By Jerry Zezima
If I had spent $24,000 on a wrought iron weathervane depicting the Three Stooges in their famous eye-poking stance, would my wife hit me over the head with an auctioneer’s hammer?
Soitenly! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!
That’s why, despite being a lifelong Stooge fan, I resisted the temptation to bid an amount higher than $4.85 on any of the dozens of items in the recent Moe Howard and Norman Maurer Estate Auction.
Moe, of course, was the Stooges’ leader, the one with the sugar-bowl haircut who bragged that he was “the brains of the outfit.” As a character in one of their short subjects pointed out, “It isn’t saying very much.” Maurer was Moe’s real-life son-in-law.
And $4.85 was the amount the Stooges were left with, after taxes, when Curly won $50,000 in a radio contest in the 1938 classic “Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb.”
So even if I had won 50 grand in the lottery, my wife, Sue, who like most women is not a fan of the legendary comedy trio, wouldn’t let me bid on any of the Stooge-related merchandise in the online auction.
Still, I wanted to find out more about this slapstick treasure trove, so I called Nate D. Sanders Auctions, the Los Angeles company that conducted the sale, and spoke with consignment coordinator Jamie Perez.
“Are you a Three Stooges fan?” I wondered.
“I appreciate their genius,” she responded.
“Most women hate the Stooges,” I said admiringly. “You are in a select group. Who’s your favorite Stooge?”
“I’d have to say Curly,” Jamie said. “Who’s yours?”
“Shemp,” I answered. “The surest sign of maturity in a man, if indeed it ever happens, is when he comes to appreciate Shemp.”
“I like that,” said Jamie, adding that at the auction house, she wears “many hats.”
“Is one of them a derby?” I asked. “It’s what Curly wore.”
“No,” said Jamie, who asked if I wanted to bid on any items, which included Curly’s 18-karat gold ring and Moe’s ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract for his 1925 wedding to his wife, Helen.
“I’m limiting myself to $4.85,” I said.
“You’ll have to start higher than that,” Jamie informed me. “Do you have Venmo?”
“I don’t have Venmoe, Venlarry or Vencurly,” I responded, “although I’m trying to get Venshemp.”
“You could be a Stooge, too,” Jamie said.
I responded to this supreme compliment by saying, “Thanks, toots!”
I was also grateful that she put me in touch with Sam Heller, of Sam Heller Communications, which represents several auction houses, including Nate D. Sanders Auctions.
“Did you know that Shemp’s real name was Sam?” I asked him.
“I had no idea,” said Sam.
“And Curly’s real name was Jerry,” I added.
“You are an encyclopedia of Three Stooges trivia,” Sam said.
He was even more impressed when I told him that this is the 100th anniversary of the team, which was founded in 1922 when a vaudeville headliner named Ted Healy enlisted Moe Howard and his older brother Shemp as his first sidekicks, or “stooges.” Larry Fine joined the act three years later.
“The centennial is even more reason for collectors to own memorabilia from one of the greatest comedy teams of all time,” said Sam.
“Who’s your favorite Stooge?” I asked.
“That’s like asking who your favorite child is,” Sam answered. “But I’d have to say Larry.”
“Did you know,” I said, “that the Stooges were nominated for an Academy Award for best short subject of 1934 for ‘Men in Black’?”
“It’s much better than the ‘Men in Black’ with Will Smith,” Sam opined.
“And Moe delivered better slaps than Will,” I said.
Sam heartily agreed.
The auction concluded the next day, with the weathervane going for $24,079, Moe’s marriage contract for $21,889 and Curly’s ring for $10,456.
When I told Sue about it, she said, “If you had spent that kind of money, I would have brained you.”
“It wouldn’t take much,” I replied. “Woo woo woo!”
Copyright 2022 by Jerry Zezima