NOTE: This is an old issue of the Brushwood Gulch Gazette, which has been archived for reference purposes. Although some links have been updated, the text of this archived newsletter remains unchanged. Please keep in mind that these articles have NOT been updated to reflect changes that may have occurred since they were originally printed. Return to the index of archived issues.
Members of the Way Out West Tent will be providing reports daily reports direct from the convention in Tacoma, Washington. Click here to read this special news section.
It's time to resume the fun at the next Way Out West Tent Meeting, on the evening of Tuesday, August 15, 2000. We'll have a special evening showing some of our favorite Laurel and Hardy films, as well as a great Charley Chase comedy. Plus, we'll have news from the International Sons of the Desert Convention that took place in July.
The meeting will take place in North Hollywood at the Mayflower Club, located at 11110 Victory Boulevard -- just west of Vineland Avenue. The doors will open at 6:30 PM, and the meeting will begin at 7:15 PM. The Fabulous Fisher Franks will be on hand, and the Marvelous Mayflower Bar will be at the ready as well. So, come on by and see us on Tuesday, August 15th at the Mayflower!
Click here for a map to the Mayflower Club...
On the evening of Saturday, October 21, 2000, the Way Out West Tent will hold its 33rd Anniversary Banquet. While we know it's going to be difficult to top last year's banquet, we're sure that this year's plans won't leave you disappointed.
This year's location will be at the 94th Aero Squadron in Van Nuys, adjacent to the airport. This fine restaurant has a nostalgic atmosphere, reminiscent of the big band and war-time eras. We think this will be the perfect place for a "Pack Up Your Troubles" themed banquet. The evening will include a full meal with all the trimmings, some special guests, a raffle, and a film.
Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Second International Sons of the Desert Convention -- which was hosted by our tent -- we have invited celebrities that were with us at that time. The cost will be $40 for members and $45 for non-members. Space will be limited, so please don't wait until the last minute to sign up! More details will follow in the next newsletter.
Image Entertainment's ten volume collection of Laurel and Hardy DVDs is nearly complete. Volumes seven, eight, and nine have been recently released and should now be available for sale in stores and on the Internet. Films that have never been released to commercial home video are now available, including With Love and Hisses (Vol. 7), From Soup to Nuts (Vol. 8), The Second Hundred Years (Vol. 8), and Why Girls Love Sailors (Vol. 9). This is great news for anyone who collects Laurel and Hardy videos, as these have been very difficult to obtain in the past. Each disc contains six films, most of which are classic Laurel and Hardy shorts. They also contains several solo efforts by either Stan Laurel or Oliver Hardy. The disc may be ordered online from Amazon.com from one of the following links:
The UCLA Film and Television Archive will be screening the theatrical trailer from The Rogue Song, as well as a recently discovered ballet scene from this long lost film. This will take place on August 5th at the James Bridges Theater on the UCLA campus. The theater is located on the northeast corner of the university, near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Hilgarde Avenue. Parking is available in nearby lot #3. The three minute trailer and five minute dance excerpt will precede the evening's main event, which will be screenings of The Prisoner of Zenda and The Vagabond King. For more information, see their website at: http://www.cinema.ucla.edu/
The meeting of June 20, 2000 started off with Bob Duncan introducing our first film, Smithy -- a Stan Laurel comedy with James Finlayson. Next, Vice-Sheik, Jimmy Wiley led us in the singing of the Sons of the Desert song and the traditional toasts. Bob Duncan was back to introduce the next two films, Charley Chase's Public Ghost No. 1 and Laurel and Hardy in Scram. Birthday cakes were on hand at the break, to honor Stan Laurel's 110th birthday. Jay Dare (the boys' costumer at 20th Century Fox) was in attendance, so that we could celebrate his birthday as well. Also joining us was long time member and TV/radio personality Tom Hatten, who can currently be heard on KNX radio. Our feature for the evening was Laurel and Hardy's Our Relations, which was shown after the break. Bob Duncan involved our members and guests by hosting a trivia contest that took place during the course of the evening. The two winners were Melanie Thompson and Lenny Thompson, who received autographed pictures of Della Lind and Anita Garvin.
By Rip Rense
Now, you have to understand two things about me before you read this:
First, I love Laurel and Hardy.
Second, I tend to view small events in terms of larger symbolism.
When I was a kid, I watched Laurel and Hardy every chance I got. I found them endearing and funny. As I grew older, I came to understand some of the reasons for their appeal: their unflappable loyalty to one another, friends-to-the-finish spirit, noble perseverance in the face of relentless absurdity.
It's the last point that rings most true with me today. Stan and Ollie were, I came to realize, earnestly and honestly -- if naively and somewhat idiotically -- trying to cope with a world of chicanery, deceit, treachery, injustice, and stupidity. They were indefatigable. They never gave up -- come crackpot judges, rabid criminals, shrew wives, picayunish clerks. They bravely put their bowler hats back on, dusted themselves off, and bumbled along.
This, as far as I'm concerned, elevated them beyond the confines of simple comedy. I don't think Kurt Vonnegut was extreme in appraising them as "saints" in his novel, "Slaptstick." These two sweet, clumsy souls comported themselves with dignity, decency, mutual respect and optimism in a land of booby-traps and stingy hearts. Every damsel in distress they rescued had a murderously jealous husband lurking in the wings. Pianos that needed moving had minds of their own. Little white lies turn into divorce-fueling, house-wrecking cataclysms.
Laurel and Hardy's good intentions paved their way to hellish and ridiculous circumstances, again and again and again.
Which brings us to our little story for the day:
There I was, minding my own business...
I had gone shopping at a Suncoast Video, trying to pick up a boxed set of the "Absolutely Fabulous" comedy series (I recommend it) as a gift. And there it was, for 99 bucks. I carried it to the front counter, and smilingly announced that I was still going to shop around a little. The clerk, an unassuming blonde woman around 30, smiled back and said, "all right."
Laurel and Hardy's mistakes often began when they tried to render a little innocent assistance to a stranger. As did mine.
A middle-aged woman and her elderly, cane-assisted mother entered the emporium. They shyly browsed a bit, hovering near me in the "comedy" section. We were the only customers in the joint. Fate was in the air!
After a few minutes, the blonde clerk swooped in with her "finding everything all right?" recording. I heard the middle-aged woman ask if they had any Laurel and Hardy movies. The clerk pointed vaguely toward a shelf, picked out one or two videos, and said, "these are the only ones."
Feeling possessed of the do-gooder spirit of Ollie, I stepped in.
"Excuse me, ladies, if you are interested in Laurel and Hardy, perhaps you would like to know about the Sons of the Desert, the International Laurel and Hardy appreciation society. I have a guest pass to their meetings that I'd be glad to give to you."
I am a proud, lifetime honorary Son of the Desert, you see, having written about the fine organization many times for various publications. I produced the guest pass and smiled. If I'd been wearing a tie, I would have twiddled it.
"Oh! Thank you!" said the shy middle-aged lady. "But I'm afraid we wouldn't use it. Better to give it to someone who would."
"Are you sure? They meet in the Valley almost every month. They show all the movies. ..."
"Oh, yes. But thank you, anyway."
"You're quite welcome, ma'am."
She and her elderly mother smiled. I smiled. I noticed that the clerk was sort of eyeing the whole scene. She wasn't smiling.
I continued browsing.
A few minutes later, I overheard the lady -- now at the front counter -- trying to extract some information from the clerk about "do you know which Laurel and Hardy videos are available, and where I could find them?"
Blondie grunted the prescribed responses: "It depends on ..." and "We get different stock ..." (translation: hell if I know). I endeavored to be of further aid. I swear I heard the voice of Hardy in my head, but the words were mine:
"Pardon me again, ladies. Forgive my intrusion, but I couldn't help but overhear your inquiry --"
They smiled at me.
"Oh, that's all right," said the middle-aged lady. "I love their movies! I only have four or five at home, and I watch them over and over. I've stopped watching television completely. I only watch Laurel and Hardy. They make me happy. I'm probably crazy."
"On the contrary," I responded. "I would say that's a mark of sanity. Have you heard of Dipsy-Doodle Video?" (Not its real name.)
"Well, it's a specialty video store in the Valley. They have all the Laurel and Hardy films -- every one that has been released to video. And if they don't have the official releases, they have copies of the films they've taped off of television. They actually give them away as free rentals, if you pay for one official rental. It's a kind of bootlegging."
Delight, surprise, even astonishment stole over their faces. The elderly woman stared at me in plain wonder. I could read her mind: "Gee -- there are still nice young people!" (Or, perhaps, "he didn't ask for spare change!") They thanked me profusely, and left, repeating the name, "Dipsy Doodle." I stood, flushed with pleasure at having rendered assistance -- at having been a Son of the Desert in the right place at the right time.
I turned to Blondie, and smiled, "Oh. I hope I haven't discouraged any business for you."
The wife bounced a frying pan off of Hardy's head. The piano did an about-face, and made a beeline back down that long flight of stairs. Stan burned the house down, and burst into sobs under Ollie's recriminating stare.
"You shouldn't be talking about bootlegs," said the clerk. "We're supposed to report them."
I felt like Mrs. Hardy after she is told the boys survived a sinking ocean liner by "ship-hiking" home. Or Jimmy Finlayson when he screws up his mustache in exasperation and says, "Doh!" (That's where Homer Simpson got it.)
"We report bootleggers. It's part of my job."
I suddenly decided that the clerk was a sour-looking little mugwump with pointy teeth and pointy glasses. Probably did't like Laurel and Hardy, either.
"Uh, look, I was just trying to help these ladies out. They wanted so much to find movies that you don't carry. You're, uh, not going to report that store I mentioned for bootlegging, are you?"
She shrugged as if to say, "could be."
"Oh, come on, you wouldn't do that, would you?"
"It's my job."
"Oh, there's no harm in it," I said. "You didn't have the movies they wanted."
The mugwump spoke in a voice as dry and deceased as King Tut.
"How would you like it if your company was losing money to bootleggers?"
"Oh, come on. Are you kidding me?"
She glared. "Don't you care that bootleggers are undercutting the official companies?"
In a Laurel and Hardy film, this is where Ollie would have looked sheepish, Stan would have sobbed, "well, I couldn't help it," and they would have been confronted by Ted Turner (played by Edgar Kennedy), who would have sanctimoniously chastised them for the terrible sin of aiding and abetting bootleggers. But this is where the scene lost all resemblance to a Laurel and Hardy movie. As I said, I find symbolism in small events. Here was Good -- in the form of Laurel and Hardy films -- confronted by Evil -- in the form of the obedient little corporate Nazi behind the counter.
"No, lady, I don't care!" I said. "I don't care at all! And you've just lost a hundred-dollar sale. I don't want this 'Absolutely Fabulous' boxed set. What's more, I'll never shop here again. Don't you care about that?"
She was undeterred. "Don't YOU care that -- "
I cut her off: "No, I don't give a (word that Stan and Ollie never used) about bootleggers. I don't care! In fact, I wish all bootleggers good luck! I don't give a flying (whoops -- that word again) about big corporations, and I don't see why you do, either!"
"That's my job!"
"Good! And a good job it is, too. I hope you work here for the rest of your (yup, that word yet again, but with an -ing on the end) LIFE!"
I left before she phoned the video gestapo.
If only I'd had a nice, fat cream pie--
P.S. June 16 would have been Stan Laurel's 110th birthday. For information regarding The Sons of the Desert, and where your nearest "tent" might be, visit the website of the "Way Out West" chapter of the SOD at www.wayoutwest.org.
Rip Rense is writer and columnist whose work has appeared in many newspapers and magazines, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Emmy Magazine, TV Guide, and Free China Review. He's also a long time member of the Way Out West Tent.
He was born on June 4, 1884 in Brooklyn, New York (although one source lists his birth in 1869). He spent many years working on the stage before entering films with the Edison Company in 1913. He played many leads in the silent era before becoming a strong character actor in sound films. He spent some time in the military service during World War I. Some of his film credits include Wings with Clara Bow, Puttin' on the Ritz with Joan Bennett, The Jazz Singer with Al Jolson, Baby Take a Bow with Shirley Temple, and his final feature, The Great Victor Herbert with Allan Jones and Mary Martin. He died on December 5, 1942 at the age of 58 in Woodland Hills, California. Laurel and Hardy fans remember him best as the bank president and the grandfather of Eddie's baby in Pack Up Your Troubles...Richard Tucker.
Source for Did You Know:
The Film Encyclopedia, by Ephraim Katz
Who Was Who on Screen, by Evelyn Mack Truitt
Silent Film Necrology, by Eugene Michael Vazzana
The Chases of Pimple Street
Released November 17, 1934. Starring Charley Chase, Betty Mack, Gertrude Astor, Wilfred Lucas, Arthur Housman, and Hattie McDaniel. Charley is always at odds with his pain in the neck sister-in-law. Charley's boss wants to impress a client and Charley's sister-in-law winds up as part of the plan with hilarious results.
Released August 3, 1933. Starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Frank Terry, Frank Brownlee, Eddie Dunn, and Walter Plinge. Officers Laurel and Hardy are called to investigate a man who is trying to break into a house. It turns out that the man is the Police Chief who has locked himself out.
Released February 25, 1933. Starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Baldwin Cooke, Charlie Hall, May Wallace (voice of Mrs. Laurel), and Carol Tevis (voice of Mrs. Hardy). The boys, having married each other's sister, are going to celebrate their first anniversary of marriage.
Released May 20, 1938. Starring Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Walter Woolf King, Della Lind, Eric Blore, Charles Judels, Ludovico Tomarchio, and Charles Gemora. Mousetrap salesmen Laurel and Hardy are unknowingly swindled while in Switzerland. As a result, they run up a large debt at a hotel for a meal for which they cannot pay. They are put to work as handymen at the hotel to pay off the debt. Ollie falls in love with an opera singer, posing as the chambermaid, who is really there to surprise her music composer husband.
90 Years Ago
85 Years Ago
80 Years Ago
75 Years Ago
65 Years Ago
60 Years Ago
50 Years Ago
40 Years Ago
20 Years Ago
Sources for Looking Back:
Laurel & Hardy - The British Tours, by A.J. Marriot
Laurel & Hardy - From the Forties Forward, by Scott MacGillivray
Laurel & 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 Chuck McCann S.O.D. Co-founder 3 Alan Ladd Great Guns 4 Pete Smith Tree in a Test Tube 4 Mantan Moreland A Haunting We Will Go 8 Darwood "Waldo" Kaye Our Gang 12 Billy Gilbert The Music Box, Block-Heads 12 Dickie Moore Our Gang 15 Jackie Cooper Our Gang 16 Tommy "Butch" Bond Our Gang 17 Ben Turpin Our Wife, Saps at Sea 18 Robert Blake The Big Noise 20 Billy Bletcher Babes in Toyland 20 Blanche Payson Helpmates 26 Antonio Moreno The Bohemian Girl 28 Kay Deslys Perfect Day
1 Charley Rogers A Chump at Oxford 2 Lois Roberts Mrs. Thomas Benton Roberts 2 George "Spanky" McFarland Our Gang 2 LeRoy Shield L&H music composer 3 Leo McCarey L&H director 3 Charles Middleton Pack Up Your Troubles 4 Scotty Beckett Our Gang 4 Buster Keaton The Stolen Jools 9 Frank Austin Laurel-Hardy Murder Case 9 Jim MacGeorge Stan Laurel Impressionist 10 Arthur Housman Scram, Our Relations 11 Mickey Daniels Our Gang 11 Frank Brownlee Midnight Patrol 17 Art Lloyd L&H cameraman 19 Daphne Pollard Our Relations, Thicker Than Water 20 Charley Chase Sons of the Desert, On the Wrong Trek 23 Jimmy Aubrey That's My Wife 25 Gordon "Porky" Lee Our Gang 28 Otto Fries Leave 'Em Laughing, Pardon Us