Friday, February 28, 2014

Stan, Ollie and Chuck....

Thousands will attend the April 7-13, 2014 Masters Golf tournament in Augusta.

I wonder how many realize just a short drive away, in Harlem, GA, is the Laurel & Hardy Museum.

I pass the exit sign twice each time I go to Atlanta for music concerts.

This time, after seeing the Eagles at Philips Arena on a Monday night, I stopped in Harlem on the drive back to visit "the boys."

Oliver Norvell Hardy, the larger of the two, was born here in 1892

Linda Caldwell, the charming museum director, toured me around.

She pointed out various items in the huge collection of memorabilia from the U.S. and from England, where Stan Laurel was born.

"We have a Friday Movie Night here," she gestured around a large room filled with folding chairs.

"We have a copy of ALL their films but usually show just some of the short ones."

Linda pointed out original movie poster cards on the wall and some that were reproductions.

On the first Saturday in October, the 25th annual L&H Festival drew 35,000 visitors.

More than 300 food stands, arts and crafts and other booths were set up along the main street and around the square.

Linda asked to hold my camera and suggested I hop in the car to take a spin with Stan and Ollie.

Just before she snapped the shutter, I was handed a black bowler hat.

I wanted to be one of the boys so I waved it as we enjoyed riding along on "A Perfect Day," the name of one of their feature films.

There's even a fan in place to create a wind-blown effect if you are shooting a video, Linda added.

Gotta love the business of show.

This particular poster, printed on fine paper, captured the duo in a way that reminded me of a Saturday Evening Post cover.

It had that Norman Rockwell feel.

I'm pretty sure Linda said it was not a cover on that magazine but "the boys" were included in a Fall 1971 issue.

It was amazing to see the array of items that carried the two faces or scenes from their films.

Ollie met his impish co-star by accident when Stan came to America as Charlie Chaplin's stand-in,  I was told.

The rest - as they say - is history.

Wandered around for a while, looking at all the displayed faces and figures then realized I should get back on the road home.

Apparently school bus drivers  knew their riders schedules and I joined a queue of yellow vehicles in a convoy up to the high school.

They turned off into the home of the Harlem Bulldogs.

Hmm, I would have expected a more imaginative name, like the Harlem Globe Something or other.

Or some tie-in to The Boys.

Or perhaps even Hooters over in Augusta.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

Later, online, I saw that a dancing scene from one of their movies had been dubbed with a Santana song.

This should take you to the link or you could look it up on YouTube.
You'll have a LOL moment.

The boys were great.

"Another fine mess, Ollie."

Here's a story I received from a former San Diego newspaperman I know who saw this blog.

Joe had left the paper to be a successful ventriloquist and was invited to attend an event for the Way Out West tent of the famed Sons Of The Desert.

Joe performed for Lois, Stan's daughter and for Stan's great grandson. Here's his story:

          On the Laurel and Hardy museum, I have story to tell about "the boys" and those who remember them. In the late 90s I was contacted by the "Way out West" tent of the Sons of the Desert, the mock fraternal group started in honor of them using the title of Sons of the Desert, one of their best received movies. They asked if I'd do a short presentation and they couldn't pay but I'd be their guest at dinner. Since I once had a L&H autograph (one of many things sold to finance my ventriloquism/show biz switch from daily newspapers) and (then) had VHS tapes of many of their movies, and had studied the GREAT L&H silents when I was in high school, I jumped at the chance.
          I was going to do a short bit with my main character and maybe one or two more. About two nights later I woke up with a song lyric and sat down and within about three minutes (it came out of the blue this never happened again) wrote a lyric honoring them to the tune of Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen. I then found I could order the karaoke with the music. It was a poignant lyric and even fitted in Jimmy Finlayson and some other things about them...perhaps a bit corny but really fit.
          Anyway, when I got there I did the bit and they were very receptive. The main dummy would make some comments flirting with this older woman in front whose eyes were popping out of her head she was so fascinated. I only later learned it was Stan Laurel's daughter Lois.
          I then did my lip sync where I get people up, they put on ratty wigs and lip sync Tutti Frutti. Before I arrived I had the bright idea: why not have them wear hats like Laurel and Hardy? No one would think of that! Of course when I got there some did have those hats including the great Chuck McCann who did is Oliver Hardy as another comedian did Stan Laurel in an act after mine.
          When I got the volunteers up, one who looked about 17 or 18 took the hat and looked at the audience which started to roar. Then he put it on and they laughed harder. I later learned he was Stan Laurel's great grandson. (I should have known: he resembled photos of the very young Laurel).
          I sat a table with the then-elderly woman who was the little girl in the Little Rascals fire engine wooed by a rich kid and a member of the gang. "Whitey" from the Bowery Boys was there. At my table there was on woman who had incredible pizzazz, and we talked about a lot of things. When we talked about early cartoons I told her how much I had liked the very much pioneering Crusader Rabbit as a tiny kid. Turns out she HAD BEEN the voice of Crusader Rabbit.
          And then I saw Tommy "Butch Bond" who was the original Butch in The Little Rascals. I and told him he was my favorite kid actor -- and realized I had seen his work only as a kid via TV when he was already an adult. He told me, "I loved what you did. You keep on doing what you're doing!" Several years later I was at the swap meet. This was when they released the restored Little Rascals on VHS tapes. There was a booth with an even older Tommy Butch Bond with a sign: "The Original Butch Autographs $5" Years later when he passed I learned that his wife died so he moved in with his son who was in San Diego County (or so I was told). I told him I had met him at the Sons of the Desert. "Yes -- and I hope you still doing what you were doing!" (A side tidbit he was the producer for ventriloquist Paul Winchell's metromedia show and really found Winchell a pain. In his book he details how an official made sure he got the news first about Winchell's cancellation as a kind of "gift.")
          I need to add that I still watch and study Laurel and Hardy. A GREAT set is now out of their restored shorts. These include a few that were dubbed in Spanish, French and Italian. In the early days they hadn't moved to dubbing so Hal Roach would refilm it, using native speakers in key roles when he could. I'm told their accents were awful in Spanish but they did the lines well and those shorts remain highly popular.
          I don't put my demo on this list but for those interested in the lip sync I did with Stan Laurel's great grandson a version of it is on this 2001 demo (which starts out with my bit on NBC's Spy TV).
          And a footnote: at that Way out West meeting: they took us on a tour of the places where movies such as The Music Box (the stairway) and Big Business (where they destroyed a house) were filmed, as well as the Culver City streets and hotel where some scenes were shot. The person who invited me explained that they figured this would be one of the last chances to do this -- because all of these people were quickly dying off. The groups still operate -- people come out at meetings to watch viewings of the sound and silent movies and maybe have a guest speaker -- but there are fewer. At that time there was one in San Diego, but I don't know if it still exists. I'm sure the Culver City one still does.


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At Sat Mar 01, 05:52:00 AM , Blogger Rick said...

That was fun. Thanks. They were a staple on TV back in the day.

At Sun Mar 02, 12:56:00 PM , Blogger Rick said...

Thanks to Joe Gandelman for sharing those memories. I enjoyed that too.

At Sun Mar 02, 01:03:00 PM , Blogger chuckography said...

Thanks Rick for the feedback. Have you ever attended the Charleston Bloggers at Barnes & Noble in West Ashley? I plan to go on Thursday March 6. I'll buy you a coffee. Or a beer.


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