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by Grand Sheik Alessandro Santi
with the help of Dan & Adele Krusz (Busy Bodies Tent #60, USA),
our special friends and super English teachers!
Before starting the present chronology of our activities – the details are in our magazine “L’Eco del Cuckoo” – we wish to thank all the Block-Heads Sons, especially those who helped in our Stan & Babe-related events for almost ten years! We couldn’t have ever imagined getting to know so many special people and doing so many events. That is to say that Stan & Babe are forever alive in everybody’s hearts!
February 23rd, 2006 – 85 years after The Lucky Dog and almost 80 after Stan & Babe were paired at the Roach Studio, a new Sons of the Desert Tent was founded in Prato, near Firenze, Italy, for men and women of all ages and status. Alessandro Santi is the Grand Sheik of the Italian Block-Heads Tent (Oasis #258). Alessio Santi has been Grand Vizier since the beginning. Alberto Vangelisti was the Vice Sheik from 2006 to 2010, then was replaced by Simone Rindi, former Video Visir. David Ceccarelli was Sub-Vice Vizier from 2006 to 2014, now replaced by Francesca Noci. Alessandro has been an active member of A Chump at Oxford Tent of Modena (founded by Tiziano Medici) since 1994. He can remember the first time he saw Stan & Babe on TV, and over the years he still enjoys the films of the Boys in every media format, not least the public showings in theatres led by us Sons all over Italy. With some help from fellow Sons, from 2002 to 2005 Alessandro organized an annual three-day Laurel & Hardy Film Festival at the Cineteca di Firenze. Alessandro hosted the screenings, entertaining the public with biographical and technical anecdotes. Alberto has a large collection of reels of L&H films that were shown at the meetings. He’s Vice President of the Cineclub Cineteca Lumière of Figline V.no (Firenze) where he returned ‘full-time’ when he retired from the Block Heads Tent.
Meanwhile, we have had 30 to 50 Sons from all over Italy every year. Our honorary members are Liliana De Curtis (Totò’s daughter), Enzo Garinei and Giorgio Ariani (the official dubbers of Stan & Babe since 1985), and Tiziano Medici and Graziano Giovenzana, cofounders of the first Italian Tent, A Chump at Oxford of Modena.
May 10th, 2006, Alessandro was interviewed at a regional Radio Toscana Network broadcast.
Friday 16th June, 2006 (Stan’s 116th birthday) was our first official meeting. We all met at 19.30 in a reserved foyer and dining room at Hotel Datini in Prato. Within an hour, all the Sons plus four guests had arrived. We were, in all, 24 persons, from 7 to 60 years old, united by our love for Stan & Babe. Special guests were honorary members Giorgio Ariani, actor and the official Italian voice of Babe in films since 1985, and Tiziano Medici, Grand Sheik of Chump at Oxford # 165, to which Alessandro and Alberto continued to belong. We started with a warm round of applause for Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy, thanks to whom we met from Prato, Firenze, and other Tuscan and Italian towns. During the dinner, all the goals and activities of the club were described to the Sons in an amusing, informal atmosphere. Then we belly-laughed at a marvelous 8mm copy of The Lucky Dog (provided by the Vice-Sheik) and a 16 mm copy of Block-Heads (provided by Stefano Bianchini, a film collector, too). At 12 a.m., it was hard for all of the Sons to say goodbye, because all enjoyed that night so much. It was simply a magical experience, as all of the other members said. Surprisingly, a journalist and a photographer were present, so we had a full-page about us in a regional newspaper, plus a few lines and a photo on the 1st page. That’s not to mention the other articles about our Tent that appeared in local and national press in the following years. See the Parlano di noi (They told about us) section.
July 11th, 2006, the Grand Sheik was invited to Il Grande Cinema, a regional special TV broadcast about movies hosted on that occasion by Federico Berti. The hour-long all L&H related episode, Speciale Stanlio & Ollio, was recorded without interruption thanks to the host’s and director’s skillfulness and it aired on channel TVR TeleItalia twelve times in two months, sometimes on prime time! And it’s still on the air, occasionally.
July 28th, 2006, we Block-Heads and Cineclub Fedic Poggio Bracciolini had an open-air film showing in San Quirico, near Pistoia. Almost 400 people were present – and the citizens of San Quirico number only 300! Some guest stars, such as singer Karen Jones, introduced the screening of Hog Wild and Laurel & Hardy Laughing ‘20s, both in superb 16 mm prints.
September, 2006, we started our official web site www.ifiglideldeserto.it thanks to the enthusiasm and ability of Son David Ceccarelli, with help from the Grand Sheik for the text (there’s also an English section), and from Simone Rindi (who became webmaster in 2015) for the images.
October 12th, 2006, we Sons hosted an evening show of Stan & Babe reels on the big screen at Cinema Teatro Salesiani in Figline Valdarno (Firenze). The films were Big Business, Hog Wild, Tit for Tat, and the brief pie fight section of The Battle of the Century. The public (70 persons) laughed all through the pictures, participated in the Kneesy, Earsy, Nosey contest and listened to the Sons presentation, with guest Giorgio Ariani. Before the show, we collected money for the Stan & Babe Statue Appeal for Ulverston (Stan’s birthplace), as we did at following events.
February 10th, 2007, at Cinema Nuovo in Figline Valdarno, and March 3rd at Cinema Teatro Borsi d’Essai in Prato, we celebrated Stan & Ollie’s 80th birthday with two evening screenings, thanks to Alberto’s 8 mm reel collection. Guests Enzo Garinei (Stan’s Italian voice and an actor who started his career with Totò) and Giorgio Ariani read the card titles of Big Business during the screening, supported by the Grand Sheik! The public of all ages (80 persons in Figline and more than 200 in Prato) was enthusiastic and asked questions about Stan & Babes’ lives and films. Of course, they laughed at Stan & Babes’ antics all through the screenings which included Liberty, Another Fine Mess, and The Music Box in Figline; Big Business, Hog Wild (which is very difficult to see uncut in Italy), and The Music Box in Prato. Unannounced, as a finale we showed a selection from This Is Your Life Laurel & Hardy and then the home movie Stan Visits Ollie, this time to a touched, silent audience. So many people thanked us for the pleasant afternoon!
In May, 2007 we were able to send a € 200 donation for the Laurel & Hardy Statue Appeal for Ulverston; our Tent is very proud to help meet this important goal.
The night of June 1st, 2007 at Cinema Teatro Ambra in Poggio a Caiano (Prato) our Tent was guest of honour at the annual show of Step By Step dancing school of Prato, directed by Anna Iannarone. We showed Them Thar Hills, a restored copy to which the Italian dubbing was added by our skilled Simone Rindi. The Grand Sheik talked about Stan & Ollies’ lives and careers. The dancing section At The Ball That’s All from Way Out West was restaged by children and girls in bowlers and then the original one was screened: bellissimo!
July 6th, 2007, we had our annual meeting, celebrating our first year and the 80th anniversary of the Boys’ partnership (as remembered in the birthday cake). Again we met in a reserved foyer and dining room at Hotel Datini in Prato. Twenty one Sons and guests attended the dinner, chattering and enjoying every minute, not to mention the following screening of 8mm copies of 45 Minutes from Hollywood and Sons of the Desert, on a big screen. The Grand Sheik told the audience all the past activities, presented the first number of our journal, “L’Eco del Cuckoo” (“The Cuckoo’s Echo”), with a cover drawn by the most famous Italian comics artist Jacovitti, and announced some of the future projects.
July 12, 2007, at Figline Valdarno, near Firenze, we hosted the screening of Them Thar Hills and Jerry Lewis’s The Bell Boy in an open air screening program that included the Donald Duck short Good Scout. All the films were projected by, and courtesy of, the Vice-Sheik Alberto, who organized evening screenings of comic films of the past decades all through the summer.
In July and September, 2007, we Sons posed for a two week photographic exposition dedicated to Stan and Babe, full of many of the Boys’ classic photos and, for the first time, ten never published photos of Stan and Babe in Italy (1950). The exposition, appropriately titled Attenti al Click! (Look at the Birdie, the Italian title of Wild Poses), was held October, 27-November, 10, 2007 at Foto Club Bacchino, Prato, and for one evening December, 18, 2007 at Officina Giovani, Prato, during a dance show by Step by Step Dance School. Many visitors and also two schools and one association for handicapped people enjoyed the photos.
November 11, 2007, we had the first Italian theatrical screening of Wild Poses for our Sons at the same Fotoclub, along with two other shorts explosive shorts, Them Thar Hills and Dirty Work.
