Larry Kurzweil & Bart Simpson

Larry Kurzweil Universal Studios

I got to head down to Universal Studios Hollywood a while back to photograph the President of Universal Studios, Larry Kurzweil for Carnegie Mellon's alumni magazine.  The one requirement, not imposed by the magazine, was that one of the Simpson's characters had to be in the shot.  Universal PR was insisting on this one point and the magazine was ok with it so I obliged.  The studio originally wanted Homer in the shot but the costumes are so enormous in real life that Larry was dwarfed next to Homer, so we went with Bart.

I think the best part of the shoot for me was that I was given a "VIP" pass to the park.  That meant unlimited access to all the rides with no waiting in line.  So where did I head first?  To the Universal Studio tram tour of course; to confront a childhood terror.  You see, when I was about seven, my dad took me to Universal Studios like any parent with children would do when visiting Los Angeles.  And this included the studio tram tour which I enjoyed quite a bit... that is until, we came across Jaws.

If you've never been on the Universal Studio tram tour, it takes you through the studio lot where you can see actual sets used in many movies.  It also has  staged "exhibits" based on Universal movies.  One of those exhibits was for Jaws.  The tram pulls up to (what looks like) a serene scene  with a man in a fishing boat.  You then see a fin come out of the water and approach the boat and eventually the boat and fisherman get dragged under.  But the danger isn't over yet... the fin starts heading towards the tram.  When it gets closer, BAM, a shark slams into the tram tracks and the tram falls towards the water and gets stuck.  The shark goes around for another pass at which point it bolts out of the water with it's jaws chomping as if it was trying to eat someone on the tram.  It just so happened that I was seated EXACLY where the shark was at it's closest to the tram, so that someone was me.  Needless to say I didn't take it well because as far as I was concerned, it was a real shark.  I don't remember anything else about that day other than the shark attack and balling my eyes out when it happened.  To this day, I hate going in the ocean too deep.

Not having been on the tram ride since that summer as a kid, I was actually a little nervous when we pulled in to the Jaws scene.  However now that I'm older, he doesn't look so menacing (and they don't do the whole tram falling into the water thing any more... probably got sued for mental anguish or something).  I was happy to confront one of my childhood traumas and survive: