THE SEARCH FOR CURLY
Remakes, rejigs - it has ever been thus – from Alice in Wonderland to Ulysses to Yogi Bear. It is not for me to have qualms about a new Three Stooges movie. Am I allowed to have qualms about that? A lot of people have them. Hold on.… Yes, I think I do. I have a qualm.
How can you recreate that originality? Surely the Three Stooges are hewn from a 20th Century immigrant knuckleheaded rock, cast forever in a time before rap and reality tv, and actually, tv?
I do have qualms. I am so sick of the cartoon versions of cartoons - the parodies of parodies. Is there no reverence for irreverence? What the Stooges were doing wasn’t for our time, and that there is where my misgivings lie. Is it just a waste of time? In the sense that Hollywood is laying waste to the times that we remember. Are they in tune with the winds of change, erosion, global warming and all that, chipping away at our idols?
In Hollywood nothing is scared of pale imitation, ghosts have no matter.
Back in the Eighties we used to watch reruns on Saturday mornings on BBC2, or everyday during holidays, before we were loosed to create our own mayhem. They were as old and mythical and traditional as Easter. And not just the Three Stooges, there was Harold Lloyd, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Flash Gordon, King of the Rocket Men, The Lone Ranger and Champion the Wonder Horse. They were all over in minutes or serialized and crucially all in black and white. We had recently obtained a color TV so these shows seemed to be from an older time, the real time, with proper rules. They were as dynamic as cartoons.
I had my favorites. I wanted a dog like Rebel from Champion, although I was terrified of Alsatians. I loved Harpo. I was amazed by Harold Lloyd. Curly infuriated me but I was always on his side. I didn’t know how he got away with what he did, but he did. Later we spontaneously mimicked whoever had been on, their hand waving, eye popping, strange noises, catchphrases, clock climbing, all of it. Curly became part of our culture. He was an icon at most, a character at least. I never thought about him as a person before I found out that he was brought up in Brooklyn.
I recently spent an afternoon down at Bath Beach in Brooklyn. I took the Coney Island bound D train from Broadway/Lafayette and was able to choose a seat. It takes about half an hour to 20th Ave, where I got off. It was my instinct to head straight for the water so I just followed my nose, making sure to point it in a southerly direction. I walked down three blocks towards the glinting blue in the distance, anticipating some sand and a few pre-school kids building castles, an ice cream truck maybe. It was a nice day. All I got was rocks. There is no beach.
First thing is that you cannot just wander across to the estuary; a stream of modern road traffic shows its dust to the ancient aquatic highway that runs parallel. There’s a small road bridge by 16th Avenue or further down, by Bay Parkway, a bridge to walk under. Maybe it’s all Robert Moses’s fault, which would be atypical, you can drive through the water but you can’t walk to it. The parting of the first part by the narrows of Verrazano.