Pink ribbons in the Tent! Very special events! In October, 2007 Simone R. and Cinzia informed us about the birth of Rebecca! And in December, 2007 Lorenzo e Chiara announced the birth of Beatrice! Pink ribbons continue to adorn our fezzes: in December, 2012 with Marina and the following year, 2013, with Eva, both beautiful grand-daughters of Carlo, a grandpa to the stars! A lot of congratulations to the lucky parents from us Block-Heads and a little kiss to the youngest Daughter of the Desert in the world! (kisses from us, too! ;-) Dan & Adele)
December 21, 2007, at Figline Valdarno, we hosted the screening of Big Business and Below Zero in an all Christmas related program, including Disney’s The Small One and Mickey’s Christmas Carol. All the films were on a big screen and courtesy of the local Cineteca Lumière.
December 31, 2007, thanks to the organization by our Alessio, during the bombastic New Year’s Eve party at Baraka pub, P.za Mecatale, Prato, there were public showings on the big screen of The Battle Of The Century, Big Business, Double Whoopie and the first part of Angora Love on dvd. Alas, then Midnight struck and the video was switched off!
March 15, 2008, we had the first Italian theatrical screening of Wild Poses for the general public at Cinema Borsi in Prato. With 140 enthusiastic people present, we also showed Block-Heads on the 70th anniversary of the film, with many Stan & Babe related anecdotes. We said arrivederci to the audience with the first reel of The Stolen Jools, another Italian première. For the occasion, we wore our new official t-shirts, picturing Stan & Ollie with our Tent logo. As with all our previous events, many articles appeared in local and national press about us and the Boys.
From June, 2008, Block-Heads # 258, Italy, was proud to present the following events. For the next months we planned screenings for the convicts at the local prison, Casa Circondariale La Dogaia, to be held approximately once a month. The Sons involved were the Sheiks and Viziers Alessandro, David, Alessio from Prato, Giovanni, Giuliano, and Alberto from Figline Valdarno who was our ‘celluloid keeper’, as you know, and provided the films, the projector and all the technical arrangements as ever. The first meeting was on June 24 with the presence of ten convicts (the other ones having been turbulent before our arrival). As you can imagine, we started with Pardon Us! We were seated in the local little theatre and had a big screen made with white blankets (maybe from some unsuspecting convicts’ beds!). It’s hard to describe the feeling of watching Pardon Us in such a place. At first you notice that the set and the windows are the same you see on and off the screen, but you especially realize how that movie is anarchic and satirical, and truly realistic! When Walter Long appears and smokes, we really smelled cigarette – thanks to a guard seated behind us. It was a touching moment when we saw the convicts enjoying themselves at Laurel & Hardys’ antics. Some of them broke into a smile or even a laugh only toward the end, thanks to Stan’s clumsiness with the tommy-gun! On October 8, the Grand Sheik and David came back to show The Music Box and Dirty Work on dvd. This time twenty-five convicts laughed loudly all through the pictures, in some cases emulating the Boys’ mimicry! October 29 and November 12, we saw action and science fiction movies, but even though the twenty-five convicts appreciated them, they seemed to like Stan & Babe best. Special thanks to the participating Sons (especially David) and to the authorities, employers, and guards, of course. Not to mention the convicts, Stan & Babe included!
On the evening of June 24, 2008, in Maliseti (Prato) Alessandro, Simone R., David and Oliviero met at Simone and Pasquale Cornacchia’s home, to have a pleasant time chatting and viewing some Stan & Babes’ movies in a nice setting: Stan & Babe’s photos all around and a self-made projection room. We watched funny sections from The Dancing Masters and The Live Ghost, preceded by an edited version of Bugs Bunny’s Rabbit Fire (1951, by Chuck Jones, script by Michael Maltese). Then a Boys’ real highlight, Busy Bodies, followed in dvd version.
From October 31, 2008, to December 31, 2011, we Block-Heads became a non-profit cultural organization in order to continue to show films for the convicts in Casa Circondariale La Dogaia and to participate in similar activities. We then returned to being a club to be free from a lot of bureaucracy. Actually, we have the support, when needed, of the Araba Felice non-profit cultural organization of Prato, to which some Sons belong.
November 30, 2008, we had our annual banquet at Hotel Datini in Prato, with a reserved room and projection room.
We showed Duck Soup (an Italian premiere); the
complete version of Brats, never shown in public in Italy either (the
Grand Sheik’s three-and-a-half year old niece particularly appreciated
this short!); and Them Thar Hills, a restored version to which our Son
Simone Rindi had added the Italian dubbing. All the films were on dvd,
because the Vice Sheik was absent and especially because we have run
almost all of the available unedited versions of L&H in celluloid
format! Twenty-two Sons and some guests enjoyed the meeting, wearing our
official fezzes, of course! On that occasion two of our Tent’s successful
publications were distributed: L’Eco del Cuckoo #2 and Le lettere di Stan
The night of December 19, 2008, we had an information desk and a brief speech during the dancing show Shanti (Peace) hosted by our member Anna Iannarone and her dancing school Step By Step, at Corale Verdi, Prato.
The night of January 3rd, 2009, at the parish church of Maliseti, Prato, we had a showing of Them Thar Hills and hosted a tombola (bingo) game with Stan & Ollie related prizes for a small audience. Thanks to the Sons who participated and our member Don Santino. During the happening the figures of Stan and Babe were set together in the Christmas Crib.
The highlight of our Tent history was the Stanlio e Ollio incontrano Totò (Stan & Ollie meet Totò) event, organized and hosted by our Tent on March 14th, 2009, at Cinema Borsi in Prato, with the fabulous participation of Liliana De Curtis, daughter of the best Italian comic, Totò.
For an audience of 130 very amused and interested
individuals, we ran a 16mm print of Busy Bodies, two excerpts from Atoll K
(including the finale, presently lost in the Italian version), and a
16mm print of Totò’s La patente (The licence), a short film from a work by
Pirandello. The Grand Sheik Alessandro also had two public talks with Miss
De Curtis about the unsuspected similarity between Stan & Babe and
Totò, particularly their ideas about comedy and their dedication to their
own work. We then presented Miss De Curtis’s latest book, Malafemmena,
about the private life of Totò and his wife Diana. Miss De Curtis said
that Totò loved Stan & Babe, particularly the former, and we know he
was one of the players the Atoll K producers would like to have had in
that picture. Musician and composer Mauro Mengali came on the stage to
play L’acquaiola, Toto’s sweet poetry, to which Mengali added the music,
and Malafemmena, the most famous of Totò’s songs. Then our guest of honour
Miss De Curtis and Alessandro played by heart A’ livella, the most famous
of Totò’s poetry. This was followed by another unexpected event: the
première of the short Totò e figlia (Totò and daughter), compiled for the
occasion by the Grand Sheik and Simone Rindi, our Video Visir, using clips
of Sons of the Desert and especially of Totò’s films in which Liliana de
Curtis appears, along with photos showing the famous father and daughter
together. The audience participated with enthusiasm, questions, and
compliments. Miss De Curtis, despite ‘thousands’ of autographs she has
meticulously made (she is able to sign the perfect replica of her father’s
autograph!), enjoyed the event as much as we did, thanking us sincerely
and saying she felt at home with us Sons. What a charming person!
June 16th, 2009, (Stan’s 119th birthday) at the parish of S. Maria Assunta a Narnali, Prato, we hosted a show of Blotto and excerpts from Fra Diavolo during the Ubriachi di risate (Drunken for laughing) event, with the leaders of and in cooperation with a society for the assistance of the alcoholics, for an audience of about 30.
October 4th, 2009, a representative of our Tent participated at The Chump At Oxford Tent of Modena meeting, hosted by local Grand Sheik Tiziano Medici at the Fattoria didattica Il piccolo mugnaio, Torremaina (Modena). The Block-Heads Grand Sheik Alessandro has been a “Chump” since 1994, almost from the beginning of the Modena Tent, to 2011.
January 4th, 2010, a little Block-Heads meeting was held at our Simone C.’s home and we admired his Christmas Cribs. Periodically, other meetings are organized for the members that are able to participate.
In the school year 2009-2010 some pupils of a comic art course led by the Grand Sheik created some Stan and Babe portraits that were shown in June at a public school in the center of Prato.
Saturday afternoon, March 6th, 2010, we hosted our traditional show at Cinema Borsi in Prato, this time titled Stanlio e Ollio e le donne… (Stan & Ollie and the women…).
This year the films were all wife-related and restored as
usual. After the Grand-Sheik’s introduction, we started with We Faw Down,
with a live score provided by organist Mr. Meucci at his keyboard, and two
Sons reading the title cards in Italian. Then we had the Italian première
of On the Loose, with live dubbing provided by Sons Alessandro, Francesca,
Mary, and Simone. It was the first time the film was shown to an Italian
audience and an Italian dubbing doesn’t exist! The Grand-Sheik told about
the Boys’ (mis)adventures with women, on and off the screen, and answered
questions from the audience. The last picture was Twice Two. The audience
cheered and very much appreciated all three shorts, laughing loudly and
continuously! After the screening we offered a little buffet for our
enthusiastic one hundred and more guests. Then our Block-Heads had our
annual dinner meeting, to continue to talk and have fun together.
The night of June 17th, 2010, for the first time together in a public event, we Block-Heads, Prato #258, and A Chump At Oxford Tent, Modena #165, hosted an open-air, night screening in the cloister of Hotel Casagrande, Figline Valdarno, Firenze. We presented Hog Wild, the most abridged version of The Battle of the Century, Putting Pants on Philip, and Big Business, all in 16 mm. The projectionist was Alberto Vangelisti, who has been showing almost every two weeks many silent movies of Buster Keaton, Chaplin, and Lloyd at that location. We were invited by the local Cineclub Lumière, with whom we have collaborated gratis in the past.
September 11th, 2010, four friends from the Busy Bodies Tent of Duluth-Superior, Minnesota USA, Oasis #60, came to visit us during their visit to Florence. Our Tent was pleased to meet them in the center of Prato for dinner because our guests wished to visit our town. Sub-vice Vizier Daniel Krusz, his wife Adele, his brother Gary Krusz and wife Jean became acquainted with Grand Sheik Alessandro and wife Francesca, Sub-vice Vizier David, Lara, Francesca, Enrico, and Anna. We welcomed the American friends at the restaurant Osteria Cibbè (that means ‘pee wee’, Stan’s game that was very popular in the past).
It was a rare occasion and the participants easily succeeded in showing the Italian Tent hospitality and received an equally warm feeling in return! We were so happy to hear a speech in Italian from Adele! Thanks for your sensibility! Chatting and chatting and the time flew! Besides exchanging news, opinions, suggestions and merchandise, our friends appreciated the company (like we did), the cooking and the historical center of our town. In fact, after the dinner, we walked there showing and talking about our town’s historical beauties until… we realized it was really late! Since then Alessandro and Francesca have become regular pen-pals (or to better say email-pals) with Daniel and Adele. Thanks to Stan & Babe we had wonderful and joyful hours along with people who share the same idea of fun, to remember Dan’s fine words when we parted.
On September 18th, 2010, we hosted a showing of Swiss Miss on the big screen, in the Vaiano hills, near Prato. It was a success, despite the fact that it was raining (we stayed inside the house where we also had the dinner). We were really on a mountain landscape! Many viewers hadn’t seen this movie before and liked it very much. At one point, when there was the Cricket Song we remembered that ‘Cri Cri’ was the nickname of Cristian, the friend in whose memory the showing was held! We raised money for Avis, the volunteers for the donation of blood.
December 22nd, 2010, the last day of school before the Christmas holidays, Alessandro showed Big Business and The Fixer-Uppers all day long on an improvised but efficient big screen at the Collodi Primary school, where he worked! In fact we had four showings, from circa 9 to 11 and 14 to 16, for 20 classes (that is to say for more than 400 children from 6 to 11 years, from all Countries), plus approximately 50 parents and, of course, the teachers. All enjoyed Stan & Babe so much, laughing loudly at their antics. The children themselves read the lines during the screenings of Big Business. The Grand Sheik talked briefly about the Sons & the Boys and distributed our flyers. He was so proud that the Intra-Tent Journal published the notice of the event that he showed it to the colleagues and manager of the school and they enthusiastically put it on the school’s website!
March 8th, 2011, the teacher/Grand Sheik enjoyed a Carnevale celebration with the children in II B class of the Collodi Public Primary School, Prato. Stan & Babe derbies and simple handmade costumes did the rest.
Saturday afternoon, March 12th, 2011, the showing at the Cinema Borsi, Prato, Stanlio & Ollio – La paura fa 90 (Stan & Ollie: the fear counts 90) was really successful.
All the 160 seats were full and there were some persons
who remained standing up! The roaring laughter went on continuously
throughout the pictures. All three films ended with spontaneous clapping!
We enjoyed one excerpt from The Lucky Dog and another from the recently
discovered German version of The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case, along with some
title cards explaining the teaming of Stan & Ollie and their recurrent
use of fear for comic effect. We then enjoyed Habeas Corpus with live
translation of the titles (in Italian: cartelli o didascalie) by the Grand
Sheik, The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case, and Oliver The Eighth; all the films
were Italian premières in these forms.
Many families attended with children, some of whom Alessandro asked to help to pick out some ticket numbers from a derby and give away the gifts (some very good ones, some others not quite!) to the people who had those numbers. That happened after the show, and then the buffet followed with a big Stan & Babe cake for all. These two surprises were celebrating our first five years and the 90th anniversary of The Lucky Dog. PS The expression “la paura fa 90” in the title is a reference to the Tombola game, a sort of Bingo; it was chosen because of the fear-related screening program and the 90th anniversary of Stan & Babe’s first film together.
