Reflective of the Stooge craze of the 20th century, and their crucial artistic contributions to pop culture, in 2004, the “Stoogeum” museum was opened, finally giving the actors the recognition they deserved. Located in Ambler, PA, approximately 25 miles outside of Philadelphia, this museum is dedicated to all things Stooge. Opened only on Thursdays, it displays a large array of impressive Stooge artifacts. The museum’s founder, Gary Lassi, a huge Stooges fan, collected over 100,00 items pertaining to the Stooges longstanding career, and displays around 3,500 pieces in the museum at a time.
In addition to being a huge Stooges fan, interestingly enough, following his marriage to Larry Fine’s great niece in 1981, Lassi is also distantly related to one of the Stooges. Areas of the museum include a Hall of Shemp, a game area (complete with Whack-a-Moe: an interactive Stooge-themed arcade game, open for all visitors to play!), and a myriad of rooms filled with everything from Stooge artwork, rare Stooge photos, movie postures, costumes, novelties and props used by the Stooges during their performances.
An Unhappy Union
Regarded by fans as the most popular of the Stooges, there was a dark side to Curly’s popularity. This Stooge was notoriously known to drink in excess, and blew almost all of his fortune on wine, cars, dogs and houses. Above all of Curly’s weaknesses, his greatest by far was his weakness for women. Immensely insecure, unbeknownst to Curly, women often took great advantage of the actor, who carried his heart on his sleeve.
In the early ‘40s, concerned for Curly’s worsening health and heavy drinking, Moe encouraged his fellow Stooge to marry a woman by the name of Marion Buxbaum, believing that this union would help Curly change his unhealthy habits. Sadly, Moe was horribly wrong. This marriage was largely turbulent. By the end of the marriage, Curly had already squandered much of his income on jewelry and fur coats, in an attempt to please his wife. Just nine months after getting married, the couple filed for divorce, resulting in a highly public, and horribly bitter legal battle.
Curly’s Fatal Price of Fame
For many fans, Curly is notably the most favorite of the Stooges. “Personally, I thought Curly was the greatest because he was a natural comedian who had no formal training. Whatever he did, he made up on the spur of the moment. When we lost Curly, we took a hit,” said Fine in an interview. Curly’s spur of the moment comedic style lead to many of his signature moves, including his classic running-in-circles move, which was actually an improv move he commonly used when the Stooge forgot his line. Sadly, following his messy divorce, Curly’s health quickly declined as he succumbed to old, unhealthy habits. As his obesity worsened, so too did his health and hypertension.
It was not long before Curly’s body reached its breaking point. Eventually, hypertension lead to retinal hemorrhages, ultimately leading to a fatal stroke. At 47, Curly’s rapidly declining health and mental deterioration forced him into a nursing home, where he became increasingly problematic for staff. Though his family was advised to admit Curly to a mental hospital, Moe ignored the doctor’s recommendations. Despite Moe’s defiance, eventually Curly was sent to View Sanitarium in San Gabriel, California, where he “died bedridden and alone” at the age of 48. Curly was put to rest at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA.
Despite the Stooges’ fame and success, the three were not awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame until 1983. Unfortunately, none of the Three Stooges were alive to receive the honor. Today, anyone can visit the Stooges’ Hollywood star, located at 1560 Vine Street. This Hollywood Star unveiling drew the biggest crowd to a Hollywood star revealing to date.
In addition to being honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, after the three stooges passed, their careers certainly did not die with them. Since their deaths, the Three Stooges Films were transferred and released to home video, thus immortalizing the Stooges popularity forever.
Pop Culture References & “Splatstick” Influences
Though none of the stooges are alive today, they have left a lasting impact on present and future generations, reaching not only those in the comedy world, but also many other areas of the movie industry. Today, myriads of films, television shows, songs and books have paid homage to the comedic trio and their work. The influence of The Three Stooges even managed to influence the horror movie industry, as seen in the work of horror filmmaker Sam Raimi, who’s love of the Stooges lead him to integrate Stooge influence in his classic horror series, The Evil Dead.
Here, Raimi used a combination of gore, horror and comedy, a concept which he called “splatstick.” Described as “uncharacteristically funny” and ahead of its time, Raimi has the Stooges to thank for much of his success in the movie business. In addition to The Evil Dead, some of the more notable titles included movies like This is Spinal Tap, Pulp Fiction, Ice Age and Grease. Additionally, musical artists like Chris Brown, Frank Black and even Toby Keith have also paid homage to the late comedians in their songs and lyrics.