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Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Those Wonderful, Waning Days Of Showmanship


Dateline November, 1963. The place is Indianapolis, Indiana’s Circle Theatre, where 2,500 anxious kiddies showed up en masse for the biggest Three Stooges Saturday Morning Movie Party the city had ever seen, or sad to say, would ever see again. Grassroots showmanship was making a glorious final stand here, but chances are few of these happy participants realized it. That sideshow pitchmaster out front is WFBM’s Harlow Hickenlooper, host of the weekly TV Stooge-fest, whose own frenzied promotion over the preceding weeks resulted in the twenty-five hundred free ducats now being redeemed at the crowded boxoffice. The feature was Three Stooges Go Around The World In A Daze, admittedly a step down even from the none too exacting standards of Harlow’s video inventory, but, hey, when the show’s a freebie, with a stage show besides, who’s kicking? The Greater Indianapolis Amusement Co., of which the Circle was a flagship venue, put all their best showmen on this project. Kids were writing in a month ahead of the playdate for their tickets, and within a week, they were gone-eroo. That stage show must have rocked. WFBM radio microphones were at the ready to record "exciting moments", which included improvised hijinx with Hickenlooper and his on-air stooges, Captain Star and "Curly". The whole thing culminated with a pie in the face for "Happy Harlow", his traditional TV sign-off. What a blast. WFBM-TV cameras were on hand "to take motion pictures of activities" at the event, with the footage to be unspooled on weekend newscasts and later on the Saturday Hickenlooper show. I wonder if this reel could have possibly survived (chances are it was shot on 16mm). What a priceless artifact that would be!

2 Comments:

Anonymous federal operator 99 said...

I'm 99.9% certain the gent in the foreground in his trademark striped-jacket and straw-hat is noneother than the immortal Cincinnatti TV show kiddie host, "Uncle Al" Lewis, who must have wandered west of his WCPO-TV environs for this event. Curiously, WCPO did have a daily Three Stooges show, but it was hosted by the late and lamented Bob Shreve who, unlike Uncle Al, had a bowler-hat (and an unruly necktie that kept rising up in his face!).

9:42 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

One of my fondest childhood memories is seeing the Stooges in person at a screening of "The Three Stooges in Orbit" at the Stanley-Warner walk-in in La Mirada, CA in 1962. The line wrapped around the theatre three times, but we got there early enough to be near the front with great seats down front. No kiddie show hosts (though LA was lousy with them), but it was heaven for a 6 year old.

Moe was later the guest of honor at my high school drama banquet. Great guy and extremely nice.

2:41 AM  

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