On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
Malibu Creek State Park was established in 1976, protecting the watershed of Malibu Creek from the Malibu Dam to it’s mouth in Santa Monica Bay. In it’s previous life it had been a private club and then for 40 years the 20th Century Fox movie ranch. My father and I hiked in the park a couple of times in 1977 and there were still quite a few old movie sets dotting the landscape including a large Chinese structure, some sets for Planet of the Apes, and some western buildings including a fort. But the most interesting set was one that was still being used for active filming and that was the set used for the 1970 moving M*A*S*H and the subsequent TV series(1972-1983).
I headed back to the park in February and March of this year to see how it had returned to nature after 45 years and a few brush fires had swept through the area. My first hike in February started at the parking lot on the eastern side of the park and ended prematurely at a washed out bridge about 1/2 a mile from the old M*A*S*H production site. I decided to take a different route for my next hike, this time parking in the Malibu Lake neighborhood park and hiking east down in the the Malibu Creek canyon following the road to the production set.
The park has seating area where the mess tent used to be and informational boards about what used to be there when the area was actively used for the movie and TV series production. What I’ve attempted to do here is try and capture photos of the state park in it’s current state to match the photos that my father and I had taken in 1977. While I didn’t have copies of the old photos on my phone, I did get the correct location for the photos, if not the correct angle.
Rosie’s Bar in 2022.
Rosie’s Bar in 1977, your underage humble photographer is in the bar.
M*A*S*H 4077 sign at the camp entrance in 2022, when I tried to match this up with the old photo, the foreground matched but the background was a bit off, I should have moved about 10′ to the right.
M*A*S*H sign in 1977.
Sign with directions and distances to locations and homes near and far.
View of Goat Butte to the east from the helicopter pad, this is the view that you see in the opening credits in the TV series.
Panorama of the production site in 2022.
Looking down at the production site from the helicopter pad in 1977.
Suicide is painless.
But then you wouldn’t be able to see these pictures.
@Baud: Maybe, maybe not.
J R in WV
Amazing photos. Wife watched re-runs of MASH last night, and here it is!! Amazing.
Really fun to see these photos of such an iconic series
@J R in WV: Hey, perfect timing!
@Wanderer: Happy to share, I’ll have to share some more shots(then and now) from other spots in the park.
It’s interesting the number of guys over the years that I’ve seen or heard specifically mention the lead nurse running in the opening credits. Only on screen for a few seconds but made an impression (maybe through repetition?).
The Internet knows all: Kathy Denny Fradella.
@Baud: Suicide is pantsless.
@Spanky: Why this place gives me such joy, I’ll never know.
Cool! I have to show my husband.
Now do Combat. Or Perry Mason.
Not much location shooting for Perry. Almost all of it done in the friendly confines of some studio.
Combat!, you might have something there. I don’t remember it very well, because when it was on I lived in a benighted Illinois town that didn’t have an ABC station. I used to marvel at it and other ABC shows when we visited my grandparents’ farm in Tennessee. They got snowy reception from Nashville.
Neat pictures but, to be honest, loved Altman’s movie but really didn’t care for the series. I remember Altman saying he hated the TV series because it normalized war against Asians by putting it in living rooms every Saturday night for 12 years.
Tend to agree. It was “edgy” only in the dismal context of ’70s TV. And I found that a little bit of Alan Alda went a long way.
@Steeplejack: I’m thinking of those episodes where Perry goes out in a boat, or there’s some real estate development outside town.
@Steeplejack: But the episode with the lamb was a classic.
Yeah, I know. Usually just some establishing shots, not a fixed set that they keep returning to, as in M*A*S*H.
There are some “locations” that recur in the series. Perry has a couple of cases in Piñon City, I think, a stand-in for the “rural” cases where the local prosecutor inevitably sneers at Mason’s “big-city tricks” before getting his ass handed to him. A favorite of mine is Red’s Reef, a bar that figures in two widely separated episodes—except it’s clearly two different places. One is a seedy Hawaiian tiki bar for sailors, the other is a seemingly normal cocktail bar in a generic location.
I don’t even remember that. Wasn’t a faithful viewer of the show, and I avoid the reruns.
Like that first photo.
@Steeplejack: We still haven’t gotten out of the first season, so I’m not an expert! There’s one where Paul gets to do some stunt on a boat.
There are more than a handful of episodes involving boats. There was one they even remade (who knows why?!)—Perry is out on his boat at night and picks up a hot babe who jumped into the water to escape a mansion’s pursuing guard dog. And there’s one where Perry uses his World War II Navy experience to solve a case involving smuggled gold.
Wow, thanks! I was 5 when MASH came out, and it was weekly viewing in my house (telephone taken off the hook so no interruptions!) My dad was a WWII vet who loved MASH (and he passed in 1978, so never saw the ending.) Now I can’t stand how everything revolves around Pierce when I watch it.
