Laurel and Hardy Society Sons of the Desert Way Out West Tent Los Angeles
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Since 1978, the Sons of the Desert has held an International Convention every two years. The 19th International Sons of the Desert Convention took place July 2-6, 2014 in Hollywood, California. It was hosted by the 45 Minutes from Hollywood Tent (Oasis 73). Sixteen members of the Way Out West Tent were registered for the convention, and others attended individual events.

Pre-Convention Day 1: Monday, June 30

The Habeas Corpus Tour was an optional, pre-convention tour of various cemeteries that are the final resting places to many of Laurel & Hardy's co-stars and members of Our Gang. The day included a two-hour walking tour of Hollywood Forever Cemetery plus stops at Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills and Holy Cross Cemetery. Lunch was at the Los Angeles Farmer's Market.


Pre-Convention Day 2: Tuesday, July 1

A John Wayne tribute took place on Tuesday as an optional pre-convcention activity. Buses left Hollywood in the morning and headed to Newport Beach for a two-hour cruise aboard John Wayne's private yacht, The Wild Goose. The tour then traveled to Long Beach for lunch aboard the RMS Queen Mary. Laurel & Hardy sailed to Europe aboard the Queen Mary in 1947. After a self guided tour of the ship, delegates returned to the hotel.


Day 1: Wednesday, July 2

Based at the Loews Hollywood Hotel, located in the heart of Hollywood on Highland Avenue near the corner of Hollywood Boulevard, the convention was known as "Laurel and Hardywood." With registration open earlier in the week, delegates were ready to start the convention first thing Wednesday morning. Buses left the Loews Hollywood Hotel around 9 a.m. and split the delegates into two groups. One group visited Laurel & Hardy locations in Beverly Hills and Cheviot Hills, while the other group visited the Sony Pictures Studio in Culver City. Everyone had lunch in the atrium of the Sony Pictures Plaza building. After lunch, delegates swapped places and took the tour they had missed that morning.

This first day of touring filming locations was conducted by professional guides in small, 13 person vans with no roofs (for easy sightseeing). The tour included the corner duplex from Big Business; Fin's home from Big Business; Edgar Kennedy's home from Bacon Grabbers; the location of the opening scene from Busy Bodies; buildings seen in The Finishing Touch; the park from the opening of Pack Up Your Troubles; and the home from Perfect Day. Former homes of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were also seen.

Egyptian TheatreThe tour of the Sony Pictures Studio started with a brief film on the history of the studio. While Sony's Columbia and TriStar Pictures are the current occupants of the Culver City studio lot, their best years may have been from 1924 to 1986 when it was the home of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The walking tour included a look at Columbia's Best Picture Oscars in the lobby of the Thalberg Building, a visit to a working music scoring stage, and a look inside the soundstage where the television show Jeopardy! is made.

All of the buses arrived back at the hotel in the late afternoon. After some time to freshen up, everyone assembled in one of the hotel ballrooms for a mixer. That was followed by a break for dinner.

Delegates walked a short distance down Hollywood Boulevard to the Egyptian Theater, now home to the American Cinematheque. Here, the Sons of the Desert song was sung and the traditional Sons' toasts were given by Orson Bean (actor/Sons of the Desert co-founder), Joan Del Mar (appeared in a Nothing But Trouble), Tommy Ferrigno (Stan Laurel great-great-grandson), Leonard Maltin (author/historian), Ralph Platz (appeared in a The Bullfighters), and convention chair Bob Satterfield. Richard W. Bann then gave a brief introduction.

The program featured unedited newsreel footage from the Hal Roach Studios at the time it was to be demolished, the trailer for There Goes My Heart, That's That, the trailer for Hijos del Desierto (Sons of the Desert in Spanish), Helpmates, and Way Out West. In attendance were Stan Laurel's daughter, Lois; his great-granddaughter Cassidy; and his great-great-grandchildren Tommy and Lucy. Hal Roach's daughter Jeannie Roach, Booth Colman, Orson Bean's wife Alley Mills (The Wonder Years), actor Tom Hatten, and comedian Emo Philips also attended.

Day 2: Thursday, July 3

Buses departed around 9 a.m. to see more Laurel & Hardy filming locations throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Guiding bus 1 were Kevin Mulligan and Bob Satterfield; on bus 2 were Rick Greene and Dave Greim; on bus 3 were Jimmy Wiley Jr. and Jimmy Wiley III; and on bus 4 were Brad Farrell and David Rodriguez.

The first stops were the final resting places of Stan Laurel (Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills) and Oliver Hardy (Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park). Everyone disembarked the tour buses and were given a moment to pay their respects. We also saw the last home of Charlie Hall and the home where Oliver Hardy passed away.

