Park is television backdrop for a day Enchanted Forest is scene of filming for 'Homicide' show

November 23, 1995|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

It took a shivering crew from NBC's "Homicide" program, special guest star Lily Tomlin and a retired IRS worker filling in as King Neptune.

But Howard County's venerable Enchanted Forest amusement park west of Ellicott City reopened Tuesday -- if only for a day -- and will be featured in a February episode of the television police show.

The park, off U.S. 40, has been closed for eight of the past nine years. On Tuesday, "Homicide" crews filmed scenes in a storybook castle the size of a large house, one of the park's Mother Goose-inspired motifs.

In February, viewers may spot up to four Howard County extras (( who signed up for one-day parts.

"You never know when you're going to get upgraded," said extra Tracy Gargon of Columbia, while waiting for her walking-by-the-castle scene. She was not upgraded to a speaking role, but earned $99 to add to her modeling and acting income.

Ms. Gargon's day started at 9 a.m., as it did for Ms. Tomlin and "Homicide" stars Clark Johnson, who plays Detective Meldrick Lewis, and Reed Diamond, who plays Detective Mike Kellerman.

The other "Homicide" stars were not there because they are not in the Enchanted Forest scenes.

In the scene shot this week, Ms. Tomlin plays an eccentric woman wanted for the murder of her husband. The detectives have found her in Hazleton, Pa., a town about 120 miles north of Baltimore. (Hazleton is played by parts of Historic Ellicott City, where filming took place last week.)

In the episode, the detectives see the Enchanted Forest amusement park while driving her back from "Hazleton." Detective Kellerman tells his partner that his father used to take him as a child to the Enchanted Forest -- a statement many longtime Howard County residents could make.

The three stop at the park, where Ms. Tomlin's character has to use the bathroom inside the castle. She manages to give the detectives the slip -- and the rest will have to wait until the episode is aired.

Although Enchanted Forest keeps its name in the show, its location is moved to just north of Baltimore to correspond with the episode's geography.

The now-closed amusement park is in fairly good shape, having opened for a short time in 1994. Before then, it had been closed since 1986. It first opened in 1954 and at the time was featured on a television news-variety program.

The park, which features large storybook figures but no moving rides, is a tough sell for today's Nintendo/MTV/roller-coaster generation. Nevertheless, the park's owner, Towson-based JHP Development Inc., has a "real intention" of reopening the park, said David Carney, a Columbia lawyer who represents JHP.

For Tuesday's shoot, the "Homicide" crew temporarily renovated the castle. They placed colored stars and other markings on the gray walls and hung a large "Neptune's Castle" sign out front.

Inside was the domain of King Neptune, played by 60-year-old Will Monahan, a retired Internal Revenue Service worker who lives in Alexandria, Va., and recently starred in a one-man play in Washington about Karl Marx returning to New York City to redeem his name.

"I'll go anywhere where they'll pay me," he said, while taking a break on the set. His costume included black rubber boots, yellow rain pants, a yellow raincoat and a bronze crown made from a cut-up fishing hat.

He was to make $522 for the day -- the going rate for extras who speak lines.

Ms. Gargon's scene was shot outside the front of the castle, when Detectives Lewis and Kellerman run outside to look for Ms. Tomlin's character.

Ms. Gargon, who has lived in Columbia for eight years, plays a mother of two. She is joined in the scene by extra Rose Anne McGarrity -- also of Columbia and also playing the part of a mother.

Ms. McGarrity is a real estate agent in Howard County. While waiting for her scene Tuesday, she spent part of the time studying for a broker's exam.

The filming went largely unnoticed by motorists along U.S. 40. Most of the crew's large trucks were standing deep in the parking lot of the Enchanted Forest Shopping Mall, which runs along the east side of the park.

Three workers at Pearle Vision Center had a perfect view outside the rear door. "I don't watch it on a regular basis," Assistant Manager Amanda Zink said of the program, "but I probably will now."

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