The Most Famous Philadelphian
Ben Franklin. W.C. Fields. Bobby Rydell. Fabian. Bill Cosby. That dude on ‘Bones’ whose dad was the weather guy on Channel 6 for a hundred years. John Facenda, the very voice of God in the NFL films, Thomas Eakins. Mario Lanza. Kevin Bacon’s dad …
Well, you get the idea. The list is endless: Famous Philadelphians. And people associated with Philadelphia, like the late Dick Clark and Billie Holiday and Grover Washington Jr. But native or adopted, there is only one Philadelphia who qualifies as the most famous Philadelphian of all time.
I read somewhere that the most recognizable faces in the world – and we’re talkin’ like Mohammed Ali recognizable – are none other than the Three Stooges: Moe, Larry and Curly – Larry! Larry Fine! Born at Third and South Streets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Okay, he may not be the greatest, or the most important, or even the most … Phila del phian for that matter – He was born here but I doubt if he spent more than a few years in his young life here before heading out on the vaudeville circuit. But there can be no doubt whatsoever that Larry Fine is the most famous Philadelphian ever born.
I have always wondered why this city hasn’t embraced this man with more passion and pride. There’s a mural of Mario Lanza on a funeral parlor’s wall down on Broad Street, and one of Frank Sinatra a few blocks up at a gas station. Now Frank may have played Palumbo’s more than a few times back in the day but, let’s face it, the only reason he’s on that gas station wall is because he was Italian.
There’s a mural featuring all the singers from South Philly on a wall down by the cheese steak Meccas: Chubby Checker, Fabian, Bobby Rydell … Okay, the owner of the restaurant down at 3rd and South does recognize Larry’s birthplace, and there is a mural but the only sign on that corner is a sign put there by the restauranteur himself. It’s a great gesture on a private citizen’s part but, let’s face it, this is more about commercial exploitation than genuine, public acknowledgment and gratitude for an extraordinary life.
Where’s the Official, State of Pennsylvania nod – slap on the back – rather, in the face – for this droopy, funny looking everyman in the middle that achieved a kind of immortality by getting slammed on the head with sledgehammers and poked in the eyes a hundred thousand times by the other two ‘funnier’ guys?
Is it because we’re kind of ashamed of them? The Stooges? Are we … comedy snobs? If he was, say … one of the Marx brothers I bet there’d be one of those blue and gold historic plaques planted at the corner of 3rd and South. Well, there’d be a sign for all the Marx Brothers because … Well, they were brothers.
Anyway, this begs the question: Is there a sign in New York where the Howard boys were born? I wonder. Are New Yorkers ashamed of their stooges as well? I would venture to guess that there is such a plaque somewhere in Brooklyn commemorating their native sons who went on to conquer the world. And if not? Well, shame on them too!
I feel for Mr. Fine. All his career he seemed to play second – no, third fiddle, he was a pretty good violinist, to the other two but it must be noted that Louis Feinberg – his real name – with his shock of steel wool hair and resigned, deadpan countenance brought a sophisticated dynamic to the eternal triangle’s existential perspective … NAHH! I’m just shittin’ y’! He was FUNNY! And that’s plenty enough in this weary and cynical world.
With the opening of the new Stooges movie I think it’s time we revisit this injustice. I don’t know what it takes to get one of those blue and gold beauties but it couldn’t be any tougher than getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The protocol must be similar. Whatever it is, I think we should start a grass roots movement right now. I will be forwarding this hot blog log to Mr. Gary Lassin in Ambler, PA, the founder and curator of the only museum in the world dedicated to the Three Stooges: The Stoogeum. And I encourage everyone who is of the same mind to inundate this poor fellow with letters, e-mails, twitters, and, oh yes … MONEY to make this noble dream a reality.
That’s firstname.lastname@example.org You’re welcome Gary!