So it looks like we have a couple of "workers" to thank for the sooty, soaring plumes rising from last weekend's Universal Studios fire, which apparently began when said Universal employees got a little careless while "using a blowtorch to heat asphalt roofing shingles" in the wee hours of Sunday morning:
Los Angeles County fire officials said two workers and a supervisor were putting up shingles in an alley on the New York Street set. They finished at 3 a.m., spent an hour watching for any sign of fire, then took a break. At 4:43 a.m., just as the crew was returning, a security guard saw flames and reported the fire.
Roofing shingles? Really? At 3 o'clock Sunday morning? Join our skepticism after the jump.
As previously reported, dodgy water pressure on the backlot prevented a speedier extinguishing of the blaze, whose casualties have been revised to include New York Street and the King Kong tour exhibit but only part of the historic Courthouse Square set (the lame part, natch; the Courthouse façade remains). The studio's video vault was another confirmed kill, as were "master copies of reel-to-reel audiotapes of music from the 1940s and 1950s" belonging to Universal Music Group, which leased vault space from the studio. But UMG had made copies "as the site was being phased out," a spokesperson said, "so in a sense nothing was lost."
But we do mourn King Kong, whose odds for restoration appear slight at best:
"We plan to rebuild and replace everything that was lost," the Uni spokeswoman said. "Will we replace the King Kong attraction? I don't know, because it was a 20-year-old exhibit. But we will create some guest experience in its place."
Allow us to suggest The Universal Backlot Inferno of Convenience, in which every Sunday's first 10 studio guests receive a souvenir blowtorch, fire extinguisher (empty, of course) and roofing shingle to "heat" before placing it on a wood façade specially constructed to mimic the highly flammable, 20-year-old structures that burned over the weekend. Guests can then "phase out" their visits by dropping by Hollywood's only non-fireproof "vault," where the bulky, obsolete audio master of their choice will be made available for torching. (No photography, though!) Finally, they can wind down with a "Aftermath Brunch," where actors portraying studio brass provide talking points for explaining what just happened if or when they're asked by friends and family back home.
Seriously, this could be huge! Are we on to something here or what?
[Photo Credit: AP]