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Media Life:Auburn a prime time candidate for TV hit “The Mentalist”

“NBC Nightly News” features Auburn, sort of; Stanley brothers “Deadliest Catch” back for Season 5; In-N-Out fast-food pioneer Dick Lee recalled; More on '80s "Wisdom" shoot in Placer
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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It makes sense for the officers of the California Bureau of Investigation to visit Auburn for some serious crime-solving action. And some on-location filming is looking more and more like a possibility. The CBI, as fans of the new hit TV series “The Mentalist” know to call it, is the made-up law-enforcement agency that travels around the state solving tough-to-crack cases. The show’s been hanging around the Top 10 Neilsen network ratings for most of the past season. Much of its charm is due to star Simon Baker, who plays the observant Patrick Jane. Jane, you see, uses his keen powers of observation and some neat mental tricks picked up as a sham psychic to best the bad guys. The CBI is based out of Sacramento and Jane and crew have made forays to Davis and the Napa Wine County for episodes. In actuality though, all the series has been shot in Los Angeles and nary a second unit has been spotted in the Sacto area. That could change, though, with a little boost from a team of Sacramento-area film reps who will be visiting with producers of the “The Mentalist” this month to talk about bringing some of the action to this region. Among the group is Beverly Lewis, director of the Placer County-Lake Tahoe Film Commission. Lewis said the invite might not pan out right away. The show’s writers are already at work on next season’s scripts. But the series appears to have a future and that future could include some glimpses of, say, the Placer County Courthouse or the Foresthill Bridge, for starters. KEEPING SECRETS Auburn was on last Monday’s edition of the “NBC Nightly News” with Brian Williams but you wouldn’t know it from the reporting. Lee Cowan, NBC News correspondent, dropped by Pioneer Mining Supplies in Downtown Auburn. The report on “a new kind of gold rush” and modern-day panners even included a sound bite from the store’s Jim Bell. But other than the Highway 49 sign out front, there was no mention that the business is in Auburn. Same goes for Coloma. Colorful prospector John Gurney was on camera under the community’s bridge over the South Fork of the American River. But not a mention was made of the spot nearby where gold was first discovered in 1848. Cowan also took viewers into the wild to talk to prospectors on a local river but cannily was loathe to point out where the panning was taking place. Gold was shown being taken from the river but, apparently, it’s not a good idea to point out where the gold is. “Silence is golden,” Cowan spouted punnily as he signed off by saying he was “somewhere in Northern California.” SPECTACULAR CATCH The Discovery Channel’s hit series “Deadliest Catch” is back on the air starting this week for its fifth season with local videographers Todd and Doug Stanley a big part of what viewers see on the screen. Todd makes his home in Lotus while Doug now lives in Roseville after several years in Ophir. The two grew up in Rocklin. The two brothers shared in last year’s Emmy Award for the show and were out on the water this past crabbing season documenting what Todd says was the craziest, wildest weather of any season. Expect some of the biggest waves “Deadliest Catch” has ever captured on film, he says. AUBURN’S “WISDOM” MOMENTS Last week’s Media-Life mention of the 1986 movie “Wisdom” and filming that took place at Auburn’s Foothills Motel jogged some memories and turned up some valuable snippets of information on other locations in the area. Auburn’s Dorothy Crites recalled that her late-husband, Bunny, was hired for a scene in the movie. He even got a close-up and words of praise from director-star Emilio Estevez. Crites is the farmer caught between Estevez’s Uzi and a pistol-toting bank policeman. Dorothy Crites said her husband did his filming on “Wisdom” at a vacant building that once housed a bank and now is now the Highway 49 Radio Shack. Online comments also revealed there were plenty of other locations filmed for “Wisdom.” The list Media Life has so far includes Old Town Roseville, the one-way tunnel under the Union Pacific tracks at Newcastle, downtown Sacramento and West Sacramento. “Wisdom” is back in the spotlight because it has finally been released by Warner Bros. for sale on DVD. IN-N-OUT BEGINNINGS Auburn Journal reporter Jenifer Gee covered plenty of ground with her story to mark the passing of Auburn resident Dick Lee, who was the first employee hired by celebrated fast-food chain In-N-Out Burgers. Here’s a little more: Media Life had the honor of interviewing Lee when In-N-Out opened in Auburn in late-November 1995, and he shared his experiences as a pioneer burger flipper at a stand that would go on to become a much-loved Golden State institution. The year was 1948 and Lee was a 17-year-old Covina High School student. In-N-Out was then something new to the food world and the Southern California community of Baldwin Park – a drive-in burger stand where customers could order through a two-way speaker. “In the beginning it was slow, but all of the sudden, it clicked, and you couldn’t stop them,” Lee said at the time. Lee flipped burgers alongside In-N-Out founder Harry Snyder in a 10-by-10-foot stand. Harry lived across Garvey Boulevard from the first In-N-Out and would just cross the street to take a rest break. But if the cars started lining up, Lee could ring a buzzer hooked up to his phone line so Snyder could run over during busy times to rustle up some more French fries. Lee, who died in March at age 77, left In-N-Out for military duty. By that time, there were half a dozen employees at the stand. He returned for a brief stint in 1954 while going to college. A move to the foothills disconnected Lee from the thriving SoCal business but when In-N-Out headed north in 1995 and started hiring for its new Auburn eatery, Lee was the first person in line for a job. He would stay until illness prevented him from being a much-loved greeter about six months before his death. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.