Keaton and Laurel & HardyKeaton Celebration title

Special Guest: Steve Allen

2000 Highlights:
People & events highlighting this year's Buster Keaton Celebration--

Buster's lineage to MelissaBuster's Keaton's granddaughter, Melissa Talmadge Cox.attended the festivities. Melissa was delightful and enthusiastic. She brought family photos of her Keaton and Talmadge relatives, sharing them with individuals one-on-one. Pix included a family picnic Melissa TalmadgeCoxwith Great-grandma Myra Keaton, Great Aunt Louise, Great Uncle Harry and Grandpa Buster. In one, small Melissa, in a swimsuit, holds hands in a wading pool with Grandpa Buster. Also, there was a rare photo of Grandpa sporting a big smile! Melissa's father, Jimmy and uncle, Bobby, are well and live in southern California. Melissa has two sons and a daughter, all high school-aged.

John Tibbetts, James, Welsh, Steve AllenSteve Allen, also seen recently at the University of Kansas, attended the Celebration. He spoke before lunch on Saturday, and again in a Question and Answer session held after lunch. Keaton had appeared on the Tonight Show in the early 1950's when Allen was host. Mr. Allen was witty and thought provoking. He talked of talent and music and self-censorship and "what's funny." On Saturday afternoon he was presented with the Annual Buster Award. Mr. Allen, in photo right, is seen with authors John Tibbetts and James Welsh. Attendees were shocked and saddened when Mr. Allen died on Oct. 30.

The comedy movie team of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were also a focus of this year's celebration. Attendees had the opportunity to see silent and sound Laurel and Hardy classics. Iola attendees included members of the Sons of the Desert fan club. Left below, is Jim Peters, Exhausted Ruler, Hog Wild tent, Sons of the Desert. Second left is John Marrim, a young, but enthusiastic L&H fan. Also below, at right, are two license plates seen parked near the Bowlus. In years past, there have been Keaton tags observed, as well.

Jim Peters, Exhausted RulerJohn Marrim, boy fanL and H license plateOllie license plate

Kathy Metzenbauer's quiltA first-ever Keaton raff le was held, and featured a quilt made by Kathy Metzenbauer of Wisconsin Dells. Kathy, a long-time quilter, attended the event. The quilt was queen-sized and featured five photos of Buster printed onto fabric and positioned in keys spaces within the quilt design. Lucky winner of the quilt was Bill Nix, projectionist for the Bowlus. Bill worked very hard throughout the Celelbration festivities. Other items auctioned included books about film, t-shirts, buttons from past Celebrations, and handcrafted one-sheet displays of movies shown at this event and past Celebrations.

Martha JettOf interest was the showing of a video done by Martha Jett of Bridgeport, West Virginia. Her documentary, call "My Career at the Rear." was a discussion of Keaton's tour of duty in the U.S. Army during World War I. Shipped into France, Keaton served in the 40th Division, also known as the Sunshine Division, where he became adept in the use of Morse Code in support of the fighting troops. Later, because of his reputation in vaudeville, he was assigned to entertain troops as a Sunshine Player. On Oct. 1, 1918--just three days before his 23rd birthday-- Keaton was made Corporal and his salary raised to $41./month. The armistice was signed Nov. 11, 1918 but Keaton was not discharged until Apr. 1919.
indent Little has been written about Keaton's military career other than by Keaton himself. He includes a chapter about his experience in his autobiography, My Wonderful World of Slapstick. Keaton nearly lost his hearing during the months he served in the Army. He caught cold from sleeping on drafty floors and on the ground. He was treated at a military hospital upon returning to the States, but his hearing was permanently damaged.
indentMartha was fortunate to have access to Keaton's personal diary of his time in service while researching her project. She describes herself simply as a "Keaton fan" and her impressive documentary was done for the love of her hero--Buster Keaton.
indentThanks go also to presenters Patty Tobias, Frank Scheide, Steve Allen, David Macleod, Joe Adamson, John Tibbetts, and David Shephard (see "Schedule," below.)

Special Recognition:

Mary and John Amy and fan David and fan His Highness, Bill Shaffer
Mary Martin and John Tibbetts have been involved in all 8 Keaton Celebrations. Mary co-chaired this Celebration and manages the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. John, a KU professor, has presented every year. Amy Specht, right, lives in Buster's hometown of Piqua, seven miles west of Iola. She has served on the Keaton Committee since its inception. David Macleod, left, comes the farthest (from London) to celebrate each year. His introductory presentations are always insightful and clever and he is a joy to have around. David helped found Britain's Keaton fan club, The Blinking Buzzards. Bill Shaffer, Committee member, is about as talented, hard-working and pleasant as anyone on earth. Thanks, Bill!