It makes sense that it was a back-lot-type production, but I never would have guessed those were California hills, etc.
Cool! Hiked around there several years ago but wasn’t knowledgable enough about the show to establish what was what (other than the signs). Glad to see it survived some of the recent fires in that area.
Got to see the movie Mash while in school at Great Lakes Naval Station in 1970. Lifers were pissed off that it was shown but the base commander said something along the lines of “It’s about the Army, what do I care that it’s less than flattering?” And true to form most of the lifers in the audience seemed to hate it. Those who were new to the navy, like myself had a ball. Damn Army.
The TV series was good because it was both serious and funny, something that was necessary during/about a war and during a time when most of the people I knew weren’t laughing at all. And it showed that war is not a glorious undertaking. I’ve seen the after effects of war up close and personal and it isn’t pretty. Two months in a navy hospital in 1973 with Marines who may never have recovered from their wounds both physical and mental. I’ve sat with men 40-50 yrs after Vietnam who are still unable to deal with the effect it has on them. And those were the survivors. And with men from the wars of this century who aren’t any different. I was lucky I got sent someplace else and am glad for that. 58,220 US military casualties is a lot of headstones. I liked Mash because it brought at least a glimpse of what many see and experience in any war, in a way that wasn’t glorifying warfare, because there is absolutely nothing glorious about it. Ask any Ukrainian citizen.
And Bill, beautiful pictures as always!
There is a lot to like about CA. Some beautiful countryside, even in the midst of the 10+ million humans living in LA county.
Hey, nice to match up what we can see now with what was there in the 70s!
Regarding the washed out bridge – I think I know the one you’re talking about. I’m surprised that there was enough runoff to do that! Though near us, one trail has gotten totally washed out next to a seasonal creek, but some of that was thanks to dirt being washed down the hill after the Palisades fire. (The trail is still easy enough to follow, you just walk up the sand and rocks that make the new stream bed, which is mostly dry now, until things get back to normal about 100 yards up.)
Villago Delenda Est
I can tell you, from personal experience while being stationed in Korea, that the California terrain is just about indistinguishable from the real thing in Korea, at least in the late 80s.
Very cool. Thanks.
@Hoodie: On the other hand, it presented a skeptical view of authority in general and the military in particular, which we could use more of these days.
Villago Delenda Est
@JustRuss: Amen. I find the reflexive adoration of veterans to be distasteful, at the least.
I have some questions about that directional sign.
Yes it does.
@Spanky: “And then you become naked…”
@zhena gogolia: I think I’ve had pics of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse that they used for Perry.
@Steeplejack: IMDB says Combat! was filmed in France, can’t do that one.
@Hoodie: Glad you liked the shots.
@Steeplejack: The early 70’s had some pretty ‘edgy’ content, thinking ‘All in the Family’, late 70’s was dreck.
@zhena gogolia: There are locations they used for TV and movies all over Southern CA, one location we’ve seen on OTR before is the road from the opening of the Andy Griffith Show.
@Steeplejack: Those rural areas are probably filled with houses now. If you remember the airport in ‘It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World’…that’s now a housing development. I saw the airport when it was still in operation, but sadly, no pics.
@mvr: Thanks, it was a good day for shooting, nice clouds.
@zhena gogolia: There’s a trick to filming stuff with water, often times they’ve have a big concrete area that they fill with water either at the studio or on the ranch. The Fox ranch had one near where we parked in 1977, it’s now expanded parking for the park.
@MelissaM: You’re welcome, my dad(also a WW2 vet) hated it.
@UncleEbeneezer: I took a lot of shots when we hiked there in 1977, when there was still a lot of movie stuff there, the problem is figuring out where stuff was. Aerial photos from UCSB’s Framefinder are helpful.
@Ruckus: I didn’t see the movie until I was in college, so I saw several years of the TV series first.
@Ruckus: Thanks, fortunately we’ve managed to preserve quite a bit as state and national parks.
@BigJimSlade: I don’t think Malibu Creek is seasonal, I’m not sure about the water source, I’m sure a lot of it is urban runoff. The washout is not new, they have wooden steps down from the bridge part.
@Villago Delenda Est: When I went to Korea for the first time in 1989, we visited a cemetery in the countryside, didn’t look all that different than the Santa Monicas.
Thanks for sharing these, Bill. I could have made it out there before it all burned down when I actually lived in Glendale for a little while. I was too busy exploring the San Gabriels and other areas instead.
@way2blue: Glad you like ’em.
@Villago Delenda Est: Most of that adoration is fake too.
@anachronym: Yeah, it’s not all that accurate. There’s another directional sign at the park headquarters about a mile to the east.
@Interstadial: Both the Santa Monicas and the San Gabriels make for some nice day hikes. I think most of the set was torn down before the latest fire. There actually was a fire that moved though the area that was written into the final episode of the TV series.