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Laurel and Hardy look-a-likes keep memory of comedic duo alive

Posted: October 11, 2017 - 1:51am
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Right down to the iconic paperclip cufflinks, Stan Laurel look-a-like, Dennis Moriarty crafts his costumes in his portrayal of one half of the comedic duo Laurel and Hardy.

Moriarty has served as Harlem's official Stan Laurel look-a-like at the festival for 24 years, traveling from Canton, Ohio each year, with his partner and Oliver Hardy look-a-like, the late Dale E. Walter Sr., until 2015, when Walter passed away.

In Walter's stead is Phillip Jones of Columbia, S.C., a ventriliquist dubbed the "designated driver" for the puppet and Oliver Hardy look-a-like, "Little Ollie."

"I have been coming here for about five years," said Jones of the Oliver Hardy Festival. "The first couple of years we were just extras and my good buddies Dennis and Dale were the official Laurel and Hardy's. Once Dale got sick and couldn't come anymore I started filling in and ‘Little Ollie' became Dale's replacement, so now, it's Dennis and ‘Little Ollie' and I am so called ‘The Driver.'"

"When I am not with (Moriarty), we do a Laurel and Hardy act. And we just do some slapstick, vaudeville and that kind of stuff," Jones added.

Moriarti, Phillips and "Little Ollie" lead the way for the festival's parade Saturday, in the backset of the iconic Model T Ford, driven by Harlem residents and longtime Laurel and Hardy Museum volunteers Gary Oliver Russeth and his wife Jean.

Moriarty, who has portrayed Stan Laurel for 30 years, and Phillips, said they work to get every detail right when portraying the comedic duo.

"Primarily, Ollie is in a two-piece suit, Stan may wear a three-piece suit or a two-piece suit, or they're workman with bib overalls on and gloves," Moriarty said. "So a third of the films they are dressed up, a third of the film they are workmen, a third of the film they're in period costumes. They wore gloves, especially with bib overalls on."

The look-a-likes even sported the iconic bowler hats worn by Laurel and Hardy.

"It was in the 1920's when Stan and Ollie started using hats, but hats are only a part of the head covering, they have bene sailors, soldiers, convicts, cavemen, but people recognize the bowler hats," Moriarty said. "Little Ollie has an American Bowler, Stan Laurel wore an Irish Derby, it has a narrow brim and a high crown, so that was a part of the costuming, between Stan and Ollie. When you look at all 107 films, you will see various hats that they wore throughout 107 movies that they made."

In his 24th year, Moriarty said he was proud to be back at the annual festival.

"The attendance is always terrific, even with the threat of rainy weather, that did not discourage the crowd and the vendors, or along the parade route," Moriarty said. "The attendance here at the museum is non stop and in the theater where people can watch their favorite Laurel and Hardy movies on the big screen."

Even without his longtime look-a-like partner, Moriarty said he continues to return each year to the festival to keep the memories of Laurel and Hardy alive.

"There is no better example for teamwork. Stan and Ollie were teammembers for more than 30 years," Moriarty said. "They were also team members with people behind the scenes. The people who worked with Stan and Ollie always talked about how they were treated with respect and dignity and they made Stan and Ollie look good."

And next year, the trio said they plan to return for the dedication of the new Columbia Theater, which they hope to dedicate at the 30th Oliver Hardy Festival in 2018.

"It's fantastic because everything (in the museum) you can't see it because a lot of it is in storage, but when we move down the street it will all be on display and we will have lots of parking," Phillips said. "But we are hoping and planning to dedicate it next festival, next year, if everything works right. It might be open before the festival, but the dedication will hopefully be next year."

In the meantime, the museum will continue to welcome guests from around the world to see the collection of Laurel and Hardy memorabilia, as one of only four Laurel and Hardy Museums in the world and the only in the United States.

"Everything that you see on display is either a permanent loan or an outright gift," Moriarty said of the collection in the museum. "There has been no money spent on anything that's on display."

All proceeds from the Oliver Hardy Festival benefit the operations of the museum.

 

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