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Summer is winding down, and the Way Out West Tent is ready to meet again. August 11th is the date to remember. This will be a special tribute to the Hal Roach All-Stars, hosted by author Rob Stone. As you know, Rob has written the book Laurel or Hardy - The Solo films of Stan Laurel and Oliver "Babe" Hardy. In addition to films by Stan, Ollie, Max Davidson, Charley Chase, Harold Lloyd, Thelma Todd, and ZaSu Pitts, Rob will also give us some historical background on these stars and the films we will be viewing. We will meet at the Mayflower Club, located at 11110 Victory Boulevard (west of Vineland Avenue) in North Hollywood. The doors will open at 6:30 PM and the meeting will begin at 7:15 PM. The Fabulous Fisher Franks will be ready for the eatin' and the Marvelous Mayflower Bar will be ready to keep your Fisher Franks company. So, join us on August 11th. Don't miss out!
Map to the Mayflower Club...
This past May the Way Out West Tent lost one of its most beloved members when Venice Lloyd, wife of cameraman Art Lloyd, passed away. It was in the early years of the Way Out West Tent that Venice Lloyd first showed us her tremendous generosity. You could always count on Venice for her warmth and goodwill, sharing her memories of the boys and their days on the Roach lot.
During the 20's and 30's, Venice was there when Babe was teamed up with Stan. She even appeared with the boys in scenes from Putting Pants on Philip and Chickens Come Home. Venice was a professional dancer, as well as a dance instructor. Her husband was Stan Laurel's favorite cameraman. He photographed many Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, and other Hal Roach films. Not only were Venice and Art popular among the employees of the Hal Roach Studios, but they were also very kind people. When Our Gang member Joe Cobb lost his mother, they took him into their home for several years.
Although Art passed away in 1954, Venice found new friends to share her past with when she became a member of the Sons of the Desert in 1980. From that time on, she regularly attended Way Out West meetings and banquets. Sons of the Desert everywhere had the good fortune to meet Venice at four different International Conventions. More about Venice may be found below.
Felix Knight, who appeared in three Laurel and Hardy films, passed away in New York on June 18. Knight is best remembered for his role as Tom Tom in Babes in Toyland. He was also featured as a singer in Laurel and Hardy's The Bohemian Girl and Pick a Star. Other film credits include Caravan and Down to Their Last Yacht.
As a young man, Knight studied opera. This eventually led him to his film roles for Hal Roach and others. When work in the pictures became scarce, Knight moved on to radio. He was heard on such radio programs as The Ford Hour, Music Hall of the Air, Shell's Open House, and The Treasury Hour. Eventually, he found himself singing opera in cities around the world for such notable outfits as The Metropolitan Opera, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Detroit Symphony. Knight recorded several records during his career, and eventually he became a vocal coach.
In 1986, Knight was reunited with Toyland cast members Henry "Barnaby" Brandon and Virginia "Mother Goose" Karns at the Sons of the Desert International Convention in Philadelphia. He also attended the 1990 International Convention in Clearwater, Florida. Knight was an active member of the Sons of the Desert's founding tent in New York. He is survived by his wife, Ethel, and their only son.
The 11th Sons of the Desert International Convention took place July 17-21 in Birmingham, England. Hosted by the Laughing Gravy Tent, this return visit to England was attended by members from the United States, United Knigdom, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, and elsewhere around the globe...including those from our newest tent in Finland.
The event began with an opening night banquet at the Chamberlain Hotel, from where the convention was based. There, we were all introduced to the members of the host tent, including Grand Sheik John Ullah and Vice Sheik Paul Price. Other members of the convention committee included Barrie Finney, Pat Finney, Steve Smith, Terry Weir, Annie Weir, and Mandy Finney. The one and only Dwain Smith was also there, to read a message from our founder, John McCabe.
