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Light’s Out : ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ Lamppost Stolen From Yard

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For four weeks now, Bryan Goetzinger has been desperately seeking a lawn ornament--a 10-foot-tall, old-fashioned, green fiberglass lamppost stolen from the front yard of his Hermosa Beach cottage.

The local police say it isn’t a top priority. “It isn’t as if we’ve had a big rash of lamppost thefts lately,” Detective Bruce Phillips said.

But Goetzinger said his stolen lamppost is not just any old street light.

“That,” the 27-year-old movie crewman said, his eyes widening, “was the actual lamppost Gene Kelly swung on in ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’ It’s priceless. You can’t put a monetary value on it. It’s part of my industry’s history.”

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Goetzinger, whose studio work included a stint on the labor crew at what was then the Lorimar/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Co., said he obtained the lamppost in 1986 when MGM ceded its Culver City lot to Lorimar Telepictures Corp. and moved across the street.

Goetzinger was on the crew “cleaning out the MGM vaults,” he said. “I separated what got saved from what got thrown out.” In the vaults, he said, he ran across the blueprints for the Spring Street set of “Singin’ in the Rain,” and from those plans--and repeated viewings of the musical--he deduced which lamppost was the one Kelly immortalized during his rendition of the film’s title song.

He had located the lamppost in an MGM scene dock, he said, gathering dust among more than 20 just like it that were scheduled to be taken out with the trash. Each lamppost was marked with its location on the musical’s set, and to his delight, Goetzinger said, he found the one that had stood on the spot where Gene Kelly stopped to dance his love in the pouring rain for his co-star, Debbie Reynolds.

Larry Clayton, a construction coordinator who worked with Goetzinger at the time, remembers clearly the day Goetzinger took the lamppost.

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“They were chucking stuff in dumpsters left and right, and he said he was going to take that lamppost,” said Clayton, who has since left to work for 20th Century Fox. “I said, if you got permission to take it, take it. It was one of the lampposts in ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ and there was a whole bunch of them we were getting rid of. You wouldn’t believe the things they were throwing out.”

Goetzinger said he got permission from his supervisor to take the lamppost, but did not mention its significance for fear he would be told to leave it with the studio. Clayton said he, too, took a few keepsakes, including a contract signed by actor Jackie Coogan.

Several weeks later, Clayton said, the studio’s archives department sent around a memo asking the crews to stop plundering the dumpsters until the studio could comb them for memorabilia, “but by that time everything was already gone.”

Reynolds, Kelly’s co-star, is also one of the most dedicated collectors of Hollywood memorabilia and said in an interview that she can identify with Goetzinger’s plight.

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“I bought the benches from ‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ in 1970, and one of them was stolen and I never got it back,” Reynolds said. The Victorian bench, she said, was, like Goetzinger’s lamppost, “in a yard” and unsecured when the theft occurred several years ago.

“Once something is stolen like that, it’s hard to track it down, and it’s very upsetting because it’s not the value--it’s the fact that it was one of a kind, and that it’s also a loss to history,” Reynolds said.

Goetzinger said he believes whoever ripped the lamppost from its spot behind the white picket fence of his home was probably unaware of the sentimental value he attached to it.

Besides, he noted, it would be impossible for someone else to authenticate the lamppost while he has the blueprints.

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He suspects the thieves were youngsters who were simply attracted to the lamppost’s appearance.

And that is why Detective Phillips hopes the lamp will be returned.

“When these things happen,” he said, “usually it’s kids, and usually we get the stuff back.”


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