Final curtain coming down on giant Hollywood junkyard
Los Angeles — It’s not just a junkyard — or even a really big junkyard — but a living, breathing monument to Los Angeles pop culture. And now it’s headed for the dustbin of history itself.
For 54 years, Aadlen Brothers Auto Wrecking, in a moonscaped, god-forsaken-looking section of the San Fernando Valley, has collected far more than thousands of burned-out, smashed-up, rusted automobiles on its sprawling dirt and asphalt lot.
It’s also taken in just about every type of movie and TV prop imaginable while serving as the site of more than 200 Hollywood film shoots.
The last surviving “Bruce” the shark, made from the mold for the 1975 Steven Spielberg film “Jaws,” resides there, swimming ominously near an entrance. With its huge mouth agape, it appears ready to devour anyone foolish enough to try to sneak off the lot with, say, a pilfered power train from a ’32 Ford.
Nearby is the giant boom box Usher danced on for the 1997 video “My Way.” It’s actually a 53-foot-long big-rig trailer painted to look like the ’80s-era music machine. But viewed from a nearby freeway, it appears eerily authentic.
Now everything must go, says Nathan Adlen, owner of this hybrid junkyard-Hollywood backlot that’s been in his family since 1961, when this part of the valley was mainly a warren of sand-and-gravel quarries and garbage dumps.
By New Year’s Eve, he promises, it will be 26 acres of bare land surrounded largely by warehouses and car-repair places as he contemplates what to do next with the property.
“You need to make money to survive, and it’s gotten harder to make money in the junk business,” the affable 60-year-old says as he walks past thousands of automobiles piled four and five high, each destined for the giant car-crushing machine that will noisily squash them into scrap metal.
The Chinese aren’t buying that scrap like they once did, he explains, causing the price to plummet while his minimum-wage and insurance costs continue to rise.
More than 200 movies, TV shows, commercials, video games and music videos have been filmed at Aadlen Brothers over the years.
But Adlen says that Hollywood cash isn’t enough these days to subsidize a business that for decades was also the go-to place for seemingly every shade-tree mechanic in the San Fernando Valley looking to dress up his ride with a cheap turbocharger, a shiny grille or chrome wheels pulled off everything from wrecked Rolls-Royces to VW bugs.
The yard began showing up in films in 1967, when a scene shot at its trailer office made it into the movie “In Cold Blood.”
“It’s only six seconds in the movie,” Adlen recalls with a chuckle, but those seconds were enough to make the company’s founding Adlen brothers realize they had a future in show business. (After starting the business, Adlen’s father and uncle added the extra A to the name to get it listed first in the phone book.)
Over the years, the lot has appeared briefly in “The Hangover,” “The Fall Guy,” “The A-Team,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and countless other shows. Just last month a “Supergirl” episode had the Girl of Steel battling the villain Reactron near the car-crushing machine.