The Three Stooges and I

About ten years ago, I contributed a chapter to the wonderful book, Stooges Among Us that was edited by my friend, Lon Davis and his wife Debra Davis. The book recounted the tales of the accounts of those who met and got to know the Stooges including fans and other performers.

It includes Adam West’s account of working with them, Rose Marie and her story of her father “naming” Jerry Howard to “Curly”, film critic Leonard Maltin’s experiences with the Boys, Gary Owens ( Laugh In) work trying to secure them a star on Hollywood Blvd. and much more. I was honored by Lon to write a chapter of my experiences with the Stooges.

My story with the Stooges start with my great Uncle Carl Lertzman ( featured above with Moe, Larry and Shemp at my cousin’s wedding). Uncle Carl owned Lertzman Appliances in Los Angeles in the 1940s and 1950s. Larry, then Moe, Curly and Shemp became frequent customers there. My Uncle Carl extended them special credit. When Larry was in arrears at times, Carl never pushed him for payment. In exchange, when relatives came to visit from his native Cleveland, Uncle Carl could be a big shot and bring his relatives to Columbia Studios on Gower.

One of those relatives was my father, his nephew- Ron Lertzman. My father was 18 in 1949 and on a college ” exploration” trip. Carl invited my Dad to stay with him and he would take him to visit the “Stars” he was “friends ” with. On the train to Los Angeles ( from Cleveland) my Dad imagined meeting Gary Cooper, Clark Gable or even John Wayne! When Uncle Carl took him to the dumpy Columbia- Gower studios where they made the Stooges shorts, he was sorely disappointed. The Stooges were just these déclassé comics who did the “filler” shorts. My father told me they reminded him of the short deli counter men at Solomons Delicatessen.

They invited my Dad to play cards with them. My Dad said they were actually very funny guys and he watched them as they did a scene with a young boy who they used drops on to make the child cry.

He said Larry was often listening to the radio to hear the horse racing results. All in All, it was a huge letdown for him. Later on Uncle Carl introduced him to his neighbor, actress Sylvia Sidney- he was still disappointed.

My father told me that story often. I kept asking him through the years to repeat his Stooges stories with fascination-as I loved the Stooges growing up in the late 1950s and 60s.

When I went out to ” explore” colleges in the early 1970s, I asked my Uncle Carl to hook me up the Stooges. By that time (around 1973) Larry was in a nursing home( he had a stroke) and Moe was basically retired. However, Uncle Carl came through. I got to spend time with Moe and his wife Helen at their home. I even visited Larry ( and Bud Abbott) at the Motion Picture Home with Moe who drove me there in his huge Caddilac (what a sight with 4’10” Moe behind the wheel of that boat). I delivered groceries to character actor Emil Sitka with Moe- among other great experiences.

Seeing Moe interact with Larry (even calling him a numbskull- and it was for real not show) and meeting Bud Abbott with Moe is still a great memory.

By this time in 1973, it was far different from when my Dad met them in 1949. By 1973, the Stooges were living legends. Unlike my father- I was in my glory.

For more on this story, I suggest you check out the great book- Stooges Among Us by Lon and Debra Davis.

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