Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sea Hunt Locale: Marineland & Terranea

Who remembers Sea Hunt? I was surprised to learn it only ran for four seasons (1958-1961) because it seemed such a big part of my childhood TV viewing. And everyone watched it!

Here's a bit of trivia. Did you know that Leonard Nimoy appeared in eight episodes? Long before Nimoy was Spock, he was a bad guy named Tyler, and a jerk named Finn, an abalone diver named Johnny, and more.

Many episodes of the show--including some in which Lloyd Bridges' son Jeff appeared--were filmed at Marineland of the Pacific.

I wrote about Marineland's history for Patch a few years ago. It was the second marine-life water park, not the first. The first--Marine Studios--opened in Florida in 1938, and it was a smash. So the owners decided to try something even bigger out west.

The same architect that would design LAX's Theme Building, William Pereira, laid out Marineland in the mid-50s. But there were no fishies until the very last minute. Just a month before the scheduled opening, a ship was sent out to collect marine life to fill the aquariums and tanks. The four original dolphins that performed were flown in from Florida, where they'd been trained at Marine Studios.

The new park was not successful at first, so the owners decided they needed something like a whale to wow the crowd. I like to think Mike Nelson would not go along with that reasoning.

Anyway, the same ship that had collected fish was now tasked with finding a whale. Skipper Frank Brocato and his godson Boots Calandrino were up to the challenge, studying whales and devising their own equipment to capture one. Calandrino described it all for Westways Magazine years later. The whale they caught was only 12 feet long, and no one knew if whales could be trained to do tricks. But just having her, the owners thought, would bring in more customers.

They were right, and Bubbles exceeded all expectations. She was a whale with personality, and everyone loved her. Bubbles the whale was entertaining crowds when Sea Hunt debuted, and she continued to delight audiences into the 1980s, when. in a bit of skullduggery that locals have never quite gotten over, Bubbles was whale-napped along with many other creatures, and shipped to San Diego. Marineland closed, and the property sat empty for decades.

There's Marineland, above right. And below on the left, is Terranea Resort, the expansive luxury hotel that occupies the land today.

Terranea has a great restaurant named Nelson's, right on the coast. And it's named in honor of Lloyd Bridges' character in Sea Hunt, scuba diver Mike Nelson.

Pictures of the TV show like the one above line the walls. Dozens of them, and 8 by 10 glossies as well, along with other memorabilia, like a rowboat hung from the ceiling.

You have to hike to get from the parking lot to Nelson's, which is way out by the water. But it's worth it. They even have an open air service area where hikers can sit with their dogs. My kinda people.

Yes, you'll pay $20 for a burger. It's a very good burger. The food at Nelson's is more than excellent. The blackened salmon on my salad was probably the best salmon I've had in a couple of years, and the others in my group were equally enthralled by their meals. We're all still smilin' when we think about them.

The only bad thing is that all the Sea Hunt stuff is indoors. And the best place to sit, weather permitting, is outdoors.

The view is too gorgeous and the sun too dazzling to stay inside. So you'll only see the cool stuff on your way to the bathroom.

And if the whole Sea Hunt nostalgia isn't enough to float your boat, remember that this is the site where the original fort around Port Royal was built for the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, The Curse of the Black Pearl. The ship sailed all over this coast line, from Redondo Beach to Long Beach. Some shots of the Pearl appearing from behind a bluff are recognizably located in PV. Here's a picture from Steve Zepeda's MySpace page of the filming.


Art in LA said...

Welcome back!

Vickey Kall said...

Aw, thank you! It's nice to be missed!