Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Knights (of Burbank)

In which we enjoy a bit of the past in the present

A while back I was puttering around on my bike around Burbank, on the wrong side of the I-5. I was cruising lackadaisically down the sidewalk along North Victory BLVD, glancing into the shop windows as I pedaled along. (No one cares if you ride down the sidewalk here, because no one uses them: everyone drives.) I cruised by furniture stores, automobile dealerships, and an army surplus store. Then I passed by a shop with Joan of Arc in the window, in full Gothic armor. With a double take I hit my brakes. A second look revealed that next to Joan of Arc stood the Black Night, the Emperor Maximilian and what looked like Red Sonja. Quite a party of warriors, that.

The shop is called Sword and Stone and makes custom arms and armor. Burbank is not exactly what you'd call ground zero for re-enactors and weekend warriors (though there are a few here in and around the valley, as we shall see). Burbank is, rather, ground zero for all the heavy lifting that drive the movie business. It's here that faux rocks and fake trees and sculpted aliens and latex werewolves and all the myriad trappings of fantasmagoria are made. Hell, I once met one guy in a bar who spends every day, five days a week, installing decorative stonework in movie star's trailers. That's right, stonework. In trailers. For movie stars. When Formica just won't do.

Inside the shop are two rooms crammed with swords and armor, axes and shields, miniature catapults, daggers and flintlocks, pole arms and chain mail brassieres. I haven't seen so many swords since my last visit to the Tower of London.

I've had a nerdy thing for ancient, medieval, renaissance arms and armor -- especially armor -- since I was a kid, so this place is a lot of fun for me. Tony Swatton, the owner and a 15-year veteran of the industry, does amazing work. All the armor was very authentic-looking and detailed, although many of the pieces rented out for film shoots are made from aluminum, rather than steel or iron (you have to pick them up to notice, however.) Recent film credits include Pirates of the Carribean, Blade, The Legend of Zorro Highlander and Into the Blue.

While I was wandering about the shop taking snaps, a youngish looking fellow came in with a large brass eagle tha he wanted repaired. He was a re-enactor, a centurion the Roman Sixth Legion group. In fact he wore a red baseball cap with a large "VI" embroidered on the front in gold thread. (I can only assume that the legion has it's own baseball club.) He asked if I had an interest in things Roman and invited me to join the "Fightin' VIth," or at least come and watch them do their monthly maneuvers in Griffith Park. I declined his recruitment plea, but witnessing the maneuvers is a must-do.
Rating: ♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
723 North Victory Boulevard
Monday thru Friday - By Appointment Only
Saturday - Noon to 6:00 PST or earlier by appointment
Sunday - Closed
Phone: (818) 562-6548


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