The Way Out West Tent celebrated its 40th anniversary with a weekend-long celebration in Los Angeles on July 27-29th. Over 50 guests joined us from out of town, flying in from all over the United States, as well as Canada and England. The weekend consisted of a Friday night mixer, a Saturday morning Tour, a Saturday evening banquet, and a Sunday morning tour. All of these events either began at or took place at the Westin Los Angeles Airport Hotel.
Saturday and Sunday tours were conducted by Grand Sheik Jimmy Wiley Jr., Vice Sheik Bob Duncan, and Keeper of the Celluloid Stan Taffel. On Saturday, Jim Wiley III and Brad Farrell also guided a bus. Lori Jones McCaffery, Kris Wiley, David Rodriguez, and Bob Satterfield provided support during the tours and especially during the lunch breaks.
On Saturday morning, the first of two tours departed bright and early from the Westin Hotel. Our destination was downtown Culver City, site of eleven Laurel & Hardy films. Once we arrived everyone aboard the buses joined many local Way Out West Tent members for a walking tour of Main Street. With tour books in hand, interested fans matched "then" photos from the films with the building right in front of them. Also joining the tour were our own Laurel & Hardy look-a-likes, Wayne York and Brian Mulligan (pictured, left). They performed at the site of the Leave 'em Laughing traffic jam in a classic Model A.
After the walking portion of the tour, attendees boarded four buses in the shadow of the historic Culver Hotel. The tour route passed the Culver City City Hall, which was seen in both County Hospital and Going Bye-Bye!, on the way to the site of the Ollie's home in Hog Wild. Buses traveled along the same street that Stan drove down at the beginning of Hog Wild and Towed in a Hole. Then we traveled to the location of the finale from Hog Wild, where everyone disembarked from their buses to get a better chance to match up buildings from the film.
Buses then headed back towards Culver City to see homes featured in three Laurel & Hardy classics. First was the mansion seen in Another Fine Mess, which has been perfectly restored. Our next stop was at the mansion seen in Love 'em and Weep (pictured, right). The homeowners placed a welcome sign on their upstairs balcony, and for the first time ever allowed our guests to enter their home as part of the tour. As over 125 fans walked in and out of the homes entry hall, Wayne and Brian performed a Laurel & Hardy routine on the front porch. As difficult as it was to move on from this location, we pushed ahead to see the street used in Me and My Pal. There, fans carefully matched up "then" photos with a half-dozen homes and took pictures on the curb, where the Boys entered the taxi on the way to Ollie's wedding.
During the lunch break at Palms Park, the tour split up into two groups so that we could take smaller buses into the exclusive Cheviot Hills neighborhood, where we found our next three locations. The building used as the hospital in The Finishing Touch was really just a large home in this neighborhood, and it has been virtually unchanged since the film was made. Edgar Kennedy's home in Bacon Grabbers is also well preserved. From the height of the bus we were able to see behind the large gate and hedges that have been added. But the most excitement came when we pulled up to James Finlayson's home from Big Business. Everyone got out to take a good look at this home, which has been remodeled, but still bears an uncanny likeness to its appearance in the film. Two additional houses on the same street also appear in the film, and fans got a chance to take a picture of each.
After lunch, everyone returned to their original buses for the final part of the tour. The first stop was the duplex seen at the beginning of Big Business. Like Fin's house from earlier on the tour, this home also retains its appearance from the film. Then it was on to see the house from Perfect Day (pictured, left). All four buses managed to stop at this location at the same time so that we were able to take a group shot with the homeowners on the home's front lawn. Our final stop was at the site of the Hal Roach Studios, which is now an abandoned automobile dealership. Photos were taken of the plaque dedicated in 1980 in the little park now known as Hal Roach Park.
Buses returned to the Westin Hotel late in the day. A video room manned by Dave Greim opened for a few hours after the tour and before the evening's banquet began. During the cocktail hour, Rick Rogers played music from Laurel and Hardy films for the gathering guests. The doors opened around 7pm and dinner was served shortly thereafter.
In attendance that evening were four of Stan Laurel's relatives. Great-granddaughters Cassidy and Cherry were there, along with Cassidy's twin children Tommy and Lucy (pictured, right). With no apprehension, five year old Tommy took to the stage and thanked everyone for coming and sent regards from his grandma, Lois Laurel. Photos of Tommy and Lucy standing with Laurel & Hardy statues were quickly snapped. This was Cherry, Tommy, and Lucy's first time at a Sons of the Desert function.