The following morning, all of the delegates boarded buses for Stan Laurel's hometown of Ulverston. The Sons paraded through the streets of this town, ending in front of the home where Stan was born. There we were greeted by the mayor of Ulverston, who expressed his hope that a statue of the boys could someday be placed in his town. A moment of silence was given in memory of Bill Cubin, who was grand sheik of the Ulverston Berth Marks Tent and proprietor of the Laurel and Hardy Museum. Afterwards we retired to the Stan Laurel Inn, a nearby pub. That evening we traveled to the nearby Cumbria Grand Hotel, one of the sites of the 1984 International Convention. Entertainment for the evening was provided by "Sons," including jokes by Steve Wichrowski, a song by Miami's Ralph Sorrenti, and a sing-along of the Dutch classic "There's a Horse in the Corridor" conducted by all 50 passengers who traveled to Ulverston on bus number one!
The Pee Wee Tournament was held Sunday morning, followed by a tour of Birmingham's Hippodrome theater, where Laurel and Hardy performed in 1953. This is also the theater where John McCabe first met Stan Laurel. That evening delegates were able to attend dinner at Warwick Castle, where Medieval food, drink, and entertainment was provided. Others attended a special Summer Barbeque, complete with traditional song and dance.
The International trivia contest took place the next morning, with England taking first place and the U.S. coming in second. There were ten, two person teams, each representing one of the countries in attendance. The grand council meeting followed. Free time in the city was on the agenda for the afternoon. That night, at the final banquet, the pineapple was passed to Jack Taylor of the Seattle Beau Hunks tent, which will host the next International Convention in 2000.
On July 20th--the final evening of the International Convention in Birmingham--many conventioneers were shocked to learn the news that the cruise ship Ecstacy had caught on fire shortly after sailing from the port of Miami. This ship had a special meaning to many convention delegates, because it was the site of the previous International Convention in 1996. Could it be possible that, while we were away at the convention, our ship had encountered a disastrous fate at sea? Had anyone told their wives that they were going on a Caribbean cruise, while they were really away at the convention in England? Many thought it was a joke, until they saw the news reports on television and in the papers.
But the unusual coincidences did not end there. The following day, we came across an American newspaper, only to discover a small article about a fire at the Palace Station Hotel in Las Vegas. This, of course, was the site of the 1992 International Convention. The fire took place at nearly the same time as the cruise ship fire. Fortunately neither fire caused severe damage, and there were only a few minor injuries to report.
Just to make this story a bit more bizarre, it was only a matter of hours before we got word of these fires that the Sons Grand Council voted to include convention insurance for all future conventions. As they put it, "this will protect all of the conventioneers if some unforeseen tragedy should take place...such as if the hotel burns down the day before the convention!"
The meeting of June 16, 1998 was a celebration honoring the 108th anniversary of Stan Laurel's birth. Bob Duncan introduced the first film, which was a Stan Laurel short titled Hustling For Health. Before the break, we all stood and sang Happy Birthday to Stan and then headed over for a piece of Stan's birthday cake. The meeting resumed with the singing of the Sons of the Desert song. Vice-Sheik, Jimmy Wiley, led us all in the traditional toasts. Then Grand Sheik emeritus, Bob Satterfield, offered two toasts to the memory of Jitterbugs co-star Douglas Fowley, and to the Way Out West Tent's dear friend for many years, Venice Lloyd. Lori "Mama Hen" McCaffery welcomed some new members, which was followed by introductions of our celebrity guests for the evening. The Dancing Masters leading lady, Trudy Marshall, and her son were joined by The Dancing Masters and The Bullfighters costumer, Jay Dare, plus Mark and Glenn Kennedy, the grandsons of Edgar Kennedy. Our guest of honor for the evening was Lois Laurel Hawes, who made the ceremonial first cut of Stan's birthday cake earlier. Bob Duncan introduced our next film, The Chimp. This was followed by Bob Satterfield conducting an interview with Lois and concluding with a question and answer period. Our final two films, Them Thar Hills and Tit For Tat were previewed by Bob Duncan and, with their conclusion, brought an end to our meeting.
The Way Out West Tent's annual celebrity banquet will take place on Friday, October 9, at the Castaways Restaurant in Burbank. Please note this new date, as it has been changed since the last newsletter. More details for this event will be provided next month.