The co-chair of this year's Keaton Celebration Committee was Frank Scheide, Ph. D. professor of Communication Arts, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville. He has been associated with our Celebration for most of its eight years. His students have videotaped the entire two days of proceedings most of those years. Frank won't stand still long enough to have his photo taken--but he deserves the thanks of everyone who enjoys attending these Celebrations.

Entrance, Bowlus Center
Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra Servers
The facilities at Bowlus Fine Arts Center are key to the success of the Keaton Celebration. Built in the early 1960s with funds provided in the will of Iola resident Thomas H. Bowlus, the center is a beautiful, clean and comfortable locale for Celebration activities . The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra performed at its third Keaton Celebration. They make good movies magical. Musicians are James Becker, cornettist; Brian Collins, clarinetist; Kevin Johnson, cellist; Rodney Sauer, pianist; and Susan Hall, violinist.  Thanks to the local sorority sisters who prepare and serve meals for Keaton presenters, Committee and staff. Each year these volunteers prepare a theme and dress for the occassion.

There was an interesting review written of this event for the New York Times
There was also a nice review of the event in the Topeka Capital-Journal

FRI., Sept. 29, 2000
Beginning 10:30 a.m.

Frank Scheide:
"The Influence of Dan Leno and Fred Karno on the Comedy of Stan Laurel"
Lunch (on your own)
Patricia Elliot Tobias:
"What Makes a Successful Team?"
Martha R. Jett:
show video, "My Career at the Rear," a compliation of Keaton as soldier in WWI
Screening: "Laughing Twenties" starring Laurel & Hardy

SAT., Sept. 30, 2000
Beginning 8:30 a.m. 

David Macleod:
"My Pals: Buster, Stan and Ollie"
John Tibbetts:
"The Winning Team"--exploring collaboration
Screening: You're Darn Tootin' starring Laurel & Hardy
with live orchestra accompaniment by  the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Steve Allen: Presentation
Lunch (on your own)
Q & A, Bob Butler interviewed Steve Allen
Presentation of the BUSTER AWARD to Mr. Steve Allen
Joe Adamson: "Silent to Sound" Why Laurel and Hardy made a successful transition to sound while Keaton had problems and how "the talkies" changed movie comedy
David Shepard: "Two-reel Silent Comedy Structures in Keaton and Laurel & Hardy"
"Custard Lies," Comic connections with custard pies, including rare TV footage. Written by Dave Wyatt (not present) and presented by Frank Scheide

Evening Movies
FRIDAY, 7:30 p.m.:

"Sherlock Jr.," starring Buster Keaton
with live orchestra accompaniment 
by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

"Way Out West," starring Laurel and Hardy

SATURDAY, 7:30 p.m.:

"The Bell Boy" starring Buster Keaton and Fatty Arbuckle
with piano accompaniment by Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

"Flying Elephants" starring Laurel and Hardy
with piano accompaniment by Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

"The Three Ages" starring Buster Keaton
with live orchestra accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Speakers List:

  • Steve Allen (Buster winner)
  • Joe AdamsonMartha Jett
  • Patricia Tobias
  • John Tibbetts
  • David Macleod
  • Robert Butler
  • David Shepard
  • Frank Scheide

Read: In a Little Kansas Town, a Feast for Buster Keaton Fans
Published: NYTimes, October 9, 2000
Iola Keaton Celebration web site.
Also, visit the site of the International Buster Keaton Society.

Funded by the Kansas Humanities Council, with help from the Iola Tourism Fund and private donors.
Sponsored by the Keaton Celebration Committee in cooperation with the Bowlus Fine Arts Center.

coming attraction,,,
See 2001 celebration: "2001, A Keaton Odyssey"
See 1999 celebration: "Keaton and Lloyd"
See 1998 celebration: "Keaton and Pickford"
See 1997 celebration: "Keaton and Chaplin"
See 1996 celebration: "Keaton and Arbucke"
Speakers Lists 1993-95
John K. KelsoJohn K. Kelso

© 2000 by Carol Yoho
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