My Pal Moe
by Bob Bernet

featuring letters and rare photos of
Moe Howard at home.

 

Pictures of Moe at Home | Letters From Moe | Letters Part II | Obituaries 
The Author | Dallas Morning News Article | E-Mail | 2000 Fan Club Meeting Photos


In April 2010, I had the pleasure of visiting with Darren and Brad Server, Curly Howard's only grandsons. They were both very friendly, personable, and genuine. Darren is a talented entertainer and musician who divides his time between NewYork and California. He can be seen in live musical theater productions throughout the year. Brad is a successful sales executive and lives in Southern California with his wife and children.  Here are some short interviews with Darren and Brad:

 

DARREN SERVER

 

 

 

 

BRAD SERVER


MY PAL MOE by Bob Bernet

Like most twelve year-old boys, I had been a big fan of The Three Stooges since I first saw them poking, gouging and slapping each other around like live action cartoons. Late one evening in the summer of 1968, my mother awakened me to tell me that my heroes were on television. They were guests on the Joey Bishop Show, a late night talk show on ABC that ran opposite the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. A little groggy, I staggered to the television surprised to see the familiar trio throwing pies and creating mayhem. I noticed that they had aged a little since the old black and white films I was familiar with, but I was glad to know that they were still performing.

Now that I knew they were still going strong, I was anxious to know when I could see them on television again. One way to find out, I figured, was to write them and ask. Soon after writing a letter simply addressed to The Three Stooges - Hollywood, California, I received an answer in the mail. This letter was special. It was handwritten and from the head Stooge himself, Moe Howard.

The letter was appreciative, but matter-of-fact stating when I could expect to see them on television again. I could hardly believe that I had received a personal letter from one of my favorite movie stars. I was so proud. I could hardly wait to show it to my summer baseball buddies and friends from school. But when I did, many of them tried to tell me that someone as important and busy as Moe did not have time to answer fan letters. Instead, they insisted, the letter must have been written by someone who worked for him. I refused to believe that and continued to write.

I figured if Moe answered the first letter, he just might answer a second. Twenty-eight letters later during the summer of 1973, I had the special opportunity to finally meet my famous pen pal. After graduating from high school in May of that year, a friend of mine named Bill Janin*, and I decided to take a road trip to California that summer. Hoping for an outside chance to meet Moe, I wrote and told him of my plans. I soon received a reply suggesting that I call when I arrived in Los Angeles. If he were in town, Moe said in his letter, he would be glad to arrange a meeting. Needless to say, I was soon on my way to California.

*Click here to read co-traveler, Bill Janin's, account of the event.

Not long after arriving in Los Angeles, we made arrangements to meet Moe on a Saturday afternoon at his home in the Hollywood Hills which overlook the city. We arrived at Moe's house nervous...but on time. After ringing the bell, the door opened and a tiny woman greeted us and ushered us into the front hallway. She was Moe's wife, Helen, to whom he had been married over fifty years. Then, far down the hallway, I could see a little man walking toward us with silver hair combed down in a bowl haircut. After five years and stacks of letters, I finally met my pal Moe. Making a joke of his five foot three-inch stature, Moe looked up at me, extended his hand and asked, "Who put you way the hell up there?" His humor eased my tension and I soon felt that I was in the company of an old friend.

 


Larry: Look at that! We'd better do something fast!
Moe: Yeah.

Moe and his wife Helen were very gracious. He gave us a tour of their home including his study which was full of Three Stooges memorabilia from their two hundred plus films. I noticed a large portrait of Moe on the wall of his study. It was a very beautiful oil of Moe in character. He said that it had been painted by a teenage girl who had surprised him with it as a gift. He seemed to be truly appreciative of the attention and goodwill that the fans displayed.

In the hallway near the front door was a single copy of the World Book Encyclopedia. It was carefully set across a bookstand like a family Bible and opened to the section on Comedy. World Book had used a photo of the Three Stooges to illustrate comedy. Moe chuckled when I glanced at the book. "If the encyclopedia recognizes the Stooges as the definition of comedy," he said, "then who am I to argue?"


We eventually settled in the living room. We asked one question after another and listened to him as he sat on the hearth and reminisced about his career. We listened as he shared stories about Larry and his brothers, Curly and Shemp. It was fascinating to learn more about people who had been so familiar to me. There was not a kid in America who did not feel a special kinship to the Three Stooges...and here I was visiting with Moe in his home. It was a special day, indeed.

Moe in a 1973 publicity still.

