Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

Friday Photo

This was on a dusty shelf in a dark corner of Universal’s lamp dock.

I had no idea what the hell this thing was (I stood and looked at it for a while, with my head cocked to the side like that dog in the old RCA ads) – I ended up having to hunt down one of the older guys to tell me.

It’s a DC (Direct Current) underwater light from the 1950’s. There’s not a good sense of scale in the photo, but it’s about two feet (60 cm) tall.

Back in the days before specialized underwater lighting systems, electricians would take a bare 10k (10,000 watt) globe, epoxy (the gooey looking grey stuff) the connection to make it waterproof, drop the bulb in the water and turn it on. This was how they lit the pools on all those old Ethel Merman movies.

This one is clearly an attempt to build a better mousetrap, and has a metal reflector to magnify the light, a steel cage to prevent bulb breakage, and a weighted plate on the bottom to keep the whole contraption near the bottom of the pool (light bulbs – even big ones – float).

Wacky. I can’t believe the lamp dock still has these things. I’m almost positive they’re not allowed to use them anymore.

Filed under: Photos, Work

5 Responses

  1. Dave2 says:

    Uhhh… yeah. It would suck to be Ethel Merman if somebody didn’t put enough of that gray goop on the light connector though! I’m a bit surprised that they didn’t attempt any insulating encasement around it or something. Danger! Danger Will Robinson!!

  2. writergurl says:

    I love it! A verifiable display of the old axiom: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

  3. Catherine says:

    I’m a lurker that loves your blog! I was scared for Ethel too until my husband just pointed out that Ethel Merman probably never swam in a pool – and sang “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” to prove it. We were thinking of Esther Williams :-)

  4. Holy Crap!
    It’s amazing there are stories about frying more old movie stars.

  5. Peggy Archer says:

    It was E. Williams, wasn’t it?


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