When I was a kid I discovered Laurel and Hardy, when their old movies were run on local TV. I remember watching and and rolling on the floor with laughter. I especially liked it when Ollie would trip on something and end up falling down the stair, hearing him howl (often off camera) as he hit each stair hard. I never laughed so hard!
When I got a little older (in my teens) I decided I would somehow try to meet Stan Laurel (by then Ollie had died). I found out he lived in Santa Monica and since I lived in West Los Angeles I figured it would be possible. But I wasn't sure how to do it. I finally wrote to the Screen Actor's guild and got a hold of his agent who gave me an address to send a letter to. (Note: Later, when I met Stan I was surprised when he told me he was listed in the Santa Monica phone book!)
I sent Stan a letter and to my happy surprise he responded via a postcard (which I still have somewhere and am looking to find it) inviting me to visit him at his apartment on Oceana Avenue in Santa Monica. I remember meeting him that first time. When he opened the door he was much older than he was in the movies but he still had that great Stanley smile. I was so excited. He was very patient with me, a kid, who asked him I'm sure many mundane questions, which he patiently answered.
Some of the things I remember about my visit(s) with Stan was his typewriter. It was a portable which he had on a little desk by his window (as I recall) overlooking the Pacific Ocean beach. He also had some mementos of his career, not too many items, but they included two Laurel & Hardy marionettes, a 16 millimeter projector which he told me was given to him along with a film of his appearance on Ralph Edward's "This Is Your Life" show. I also remember, at least at one visit, that I was certain that his wife, Ida, was in another room, during my visit. I never met her face to face -- until Stan's funeral.
Over the years I visited Stan a couple more times. I remember one time asking him if I could bring a camera. However, Stan told me he had recently had some eye trouble and was advised not to have any flash pictures taken. I wish I was more persistent.
I remember when, several months after my last visit with Stan it was announced on TV that Stan Laurel had died. I was 19 years old and I got all dressed up to go to his funeral at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, in Burbank, California, in the hills above Warner Brothers Studios. The funeral was held at a newly built chapel. It was a newsworthy event -- there were many TV crews there to cover the event. Many celebrities were there, with the most famous being Dick Van Dyke. I remember him showing up in a sports car. There was a crowd of fans at all hoping to get into the small chapel. I remember making an effort to get to the front of the group so that I would be inside the chapel.
Inside the Chapel music played. I remember especially hearing the Laurel & Hardy theme, which brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. Dick Van Dyke delivered the eulogy. Afterwards I left the chapel through a side entrance with the others, coming face to face with newsreel cameras as I exited. I remember seeing large bouquets of flowers from Stan's many co-workers, co-stars and fans. I stopped by Ida and Stan's daughter Lois to give them my condolences.
I have one or two postcard mementos from my visits with Stan, and a memorial card from his funeral. I will find them and put them on the site -- so come back again and hopefully they will be up.
In the meantime be sure to visit YouTube to see the video clip from Stan's funeral on this site or on YouTube. (On YouTube if you search for "rowby stan laurel funeral" you will also see additional footage from Stan's funeral, from the DVD that I used to create "my version" of the funeral.