Dwain Smith playing Pee WeeWe then traveled to East Los Angeles to see the location where Stan and Babe first appeared together in the film The Lucky Dog. The prison gates from The Second Hundred Years and The Hoose-Gow were located nearby. We then drove to Hollenbeck Park, site of the outdoor scenes from Men o' War. At the park we had lunch, screened Men o' War and held the traditional Pee Wee contest.

Back on the buses, we traveled over a bridge seen in Berth Marks to the location from Liberty where the high rise building was being constructed. We then navigated our way through downtown to see the location of the final scene from Block-Heads and We Faw Down. In MacArthur Park we saw a statue from a Stan Laurel solo film called White Wings. Then we saw Mae Busch's apartment from Love 'em and Weep. We then drove across town to see some of the buildings seen in the finales of Hog Wild and County Hospital. The mansion from Another Fine Mess was our next site. We finished the tour with a look at the neighborhood seen in Me and My Pal. The buses returned to the hotel on time, and allowed for a small break before the next event.

About a block from the convention hotel is the Hollywood Museum, located in the former Max Factor building. Delegates were there for the opening night of the 100 Years of Hal Roach Studios exhibit. Taking up a large portion of the museum's second floor, the exhibit featured: the Oscar presented to Hal Roach in 1984; one of the original miniature wooden soldiers from Babes in Toyland; Stan Laurel's personal fedora; original costumes from The Bullfighters and Jitterbugs; original fezzes worn in Sons of the Desert; the original Lake Laurel & Hardy plaque from the Hal Roach Studios; a pair of Harold Lloyd's famous glasses; a quilt made by Our Gang teacher Fern Carter; a camera from the Hal Roach Studios; and Al Hirschfeld designed window cards. Other items of interest included numerous posters, scripts, original photos, sheet music, autographs, personal photos and letters, celebrity owned scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and sheet music.

After spending some time at the 100 Years of Hal Roach Studios exhibit, those in attendance were able to tour the rest of the Hollywood Museum. At 7 p.m., dinner was served on the top floor of the hotel. A buffet dinner was catered by "Someone's in the Kitchen." In attendance that night were Lois Laurel Hawes with her granddaughter Cassidy and great-grandchildren Lucy and Tommy; Our Gang's Lassie Lou Ahern; Payne Johnson, who was one of the Three Little Pigs in Babes in Toyland; and Rich Correll (from Leave It to Beaver). The museum remained open until 10 p.m.


Day 3: Friday, July 4

Friday morning allowed delegates some time on their own to get some rest or to tour Hollywood. In the morning, the Dealers Room opened with a great deal of memorabilia and books for sale. Authors in attendance included: Chuck Harter (Little Elf: A Celebration of Harry Langdon), I. Joseph Hyatt (Stan Laurel's Valet - The Jimmy Murphy Story and The Ultimate Hollywood Victory Caravan Scrapbook), Bill Cassara (Edgar Kennedy: Master of the Slow Burn and Vernon Dent: Stooge Heavy, Second Banana to the Three Stooges and Other Film Comedy Greats); Randy Skretvedt (Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies); and Jordan Young (Reel Characters).

Before lunch, a brief Author's panel was chaired by Richard W. Bann (Our Gang: The Life and Times of the Little Rascals and Laurel & Hardy). Those participating were Randy Skretvedt, Chuck Harter, Bill Cassara, and Irv Hyatt.

At noon, Quizmasters Greene and Smith returned for the 30th anniversary of the first international Laurel & Hardy trivia contest. The contest was first held in Oxford, England, at the 1984 International Convention and has been a popular event at each of the following conventions. Dwain Smith and Rick Greene presided over the first several contests and were reunited to ask the questions at this convention. They did a terrific and entertaining job, and it was great to see them together again. Mary May Vereen was the scorekeeper.

Quizmasters Greene & Smith

There were four teams of three contestants: the "Catalina Clippers" with Carol Rugh, Dave Greim, and Greg Hammond; the "Block-Heads" with William Hoyt, Henry Ottinger, and Kevin Butler; the "Sanford Arms" with Peter Van Rooij, Brad Farrell, and David Rodriguez; and "Early to Bed" with Pat Klemz, Norm Klemz, and Alan Aperlo. There were some very challenging questions (and some we've heard before). The winning team was the "Sanford Arms;" in second place were the "Block-Heads;" and third place were the "Catalina Clippers." This was the third win for the team of Brad Farrell, David Rodriguez, and Peter Van Rooij.

Following the trivia contest was the Our Gang reunion. One film featuring each Our Gang star was screened, then they were brought to the stage for a brief question and answer session. The event was moderated by Rick Greene. The featured celebrity guests were: Lassie Lou Ahern, Betsy Gay, Mildred Kornman, Leonard Landy, Margaret Kerry (Peggy Lynch), Dickie DeNeut, Billy Mindy, and Priscilla Montgomery. Also joining the group were Margie Campbell (the baby in Their First Mistake), Rene Beard (child actor and brother of Matthew “Stymie” Beard), and comedians Stan & Hunter Freberg. Following the individual sessions, the stars gathered for a group photo and autograph sessions.

(Back row, L-R): Brad Farrell, Billy Minderhout, Priscilla Montgomery, Dickie DeNeut, Bob Satterfield, Leonard Landy, and Rick Greene.

(Front row, L-R): Margaret Kerry, Mildred Kornman, Lassie Lou Ahern, and Betsy Gay.

The evening of the fourth of July was free to do as you please.


Day 4: Saturday, July 5

Group photo at Culver HotelSaturday morning brought the last day of location touring. Guiding bus 1 was Kevin Mulligan; on bus 2 was Bob Satterfield and Dave Greim; on bus 3 were Jimmy Wiley Jr. and Jimmy Wiley III; and on bus 4 were Brad Farrell and David Rodriguez. Buses left the hotel once again at 9 a.m., headed towards Santa Monica. There, we saw what remained of the train tunnel from Two Tars, Stan Laurel's Oceana Apartment building, and the Hotel Shangri-La where Stan Laurel lived briefly. Then it was back to Culver City.

We traveled to the site of the Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, where we disembarked the buses and crowded into the small park adjacent to the property once owned by Hal Roach. Photos were taken of the plaque commemorating the studio (which was placed at the 2nd International Convention in 1980). It was then a short trip by bus to Culver City's Main Street and Culver Hotel.

Everyone was asked to wear a red shirt on this day of the convention for a group photo. Over 200 people assembled in front of the Culver Hotel for the group picture. After numerous photos were taken, the delegates were divided into smaller groups and rotated through three activities; a walking tour, movies in the Culver Hotel, and lunch on your own.

Kevin Mulligan, Bob Satterfield, Brad Farrell, Jimmy Wiley Jr., and Jimmy Wiley III all took groups of 20-30 people out for walking tours. Locations were seen from the films; Leave 'em Laughing, Liberty, Putting Pants on Phillip, The Second Hundred Years, Bacon Grabbers, Two Tars, Angora Love, 45 Minutes from Hollywood, Duck Soup, We Faw Down, County Hospital, and Going Bye-Bye! In the Culver Hotel, free drinks, popcorn, and chips were provided as we screened Leave 'em Laughing and Putting Pants on Phillip in the air conditioned lobby. Thanks to Kris Wiley for overseeing the activities in the Culver Hotel. After a three hour stop in Culver City, it was back on the buses to return to the Loews Hollywood Hotel.

With some time to unwind in the afternoon, it was back to the buses for the final night of the convention. The steps from The Music Box was our first stop. We watched a documentary about the steps on the way to the location, and were greeted by at least three pairs of look-a-likes at the stairs. The three teams of Laurel & Hardy impersonators were Bob Zeroun & Vance Piper, Tom Llewellyn & Shay Llewellyn, and Tony Carpenter & Philip Hutchinson. A fantastic replica of the piano box was build by Way Out West Tent member Chris Spicher.

After a long stop at the stairs, it was off to the Heritage Square Museum. This is the location of the Pottsville train station seen at the end of Berth Marks. The train station was located in Palms (near Culver City and Cheviot Hills) at the time Berth Marks was filmed. When the train line was later shut down, the people at Heritage Square saved the station from demolition and moved it to its current site where it has been preserved.

Tonight's event was the Pottsville Picnic, where you were optionally welcome to picnic in your pajamas. Fortunately the heat of the day had passed, and the outdoor buffet dinner was served. The Oliver Hardy Putting Contest was also conducted on the lawn of the Heritage Square grounds. Dessert was provided by Patty Greene (wife of Rick Greene) in the form of hundreds of cupcakes, each with the likeness of Laurel & Hardy on top.

The twelve remaining people who have attended all nineteen convention gathered in front of the "Pottsville" train station for their photo. The twelve are:

(Back row, L-R): Kris Wiley (Way Out West Tent, California), Jimmy Wiley Jr. (Way Out West Tent, California), William Hamill (Flying Deuces Tent, New Jersey), Roger Gillette (Block-Heads Tent, Minnesota), Bruce Church (Brats Tent, Massachusetts), and Rick Lindner (Perfect Day Tent, Ohio).

(Front row, L-R): Steve Cesareo (Flying Deuces Tent, New Jersey), Kevin Mulligan (Flying Deuces Tent, New Jersey), Marcia Opal (Bacon Grabbers Tent, Illinois), Steve Wichrowski Jr. (Air Raid Wardens Tent, Massachusetts), Kathy (Hess) Barber (Bohemian Girl Tent, Utah), and Dwain Smith (Founding Tent, New York).

