As a die-hard Gilmore Girls fan, I thought the Ultimate was attending the 2016 Gilmore Girls Fan Fest in Washington Depot, Connecticut–the real-world place that inspired the mythical town of Stars Hollow. Yes, there was rain and it was freezing (down 40 degrees from previous day!) but I got to give Keiko Agena a hug! How could that be topped? Well, then I found out I could visit the real/fake Stars Hollow at the Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California, where they actually filmed “Gilmore Girls”! The tour had added a pop-up exhibit at no extra cost called “Lunch With Lorelai” from December 22, 2018 to January 6, 2019. And tickets were available! Exactly what this “Lunch With Lorelai” fully entailed was not clear. What would we see? What would they serve? A range of coffees and pop-tarts and red vines? Anything gluten-free?
Despite all the unknowns, I had to go, of course. I had planned on doing the tour someday anyhow. The Warner Brothers lot is where a huge chunk of Hollywood’s history happened, where for the past 90 years they have made countless movies on their sound stages and backlot such as “42nd Street”, “The Maltese Falcon”, “Casablanca”, “The Music Man”, “Blazing Saddles”, “Ghostbusters”, “Jurassic Park”, all the way up to “La La Land” along with such TV shows as “Batman”, “The Waltons”, “Wonder Woman”, “Friends”, “Big Bang Theory”, “Ellen” and of course “Gilmore Girls”. Because it’s still a working studio, the sound stages and exterior sets are constantly being stripped, redressed, repainted and repurposed for production after production, meaning on the tour you would not normally see Luke’s Diner, Doose’s Market, Sookie’s house, the gazebo, or Lorelai’s house. Not unless they were filming a new “Gilmore Girls” series (yes, please) or having a special event like this (lucky me!).
On our chosen day, we climbed aboard the tram and were driven by our terrific tour guide Jeremy onto the studio lot where we were immediately thrown into the land of make-believe on Hennesey Street where they’d filmed “Annie”, “Oceans 11”, the TV show “Shameless”, and even the iconic upside-down Spider-Kiss between Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire (water pouring down his nose like he was being waterboarded). Very cool! After a ride past the “ER” street with its faux elevated train tracks, we drove down French Street and beheld Miss Patty’s dance studio!
Jeremy explained that Miss Patty’s was built specifically for “Gilmore Girls” and that they decided to keep it as is, so this is one façade that always remains the same. We were allowed to get off the tram and walk on the very the same streets trodden by Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel during all those long continuous takes. Unfortunately, we had to rush past the dance studio for our requisite selfies but were led instead by Jeremy into Luke’s Diner, which at the time was a bistro called “Joué”!
Although empty inside and stripped of any diner accoutrement, it was Luke’s Diner! The shape of it, the way you could look out the windows onto the streets of “Stars Hollow” gave you the feels. Jeremy explained that Luke’s Diner was one of the few working interior/exterior sets. Most backlot buildings are empty. An actor walks through a door and in reality, finds nothing inside. The editor then cuts to an interior scene shot elsewhere on a sound stage. Luke’s Diner was unique in that Lorelai could walk-and-talk through the streets of Stars Hollow and walk straight into the diner and continue her rat-a-tat. However, looking up, you could see it was not completely “real” as there was no ceiling and no place for Luke’s apartment (also filmed elsewhere on a sound stage). Instead, there were hanging lights and huge tubular air-conditioning vents that blasted the actors between scenes since it apparently got very hot with all those hot lights.
We were then taken down Midwest Street past Doose’s Market, which at that moment called The Nest Egg Bar & Grill.
Jeremy then showed us, just a few doors down, the exterior of the bar from “Shameless” frequented by Frank. That was a complete shock to me, having bought into the illusion that they filmed that show on the mean streets of Chicago. Also, across the square was Stars Hollow High that earlier had appeared as the Dukes of Hazzard County Courthouse. I guess Lorelai’s outfit on Rory’s first day at Chilton was a homage to Daisy Dukes. Speaking of the square, wow was it smaller than it looks on “Gilmore Girls”. How did they fit all those fairs and wedding receptions and Knitathons and make it look so huge? That’s the magic of filmmaking. And special camera lenses, I suppose.
The rest of the tour was absolutely fascinating and worth every penny (we walked onto the “Ellen” sound stage, saw Harry Potter costumes and Batmobiles of various eras, drove past the “Big Bang” stage where we saw that hilarious portrait of Penny and Amy hanging on a wall), but all the time I was itching to have lunch with Ms. Gilmore. Finally, they dropped us off at Stage 48 where the tour normally concludes, and although there are exhibits galore (Central Perk!) and lots of shopping, we headed outside where just to the left was Lorelai’s house! Well, not exactly “As Seen On TV”. There’s no Babette’s house, no driveway nor tree-lined seclusion. Instead, they put together something better—a “Gilmore Girls” mini-theme park. First, you’re confronted with the Stars Hollow sign. It looked to be the real deal, or perhaps recreated for the revival mini-series.
Heading under the trellis, we saw the house, looking simply magical, freshly painted with the correct color I think although I’m a bit color-blind, bushes and railings back in place (they’d taken them out for “Pretty Little Liars”), and wrapped in Christmas lights. It made you want to rush into the house, spin around the kitchen and yell “Copper Boom!”. Alas, I had to remember this was a façade. The most hilarious thing was the patch of “snow” they created to place Rory and Lorelai’s snow-woman complete with wig and lop-sided grimace.
The house from the other side:
Another view where you can see the garage:
On the porch and inside the foyer, costumes were displayed in glass cases. As can be readily seen, the layout of the foyer is not Lorelai’s. Fooled again! I had heard you could go through Lorelai’s house and come out through Sookie’s but as all these doors were locked I’d have to go around to see.
The opposite view taken from the porch shows the lunch part of the event. Well, behind the Tiffany lamp was food-service. No pop-tarts nor anything Lorelai would normally eat; instead, there was roast chicken and turkey and veggie burgers. Nothing obviously gluten-free so I did not partake, but it looked good.
We did partake in the merchandise. On the left side of the porch, they’d set up a small shop with clothing and knick-knacks. I got a Luke’s Diner key chain.
We decided to make our way toward the gazebo, which entailed going back around the Stars Hollow sign and onto the suburban street where many a TV family have lived like the Seavers on “Growing Pains”. Immediately we could see that indeed, Sookie’s house was on the other side of Lorelai’s! Despite some alterations to the porch and color (matching Lorelai’s), it was Jackson and Sookie’s house. Indeed, this was one of the many buildings on the backlot that served multiple purposes like being a church on one side, a courthouse on another, and a house on another.
Walking further down, past Mrs. Kim’s house and onto the gazebo itself, I gazed out at Stars Hollow and thought, I’d live here. If only.
There was no no one rushing us out which was very nice. We were free to stay or leave, eat at one of the tables set out in front of Sookie’s house or not, whatever our choice. All in all, it was quite a pleasant day and a big thrill Gilmore-wise. Hopefully they will do this again. It shows you that Warner Brothers knows that Gilmore Girls fans are a force to be reckoned with and perhaps, maybe, who knows, they will continue the series. Of course, they’d have to coax the Palladinos who have their hands full with “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (brilliant, say I!) and corral all the actors. But where to pick up the story. How about Rory saying, “I’m pregnant…with Marty’s child.” Well, it’s as good a theory as any other.