Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Driving Moe Howard

Here's another excerpt from the book I'm writing on growing up in the 60s. It's the spring 1969 and I'm a student at UCLA.

FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: For all those of you who asked me to go into more detail on my Moe encounter, I'm writing that now and will post it tonight.

Taking Italian “Pass/Fail” allowed me to barely pass and satisfy the language requirement. But I still speak it worse than the waiters at the Olive Garden. I was not enjoying Psychology (who wants to take “Statistics” class – give me a number within a 2% margin of error?) So I thought I’d transfer into the Television/Film department. They told me I needed to submit a film or television show that I had made. I said, “Uh, isn’t that what I’m supposed to have AFTER I graduate and after you’ve taught me how to do that?

Transfer request denied.

Still, I just took a lot of television and film courses anyway. I did not take any screenwriting courses however. Stu Ohman, one of the disc jockeys at KLA had his heart set on becoming a sitcom writer. He took a course and got an A+ for a THAT GIRL script he wrote. I read it and thought it was a piece of shit. If that’s what they were teaching I wanted no part of it. Stu wound up an accountant.

There was an extra-curricular TV talk show that aired closed-circuit in the dorms. I volunteered to be a gofer. I’d like to say I gravitated towards television because I wanted to expand my horizons but the truth is the assistant director was the heiress of a major national furniture chain and I had a big crush. I so wanted to sleep with her and get a discount on a new dinette set. Alas, "the store was closed" on both accounts.

One of my assignments was to pick up the guests if they didn’t want to drive. Zsa Zsa Gabor and the the guy who wrote THE PETER PRINCIPLE (I think his name might have been Peter) were two of the celebs I chauffeured. But then one day – the thrill of my life – I got to pick up Moe Howard. Holy shit! An actual Stooge was in MY yellow Mustang!! Sitting in the same seat Rachel did when she first… well, never mind. But this was better. Moe Howard. Eye-gouging, head-knocking, ear-twisting, face-slapping Moe Howard. He couldn’t have been nicer. Or more Jewish.

In addition to Italian, I also passed my other classes. Not only don’t I remember what I learned. I don’t even remember what those classes were. Anyway, I was counting the days until summer.


baylink said...

Dr Laurence J Peter, yes.

I believe he spelled it with a U.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

OMG! Moe!!! Ken!! You're sooo cool!!!!!

Ynuk, ynuk, ynuk!!!

David L said...

There was always a stooge in your car. On this occasion, there wre two.

Mr. Hollywood said...

Don't stop now Ken ... tell us more about "Driving Mr. Moe" .. all the juicy details and tidbits you can recall!

Tim W. said...

I've got to say, I've never, ever understood the attraction to the Three Stooges. Even as a kid I couldn't understand how what they did passed for funny.

Rebecca said...

To this day, I am amazed at how little I remember from college. I graduated with a B- average, but I don't think I remember 5 things. After 4.5 years and an awful lot of money - it was a private school - it really seems like I should have learned a lot more stuff worth remembering, regardless of how many drugs were involved.

I didn't like the Stooges either, or find them funny. Moe seemed kind of mean and scary to me. I would have been much more in awe of Zsa Zsa...then, anyway.

wv=poxical That somehow seems an appropriate response.

camillofan said...

Love the Stooges-- and me without a Y-chromosome! So, tell us more?

Anonymous said...


I certainly enjoy your blog and have a great deal of affection for your memories of growing up in Southern California. However, I have to say that if you mention your upcoming book ONE MORE TIME with no indication as to the release date I will personally freak out. I think your book will be great especially to those of us who enjoyed Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid". But show some mercy, throw your readers a bone and give us some kind of indication as to when we can get a copy of this book. Are you going the traditional publishing route? Are you self-publishing? What's the deal?

A. Buck Short said...

Today on TMZ they'd be Zsa Zsa and MoHo. That would also make them pandas. Did you ever stop to wonder if, instead of Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, they would give those oreos names like Gang-Bang and Schwang-Pang or Knob-Job and Fox-Box, we wouldn’t always be facing this panda shortage?

