Boston’s Tinseltown Walk

Movie Buffs Will Savor A Cinematic Stroll Of Beantown That Winds Up At Cheers!

Hartford Courant
July 24, 2008

Now more than ever, we need a break — an occasional respite from our everyday lives. Yes, a “daycation” — a day spent away from the office or job site, and away from chores, just to relax and play. Once again this summer, we are taking one day a week to suggest a nearby escape. Enjoy!

BOSTON — Our tour guide is about to give us the scoop on John Kerry’s 12-room townhouse, here at the corner of the city’s tony Louisburg Square, when a gray head pops out from the Democratic senator’s ground-floor window, flashing a watering can and a smile.

”Hello,” she says in our direction, tilting the can over a row of windowsill flowers.

We wave awkwardly to this woman we don’t recognize but know for sure is not Teresa Heinz Kerry. Shucks. And then the wobbly, broken window screen slams down.

It startles us; it startles her. And as she fumbles to push it back up, our tour guide — momentarily and uncharacteristically speechless — motions us farther along and out of earshot.

”We’ll just come over here, and I’ll talk really quiet,” Nicole Mayne tells us on this cinematic stroll through the city with Boston Movie Tours.

In a hush, Mayne tells us the house is estimated to be worth $9.8 million. “At least,” she says, her eye on the woman who is now leaning out of a second window, “that’s what’s in my script.” As is the tidbit of how the Kerrys succeeded in having the city move a pesky fire hydrant from their front sidewalk to a less visible spot just around the corner.

But wait — this is a movie tour. Lovely as it is, what’s John Kerry’s house got to do with Boston moviemaking?

Well, nothing, really. It’s the house across the street that brings us here. No. 22, the backdrop for a scene in the 1968 movie “The Boston Strangler.” There it is, looking near exactly the same in Mayne’s handy binder of photo stills — a red-brick building, yellow fire hydrant and all. (Apparently not everyone has the same pull with hydrants as the Kerrys).

Onward we go this Friday afternoon, in search of the next bit of Hollywood history tucked away in the nooks and crannies of Boston’s cobblestoned streets and storied buildings.

It’s a lively 90-minute walking tour that, for $20, tests our knowledge of cinematic trivia while showcasing the city’s past and burgeoning new film scene.

And it is burgeoning. While movies referenced on the tour date back to the 1960s (Think “The Thomas Crown Affair” starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway), the string of movies filmed here in recent years is striking: “Good Will Hunting,” “Mystic River,” “The Departed,” “Fever Pitch,” “Gone, Baby Gone.”

In fact, the tour company reports that Boston has been home to more than 400 movies and television shows. Add to that the seven major movies that have been shot in Massachusetts just this year alone — a boom credited to the aggressive tax incentives the state passed to lure filmmakers — and suddenly it doesn’t seem so crazy that Boston fancies itself Hollywood East.

”Boston is really becoming a movie-making destination,” says Jeff Coveney, who launched the Boston Movie Tours in 2005. “The branding of Boston and Massachusetts is starting to [evolve] as more than just a history-based location. It’s now also a Hollywood- and celebrity-based location.”

Which means Coveney and his roster of six tour guides aren’t lacking for fresh material. They keep up with the reported comings and goings of celebrities, and scout every film crew that rolls into town for new tidbits to infuse into the dozen or so walking and bus tours the company leads in a week.

”As they make more movies, we have more stuff to talk about,” says Mayne, 23, a Massachusetts native and herself an aspiring actress. (Look for her brown, curly ponytail in a stunt scene in the upcoming, Boston-based Kevin James movie, “Paul Blart: Mall Cop.”)

”And I think what we’re doing kind of goes hand in hand with that. It makes this whole idea of this filming movement that’s coming to Boston — of this Hollywood East — seem a little more permanent.”

Bogus Bucks
We begin our tour in Boston Common, with Mayne first defining for us the term “Boston movie.” On this tour, that could mean one of three things: a movie filmed and set in Boston; a movie filmed in Boston but set elsewhere; or a movie filmed elsewhere but set in Boston.

It’s at this point that she also introduces the concept of Boston movie bucks — bogus money earned for every trivia question answered correctly, with the biggest bucks-holder winning a prize (usually movie tickets or film-industry swag).

We make our way toward Beacon Street, stopping within view of the gold-domed Massachusetts State House. Mayne opens her binder of film stills to one showing a pack of men in rugby uniforms, congregated on the very spot we’re standing.

“The Departed!” says a college-aged guy in our group, visiting from Cleveland with his brother and parents. He’s answering a question that Mayne hasn’t yet asked. But that’s how the game is played, and so she congratulates him and hands him a buck.

” Matt Damon!” he fires again, gesturing to the arrow scrawled on the photo in marker, pointing to one particular player in the scrum.

He shouts a few more movie facts, and before I know it, he’s got a pocketful of bucks. That’s when I realize I’m playing with a significant handicap; I haven’t been to the movies much over the past two years. I need to come up with an alternative buck-building strategy.

We make our way outside the park and to a bronze sculpture depicting a Civil War colonel on horseback. Mayne asks our group if we know who it is.

“Robert Gould Shaw!” I say, reading the inscription on the monument, my palm out to accept my buck.

Mayne shakes her head. “No bucks for reading!”

Then the Cleveland brothers step in. “Glory!” one says, recognizing the statue from the closing credits of the 1989 Civil War film.

Denzel Washington. Morgan Freeman. Matthew Broderick. The brothers clean house, naming the film’s starring actors. We stroll on, my sad little pockets still empty.

We arrive at the nearby Boston Atheneum, an exclusive, members-only library. Mayne gives us a little bit of the Atheneum’s history before opening her binder to a still of two familiar-looking actors hunkered down at a library table, a scene shot just inside the building set at Harvard. The university, she tells us, is averse to letting disruptive film crews on campus.

I feel a swell of excitement. I so know this. It’s on the tip of my tongue, this distinctly mid-90s film — the height of my movie-going. It’s all me.

Brendan Fraser! Joe Pesci! And the movie? Umm. Umm. Oh! “With Honors!”

I happily stuff a trio of bucks into my pocket.

We wind our way through Beacon Hill, seeing the quaint shops, charming alleys and hulking office buildings that appeared in movies such as “The Verdict” and “Blown Away” and in television shows like “Boston Public” and “Ally McBeal.”

Along the way we collect our bucks, and a host of interesting city and cinematic trivia. We arrive at our last site, Cheers! — the standard tourist tavern stop and setting of the popular 1980s sitcom.

We hand over our bucks, and no surprise, the Cleveland brothers cash in with what Mayne tells us is a record number of points earned on any of her tours. Still, the rest of us shlubs don’t exactly go away empty-handed. Our tour pass gives us a discounted meal at the tavern. I don’t care if it is a little cheesy. I elbow my way past the tourists snapping photos under the pub’s famous sign and flash my Boston Movie Tours pass to the host inside like the winner I know I really am.

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Contact Joann Klimkiewicz at

For more photos of scenes from the Boston Movie Tour, visit www.courant. com/bostonmovies

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