On August 11th, the National Portrait Gallery--a bureau of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.--will run a brief tribute to Laurel and Hardy. Two programs will be screened, including This is Your Life (1954) and Laurel and Hardy: Rare Home Movies. Admission is free.
By Randy Skretvedt
Over the course of doing the research for my book about the boys, many things happened which made me wonder if someone in the great beyond was pulling a few strings for me. An example of this was when I got a letter one day, entirely out of the blue, from a fellow named Richard Madsen, who had heard somehow that I was looking for people who had worked with Stan and Babe. Mr. Madsen mentioned that many years before, he had lived for a time with Art and Venice Lloyd; he didn't know if Venice was still around, but did provide an address for a dress shop which was run by her sister, Florence.
I wrote a letter to the dress shop address and about a week later got a reply from Florence Jepperson. Yes, Venice was just fine, and she'd be happy to talk about the old gang at the Roach studios. I called the phone number which Florence provided in her letter and found myself talking to a vivacious lady who seemed to have total recall about events which had happened more than fifty years before. She invited me to visit her at her home for an interview.
So, in early June 1980, began my friendship with Venice. I was a little surprised when I first saw her--she was still a very attractive lady, and quite glamorous. (She had been a dancer before marrying Art, and her figure hadn't changed at all from her youth.) Her warmth and unfailing good spirits were just as remarkable as her memory; her lilting laugh is something I'll always treasure.
Even though her Artie had died in 1954, and the Roach days had ended long before that, she recounted one wonderful anecdote after another: the night Babe came over to the Lloyd house, anxious because he'd heard that the studio wanted to team him with Stan Laurel; another night when Babe took the Lloyds to a nightclub and was astounded to discover that the bill for his ham sandwich came to $48.00 in 1927 money; recalling Stan on the set, asking Art to use more light and take all the shadows out of his face with "White me out, Artie, white me out!"; memories of working as an extra in Putting Pants on Philip and Chickens Come Home; and on and on.
She was remarkably generous; one day when I visited her, she said, "I found a little something I thought you'd like to have." It turned out to be a soldier from Babes in Toyland--actually one foot high, and made out of lead. It had been part of a whole platoon used for the animated scenes in the film. "Artie brought this home from the studio one day, and we've been using it as a Christmas decoration," Venice said, "but I thought you might like it." What an understatement! Venice also gave me a Roach Studios Date Book from 1928--with important day-by-day information about what was being filmed that year--and also gave me Art's old light meter. One day she found several reels of 16mm film; they turned out to be Art's old home movies, including one reel of Spanky McFarland and his brother cavorting on the Lloyds' front lawn. Venice and I were very pleased when Jack Roth of the New York founding tent made a video copy of this for Spanky, who later called and very emotionally thanked me. The thanks, of course, really belonged to Jack and to Venice.
I don't think I could possibly have been as generous to Venice as she was to me, but I think I brightened her days by getting her involved with the Sons. I met her just before the Hollywood '80 Convention, and since she had such fond memories of all the old Roach folks, I invited her to the event. Talk about a baptism of fire--here in one room were scores of folks Venice remembered from the old days and hadn't seen for decades, along with hundreds of eager L&H fans. I think she was a little shell-shocked at first, but she soon became an eager participant in many Sons events.
In sum, Venice was a remarkable lady who treasured her memories of Art and the Roach Studio--and we, in turn, will treasure our memories of her.
By Bob Satterfield
I recently received a letter from Jeanne Romeo regarding her sister, long time member of the Way Out West Tent, Venice Lloyd. This letter's content was really not a shock to me nor was it unexpected, but it did take its toll. Venice Lloyd was the widow of long time Laurel and Hardy and Hal Roach cameraman Art Lloyd. If one has ever watched the credits for any of the duo's classic works, one would recognize the name. For almost as long as I can remember, we have honored Art through Venice. But Venice became much more than a widow of a man that photographed our heroes. She was more than a link to the past (she appeared on camera in the two-reelers Putting Pants on Philip and Chickens Come Home). Venice was more than a loyal "celebrity" member and a supporter (both morally and financially) of the group. Venice was our friend. And although she has not been in physical attendance at our meetings and conventions in recent years, she has been there in spirit and in our hearts. And all that knew Venice feels this loss and mourn her passing.
