The saga of Stan’s shoes.

It began with a Tweet.

It certainly was an interesting lot, after viewing the item it looked like just the kind of thing the museum needs. A new unique personal item once belonging to Stan himself, his shoes. After deciding that I would be bidding for lot 269, I also quickly decided to keep this little piece of info to myself, apologies for that, but some of you are collectors and I really didn’t need to get involved in a bidding war with friends. I set a reminder on my phone and forgot all about it until a couple of days before the auction.

Unable to make it to the Radisson Edwardian at Heathrow, I set about finding out how to bid. It seemed there were three ways to bid remotely, a limited number of phone lines are available, a website where you can view and bid online or a commission bid. A commission bid is submitted before the auction with your maximum bid and the auction progresses until you have reached your maximum, basically like eBay. As I was at work I submitted my commission bid in plenty of time, just in case there were other things to do when the lot came around. The shoes were estimated at £400-£600 and after careful consideration I decided that £800 was to be my maximum bid, but that if the bidding was slow I would possibly go more. How much more? Who knows. I was slightly nervous that I may get carried away when it came to the crunch.

The auction began, lot 1 came and went without much fanfare and the lot sold for slightly less than its higher estimate. This was great news, I certainly hoped it would continue like this! It did. The next few lots came and went quickly and mostly for slightly lower than their estimate. I could be the owner of a pair of shoes once worn by Stan Laurel for less than £600.

Lot 9 came around. A signature of Reginald Doherty, English tennis player, four time Wimbledon winner (1897, 1898, 1899 & 1900). Estimate:- £100-£120. The bidding opened at double the high estimate and didn’t stop until the auctioneer gave warning that he’s about to sell for £1,400. The gavel went down and so did my hopes, I’d never heard of Mr Doherty but obviously somebody had. If a small autograph went for that much money, how much would the shoes go for??

The auction carried on in the same vein, most lots selling low but the occasional one went far higher than estimated, as lot 269 got closer I began to fell that weird excitement and dread when choosing a present for a loved one’s special birthday. They (in this case my lovely visitors) will love it, but can I really spend all that money?

In total there were three Laurel and Hardy autographs in the auction, two of them the usual types you have probably seen before, which were immediately before the shoes. I wish I could tell you how much they went for but I didn’t pay any attention to them, focusing only on the shoes.

Lot 269 comes around, the bidding starts at £800. That’s me! That’s my bid! No action in the room. Nothing on the phone. No bids coming in at all. Going once… Twice… Sold for £800. Did I win? That was my bid so I won the shoes, didn’t I? They’ll probably email me now to confirm that soon I’ll be dancing around the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Stan Laurel’s shoes. I wonder if they’ll come in time for Stan’s birthday? No email arrives, I check the website to confirm that, yes, they sold and yes, the winning bid was £800. On further inspection it seems that it’s impossible to confirm until Monday morning. Hmm.

On Monday morning I make the call:-

“Hello, I think I was the winning bidder on lot 269 at your auction on Saturday”

“I’m sorry sir but the lot went to somebody else”

Oh, what? Why? I bid £800 and they went for £800. The lady on the phone explained to me that there was another commission bid of £800, and because that bid was received earlier, it has precedence over mine. The lady agreed that it was a shame that I was unable to bid any higher due to me thinking I was bidding against myself ,but that it is just one of the downfalls of bidding on the internet. Oh, thanks.

So that was it, my tale of excitement and disappointment. It’s a genuine shame that Stan won’t be putting his feet up in Ulverston but we do have some other great items which once belonged to him.

And for those who recoiled in horror at the thought of it, no. I wouldn’t have worn the shoes.

Posted in Laurel and Hardy Museum Blog | 28 Comments

How to start a ‘Tent’ in the Sons of the Desert

The Sons of the Desert is an international society aiming to celebrate and preserve the memory of Laurel and Hardy. We take our title from the 1933 film of the same name. Stan Laurel was uncomfortable with the idea of a ‘fan club’, his discomfort came from the connotations with ‘fanatics’ but he agreed to an appreciation society with the aim of satirising other social organisations. Each group is called a tent, and the leaders Grand Sheiks, as seen in the film.

