Calling All Knuckleheads — ‘Three Stooges’ movie opens in theaters April 13

Ramona woman

has fond memories

of her ‘Pop Pop’

By Nick Thomas

What do Johnny Depp, Sean Penn, Jim Carrey, and Cher have in common?

If you answered “hairy legs,” you’re wrong – Depp’s limbs are as smooth as a pirate’s cutlass.

But at one stage, all four were considered for roles in the new Three Stooges movie, due to hit theaters on April 13, and called “The Three Stooges” – a title the producers clearly labored long and hard over.

Depp, Penn, and Carrey would have made an interesting ensemble, but all dropped out. Chris Diamantopoulos, Will

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Sasso, and Sean Hayes play Moe, Curly, and Larry, respectively.

While no one expects the film to bump “Avatar” or “Titanic” from their top two spots as highest grossing films, hopefully box office receipts will at least surpass the 1986 clunker, Howard the Duck.

When the new film premieres, it’s safe to assume there will be legions of passionate Three Stooges fans standing in line, but it’s hard to predict how they will respond. Many are already outraged at the “sacrilegious” remake, and they may very well embark on a Stooges-like rampage brandishing hammers, wrenches, and picks.

We can only hope they will vent their rage with harmless rubber tools, like their heroes used in the original 190 Three Stooges shorts and six feature films.

For the uninitiated who are not Stoogaphiles, the original trio of turmoil comprised Moe, the self-appointed, short-tempered boss of the team, chubby Curly with his high-pitched voice and databank of quirky vocal expressions (“woo-woo-woo!” and “nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!”), and frizzy-haired Larry.

Whether brutalizing each other with any heavy object at hand, tossing cream pies, or flattening their surroundings faster than a professional demolition team, the Stooges were masters of early Hollywood madcap mayhem.

But could you imagine being related to one of the Stooges?

Christy Clark of Ramona doesn’t have to. Larry Fine was her grandfather. She plans to see a preview of the film with family and friends on Wednesday, April 11.

“I’m terribly excited,” said Clark, a Ramona High School graduate who’s lived in Ramona 41 years. “We can’t bring the original Stooges back, but we can try to bring that type of comedy to the new generations.”

She’s seen the film’s trailer and some outtakes and said, “It should be very very funny.”

Joan and Paul Howard also didn’t have to imagine what it would be like to have a Stooge as a relative. Not only was Moe their real-life father, but Curly and Shemp (Curly’s replacement) were their uncles!

So did Paul and Joan have to hide household implements and potential food projectiles when they gathered for family events?

“I didn’t see any of them behave like their screen characters around our home,” Joan said. “I like to tell people that we ate our pies, we didn’t throw them!”

In real life, Moe was a gentle and kind man, rather quiet and a bit of a worrier — nothing like his grumpy, on-screen character. Curly was the wild one, with a fondness for women and booze, and Larry loved to party and socialize.

Larry was “Pop Pop” to Clark and her siblings.

“He was a loving and caring grandfather,” she said. “We didn’t realize how special it was. I can appreciate it now.”

To Clark, “Pop Pop” was like everyone else’s grandfather — “he went to work every day...He would come for our birthdays and take us out shopping.”

Clark was 4 when her father, Larry’s son Johnny, died. She was the oldest of Johnny’s three children. Her mother Christy later married Lou Kraus and they had a daughter, Siobhan.

“He treated her like one of the grandkids,” Clark said of her grandfather. “He was a wonderful man. We were all his grandchildren.”

Larry died when Clark was in high school.

“All four of us went to Ramona High School,” said Clark, whose brother John Fine Jr. lives in Wasnington, D.C., sister Phyllis Miller lives in Utah, and sister Siobhan lives in Ranchita.

Clark’s mother died in 2007, four days after the Witch fire destroyed the Kraus home east of downtown Ramona.

Joan is formerly an actress and even appeared in an early Three Stooges short with Larry’s daughter. She lives on the West Coast. Paul is a talented artist in New York, specializing in caricatures. Contacted to learn their thoughts of the new movie and if they had any involvement, Paul said he was not consulted, but hopes the film “does well at the box office to help keep the Stooges alive-and-well forever.”

No one called Joan, either. But she did contact the producers to ask if there might be a small part for her granddaughter, a recent UCLA graduate in broadcast and journalism. So watch out for one of the nuns with a minor role — that’s Moe’s great granddaughter!

Joan was also pleased with movie clips she’s seen.

“When I saw the trailer, I thought they had all the moves down pat, but haven’t seen the film in its entirety,” she said. “I’ve never met the faux Stooges, but hopefully will at the premiere coming up.”

I just warned her to be wary of fellow filmgoers bearing small, household tools.

Maureen Robertson contributed to this article. Nick Thomas has written features for more than 150 magazines and newspapers, including the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, and Christian Science Monitor. His complete interview with Joan and Paul Howard was recently published in “Raised by the Stars: Interviews with 29 Children of Hollywood Actors,” by McFarland press.

   
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