Her last years were spent in poor health and in a convalescent home. But our memories of Venice are much happier and very plentiful. She attended more conventions that most Sons, and she always paid her way and laughed at the thought of being looked upon as a "celebrity." She took time out and not just spoke to people that asked about Art or the Boys, but talked with them in detail. Venice was a treasure of the Sons.
I knew years ago that I would not get a chance to see Venice again, but I have countless memories of this classy lady. And I dare say that any of the numerous Sons that knew Venice have the same inventory of images and a smile runs across one's face at the mere mention of Venice Lloyd.
Venice, you will always be one of the brightest of the "Tent of the Stars" and will always shine in our hearts and memories. Thank you for all you have done for the world of Laurel and Hardy and your host of friends from coast to coast and aboard. We love you and miss you.
He was born on July 5, 1883 in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. He worked as a stage actor for several years before joining the Biograph Film Company in 1909. While there, he worked as a leading man and a director for D.W. Griffith. He was also a close associate of Mack Sennett. During his tour of duty at Keystone, he had many jobs, graduating to director by the end of 1913. He was married to actress Florence Lee, whose credits include Charlie Chaplin's City Lights. His film credits include D.W. Griffith's Intolerance, as well as The Champ with Wallace Beery, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch with W.C. Fields, Ruggles of Red Gap with Charles Laughton, and Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. His final film was Neptune's Daughter with Red Skelton and Esther Williams. He died on December 2, 1956 in Hollywood, California, at the age of 73. While at the Hal Roach Studios, he appeared in several Our Gang and Charley Chase comedies. With Laurel and Hardy, he was featured in Wrong Again, Our Relations, and Nothing But Trouble. However, he is best remembered as the man dressed up as an old lady in The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case. His birth name was George Delbert Henderson but you know him asÉDel Henderson.
At our next meeting, we will screen a variety of short films which were produced by Hal Roach. These will include:
80 Years Ago
75 Years Ago
70 Years Ago
65 Years Ago
60 Years Ago
40 Years Ago
20 Years Ago
Sources for Looking Back:
Laurel and Hardy - The Magic Behind the Movies, by Randy Skretvedt
Laurel or Hardy - The Solo Films of Stan Laurel and Oliver "Babe" Hardy, by Rob Stone
2 Rychard Cramer Scram, Saps at Sea 2 Sidney "Woim" Kibrick Our Gang 4 Henry Armetta The Devil's Brother 5 John Elliott Sons of the Desert 5 Del Henderson Laurel-Hardy Murder Case 5 Billy "Froggy" Laughlin Our Gang 12 Alice Cooke Stan Jefferson Trio 14 Donald Meek Air Raid Wardens 15 Tom Kennedy Pack Up Your Troubles 18 Bill Patterson W.O.W. Founding Grand Sheik 18 Lupe Velez Hollywood Party 18 Chill Wills Way Out West 19 Vera Ralston The Fighting Kentuckian 19 Harvey Wasden L&H soundman 20 Muriel Evans Pack up Your Troubles 22 Orson Bean Sons of the Desert Co-Founder 23 Hank Worden The Bullfighters 29 Thelma Todd Another Fine Mess, On the Loose
5 Ellinor Vanderveer The Hoosegow 6 Robert Mitchum The Dancing Masters 8 Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer Our Gang 9 Allen "Farina" Hoskins Our Gang 10 Jack Haley Pick a Star 11 Jean Parker The Flying Deuces 15 Charles Gemora The Chimp 16 Lucien Littlefield Sons of the Desert, Dirty Work 17 Charles Judel Swiss Miss 18 Andrea Leeds The Bohemian Girl 19 Charlie Hall Tit for Tat, Come Clean 20 Fred Kelsey Laurel-Hardy Murder Case 23 Jean Darling Our Gang 26 Richard Currier L&H Film Editor 27 James Finlayson Pardon Us, Big Business 27 Thomas Benton Roberts Two Tars 30 Julie Bishop The Bohemian Girl