2014-08-01 / People

Tribute group established for funnymen

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


Members of the Laurel and Hardy-inspired Perfect Day Tent pose at Atria Senior Living. The group is the first formal “Sons of the Desert” tent in Maine. It’s led by Kennebunk resident and Laurel and Hardy enthusiast, Jim MacMath. MacMath, center, along with his fellow tent members, meets once a month for a screening of the famed comedy duo’s many films at the Atria facility. The tent meets at 2 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. 
(Courtesy photo) Members of the Laurel and Hardy-inspired Perfect Day Tent pose at Atria Senior Living. The group is the first formal “Sons of the Desert” tent in Maine. It’s led by Kennebunk resident and Laurel and Hardy enthusiast, Jim MacMath. MacMath, center, along with his fellow tent members, meets once a month for a screening of the famed comedy duo’s many films at the Atria facility. The tent meets at 2 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNK—The famed slapstick duo, Laurel and Hardy, did more than entertain. Just ask Jim MacMath of Kennebunk, who recently started the first Laurel and Hardy Sons of the Desert chapter in Maine.

MacMath grew up watching movies made by the two-man comedy team. Now 70, MacMath is passionate about preserving the memory and talent of the two forefathers of comedy.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy began making silent movies together in the late 1920s.

Counting all their short and featurelength films, MacMath said they made 107. If the film is in circulation, MacMath owns it.

“There’s one that was discovered a few years ago, and some of the members were reluctant to call it the 107th, but I do,” MacMath said cheerfully. “I have something from every one of their 107 films. Some are not complete because some of the reels were missing.” In that case, MacMath uses still photographs from those movies.

Sons of the Desert is an international organization composed of various independently run groups, or “tents” of people with one thing in common: a deep appreciation for this type of comedic acting that isn’t in circulation anymore.

“It’s not really a fan club at all. It’s more of an international Laurel and Hardy appreciation society,” MacMath said.

“One of the objectives of the society is to bring these to the next generation. A lot of the kids today have no clue as to who they are. I showed them to my grandson and he had no clue who they were.”

“It’s not just slapstick for the sake of slapstick. The whole interaction between Laurel and Hardy is very interesting to watch; they’re one of the best teams, ever,” MacMath said.

Sons of the Desert was named after the 1933 Laurel and Hardy and refers to a fraternal organization depicted in the film. It was started in 1965 in New York City with Laurel’s permission, MacMath said. From there, tents, also an allusion to one of their movies, began popping up all over the United States, and internationally, in countries that include the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, The Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany.

MacMath, upon moving to Maine 11 years ago and discovering there were no tents in the state, decided to start one of his own earlier this year: the Perfect Day tent (each tent name is an allusion to some aspect of a Laurel and Hardy film).

The Perfect Day tent meets on the third Wednesday of every month at 2 p.m. at Atria Senior Living.

The next meeting will be Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Soon after the informal tent began, MacMath applied for a charter to make it official. Each meeting consists of one feature-length film and two shorts. Rather than following the films with discussion,MacMath will share some interesting facts about the films.

For example, MacMath said, Laurel and Hardy weren’t cast as a comedy duo; they were both cast independently in the same movie and the director and producers realized what a great team they were.

So far, MacMath has shown 26 films at Atria. While Atria is a good venue for the viewings, MacMath said he would like to add an additional monthly date and location to accommodate more members of the public.

Sons of the Desert, MacMath said, is a way to “keep their memory going and pass it on to the next generation. Their movies aren’t being shown on television anymore, and they’re just well worth seeing.”

It’s refreshing to see that comedy today. You get that kind of potty humor today, while this is visual humor.”

For more information on Laurel and Hardy, visit www.laurel-and-hardy.com

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