Moe let us in on a few lesser known details such as how Curly had been a "bad study," meaning that he had trouble memorizing lines. As a result, Curly would often improvise when he forgot a line and would sometimes drop to the floor and spin around like a top! We have all seen him do it, and now we know how it started. Moe also revealed that Lou Costello was known to "borrow" Three Stooges films from Columbia Pictures from time to time. Presumably, it was to study Curly. Inevitably, Moe said, Curly's routines would show up in Abbott and Costello features. He also said that Curly was a very gentle and loving man. Unfortunately, Curly suffered a series of strokes in his early forties and was forced to leave the act in 1946. He was quickly replaced by older brother Shemp who was a successful character actor on his own. Shemp remained in the group for almost ten years until his death in 1955. With three years left on their contract with Columbia Pictures, Moe and Larry went on to perform with Joe Besser as the third Stooge.
Not long after their retirement from Columbia in 1958, the Stooges' two-reel shorts were released to television exposing a whole new generation of children to their unique style of comedy. Within a few months, the Stooges were back in demand and experienced one of the most remarkable "comebacks" in film history. Their resurgence in popularity resulted in several successful feature films with Joe DeRita as the third Stooge. They remained busy making personal appearances and were frequent guests on television variety shows. They continued to perform for several more years until Larry suffered a paralyzing stroke in 1970. They had recently completed their final film, "Kook's Tour," a comedy travelogue which was never formally released. Although Moe was still quite active at the time of our July 1973 meeting, the Three Stooges would never perform together again.

Our visit lasted for a little over an hour. After finishing up some sandwiches and soft drinks that his wife Helen had prepared, Moe gave us a tour through the house that ended up in his office or study. He sat down at the desk where all of his letters originated from and began signing some 8x10 photos of himself and the rest of the Stooges. "A little something to take with you." he said. The walls of his study were filled with photos from all of his years in show business. It was fascinating to see his collection of memorabilia that included record albums, newspaper articles, photos with his brothers, publicity stills, and a beautiful portrait of Moe painted by a fan. The room was a small museum.

Moe soon suggested that we go outside and take some pictures. He was a real sport as he clowned around for my Super 8 home movie camera, making faces and poking his fingers into the lens. He was having as much fun as we were. (See photos).

Moe was seventy-six years old when I met with him at his home in July 1973. He continued to stay busy making solo appearances at colleges and universities around the country as well as occasional guest appearances on the Mike Douglas Show and other variety programs and talk shows. After a brief bout with lung cancer, Moe passed away on May 4, 1975. Less than six months later, his wife Helen passed away on October 31, 1975. (See Obituaries)

Moe's passing closed the curtain on The Three Stooges, but it was not the final chapter. They have left us with a unique film legacy and memories that will live forever. As long as there is an audience and a need to laugh, The Three Stooges will continue.

Almost thirty years later, as I look back on that episode of my life, I realize how fortunate I was to have met Moe. I doubt that anyone in show business today would take the time that he did to cultivate a friendship with a fan. The experience taught me that with a little desire and determination, dreams really can come true.

He taught me a great lesson in humility. Moe did not place himself above the crowd. Throughout their tremendous success, he managed to remain one of us. Here was a very successful individual who was under no obligation to spend time with me or any other fan. But he did. He always responded to my letters, shared scores of pictures and cordially invited me into his home. He was quite special. And yet he was simply...my pal Moe.


As a producer, I owe a great deal of credit to Moe Howard and The Three Stooges for my interest in pursuing television production as a career. I have been producing commercial, industrial and educational programming for over twenty years and I have yet to tire of new endeavors. Creating this web site has been a great deal of fun and I have met and heard from many interesting people as a result. Thanks to the Internet I am able to share these memories and photographs with Stooge fans all over the world.

Read more about the Stooges in Moe's own words in
Moe Howard and the Three Stooges by Moe Howard.
Used copies are still available through www.Amazon.com.

Please feel free to e-mail me at
willdogs@airmail.net or sign the Guestbook below.

Thank you for visiting "My Pal Moe."  - Bob Bernet


1973 Photo of Moe
by Scott Reboul

Pictures of Moe at Home | Letters From Moe | Letters Part II | Obituaries 
Bill Janin's Story | The Author | Dallas Morning News Article | E-Mail

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FOR STOOGE FANS IN THE NORTH TEXAS AREA:
Icky Twerp Tribute
- See Paul Camfield's tribute to his dad, Bill "Icky Twerp" Camfield, at www.ickytwerp.net

Icky Twerp was the host of "Slam Bang Theater" in the Dallas-Fort Worth area from the late 1950's through the 1970's and introduced thousands of Baby-Boomers to the Three Stooges.

 

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