The Sons of the Desert
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The Sons of the Desert is an international fraternal organization devoted to the lives and films of comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The group takes its name from a lodge that Laurel and Hardy belonged to in the 1933 movie Sons of the Desert.
In 1964, a few years after the book, Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, was published, author John McCabe formed a small group of Laurel and Hardy admirers, including Orson Bean, cartoonist Al Kilgore, Chuck McCann, and John Municino. McCabe created a mock-serious “constitution” that satirized the formalities of many social organizations. Stan Laurel endorsed and humorously revised the document; he suggested that members might wear a fez or blazer patch with the motto "Two Minds Without a Single Thought." Founding member Kilgore created a logo with the motto in Latin (in the spirit of Laurel’s dictum that the organization should have “a half-assed dignity” about it) as Duae tabulae rasae in quibus nihil scriptum est (literally: "Two blank slates on which nothing has been written").
The first public Sons of the Desert meeting was held in New York City in 1965, shortly after Stan Laurel's death. McCabe's group quickly inspired chapters in other United States cities, and then to other countries. In keeping with the tongue-in-cheek “desert” theme, each local chapter of the society is called a “tent,” and each is named after a Laurel and Hardy film. There are more than 100 active "tents" worldwide, mostly in the United States and UK. Members meet regularly to enjoy Laurel and Hardy movies in an informal atmosphere. Many chapters formed in the 1960s are still active today.
In addition to local and regional meetings, the Sons of the Desert holds international conventions, every two years since 1978. Most have been located in the United States but some have been held in other countries. Actors and technicians who worked with Laurel and Hardy are frequent guests, and rare films and memorabilia are exhibited.
The Sons organization has been profiled periodically in media outlets, usually in a newsworthy context (as when long-lost films have been discovered). In 1974 the British Broadcasting Corporation featured the Sons in its documentary film Cuckoo. NBC's whimsical reality show Real People brought the Sons to a national audience in 1980. The CBN cable-television network scheduled a Laurel & Hardy movie marathon and invited Sons members from across America to take part in the live, national broadcast. A documentary film about the Sons organization was produced in 1987 by Alexander Marshall: Revenge of the Sons of the Desert is a featurette showing the international membership at one of its conventions, with commentary by celebrity guests. An Emmy Award winner, the film is included in the DVD set The Laurel & Hardy Collection, Volume One (released in 2006). The Michigan tent has recently started a helper group named after the Laurel and Hardy short Brats, which is composed of child members.
- Sons of the Desert, Official website