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The Three Stooges, Ambler, Pennsylvania: Star Trekking
Road Trips to Hollywood Across America
My mother used to be thoroughly disgusted – and there is a good chance that your mother was too - when she’d hear me laughing uncontrollably in front of the TV and find out, when she entered the room, that I was watching the Three Stooges again. There they’d be: eye poking, head knocking, slapping, “nyuck nyucking” and generally “mayhemming.” I could not resist them. The build-ups of preposterous situations resulting in spontaneous, unjustifiable yet seemingly harmless violence were hilarious to me and to millions of other kids who enjoyed their 190 short comedy films and their full-length movies on television for decades. (To moms…usually not so much.)
So I was delighted to discover that Ambler, PA honors the Three Stooges with The Stoogeum – a 10,000 square-foot, 3-story museum devoted entirely to them. Stooge Larry Fine, who always seemed to be having a bad hair day, was in born in Philadelphia. That is just about 16 miles from Ambler which provides the second stop on our Star Trekking series.
(If the name seems exotic to pronounce, notice that it’s based on a certain kind of math: Stooge + Museum = Stoogeum.)
When I found head Stooge Moe’s real-life son, Paul Howard, and asked him in an email whether he had ever been there he answered with the same zeal, albeit tongue-in-cheek, that his father showed when nose-twisting Larry or Curly. “I have been to The Stoogeum every year since it was first built,” he wrote. “It is a FABULOUS repository [the caps are his] of Three Stooges memorabilia. Nothing on the planet can compare to it.”
Trip Advisor reviewers apparently agree. As of this writing, The Stoogeum has a perfect rating there. Props, costumes, actors’ personal effects, interactive displays, even the Stooges depicted on toilet paper!?! – it’s all there.
Creator and curator Gary Lassin has been a fan since childhood but told me in a phone interview that he did not become a Stooges memorabilia collector until he met his wife. He said he had been collecting baseball cards, “But they were, truthfully, pretty boring. They’re all the same size, they all fit neatly into a little album – and there’s only two pictures: a guy batting and a guy pitching.” So when he met and married Robin, grandniece of Larry, he says, “That’s when the chips sort of went loose in my brain.” He realized, “Wow, with the Stooges there are toys, there’s games, there’s props, photographs, artwork – there’s a whole world…” and so The Stoogeum opened in 2004.
“Do you prefer Curly or Shemp?” That’s not only a great bar pick-up line, it’s an argument for the ages.
There have actually been 6 Stooges. The act started in vaudeville in 1931 with Moe Howard of the distinctive bowl-cut, page-boy hair; Moe’s lanky-haired brother Shemp Howard and Larry Fine, whose scalp looked like it was partially covered with worn out bath sponges. (It’s all about the hair!) Shemp was replaced in the vaudeville act two years later by another Howard brother, the bald-shaven and seductively loveable Curly. Moe, Larry and Curly made a series of wondrously whacky short movies together until Curly shockingly had a series of strokes. In 1947, Shemp returned to the trio, replacing Curly. After Shemp died, Joe Besser took over the third spot in 1957’s Hoofs and Goofs.
Can you name the actor who played the final Stooge and/or the nickname he was known by? CLICK HERE for the answer.
“The eye-poke was one of the few things that the Stooges originated,” says Lassin. “A lot of their other shtick was copied from other comedians and they’re just known for it because they did it the best.” (The eye-poking is said to have been born during an agitated card game since there is, apparently, far too much time to kill backstage between shows.)
All this kind of history is chronicled and gloriously displayed at The Stoogeum in over 100,000 objects and artifacts as well as a film vault, research library and an 85-seat theater for screenings, lectures and special events. “Each year some really nice content is added,” says Moe’s son Paul. “If one considers him or herself a true Stooges fan, it’s a MUST to see.”
The meeting of the Three Stooges Fan Club is an annual event at The Stoogeum where some of the 2,000 or so worldwide members converge in Ambler along with relatives and surviving co-stars of the Stooges.
Paul, who says he “distanced” himself from his father’s career as a young man, is today a caricaturist www.caricaturesbypaul.com. When I asked him what he thought of the 2012 Farrelly brothers comedy feature The Three Stooges he said, “... I hope it will add a new generation of Stooge’s fans. For me, it demonstrates that ‘Imitation is the purest form of flattery!’ Bottom line, NOTHING will compare with the ORIGINAL Stooges. Ever!”
The Stoogeum is open every Thursday (except holidays) from 10AM to 3PM and additionally open by appointment. For admission charges, directions and detailed information about the museum and Fan Club visit:
“Why I oughtta…woo-woo-woo-woo-woo.”