Founded in 1965 with the blessing of Stan Laurel, THE SONS OF THE DESERT (named after what most L&H aficionados deem the pair's best feature film) has kept the laughter going in Manhattan for over 50 years.
The Sons of the Desert is an organization with scholarly overtones and heavily social undertones devoted to the loving study of the persons and films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
The founding members are Orson Bean, Al Kilgore, John McCabe, Chuck McCann, and John Municino.
The Sons of the Desert shall have the following officers and board members who will be elected at an annual meeting: Grand Sheik Vice-Sheik (Sheik in charge of vice) Sub-Vice-Vizier (Sheik-Treasurer, and in charge of sub-vice) Grand Vizier (Corresponding Secretary) Board Members-at-Large (This number should not exceed 812)
All officers and Board Members-at-Large shall sit at an exalted place at the annual banquet table.
The officers and Board Members-at-Large shall have absolutely no authority whatever.
Despite his absolute lack of authority, the Grand Sheik or his deputy shall act as chairman at all meetings, and will follow the standard parliamentary procedure in conducting same. At the meetings, it is hoped that the innate dignity, sensitivity, and good taste of the members assembled will permit activities to be conducted with a lively sense of deportment and good order.
Article VI is ridiculous.
The Annual Meeting shall be conducted in the following sequence: Cocktails. Business meeting and cocktails. Dinner (with cocktails). After-dinner speeches and cocktails. Cocktails. Coffee and Cocktails. Showing of Laurel and Hardy film. After-film critique and cocktails. After-after-film critique and cocktails. Stan has suggested this period. In his words: "All members are requested to park their camels and hire a taxi; then return for 'One for the desert'!"
Section "d" above shall consist in part of the following toasts: "To Stan" "To Babe" "To Fin" "To Mae Busch and Charley Hall — who are eternally ever-popular."
Section "h" above shall include the reading of scholarly papers on Laurel and Hardy. Any member going over an 8 1/2 minute time limit will have his cocktails limited to fourteen.
Hopefully, and seriously, The Sons of the Desert, in the strong desire to perpetuate the spirit and genius of Laurel and Hardy, will conduct activities ultimately and always devoted to the preservation of their films and the encouragement of their showing everywhere.
There shall be member societies in other cities called "Tents," each of which shall derive its name from one of the films.
Stan has suggested that members might wear a fez or blazer patch with an appropriate motto. He says: "I hope that the motto can be blue and gray, showing two derbies with these words superimposed: 'Two minds without a single thought'."
These words have duly been set into the delightful escutcheon created for The Sons of the Desert by Al Kilgore.
They have been rendered into Latin in the spirit of Stan's dictum that our organization should have, to use his words, "a half-assed dignity" about it.
We shall strive to maintain precisely that kind of dignity at all costs — at all times.
How It All Began...
The Sons of the Desert is a Laurel and Hardy appreciation group founded in New York City in 1965 by L & H biographer and admirer John McCabe. According to Article II of our Constitution, the founding members were Orson Bean, Al Kilgore, John McCabe, Chuck McCann, and John Municino.
The organization was named after the 1933 comedy film, Sons of the Desert, which is regarded as one of Laurel and Hardy's greatest films. Each local chapter is known as a "tent" and is named after one of the comedy team's movie titles. For example, the Hollywood tent is called "Way Out West," the Boston members are the "Brats," and the Glasgow Sons belong to "Bonnie Scotland." There are now chapters all over the world.
Cartoonist Al Kilgore drew the crest of the group. It bears the slogan suggested by Stan Laurel — "Two minds without a single thought" — translated into Latin: Duae tabulae rasae in quibus nihil scriptum est (literally: "Two blank slates on which nothing has been written").
Pictured from left to right: Al Kilgore, Chuck McCann, John McCabe, and Alan G. Barbour
The early meetings of the Sons of the Desert were held in New York City at the legendary theatrical club, The Lambs. In later years, meetings were held at The Players theatrical club, and most recently, at The Church of the Transfiguration, founded in 1848 and home of The Episcopal Actors' Guild since 1923.
Throughout our history, formal banquets have been held periodically. Pictured here: The SOTD May 1966 Banquet. From left to right: Alan Barbour, John Municino, Frank Nastasi, Al Kilgore, John McCabe, Chuck McCann, Orson Bean, Ida Laurel, unidentified, Soupy Sales, and Ben Shipman. We believe this is the only photo that shows all the founders together: Bean, Kilgore, McCabe, McCann & Municino.
In the town where the first American slapstick movie was filmed (The Curtain Pole starring Mack Sennett in 1909) the Barrymore Film Center / Fort Lee Film Commission is proud to announce the formation of a brand new Sons of the Desert Tent, Saps at Sea Oasis #353. Our first formal meeting will be the night of August 24th at 7pm when we screen Stan & Ollie at the Movies & Music Under the Stars program on the outdoor stage / green of the Fort Lee Community Center. Given our proximity to the Hudson River Saps at Sea seemed the perfect name as each Oasis has to be named after a Laurel & Hardy film. And what with being at the entrance to the busiest bridge in the world "Horns, Horns, Horns!!!" seems just about right!
The Curtain Pole, shot in Fort Lee, NJ in 1909 by D.W. Griffith and starring Mack Sennett, is considered the first American slapstick comedy film. The action takes place along Main Street in Fort Lee and one key scene where a person is knocked off a ladder is in fact the location of the entrance to the Barrymore Film Center. In Fort Lee Mack Sennett met Mabel Normand and Keystone Studio was born in 1912. And here Mabel Normand and Roscoe Arbuckle made classic film comedies at the Triangle Studio in 1916. Our Saps at Sea Oasis #353 Tent of the Sons of the Desert celebrates the American film form of slapstick comedy in our homage to two of the greatest screen comedians of all time, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.