The following week we hosted a free-admission showing of rare photographs, movie posters, and even drawings, all Laurel & Hardy and Sons of the Desert related, in a quite prestigious place in the center of Prato, the Loggetta delle Bigonge. The location was offered by the Public Administration of the Province of Prato. We had circa 250 visitors in six afternoons and one morning (March, 15th to 20th, 2011)! It took many hours to put the frames in a proper order and all the rest, but at least we received many enthusiastic responses and we had a chance to make our Tent more visible in town. The photo showing recognized the presence of the last Italian dubbers of Stan and Babe, Enzo Garinei (touring Prato for acting in the beautiful musical comedy Aggiungi un posto a tavola by his brother Garinei & Giovannini) and Giorgio Ariani (living near Firenze).
The Sons involved in the organization of these two events were: Alessandro, Simone R., Alessio, David, Francesca, Simone and Pasquale C., and Mary.
July 15th, 2011, the Grand Sheik showed Liberty and Them Thar Hills to children, ages 5 to 11, at “Campus 4,” the Summer school camp at Meucci Primary School, Prato, and they appreciated both so much! Children also read the title cards during the showing (we used a giant multimedia blackboard).
November 20th, 2011, the Grand Sheik and his wife joined Giancarlo and many other Sons of the Blotto chapter in Cremona, for the Festa del Torrone and spent friendly hours!
December 24th, 2011, our Tent donated € 250 to the Italian Committee of UNICEF.
Stan & Ollie sold out! March 10th, 2012, at 16:00 o’ clock we Block-Heads hosted our annual public screening of Stan & Babe films at Cinema Borsi in Prato, as usual.
The public response was even greater than ever; 180
were laughing and clapping at Timbla y Titubea (an Italian preview), One
Good Turn and Me And My Pal. For the first time in Italy, those movies
were viewed uncut, restored, in the original aspect ratio, and provided
with Italian dubbing. In One Good Turn, Alberto Sordi played Ollie’s voice
and Mauro Zambuto was Stan’s, in a dubbing from the Forties, and
Tiembla y Titubea was dubbed live by the Grand Sheik. Vice Sheik Simone
Rindi worked very hard at those films! At the beginning of our
screenings, we usually prepare a few new cardboards that focus on the
theme of the year. This time it was the economic crisis (very
popular in Italy!), in fact the title was Stanlio e Ollio - Crisi e
Sorrisi (Stan & Ollie - Crisis and Smiles). Alessandro introduced and
closed the screenings, then we offered a little buffet. Other Sons
helped in many ways, among them Alessio, David, Simone C. for showing his
Stan & Ollie photos at the foyer, Francesca, Mary, and Sons who came
from other parts of Italy! The same night we had our annual banquet where
we continued planning future events and… to laugh!
November 18th, 2012, Sunday, Block-Heads Alessandro, wife Francesca, Carlo, Bruno and Diego joined Giancarlo and many other Sons of the Blotto chapter in Cremona for the Festa del Torrone. They spent friendly hours like the previous year, walking in the streets with fezzes and Chinese umbrellas before a great lunch!
March 7th, 2013, the children of the IV B class of the Public Primary School “Collodi”, Prato, enjoyed the Carnevale celebration. Some of them helped their teacher and Grand Sheik in distributing the flyers of the upcoming Block-Heads Tent screening in the twenty classrooms of the school. Of course, they did their duty wearing bowlers and ties in the Stan & Babe style!
March 9th, 2013, Saturday, our annual screening Lo Zoo di Stanlio e Ollio (Stan & Ollie’s Zoo) was a huge success; the Cinema Borsi theatre was full with an audience of circa 180 laughing people of all ages! The program started with the recreation of Winsor McCay’s performance of 1914, Gertie the Dinosaur, in which the Grand Sheik Alessandro took the role of the Trainer (with tuxedo and whip) and shared the laughs and cheers of the public with the animated diplodocus. For Alessandro it was an exciting, magical experience, thanks to the art of the great cartoonist. The performance was in memory of one of the great Italian cartoonists, Jacovitti (who, like McCay, influenced his successors), on the day of the 90th anniversary of his birth. Then Stan & Babe took the stage with Wrong Again, Angora Love (seldom seen in Italy), and The Chimp. As usual we had carefully picked out the films. For the first time at an Italian cinema, the movies were screened in restored versions (with the original titles, intertitles and so on) and the talkie had 30 seconds of footage that was missing in the previous Italian releases. The intertitles were translated live and the program was preceded by some other Italian intertitles, created for the occasion, explaining the frequent use of animals in the Boys’ pictures. At the end of the show we had a brief raffle and a buffet, very appreciated again this year! Then the Block-Heads went to a restaurant to celebrate! Thanks to Simone R. for the technical assistance, David for the support, Francesca and all our ‘Daughters of the Desert’ for the cakes!