Grand Sheik Jimmy Wiley Jr. greeted everyone to the banquet and led the crowd in the Sons of the Desert Song, joined by all Grand Sheiks (both past and present) in attendance. Grand Vizier Lori Jones McCaffery announced the out of town guests. Vice Sheik Bob Duncan gave the toasts.
The anniversary banquet included live entertainment by Jim MacGeorge and Chuck McCann. Jim MacGeorge is a founding member of the Way Out West Tent, attending the very first meeting back on April 7, 1967. Two musical numbers were performed by Sharon Evans and Rick Rogers. Ben Hurst was the evening's announcer.
During the cocktail hour everyone in attendance was given a ballot with four awards to vote for. Former Intra-Tent Journal editor Rick Greene (who also designed our anniversary logo) announced the winners of the first two awards. For "The Most Dangerous Passing of Gas Award," attendees voted on their favorite scene featuring an explosion of natural gas. Helpmates beat out Block-Heads and They Go Boom in this category. For the "Best Performance by a Duo in Dual Roles Award," Brats was the winner over Twice Two and Our Relations. The winners of the second pair of awards were announced by Stan Taffel. The "Best Porcelain Baptism Award" was presented to the audience's favorite scene featuring Ollie falling into a bathtub. Brats picked up its second award, beating out Be Big and Them Thar Hills. The Final Award was for "Best Fur Coated Co-Star," with poor little Laughing Gravy winning over Dinah the mule and Ethel the chimp. Thanks to Dave Greim and Michelle Malik for tallying the votes.
A look back at the tent's history was presented on video, with interviews featuring all 8 of the Way Out West Tent's Grand Sheiks. Highlights included memories of the tent's founding, numerous celebrity members, and the 2nd International Convention in 1980. Thirty minutes of this video was presented as part of the program, with the full fifty minute version available for sale to those who wanted to know even more about the tent's history.
After the video retrospective, Lori Jones McCaffery was brought to the stage by Jimmy Wiley. Jimmy read a letter from Founding Sheik William Patterson, thanking her for her forty years of service to the tent. The evening concluded with a raffle. Way Out West member Ken Runyan was the winner of the door prize, a signed Stan Laurel check.
On Sunday morning, attendees gathered once again in the lobby of the Westin for the second and final day of touring. Buses first arrived at the mansion seen in Wrong Again. Although we were unable to get off the buses at this location, the recently trimmed hedges made for the best photos of this location that we've ever seen. Next it was off to see Mae Busch's apartment from Love 'em and Weep.
For the first time ever, we were able to visit the alleyway seen at the end of both We Faw Down and Block-Heads. Although we were unable to park the buses to let people off because of the congested downtown neighborhood, we slowly drove past the location to let everyone get a good picture. Then it was off to see the building from Liberty, where everyone was able to get off the bus to get great pictures of both the building used in the film as well as the many surrounding skyscrapers which can be seen in the film.
Our next stop was at the park used in Men 'O War (pictured). This was our lunch stop, where everyone sat atop a grassy hill and looked down upon the site of Fin's boathouse. After eating, people ventured off to take a look at the lake and the remnants of the boathouse and bridge seen in the film. This was a difficult location to leave because everyone wanted just one more picture, but we had to push on because there were many more locations left to visit.
For the very first time ever, we visited what was left of the "spinning" gate through which the Boys escape prison in The Second Hundred Years. Although only a couple of posts from the right side of the gate remain, several structures seen behind the gate remain virtually unchanged. These structures were also seen in the beginning of The Hoose-gow. While everyone got off the bus to take a photo of this location, an ambulance pulled up much like the paddy wagon in The Hoose-gow to break up the crowd. Once safely aboard the buses, we traveled to the corner where Laurel & Hardy possibly first met in The Lucky Dog. Then it was on to see the Pottsville station from Berth Marks.
Our final movie location visit was probably the most popular of all. The Music Box Steps (pictured) never fail to disappoint visitors, who climbed to the top of the stairs taking pictures the entire way up and down. Other locations were also matched up from The Music Box at the base of the stairs, while homes from Hats Off could be seen at the top. The tour concluded with visits to the final resting places of both Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel. Visitors were given a carnation as they exited the bus, to place at each of the graves.
As the buses pulled back into the Westin Hotel, delayed by the closure of a local freeway, the tour goers looked very happy and very exhausted. They had visited sites from 30 Laurel & Hardy films. Those of us who sponsored the event thank everyone who attended the event.
A 47 minute documentary about our tent's last 40 years (as told by our Grand Sheiks) is available on DVD for $15. For more information, please contact us at: