September 11th: Hollywood on Guard Duty
From New York's sidewalk studios to the Hollywood backlots, the entertainment industry aims to show and protect.
On Friday, Sept. 21—10 days after the terrorist attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania—Molly Moore, 13, and her dad Steve, 44, idle listlessly outside the studio window of NBC’s Today. There are no cameras to catch the Coloradans, no jolly Al Roker to josh with. They do get some personal attention: A Rockefeller Center security guard strolls over to ask them to stay at least five feet from the glass. Molly’s poster, which she drew in her hotel room the night before, stays rolled up. ”It says ‘Daughter and Dad 8th grade trip,”’ she explains. ”It’s disappointing—my mom was taping.”
On the opposite coast that same day, Hollywood was frantically cranking up security after the FBI advised each of the major studios that they could be targets of a future bombing. The threat, though uncorroborated, prompted a serious crackdown. At Warner Bros., guards were posted at the lot’s bustling day-care center and new security measures at the entrance backed up traffic for half a mile. At Paramount, uniformed personnel checked IDs, inspected trunks, and peeked beneath cars with mirrors to look for bombs. The studio’s memo to staff stated: ”We intend to make our workplace secure and safe. We understand that some of these activities may be time-consuming and inconvenient, but…we are doing this for your protection.”
Like the rest of America, Hollywood is grappling with how to maintain business as usual when the country’s most visible symbols — and symbol makers—may now be considered vulnerable. ”Everybody’s concerned about security—before this and now even more,” adds Steve Friedman, senior exec producer of CBS’ Manhattan-based The Early Show, which suspended outdoor filming to focus on news. ”When we do go back outside—which we will—we’ll make sure that the security is adequate.”
High-profile events have been placed on high alert. The most immediate concern is the Oct. 7 Emmy Awards at L.A.’s Shrine Auditorium. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has been consulting with the FBI, L.A. police officials, and the private Pinkerton security firm. The result: no fans, no cameras, and added precautions. (Celebs will need an extra hour to take their seats.) While stars like The West Wing‘s Martin Sheen are reportedly considering a boycott because of the uncelebratory national mood, ATAS president Jim Chabin insists the show will go on. ”Terrorism only works if it causes people to change the way they live their lives,” says Chabin. ”The Emmys have been a tradition for 53 years—we’re not going to cancel.”
Meanwhile, the Oscars are taking a wait-and-see approach as they prepare for this March’s first show in the newly built $94 million Kodak Theatre. ”We’re far enough away from the September terror that if nothing else happens, things will have reverted to semi-normalcy,” says an Oscar spokesman, adding that security concerns which had threatened a move back to the Shrine have been resolved.
In the meantime, studios have also stepped up inspection of audience members at the tapings of sitcoms and game shows. At Paramount, guards open bags and usher visitors through metal detectors. ”Security is tight,” says a source. ”They’re really checking these people.” Warner has gone even further, banning outsiders altogether. At the Sept. 21 Friends taping, the studio asked employees to fill the seats. ”We definitely had room for some more audience members,” admits a source close to the production.