Sons of the Desert Way Out West Tent
Oasis #5
Los Angeles, CA

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The Way Out West Tent returned to Culver City for this year's annual banquet. The location for the banquet was the historic Culver Hotel, a landmark in downtown Culver City which was featured in a number of Hal Roach films.

The Banquet took place the same night as massive wildfires were burning throughout Southern California. Shortly before the start of the banquet, Grand Sheik Bob Satterfield was called back to San Bernardino to begin evacuation of his own home. Fortunately, we can report that he suffered no damage. However, this was the first banquet Bob has missed in 31 years! Vice Sheik Jimmy Wiley Jr. took over the evening's hosting duties, with the assistance of many present and former tent officers.

Many guests arrived early, to take a self guided walking tour of downtown Culver City. Locations from eleven different Laurel & Hardy films were seen on this tour, most of which were located on the one block long Main Street. Alan Barasorda, Bob Duncan, Earl Kress, and Jimmy Wiley Jr. served as docents, answering questions along the tour route. Many tour-takers got to see an unexpected recreation of the traffic jam scene from Leave 'Em Laughing just one block away from where the movie was actually shot, when the traffic lights went out at the busy intersection of Venice Boulevard and Main Street/Bagley Avenue.

With the sun setting out on Main Street, activities moved inside the Culver Hotel lobby where the evening's program was to take place. During the cocktail hour, three films which prominently featured the Culver Hotel were shown: 45 Minutes from Hollywood (1926), Leave 'Em Laughing (1928), and We Faw Down (1928). At the conclusion of the films, a plaque was dedicated commemorating several of the films that Laurel & Hardy shot at this location. Past Way Out West Grand Sheik John Duff said a few words before the plaque was unveiled by Jimmy Wiley Jr. The plaque was designed by artist Ian Marsden.

While photos were being taken of the plaque, Grand Vizier Lori Jones McCaffery began calling tables for the dinner buffet. At the conclusion of dinner, a large cheesecake (which had been decorated to resemble the new plaque) was served. Lori Jones McCaffery then returned to the podium to preside over the evening's raffle.

The program then officially started with the giving of the traditional celebrity toasts. The toasts were provided by way Out West Tent Board Members Bob Duncan, Jimmy Wiley Jr., Alan Barasorda, Jayne Barnhart, Earl Kress, and John Duff. The singing of the Sons of the Desert Song followed.

Following a short video documenting several Laurel & Hardy films which clearly feature the Culver Hotel, the celebrity guests were introduced. Jerry Maren, who has been a Way Out West Tent member for many years, was honored for his work in the Our Gang film Tiny Troubles (1939). But the Culver Hotel had additional significance for this guest, who played a Munchkin in the Wizard of Oz (1939) and stayed in this very same hotel during the filming of that movie. Jerry, along with his wife Elizabeth, actively tours the country making appearances as one of the last remaining Munchkins.

Attending his first Way Out West Tent function was Payne Johnson, who played one of the Three Little Pigs in Laurel & Hardy's Babes in Toyland (1934). Although Payne was only a child at the time, the other two "little pigs" were played by little people. Payne also worked in Our Gang and Charlie Chase films at the Hal Roach Studios. He is retired from the public relations business, and currently serves as a tour guide for various archeological sites around the world.

Several years ago we were introduced to Buddy MacDonald, who also worked at the Roach Studios as a child. Buddy appeared in On the Loose, which featured a cameo appearance by Laurel & Hardy. Even more interesting was his role with the Boys in their feature film Pardon Us (1931). A production still survives showing Buddy and another child fishing with Laurel and Hardy (made up with long beards to appear older) in an alternate ending to Pardon Us that never made it to the big screen.

Also in attendance that evening was loyal Way Out West Tent member Jay Dare, who severed as a costumer for Laurel and Hardy at 20th Century Fox. Guests were invited to the stage to say a few words about their careers and their memories of the Boys.

Our other guests of honor for the evening were Sons of the Desert Founding member Chuck McCann and his partner Jim MacGeorge. Stan Laurel personally teamed this pair of impersonators to carry on the comedy routines of Laurel and Hardy. They are perhaps best known to our members for their work as L&H look-a-likes in numerous television commercials, including those for Anco Wiper Blades and more recently for the Sizzler. Jim and Chuck have delighted us for years with jokes and sketches at our banquets. They were bestowed with the first "Leave 'Em Laughing Award" in honor of perpetuating the comedy of Laurel and Hardy. A variety of their work on television was shown. They said a few words and were then presented with their awards.

A tribute was then presented to several celebrities who have passed away in the last year. Following that, a brief video comparing then-and-now photos from many of the locations seen on the walking tour was shown. The evening concluded with the screening of Putting Pants on Philip (1927). In one scene from that film, paneling on the wall inside the hotel's lobby could clearly be seen. This paneling looked unchanged today, located only a few feet from our projection screen. This was the final reminder of what a special place the Culver Hotel is to Laurel and Hardy fans.

(Photos by John Duff, Michelle Malik, and Jimmy Wiley)


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