And that concludes today’s episode of “My tangent’s a Bigger Stretch than Yours.” But only because, in response to one of your travelogues, I already used up the anecdote about my cousin Diana being the last living ingĂ©nue from all the Three Stooges movies, and how she was guest of honor at the dedication of the Three Stooges Museum–Stoogeum
– in Spring House, PA. Where the doorbell rings: “hello…Hello…HELLO.” (What impresses you most about the video – the Stoogeum director’s wry wit, or how that makes reporter Grover Silcox’s puns seem like something from the Algonquin Round Table?)

Napa Valley Hobo said...

I think you buried the lead on this one. What do you remember about Moe riding in your car?

KEN LEVINE said...

I don't know when the book will be released because (a) not sure whether a publisher will buy it or I will self publish, and (b) I haven't finished writing it yet. But the good news is I'm up to 1969.

Thanks to all for their interest. BELIEVE ME, when it's ready to come out I will tell you. You will be SICK of me telling you.

Patrick said...

I think I'm "Fourthing" that request Ken, tell us more about driving Moe Howard!

Hey, there's an idea for a movie! LOL!

Sandy Koufax said...

Hey...spread out!

Todd said...

Mo' Moe, Mo' Moe, Mo' Moe.

Or did you just shut up and drive?


Anonymous said...

Used to see Moe on the old Mike Douglas show. The total opposite of his Stooge character. Seemed like one of the nicest guys, kind and gentle, that must have been a real thrill Ken.

Bryan Simmons

Anonymous said...

500 years ago I was working as a substitute postman in the West Hollywood station. I was filling on a mounted route in the Hollywood Hills and had a registered letter that needed Moe Howard's signature. He took me into his den to sign it, showed me old pictures going back to vaudeville, told me stories, autographed an 8x10 and forged his partners' signatures. "I do it all the time," he said. I leave that part out when I show people the picture.

You're right, Ken--he couldn't have been a nicer man.

A sidebar note: directly across the street from the great Stooge lived the playwright William Inge, author of such serious works as PICNIC. Lived until he closed the garage, turned on the car and did a FADE OUT with his life. Juxtapositions like that were all over the Hills.

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

That's a great story, anonymous, especially the forged signatures. Did he put Curly or Curly Joe? Shemp?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Love the Stooges and would have driven Moe from Hollywood to Maine if he'd asked me. I join the others in asking for more details of that trip.

Bob Summers said...

I read this in TV host Tom Bergeron's book. I think it shows what a great bunch of guys the Stooges were.

As a teen in the Boston area, Tom calls directory assistance in LA, asking for a listing for Larry Fine and surprisingly gets one. It's not Larry's number, but the woman who answers tells him that Larry is in a rest home for actors and she gets calls for him all the time.

Tom calls the home and gets Larry on the phone. After they talk, Tom thanks Larry and asks if he could call back sometime. Larry says sure and then let out: "You want Moe's number?"

He calls Moe. Moe asks "How'd you get this number?" Tom answers "Larry". There is a short pause and Moe says "Larry!" But Moe talked to him and told him to call back whenever. Great man.

Verification: andus

Ref said...


Jeffrey Leonard said...

Bob Summers' story sounds like a situation right out of a "Stooges" episode.

James said...

This will sound stupid but I'll say it anyway. Do you have a Dr. Peter anecdote? I read his books when I was younger, and I'd be much more geeked to have met him than Moe Howard. I'm not knocking Moe, it's just my personal bent.

Anyway, if you have anything to share about Peter, I'd love to read it.

D. McEwan said...

Never saw the appeal of Moe either. He was every schoolyard bully in one mean package. I knew too many Moes to ever find Moe funny, or loveable, or anytibng but scary. Nothing funny about him. Always wanted to see someone take a cricket bat to his head, only instead of going "Boing!", it reacts the way a real head does when you hit it with a wooden bat, you know, squish, followed by brains and bone bits flying about, and then a funeral.

I know that the real, off-screen Moe Howard was a terribly sweet old Jewish burlesque comic who had had an unfathomable success for reasons that elude me (I met him also), and I hold no ill-will towards the real man, but the abominable character he played was another matter. Frankly, Peter Lorre was more loveable. (And considerably funnier. Lorre was a terrific comic actor.)

i thnk the comments here are showing you what needs work in the book. That you drove Moe is a mildly interesting fact, but readers will want to know what did he say? What did he do? What, if anything, did you learn from contact with him? Did he try to hit you? Some anecdotes to fill out the anecdote.