Open House at the Bates Motel

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Open House at the Bates Motel

When you get an invite from Vera Farmiga to an Open House at the Bates Motel, the response is not a simple “yes please,” but a “HELL YESSSSS! And what should I wear and can I bring my lovely and talented husband to snap a photo or two?”

This time of year, with Critics Choice TV Awards and Emmy consideration going into full swing, these types of invites are not all that uncommon, making the time I spend working on the Executive Committee of the Broadcast Television Journalists Association that much more enjoyable. But let me tell you, with this particular event, A&E and Universal were particularly clever, gracious and resourceful in promoting their well-recieved hit Bates Motel.

Open House at the Bates Motel

Just in case you’ve been living in Kazakhstan for the past two and a half years, Bates Motel is a drama based on Norman Bate’s family of Psycho fame, back in the days when Norman was just an “innocent” kid.  Playing “Mother” is the ultra talented Vera Farmiga, whom I’ve been intrigued with ever since her stellar star turn in 2004’s Down to the Bone. but you might better remember her Oscar nominated performance in Up in the Air. Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, August Rush, Finding Neverland) plays a so-far sympathetic young Norman Bates, who only this season is starting to go a little Psycho on us. Viewers of the show, broadcast on A&E, a network mostly known for its unscripted programming, are numerous and devoted.

Open House at the Bates MotelSo to make us journalists and awards voters even more aware of the show, we were summoned to the Universal Studios Lot for an Open House, held in the festively decorated parking lot of the original Bates Motel used in the movie. If you’ve ever taken the Universal Studios tram tour, which I have a number of times (hey–I only live a few miles away, and I LOVE the place — what can I say?) you’ve driven past the Bates Motel and even seen a knife-wielding Norman outside. The scary Bates house is just up the hill, with a mummified Mother sitting in an upstairs window, rocking away. Just behind the Bates Motel is the whimsical set used for Whoville in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, a constant reminder of movie magic.

“We actually film in Vancouver. This is the first time I’ve ever been on the movie set,” Vera Farmiga confided in me when when she graciously stopped to chat with me as I sipped a “Bates Motini.” That woman has the class and talent of stars of yore — she’s much more like a a radiant Bette Davis than an insipid Gwyneth Paltrow. Vera Farmiga can express emotion with her eyes alone, regardless of dialogue, co-star, costume or set.

Open House at the Bates MotelAnd speaking of sets, what fun to be invited to drive around the Universal lot, as confusing as it was to reach our destination. At one point we played chicken in the dark with a many-carred tour tram. We backed down first. It was also fun to poke around the decrepit Bates Motel lobby, office and mansion, although I was not adventurous enough to climb the rickety steps up to where Mother sat rocking in the window. Jim was, but he wasn’t wearing heels.

What was I wearing? I was glad I stuck to the classics I’ve accumulated over the years, lovingly purchased one by one as the book advance installments came in: Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress, Marc Jacobs bag (the exact same style Julia Roberts used in Duplicity) and Christian Louboutin Prive sparkle sling back pumps. Nothing makes you feel like mugging for the camera more than designer duds.

And mug I did, as you can see. With hubby behind the lens and props from iconic movies surrounding you, inhibitions fly. Just one more perk to being At Home In Hollywood.

Open House at the Bates Motel


Open House at the Bates Motel

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Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award winning journalist, author and film/TV critic. She can be heard regularly on Cumulus radio stations throughout the US, and on BBC Radio.

1 Comment

  1. Craige stroy on April 15, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Love the camp and fun way you describe things that are relatable.
    I’ll keep following your reviews as you seem to always give reviews that are true for my taste.
    Thanks Lisa

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