GONE to LAUNCH
Ever wanted to go to a film premiere, and walk along the red carpet, while surrounded by hundreds of fans and press photographers? Well you should have come to the Odeon Leicester Square, on Monday 23 April. Those who did got all of that - and more.
The occasion was a Gala Film Premier to launch the release of Universal's box-set of Laurel and Hardy DVDs. Over 600 celebrities were invited but, for our party at least, the biggest attraction were just two celebrities - namely Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. In this department, the evening got off to a spectacular start when a model T-Ford, carrying the stunning likenesses of Laurel and Hardy, was driven along the red carpet. There then followed an hour of business and slapstick, á la Stan et Ollie, very capably performed by talented impersonators Jem Smith and Graeme Hardy - aka "Haurel and Lardy." Here are two lads whose heart and sole is touched by their comedy heroes.
Hosts for the evening were comedy partners Matt Lucas and David Walliams. A cynic might choose to say that Messrs. Lucas and Walliams were chosen to capitalise on their recent BAFTA award for the TV comedy series "Little Britain," and to advertise The All-Star Comedy Show, being screened just one week after this event . So it was a delight to find, in their pre-show introduction, that Matt and David do have a genuine love and admiration for their comedy predecessors.
At the after show, I and fellow authors Glenn Mitchell and David Wyatt, plus The Laurel and Hardy Magazine editor Rob Lewis, were guests of Universal at the after show party, held at the Cafe de Paris. There, I was fortunate enough to be invited to sit next to David Walliams, and secured an intimate ten minute interview with him. During all that time he spoke almost entirely of how he got into Laurel and Hardy, and just how highly he rates them. The humour of "Little Britain" is far removed from mainstream TV comedy, or the older style Benny Hill and Russ Abbott sketch shows, but it was heartening to know that the modern school acknowledges its roots. In fact, David rather regretted that more of the old school comedians hadn't been invited along to the screening, as he would have liked to pay tribute to them also. As Charlie Chase would have said: "A swell guy."
But what of the ordinary fan, and the film show? Knowing how popular our web-site is, Universal asked if they could run a competition on it. With only four days notice Rob Lewis quickly devised one, with the result that the 80 winning Sons gained privileged access to the screening. However, 80 true Laurel and Hardy devotees in this near-packed house meant that around 90% of the audience had yet to be converted. We knew, through watching The Music Box and Sons of the Desert countless times at the Helpmates' meeting, just where all the big laughs should come. But, in this non-representative audience, would the laughs still come? We waited with trepidation, but we needn't have feared. The laughs did come - thick and fast, and Loud and Hearty (sounds like another pair of impersonators, doesn't it?)
It was a joy to behold - knowing that the laughter experienced at SOD meetings is one that is equally enjoyed by other members of society, and can obviously be triggered off at any time, in any place, just by the introduction of those two wonderful comedy masters - Laurel and Hardy. Now they truly are "Universal."
The Laurel and Hardy Launch Gallery
|Photos with thanks to Universal
Music,Dave Tomlinson and Robert Powell.
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