March, 2013, our Facebook page Laurel & Hardy Testedure Oasi 258 La Tenda di Prato was launched by Vice Sheik Simone Rindi, after two years of experimentation. In addition, we have run the website www.ifiglideldeserto.it since the opening of our Tent, though we prefer to meet personally at our events or write privately.
Thanks to the success of our show Lo zoo di Stanlio e Ollio, on July 4th, 2013, we were invited to present another event, the night screening of Stanlio & Ollio e le donne (a compilation of three shorts we had screened in 2010) at an open air cinema in a park on a hill near Prato, Vaiano.
Because there is no Italian dubbing for On the Loose,
Alessandro, Francesca, Simone C., and Mary came back into training for a
live dubbing (like they had done years before), for the second time on an
Italian screen. Alas, three hours before the showing it was raining cats
and dogs and the public administration, who co-organized the event along
with us, decided to cancel the screening.
June 27th, 2013, “Il Giornalino”, a weekly Italian magazine, featured a comics rendition about the early years of Laurel & Hardy. The very talented artist and friend Luca Salvagno drew the Grand Sheik Alessandro and wife Francesca as extras in two panels, as thanks for their assistance in research! Wow! We are so proud of it! The story is titled La strana coppia (The Odd Couple), text by Ottavio De Angelis and drawings by Luca Salvagno.
September 15, 2013, Sunday, Block-Head Carlo represented us in Cremona, during the Blotto Tent #306 meeting: 33 friends from all over Italy, including six skilled and good-spirited dancers who enriched the lunch with a restaging of Honolulu Baby!
December 10th, 2013, we Block-Heads donated $500 to the UCLA Laurel & Hardy Preservation Fund.
December 14th, 2013, in collaboration with the City Town Hall, Cultural office, we hosted a Christmas program at the Sala Polivalente Lido Baldini in Vaiano, near Prato: Babes in Toyland, for the first time uncut at a public Italian showing and McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur with the Grand Sheik, again, as the live Trainer. They asked for a restaging of the number after the success of last March. The audience of 30 enjoyed it, especially the children who reacted to the plot surprises and to Stan & Babe’s antics and hissed at Barnaby all through the screening!
In 2013 our Tent rescued a 78 disc by Columbia (1936) in which L&H dubbers Cassola and Canali tell the Babes in Toyland story; for the first time for this producer we can hear The Cuckoo Song in Italy.
Late in January 2014, we received notice that the theatre Borsi where we usually held our annual screening was closed for extraordinary maintenance (and at the present day it’s still closed)! After much research and being ignored by the local public administration, the Block-Heads succeeded in showing Vota Stanlio e Ollio (Vote for Stan & Ollie)!
The event was preceded by the usual publicity
campaign by volunteer Block-Heads, involving also the Sheik’s VB classroom
at Public Primary School Collodi with children in fezzes giving flyers in
The showing was Saturday evening April 12th, 2014, at 4 p.m., at the theatre of Società Corale Guido Monaco, a big theatre with a mural from the XVI century! Introduced by Alessandro, who gave a public talk, the program was one of the best: Love ‘em and Weep, the famous excerpt from The Hollywood Revue Of ’29, Chickens Come Home, and Scram! The films were restored versions never shown in an Italian movie theatre. The Vice Sheik Simone R. compiled the program assisted by the Grand Sheik, who prepared some old style title cards that introduced the screening, explaining the social and political satire of the Boys, not so mild as it seems! Ale read the titles live, also during Love ‘em And Weep, and provided a live dubbing for Laurel & Hardy magicians (well, only for the latter and Jack Benny, of course!), equally enjoyed by those present.
Alas, this year we had only 70 people in attendance instead of our usual 200, probably caused by postponing the event for a month, changing the place, and especially many cultural and entertainment events occurring in the Centre of the town, where we were, too. By the way, the public was enthusiastic, cheering and clapping spontaneously all through the shorts. Thanks to the Sons who helped, particularly Francesca and Chiara, and thanks to the little Sons Lorenzo, Lavinia, Rebecca, and Beatrice, who played with balloons with other children (hello, Ken!), while many stayed after the show for chatting. Then 15 Sons remained for dinner.
On the occasion of the Vote Stan & Ollie screening, our Tent distributed issues n.3 and n.4 of our official magazine, “L’Eco del Cuckoo” (“The Cuckoo’s Echo”), more than 70 and 100 pages long, respectively. We worked many years on these long-awaited numbers, which we now we proudly produced. Issue n.4, featuring original cover art by gifted professional cartoonist Luca Salvagno, is accompanied by a CD reproduction of a very rare disc from 1935 in which Stan & Ollie dubbers Cassola and Canali tell about the Babes in Toyland plot, along with old-fashioned puns. It seems that we used the only available copy! We really can say that two Cuckoos are better than one!
July 1st to 6th, 2014, the Grand Sheik and his Block-Head wife joined the Sons of the Desert in Hollywood for the International Convention of them all: Laurelandhardywood. It’s impossible to describe the amusing time we spent with some of our old pen pal friends and new fellow Sons, among them Dan & Adele along with their Grand Sheik Dave from the Busy Bodies Tent of Wisconsin/Minnesota, Tiziano from Modena (Blotto Tent #306) and many others. It was very magical to be in the actual places where many memorable Laurel & Hardy movies were shot – best of all, The Music Box steps – and to walk in the streets where Buster Keaton created some of his silent masterpieces. We will always remember a brief talk about Laurel’s artistic and human legacy with Stan’s daughter Lois at the Hollywood Museum (where there was a rich exposition of the Centennial Hal Roach Studios-related memorabilia), as well as other activities, like the picnic at the Men O’War lake or the barbecue at “Pottsville” Station or the screening at the Egyptian Theatre, right in the heart of Hollywood where our hotel was. We came from many Countries but looked like one big family!
March 14th, 2015, Saturday, we Block-Heads #258 held Stanlio e Ollio e zio Walt (Stan & Ollie and Uncle Walt), our annual event at Teatro Magnolfi, in our town Prato, Italy.
The new location, provided by the city cultural
councillorship, has 100 seats so we decided to have two public showings,
at 10.30 and 16.30. People responded so well that we had to do another
screening at 18.00. As in previous years, one could enter for free or give
an offering to the Tent. At least 200 people attended, cheering and
laughing at Mickey’s Gala Premiere (1933) and Mickey’s Polo Team (1936),
two Disney shorts featuring the cartoon versions of many stars, the Boys
included. Then the amusement continued until the end titles of The Flying
Deuces (1939), painstakingly restored like the previous shorts. Maybe the
most poetic Laurel & Hardy movie, it easily won the viewers at each
frame: how magical were the laughs and emotions, from little children to
parents, from teenagers to aged ones. For many it was the first time they
had seen Stan & Ollie film! The program was introduced by title cards
especially made by Grand Sheik Alessandro Santi and edited with Babes in
Toyland clips and Disney’s Mother Goose Goes to Hollywood clips by the
skilled Vice Sheik Simone Rindi. Block-Heads Simone Cornacchia and Mary
Boi provided a rich photographic show about the Boys in the next room,
where the cited Block-Heads were interviewed by a college student coming
from Milan to make a video about Laurel & Hardy for his courses
(https://youtu.be/EA1k3yTlKH8 and www.merigomatteo.it/videotesina). As
usual, Block-Heads Francesca, Chiara, Lorenzo, Cinzia and the little
Lavinia, Beatrice and Rebecca helped with the organization, including the
final raffle with the entrance tickets. We also put up four drawing boards
on which people could draw portraits of Stan and Ollie, a very successful
idea! The evening came to an end around 9.30 pm, after a rich buffet with
local food for 31 persons, mostly Block-Heads plus some other friends,
from 4 to 70 years old.
In Spring 2015, issue #156 of the “Intra-Tent Journal”, the official Sons of the Desert international magazine (always a careful reporter of our activities), cited Block-Heads Oasis #258, with a photo, in the article related to the Sons of the Desert 50th anniversary, and put our Tent on the all-colour back cover. Thanks Roger & SOD!
Very busy years for the Italian Block-Heads! I hope you enjoyed our story and that you will tell all the Sons about it. We’re waiting for your thoughts and advice, thanks!
Alessandro Santi, Grand Sheik of Block-Heads Tent #258, Italy