As the sun set, the evening began with a slideshow of photos sent in from tents around the world. This took the place of the traditional "Parade of Tents." It was prepared by Carol Rugh and featured over photos of over 1,450 Sons of the Desert.

The Grand Council meeting was the first item on the evening's agenda. Bob Satterfield presided over the meeting. The only topic to be discussed was the location for the next International Convention. Chris Coffey presented his bid for the Bacon Grabbers Tent of Manchester, England (Oasis 113) to host the 20th International Convention in July 2016. His presentation included proposed pre-convention events for London and post-convention trip to Scotland. The bid was unopposed and voted for unanimously. It will take place in the Lake District of northern England, near Stan Laurel's birthplace of Ulverston.

Then it was time for a video slide show written and narrated by Roger Gordon. It featured a history of the Intra-Tent Journal in honor of its 40th anniversary.

That was followed by the U.S. premiere of the Lucky Dog Theatre's Hats Off to Laurel and Hardy starring Tony Carpenter as Stan Laurel and Philip Hutchinson as Oliver Hardy. Tony and Philip attended the entire convention in character. This abridged version of the biographical play lasted about an hour. The performances were convincing and the play was entertaining and well received by the audience.

The evening ended with a raffle.


Day 5: Sunday, July 6

The final day of the convention began in the hotel ballroom with the Going Bye-Bye Brunch. After people had a chance to finish their buffet breakfasts, Elaine Johnson took the stage to announce Tiziano Medici of the Blotto Tent of Italy (Oasis 306) was the winner of the Pee Wee contest. Roger Gordon then announced that Ted Morley of the Sacramento Another Fine Mess Tent (Oasis 49) was the winner of the Oliver Hardy Putting Contest. Then Rick Greene and Dwain Smith returned to present certificates to the participants of the trivia contest. The winning team of Peter Van Rooij (Swiss Miss Tent, Indonesia), Brad Farrell (A-Haunting We Will Go Tent, Dayton OH), and David Rodriguez (Way Out West Tent, Los Angeles CA) were previously awarded a trophy at the end of the contest.

Bob Satterfield then took the stage to to auction off a Stan Laurel autographed photo and a copy of the John McCabe-Al Kilgore-Richard Bann Laurel & Hardy book signd by dozens of people related to the Hal Roach studios. Both items were won by Steve Wichrowski Jr. Then Bob thanked those who helped put on the convention. He named Lori Jones McCaffery the "First Lady" of the Sons of the Desert for all of her help. Certificates and Oscar-like statues were presented.

Comedian Jim MacGeorge (a founding member of the Way Out West Tent) did a few minutes of stand-up comedy that included a bit where he performed as both Laurel & Hardy. His timing was perfect and his comedy hilarious, as always. He left the stage with a standing ovation.

Bob then ran a film showing all 106 Laurel & Hardy films in about 2 minutes, followed by a slide show honoring the many celebrity guests that have been a part of the Sons of the Desert over the years.

Representatives from each of the international conventions lined up across the front of the banquet room and passed the crystal pineapple trophy down the line from the first convention to the nineteenth. Then Bob Satterfield presented the pineapple to Chris Coffey, signifying the end of the Hollywood convention. The banquet then drew to an end, and people said their goodbyes. The dealers room was open that afternoon.

In the evening, one final event took place at the Egyptian Theater. In attendance was Betty Goulding, the widow of director Alfred Goulding (A Chump at Oxford). Richard W. Bann introduced the film program. We saw Harold Lloyd in Young Mr. Jazz, Our Gang speaking Spanish (not dubbed) in Las Fantasmas (the Spanish version of When the Wind Blows), a Fox Movietone Newsreel featuring young and old members of Our Gang, a Hearst Metrotone Newsreel featuring Laurel & Hardy in New York, County Hospital, and Laurel & Hardy on the television program This is Your Life.

 

Thank you to Bob Satterfield and Lori Jones McCaffery for chairing a great convention. Additional thanks to Brad Farrell, Rick Greene, Dave Greim, Kevin Mulligan, David Rodriguez, Jimmy Wiley Jr., and Jim Wiley III for hosting the bus tours on Thursday and Saturday; Richard W. Bann for hosting the author's panel and for preparation of the film notes for the two evenings at the Egyptian Theatre; Jayne Barnhart and Dave Greim for helping with tickets at the Egyptian Theater; Marcia Opal for the preparation of the convention programs.

Thanks to Brad Farrell, David Rodriguez, Jimmy Wiley Jr., and Jim Wiley III for photos and in the preparation of this report.