Gordon tells us, I visited Los Angeles from October 1 to October 5, 2009, and I had the good fortune to get a tour of NBC Studios in Burbank, where Days of Our Lives is filmed. It was the highlight of my trip!
While browsing through the tourist information at our room at the Sheraton Universal, I noticed the blurb for tours of NBC Studios. I wasn’t particularly interested until I noticed that you would be able to "see sets from Days of Our Lives," and as a viewer for over a decade, I couldn’t pass that up.
Upon arriving at the studio, the first thing you notice upon entering is Salem Place! The outdoor sets representing Salem Place are all located right next to the visitor’s entrance to the studio. In fact, the marquee for the Salem Cinema is right next to the door. It was so amazing to see the fictional place right there, so close. And also, it was amazing to see how small it is. But more about that later: after a brief look outside, we entered the studio to sign up for the tour. The first thing that struck me was how small and not very inspiring the visitor’s center is. It looks rather like an office from 1985. The walls are covered with posters of NBC shows (some of which are no longer on), including a big picture of Bo and Hope, taken in the early 1990’s. As we approached the main counter, the gentleman at the desk informed us he also had tickets available for the taping of Jay Leno, which started at the same time as the tour. Did we want those, or would we like the tour? We briefly hesitated, but decided to stick with the tour. I am glad we did. After paying our $15.00 (tickets are only $8.50 each, and we had an AAA discount which saved us a dollar each), we sat to wait until 2 PM for our tour to start. Appropriately enough, while we waited, we watched the show on the TV monitor in the lobby (the highlight being that EJ had just discovered that Sydney was not his, and Carly made her first appearance, stabbing Lawrence). At 2 PM our tour guide appeared, and guess what? We were the only 2 people on the tour! After a brief introductory film, our tour began (unfortunately, cameras were not permitted inside the studio). Our guide gave us some basic information: apparently since the merger with Universal, there is not too much actual filming at the studios. The "Tonight Show" no longer films there, since "Conan O’Brien" took over as host. However, the new "Jay Leno Show" does film there, along with "Access Hollywood," the local NBC affiliate, and some Telemundo shows. Other than that, the studio seems to have been pretty much taken over by Corday Productions. The name is everywhere, stamped on all of the props, sets, and scenery.
Soap opera actors and crew members are among the hardest working people in show business, as new episodes air every day, there are no repeats. The day usually starts about 8 or 9 AM, with hair and makeup, and costuming. They rehearse and go over their blocking in the first part of the day, and then usually start filming about 3 PM, and work until sometime into the evening. Why do you rarely see soap opera stars in the gossip pages? Because they have no time for partying or late nights! Speaking of hair, make-up, and costumes, wardrobe and make-up were our next stop. They had an assortment of costumes on display, including the Marilyn Monroe inspired number Sami wore to serenade Franco on his birthday, and the circus costume worn by Jennifer when she was hiding out with Jack in the circus. The window into the costume shop is now covered, as apparently ambitious reporters for the soap opera magazines and websites were known to take the tour, just to spy behind the scenes and learn possible spoilers! They also had the Marlena Evans doll on display, which I was ashamed to admit to owning! Hair and makeup was the next stop. Many wigs were on display, including those worn by Celeste, and a Marie Antoinette wig worn by Marlena at the DiMera masquerade ball. Interestingly, many of the wigs contain horse hair, which is much more durable than human hair, and will stand up to the harsh styling conditions used. Also, many of the actresses wear wigs on a daily basis, as it makes for much easier hair styling, and more easily allows for switching between different scenes in the same day.
We saw the 2 wings of the studio where the star dressing rooms are. Unfortunately, we did not see any stars, although apparently we just missed Galen Gering (Rafe).
Finally, we were able to go outside to the set for Salem Place (cameras were welcome here, thank goodness). The marquee for the Salem Cinema was there (unfortunately not showing any movies, and looking a little worse for wear- it was pretty obvious they hadn’t used the Salem Place set in a while). But all the shops were there, including Ballistix, The Gift Box, and the Java Café. Interestingly, there are very few right angles used in the construction of any of the storefronts, allowing actors to walk in front of the shops while being filmed and not have to turn any corners, making Salem Place appear much larger on camera than it really is.
After taking our fill of pictures in Salem Place, our tour was complete. It was a great experience, really inexpensive, and a ‘must do’ for any DOOL fan if you are ever in the Los Angeles area!
- Gordon Parkhurst