills.

"This is American heritage," Clayton Moore said. "You can't kill it."

Hollywood Stuntmen's Hall of Fame President John G. Hagner said he plans to raise money Sept. 7 for a stunt show museum by auctioning Phyllis Diller's wig, Kenny Rogers' belt buckle and other celebrity memorabilia.

"This is the real wilderness, and it's within spitting distance in a high wind of the city," said Jock Mahoney, 67, a popular stunt man for 40 years. ''But how are you going to stop progress?"

"Progress has gone too far," said Rainbow Red Feather, a granddaughter of the famed Indian chief Geronimo. "This is important heritage to our people, and I can't stand to see it go downhill."

She pitched a tepee on the land last year to protest proposed development.

The state has no plans for the 428 acres held by the California Department of Recreation and Parks. Deputy Regional Director Alan Ulm said he hopes the city eventually will attach it to Chatsworth Park nearby.

Developers said they think the public no longer is interested in westerns. Sherman's dream is a Universal Studios-like Wild West tour.

"Last year I saw a mountain lion at my front gate," Sherman said. "When I get to be his (Iverson's) age, there may not even be a bird left."

But that won't happen if the Lone Ranger can help it.

Moore lost Silver 13 years ago. He lost Jay Silverheels, who played Tonto, seven years ago. He lost his wife of 44 years, Sally Allen, eight months ago.

He doesn't want to lose the ranch.

"If it isn't developed, maybe someday -- we'll see -- I may go back," Moore said.

"And maybe," he added, "the Lone Ranger will ride again."

Aerial view of the site of the former Spahn Movie Ranch, from a now defunct Charles Manson website. The main ranch, adjoining the south side of Santa Susana Pass Road, is in green with the back ranch in yellow. Directly above the green area is Rocky Peak Church, adjacent to the former Iverson Ranch. To the right of the church complex are some of the condos that now occupy much of the Lower Iverson, surrounding the preserved Garden of the Gods area.

Friday, June 4, 2010

NBC's "Heroes": A 2008 TV shoot on the former Iverson Movie Ranch

NBC's "Heroes" (2008)

Iverson Movie Ranch may not exist anymore as a business entity, but various sections of the former location ranch are still used occasionally for movie and TV shoots. The NBC TV show "Heroes" taped there as recently as fall 2008, using part of the Lower Iverson as a stand-in for Africa during season three (2008-09). The Africa story line centered on the character Matt Parkman, played by Greg Grunberg. (That's Greg's ear in the above photo.)

In the screen shot above, Matt has just awakened to find himself in Africa, where he sees a painting depicting the future. The painting appears on the side of Woolly Mammoth, an instantly recognizable Iverson figure that showed up in a number of B-Westerns and other movies as far back as the 1930s. The rock is also known as Vultura's Trail Rock, after an appearance in the 1942 Republic serial "The Perils of Nyoka."

This 2008 photo, taken soon after Woolly Mammoth's "Heroes" shoot, shows the creature unadorned, although it still has a splotch of white paint near its "eye" that is apparently left over from "Heroes." At the time this photo was taken, "Heroes" was still shooting in a nearby area, where an African-style hut was built for the show. You can see a photo of that set here, near the bottom of the post.

Here's a toy version of the woolly mammoth. You may or may not see the similarity, but to my eye the shape of the head and a few other elements make it a pretty good match.

Here's another modern-day photo of Woolly Mammoth, from the other side, closer to the typical movie angle. This shot gives some sense of the scale, although from this angle the rock looks nothing like a Woolly Mammoth. It's not one of the larger landmark rocks at Iverson, but it's fairly substantial.

"The Adventures of Spin and Marty" (1955)

Among the many appearances by Woolly Mammoth/Vultura's Trail Rock in old movies and TV shows, the rock was part of an interesting pan shot in the Disney show "The Adventures of Spin and Marty" — featured on "The Mickey Mouse Club" — in 1955. The above screen shot, taken from Kurt Spitzner's essential "Spin and Marty" site Of Cinch and Set (, shows just a portion of the overall shot, which is much wider. While this shot only includes the bottom half of Woolly Mammoth, it offers an interesting view of a section of Chatsworth below, at the left. Not only does the shot give a sense of Woolly's somewhat precarious perch on the edge of a cliff, it also offers a glimpse of the past — when the San Fernando Valley still had some farmland left.

For anyone who has an interest in "Spin and Marty," you really need to check out Of Cinch and Set if you haven't already. Kurt has done some terrific research, including a ton of location work. For his page on Woolly Mammoth/Vultura's Trail Rock, he put together a beautiful, widescreen photo of the pan shot that you will want to see. The full photo is more than twice as wide as what you see here. Click here to go right to the page with the photo.