Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges were a staple of life when I was growing up. They were everywhere, in the movies and on TV. Although their heyday was in vaudeville, the Stooges made the transition to movies, and finally TV, without a hitch. The audience was out there, waiting. And it was a whole new generation of baby boomers, many of whom would be raised, at least partially, by TV.

In New York City the Stooges were on WPIX Channel 11, which was the television arm of the New York Daily News. Each day's episodes were hosted by "Officer" Joe Bolton, dressed in a New York City Policeman's uniform. Presumably, he was there to remind us that the gags we were seeing on the show were not to be tried at home. At least without adult supervision. It's a good thing that they had him on the air, or else a lot of kids might have really hit one another over the heads with hammers, or, even poked out one another's eyes. Well, that was the conventonal wisdom of the times. But I must state, without reservation, that whenever I went after my brother with a hammer, or poked him in the eye, it was the result of some other argument, and was never influenced by the actions of the 3 Stooges.

Briefly, for the uninitiated, the 3 Stooges grew out of a vaudeville act headed by Ted Healey. Moe, Curly and Shemp Howard were brothers who, like the Marx Brothers, played the vaudeville circuit. Shemp was somewhat of a free agent, appearing solo in many films, even playing the bartender in W.C. Fields' "The Bank Dick" prior to joining the Stooges full time. In later years, after Curly had left, Shemp took his place. In the last years the Stooges were comprised of Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Joe Besser.

Larry had been with the troupe since they first met in Chicago, where he was performing a solo violin act. He joined the group and never looked back. Of the three, he was the most unconventional. He never bought a home, preferring to live in hotels near the racetracks which he and his wife frequented.

In the early 1960's it was Moe Howard who came to the aid of his ailing partners. He was the only one who had invested his earnings over the years, and so was the only one of the group to have any money to speak of. Kind of a sad ending to a chapter of laughter that still rings today.

It's said that the Stooges are mainly a "guy" thing, and for the most part I think that is true. Slapstick, with the exception of someone like Lucille Ball, or Carol Burnett, is really a man's genre. If you don't believe me, ask most women and you will find that I am correct. However, hit the link below for a different perspective on the Stooges. This footage, from You Tube, is of Moe Howard on the Mike Douglas Show in the 1970's. He was the guest host for a week, and they performed skits, and even some pie throwing. The big surprise is Moe's wife, who was in the audience. This may be the most "real" look you will ever have into the life of Moe Howard.


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