Setting up your own group is easy. Choose the title of any Laurel and Hardy film as the name of your group, find a place to meet (often pubs and social clubs will allow a group the use of a room for free) and that’s it! You can decide what you want to do there, often film are shown, there are quizzes and raffles. Some places do snacks, most places do beer!

If you’d like more info on what happens at other meetings, then a good place to start is the Bowler Dessert, if you want an official Tent Charter and Oasis Number (notice the theme!) you can contact Del Kempster and subscribe to the Intra-Tent Journal though neither of these are compulsory.

The constitution was agreed upon by Stan, and you can see his touch in the wording:-

Article I

The Sons of the Desert is an organization with scholarly overtones and heavily social undertones devoted to the loving study of the persons and films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

Article II

The founding members are Orson Bean, Al Kilgore, John McCabe, Chuck McCann, and John Municino.

Article III

The Sons of the Desert shall have the following officers and board members who will be elected at an annual meeting:

  • Grand Sheik
  • Vice-Sheik (Sheik in charge of vice)
  • Sub-Vice-Vizier (Sheik-Treasurer, and in charge of sub-vice)
  • Grand Vizier (Corresponding Secretary)
  • Board Members-at-Large (This number should not exceed 812)

Article IV

All officers and Board Members-at-Large shall sit at an exalted place at the annual banquet table.

Article V

The officers and Board Members-at-Large shall have absolutely no authority whatever.

Article VI

Despite his absolute lack of authority, the Grand Sheik or his deputy shall act as chairman at all meetings, and will follow the standard parliamentary procedure in conducting same. At the meetings, it is hoped that the innate dignity, sensitivity, and good taste of the members assembled will permit activities to be conducted with a lively sense of deportment and good order.

Article VII

Article VI is ridiculous.

Article VIII

The Annual Meeting shall be conducted in the following sequence:

  1. Cocktails.
  2. Business meeting and cocktails.
  3. Dinner (with cocktails).
  4. After-dinner speeches and cocktails.
  5. Cocktails.
  6. Coffee and Cocktails.
  7. Showing of Laurel and Hardy film.
  8. After-film critique and cocktails.
  9. After-after-film critique and cocktails.
  10. Stan has suggested this period. In his words: “All members are requested to park their camels and hire a taxi; then return for ‘One for the desert’!”

Article IX

Section “d” above shall consist in part of the following toasts:

  • “To Stan”
  • “To Babe”
  • “To Fin”
  • “To Mae Busch and Charley Hall – who are eternally ever-popular.”

Article X

Section “h” above shall include the reading of scholarly papers on Laurel and Hardy. Any member going over an 8 1/2 minute time limit will have his cocktails limited to fourteen.

Article XI

Hopefully, and seriously, The Sons of the Desert, in the strong desire to perpetuate the spirit and genius of Laurel and Hardy, will conduct activities ultimately and always devoted to the preservation of their films and the encouragement of their showing everywhere.

Article XII

There shall be member societies in other cities called “Tents,” each of which shall derive its name from one of the films.

Article XIII

Stan has suggested that members might wear a fez or blazer patch with an appropriate motto. He says: “I hope that the motto can be blue and gray, showing two derbies with these words superimposed: ‘Two minds without a single thought’.” These words have duly been set into the delightful escutcheon created for The Sons of the Desert by Al Kilgore. They have been rendered into Latin in the spirit of Stan’s dictum that our organization should have, to use his words, “a half-assed dignity” about it. We shall strive to maintain precisely that kind of dignity at all costs-at all times.

Posted in Laurel and Hardy Museum Blog | 12 Comments

The future of the museum.

For more than 30 years, and over three generations, the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Ulverston has celebrated the lives and careers of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy in a very modest way. We think it’s time to change that, and you can help. We’ve had talks with some professionals and come up with plans to make a fantastic new exhibition in the main room at the Roxy cinema building, it’s not going to be cheap though, and we can’t raise the money alone. We’d like your help.  We’re not asking for you to just give us your money, we’d like to give you something in return.

We’re offering you the opportunity to become an ‘Official Friend’ of the museum. You’ll receive a special membership card which will entitle you to free entry, for two people, to the museum for life and 10% off all purchases in the shop or online for life too. These will be high quality, long lasting cards, personalised with your name on. There will be an exclusive quality metal pin badge featuring the ‘Stan Laurel Needs You’ image which was commissioned especially for this campaign, which will only be available for the period of this offer. The final benefit is your name inside the museum as part of a display, thanking everyone who helped make it what it is, you can even have a photo too if you like. The offer will run between now and the end of March, there is no limit to the amount of people who can take up the offer, but when it’s over it will never be offered in this way again. The price for this very special membership is £50 and we hope that you can see the long term value.

We realise that not everyone has access to that kind of money, so if you want to help but can’t stretch to the full membership then you can buy the 3 year option. This will still get you a very nice membership card, free entry for three years and 10% off for three years too, at a price of £25. Although you don’t get a badge, sorry.

The final option is a simple ticket, you can pre book now to visit us at any time in the future. Perhaps you’ve never heard of us before and you’re not sure what we are. Maybe you’re buying a present but were thinking of a stocking filler or present for your brother-in-law. This ticket would be perfect for that. £8 gets two people in to the museum (normal entry is £9), if you order in plenty of time we will send you a ticket and greetings card for you to send at Christmas. Any single tickets bought can be upgraded to the three year membership at a later date.

Having thought about the Tent membership, I have changed it slightly. There are many tents which might be too far away to bring a group to see us. So the new Tent membership consists of one small button badge featuring the ‘Stan Laurel Needs You’ image for each member of the Tent, a photo of the Tent on our ‘thank you’ display, and a lifetime membership to be raffled or sold at auction by the tent. If the winner has already bought their own membership we’d happily refund them.

Click here to view the options and purchase your membership.

FAQ

Fifty pounds is a lot of money, is it worth it?

Entry to the museum currently costs £9.00 for two people, if the price stays the same and you come every year then the cost is recouped in six years. If the price goes up at any point in the next thirty years then you’re laughing all the way to the bank. If you also buy everyone you know their Christmas presents from our shop then you’ll not only be the toast of the season but you’ll also have saved 10%!

What are you planning to do with the money?

The actual plan for the exhibition depends entirely on how many people take up the offers, so it’s difficult to say. However the money raised will be spent only on the exhibition, so it’s for display cabinets, story boards, video/audio displays, mounting, framing, printing, moving, shelving, specialist help etc. We’re not going to use this money to pay off debts, buy new stock, pay wages or buy a fancy new office chair for me to sit in.

Why move again so soon after the last move?

I had grand plans for the new museum when we moved, unfortunately we were forced to make many, small compromises along the way and spend money on things we hadn’t thought of in advance. This meant that the final result was less than it could have been, and the space we ended up with is far from ideal. The main room of the Roxy would give us the opportunity to expand, extend and improve on what we have to offer.

I’m imagining something like the British Museum, or the Museum Of Science & Industry, is that what it’s going to be like?

In short, no. Although Laurel and Hardy fans are a hardworking and generous bunch, the likelihood of raising millions of pounds is pretty slim. I recently read a story about a proposed Charlie Chaplin museum, the cost of this museum is said to be sixty five million dollars, well we’re not looking to get even 1% of that. What we’re trying to do is get the place up to a professional standard of fixtures and fittings.

I live far too far away for the membership to be of any benefit, is there any other way that I could help?

That’s a good question, the membership options include 10% off the online shop too, but I guess we could give the option to donate. Drop me a line and if there’s real demand for this I’ll add the option.

I’d like to keep up to date with what’s happening.

That’s great, I’ll be blogging and taking pictures during the project. If you send an email to laurelandhardymuseum@gmail.com with the heading ‘’newsletter’ then I’ll keep you posted, you can also join us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest news and anything else I find related to Laurel and Hardy. Also feel free to pop in and have a chat. The museum will be closed from the 5th of December until the job is done but I’ll be around most of the time, bring some old clothes and lend a hand!

When will the membership cards be sent out?

When the offer is over, we’ll send out all the membership cards and things. This will be in time for the opening of the new exhibition if at all possible, however the important thing is the exhibition so if the money is looking tight towards the end please be patient for your membership package.

I’m buying the membership as a gift, can I have a Christmas or birthday card?

Certainly, although we’ll have to have them made. There is an option in the shopping cart to ‘add gift card’, the card is £3.00 inc. P&P, and we can either send it straight from here with a message inside or send it to you to sign. The gift cards will be sent before the offer is over so the membership card won’t be included, but the gift card will have a little leaflet explaining the offer.

Can I join after the end of February?

No, although there will be some kind of membership options available, this is a once only deal. We reserve the right to think about it again in 10 years but think of how much the price will have gone up then!

Posted in Laurel and Hardy Museum Blog | 17 Comments

The Oceanic

On the 2nd Of October 1912 the Stan Jefferson sailed from Southampton as an actor in the Fred Karno touring company. Karno was a well known theatre impresario of the time, his theatre groups travelling the whole of the U.K. with a unique form of chaotic, slapstic pantomime which was hugely popular. Stan had previously toured America with the Karno company in 1910 but had left the troupe due to a dispute over pay and had found little success until he re-joined the group as understudy to another famous comedian of the time, Mr Charles Chaplin.

This voyage must have seemed like a great luxury compared to their last boat, which had been a converted cattle boat. This ship was The RMS Oceanic, on the White Star Line (and you know all about another White Star ship which had sailed in 1912).

The tour was a great success and Chaplin was spotted by Mack Sennett in 1913, left the company and began making movies. In no time at all Chaplin became the worlds biggest movie star.

Stan took a little bit longer to get going. In fact it was over ten years later that Stan Jefferson, by now performing under the name Laurel began appearing regularly with Oliver Hardy.

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James Finlayson

On August the 27th 1887 in Larbert, Stirlingshire, Scotland, James Henderson Finlayson was born.

James “Jimmy” Finlayson arrived in America as part of a repertory company at the age of 24, having been an apprentice panel beater. In his early career he won the part of Rab Biggar in Bunty Pulls the Strings, a poplualr Broadway show, however he pulled out of the full theatrical tour in 1916 to attempt to make it in Hollywood.

Having worked at other comedy studios, including working for the illustrious Mack Sennett as one of the original Keystone Kops, Finlayson began working for Hal Roach and is most fondly remembered as the moustachioed foil in the Laurel and Hardy movies.

Initially Hal had tried to turn Jimmy into a star in his own right, starring alongside Oliver Hardy in Yes Yes Nanette (watch it on YouTube here), which was co directed by Stan Laurel. Though the efforts to pitch Finlayson as a star never really took hold, he was considered well-known enough to receive equal billing for some films, with publicity material referring to them as the “famous comedy trio”. The potential of Laurel and Hardy as a double act soon saw them over take the Scotsman in popularity, however ,he appeared in a total of 33 Laurel and Hardy films, playing large roles in such classics as Big Business and Way out West.

Jimmy’s trademarks included his prop moustache (yes, it was fake!) and his catchphrase D’ohhh! which was later used by Dan Castellaneta for the voice of Homer Simpson (here he is talking about it if you’re interested).

An offshoot of The Sons of the Desert called Sons of Finlay celebrates the life and work of Laurel and Hardy best remembered co-star.

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Dickensian Festival

As we’ve mentioned, Ulverston is a vibrant town with many festivals throughout the year. The next big event is the Dickensian Festival.

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Ulverston Festivals

Our little town of Ulverston has more to offer than Laurel and Hardy, many people work hard to arrange events and festivals throughout the year. We have a large carnival in July with a parade of floats, dancing girls, bands and things going on all day. Our lantern procession is a wonderful event featuring a river of light passing through the town and is the final event of our charter week. There is also a Dickesian festival and Christmas market at the end of November. These are just a few of the bigger festivals, there are lots more throughout the year. We’ll be talking about upcoming festivals in this section and hopefully giving you plenty of reasons to come and visit us in Ulverston.

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Stan Laurel was born in Bishop Aukland?

Well, what an exciting few days we’ve had at the Museum! Continue reading

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Welcome to the new Laurel and Hardy Museum Blog!

Welcome to our new blog, in it you’ll find terrible spelling, incomplete sentences, awful grammer and an inconsistant writing style. We’re going to cover a range of topics related to Laurel and Hardy. We’ll be talking about the museum, the latest Laurel and Hardy news, our favorite films and anything else we can think of.  If you have anything you think we should talk about let us know at info@laurel-and-hardy.co.uk or in the comments. We’d also like to have some guest bloggers along the way so if you fancy writing a few words for us, or know someone who does, then send us an email.

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Event info coming soon

Ulverston event calendar information coming soon.

Posted in Upcoming Ulverston Events | 8 Comments