Like a phoenix risen from the ashes, my Tent has been reconstructed!
Let me explain a few things. A “Tent” is another name for a local chapter of The International Laurel & Hardy Appreciation Society, better known as “Sons of the Desert.” The group is named after the 1934 feature film in which Stan and Ollie lie to their wives so that they can go off to attend their lodge’s annual convention in Chicago. The group was founded in 1965 by L&H biographer John McCabe and several others, and it has grown to have chapters nationwide and throughout the world. Each Tent is named after a Laurel & Hardy movie.
I had wanted to have my own Tent practically ever since I discovered L&H as a young boy in the 1970’s. But back then, all we had were 16-millimeter movie copies of The Boys’ work, and what kid could afford that?
In the summer of 2006, I got a new job after being unemployed for several months, and my wife treated me to the British DVD collection of Laurel & Hardy’s movies (which, unlike the much-ballyhooed U.S. version, contains their silent films as well as their talkies). In August of that year, I made my wish come true and created the “Leave ’em Laughing Tent.”
For six years or so, I had meetings at a local library on the first Monday of each month, and they were very well-attended. Then at the start of 2013, the Jacksonville Public Library closed on Monday nights. I tried to carry on with the group on Sunday afternoons, but it was a bust, so I gave up in April 2013.
Now, nearly two years later, The Friends of the Beaches Branch Library (in Neptune Beach) has happily supported my cause. Since Mondays are still out, I am going to try to hold my screenings on the final Wednesday of Jan. and Feb. 2015. If the turnout is good, I’ll keep the Tent going on a regular basis again.
I cannot properly convey my adoration of Laurel & Hardy. Like many of their fans (or buffs, as John McCabe preferred to call their followers), I started watching them on Saturday morning TV when I was about 10 years old, and I haven’t stopped enjoying them since.
I can identify with those two “likeably dumb” men more than I care to admit. When I am caught short trying to repair something in the house, or my kids and I bump heads at some point, we all quickly identify it as a “Laurel & Hardy moment.”
If you are anywhere in or near the Jacksonville, FL. area, I humbly implore you to visit my first “reconstructed” Tent meeting on Wed., Jan. 28, from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. It will be at the Jacksonville Public Library’s Beaches Branch on 600 N. 3rd St. (just south of Atlantic Blvd.) in Neptune Beach, FL. Admission is free for all attendees, and with any luck, I’ll have a few light snacks to share along with the movies.
If you can’t make it to the live meeting, please visit my Tent’s Facebook page, or its lovingly built website at http://leaveemlaughing.moviefever.com. Let’s keep this classic comedy team going for the next generation!