In the event visitors are wondering who I am, my name is Bill Major and I have been a Three Stooges collector for over twenty years. I always enjoyed the Stooges growing up, but after purchasing a book called "Moe Howard and the Three Stooges" in the '80's, I was hooked. This book developed a fascination in me with the Stooges, and a need to know more. I was like a kid in a candy shop, after eventually picking up the holy grail of Stooges books, Joan Howard-Maurer's "Three Stooges Scrapbook". The Scrapbook offered a glimpse into what real collectibles looked like. It featured a bevy of Stooges photos, posters, lobby cards, and an endless wealth of information. After my extensive reading, I just had to start purchasing things relating to the Stooges. I started with a couple T-Shirts and some postcards, then came comics, photos, toys, posters, and my "desire to acquire" Stooges-related items kept growing.
After a few years of collecting and learning more about the Stooges, the focus of my collecting moved towards Shemp. As I learned more about him, I grew to really appreciate him as a person and as a performer. I was blessed to come in contact with several key collectors in the 80's, who somewhat "took me under their wing", and opened my eyes to what it meant to be a "real collector". One of them in particular was a long time friend of Shemp's wife "Babe", and he passed along stories to me that he and Babe had talked about over the years. What I gained from those days was that Shemp was not only a really funny actor, he was an overall nice guy and a true gentleman. In some ways, I see Shemp as somewhat the "underdog", who walked away from an almost sure thing, working with brother Moe, Larry Fine and Ted Healy, to strike out on his own.
When I started collecting, all those years ago, I lived in Ontario, Canada, and let me tell you that collecting Three Stooges items in small-town Canada (before the internet) was no easy feat in those days. Almost everything I found was through a network of fellow collectors that I started to build throughout the US and Canada. In this low-tech world, I relied on my trusty Smith-Corona typewriter and with snail-mail, to correspond with numerous people who worked with Shemp and the Stooges. I exchanged letters with Lucille Ball (who worked with the Stooges in "Three Little Pig Skins"), Morey Amsterdam (who was a very good friend of Shemp's, and later worked with Moe Howard in a somewhat obscure film called "Don't Worry We'll Think of a Title"), Mae Clarke (who worked with the Stooges in "Turn Back the Clock"), Emil Sitka (who was often considered "The Fourth Stooge"), Lyle Talbot (who starred with the Stooges in "Gold Raiders"), Ed Bernds (who worked with the Stooges in several capacities through the years...more to follow on Ed later), and even screen legend Jimmy Stewart (a personal friend of Shemp's, and co-star...in his first on screan role, in the Vitaphone short "Art Trouble"). I remember the excitement of checking my mailbox, and finding letters from way out in Hollywood, from these larger than life people. Now, more than 20 years later, I still treasure the letters and photos I received from these wonderful folks who took the time to reply to me.
On April 26, 1987, the world as I knew it changed again. It was on this date that the first Three Stooges Fan Club convention took place in Bensalem, PA. After a 9 hour drive with new friend Bob K., I arrived at what felt like Disneyland, for us Stooge fans. That first convention started friendships that have lasted to this day. The years that followed brought many more conventions, which were something that I (and hundreds of others) looked forward to throughout the year. These conventions formed some of my fondest memories of both collecting and of "Stooge friends". Over the years, the conventions changed to fan club meetings, and old friends drifted out of the collecting world, but the fun and memories still remain. There are some photos from "the old days" on my "Personal Pics" page.
I mentioned Ed Bernds above, and I wanted to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation and affection for him as well. I corresponded with Ed for many years, and he was always very responsive, a wealth of information, and a very trusting man. He would often send things like original photos or scripts through the mail, for people to copy and send back to him. I remember asking him if photos of him with the Stooges existed, and a short time later he sent me a great original photo from his personal collection (there's a copy on the photos page), of him with the Stooges. I took this, and other photos that he sent me through the years, had negatives made (no digital pics in those days), and returned his original, along with a new print, which he would graciously autograph and sent back to me. I fondly remember receiving and reading his lengthy hand-written letters. I was very surprised one day when I received an unexpected package from Ed containing an original script to the Shemp short subject "Society Mugs". He had personally autographed it to me "From one fan of Shemp Howard to another, sincerely Ed Bernds". On my "Photos" page, you will find a photo of Tom Kennedy, Ed Bernds and Shemp, on the set of Society Mugs, reviewing a script. In a follow-up letter from Ed, he confirmed that the copy of the script that he was holding in the photo was in fact the actual script he sent me! If you want to learn more about Ed, the early days of Hollywood, and the Three Stooges, I highly recommend his book, "Mr. Bernds Goes to Hollywood".
After spending the first 30+ years of my life in Canada, my wife and I decided to head south to warmer climates. In 1998, we moved to the Los Angeles area, which gave me the opportunity to to visit locations where the Stooges worked. A memorable excursion a few years back, allowed me to tour Sunset-Gower Studios, the former home of Columbia Pictures, as well as the Warner Brothers Ranch, formerly the Columbia Ranch, where the Shemp and the Stooges spent so a great deal of time. Walking around the studios where the Stooges made so many films, was quite surreal and very exciting for a small town boy, like me.
Aside from the many hours of enjoyment I have experienced collecting over the years, another huge benefit I have received, has been the opportunity to meet and build friendships with many wonderful Stooges fans and family members.
In closing, I want to say a big thank-you to everyone that has contributed to my enjoyment of the Three Stooges and Shemp Howard over the years.
I can be contacted via email at: