I’ve been very fortunate in life to experience many memorable moments. My most recent was so unexpected that I’m still stunned by it all- and it’s entirely due to the kindness of Lou Costello’s daughter Chris, who proves that being the child of a famous celebrity doesn’t always mean being better than everyone else. In fact, Chris is just the opposite, humble, thoughtful, and extremely giving. She’s also a living example that the fruit doesn’t fall too far from the trees, because Lou Costello was also well-known for all the attributes demonstrated by his daughter. Lou loved children, and was a great humanitarian when it came to causes. He cared about people, and was always ready to lend a hand upon a moment’s notice. Paddy Costello Humphreys, Lou’s oldest daughter is likewise another stamp of her dad. A warm, gentle lady, who has a deep respect for her father and all the fans who’ve loved him over the years. I’d like to add that it’s blatantly obvious that they’re both a product of a loving, stable family, which seems so rare in Hollywood circles- a credit to both their parents- Anne Battler Costello and of course Lou.
Now about the event:
I saw advertised on their website that Chris and Paddy were going to be present at the showing of “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Long before I was married- actually going back to my youth- this film was always a staple Halloween fare in our home. This carried over to my adulthood- as it happened, my wife, Susan is also a big fan, and had the same tradition in her home growing up. After we were married, every Halloween we’d place the DVD of this film in our player and laugh again at the antics of Bud and Lou, while also re-living the thrills and chills of those marvelous Universal monsters.
So, naturally when I saw the ad for the program I jumped at the opportunity. For not only would we get to see our favorite A&C film as it was originally shown- in a real movie palace, but with the added bonus of sharing that experience with Lou’s daughters. This certainly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I wasn’t about to let slip by.
I’d e-mailed Chris that we were coming- we’d recently become friends on FACEBOOK- and was stunned when she offered that I join her at the Costello table to sell my books! This was their venue, and she was so sweet to share it with me. I was stunned and it was so unexpected, that I couldn’t believe it for some time afterward. I still can’t thank her enough.
The weeks went by slowly leading up to the event, and I think I worried about everything that possibly could go wrong and prevent us from attending. As an example; a few months earlier we had a book signing in Fresno, California, and on the morning we were to leave our car battery went dead. So, bad, unexpected things do happen. However when the day came to make our four hour journey to Glendale, thank goodness, all went off like clockwork.
Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney Jr.
We’d arrived a couple of hours before the event, so that gave us time to check in at the Alex, have some lunch, and take a few pictures.
The Alex Theater is a beautiful, restored (completed Spring of 2014) movie palace built in the 1920s. It first served as a vaudeville house and then as a movie palace. This elegant venue was constructed during the days when going to a film was an event. Many early studio films previewed here and attracted the stars of its time, like Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby.
Here’s a shot of the 100 foot tower…
…and marquee that was added in 1940.
The theater’s impressive entrance at the end of the courtyard.
Inside the theater’s lobby
Bela Lugosi haunts the lobby
The restored auditorium. They certainly don’t build them like they use to!
My wife and I met Chris and Paddy in the lobby, by a wall panel detailing the history of the theater. Within minutes it was like we were old friends- they actually made us feel like an extension of the Costello family. What a thrill. I spent some time talking with Paddy while Chris was setting things up. Lou’s oldest daughter is charming- and we both agree that the old days seem so much simpler. By the way- just as an aside; Paddy’s favorite A&C movie is “The Time of Their Lives.”
(L-R) Paddy Costello, myself, and Chris Costello
Chris made sure a table was set up next to theirs for my books, and her assistant from the film society suddenly became mine as well. How unselfish is that. I know I sound like a broken record, but in this world of “me’s” it’s so refreshing to find someone concerned about others. I try to live my life that way, but to discover another- and of a legendary celebrity no less, I’m still finding that remarkable.
At the Costello table with my books
Courtesy of A&C fan Mark Abel. My wife Susan can be seen far right, with (L-R) Chris, Mark, and Paddy Costello.
The doors opened at 2pm, and all the fans came flooding in. Honestly, I was so fascinated listening to Chris and Paddy tell their stories, and watching them interact with fans that I didn’t go into my usual pitch regarding my books with the passing crowd.
Chris Costello signing pictures
After the lobby cleared out, Chris asked that we follow both her and Paddy into the auditorium. Here my wife and I found our seats, while Chris and Paddy took to the stage to be interviewed. We caught the end of a Disney, “Silly Symphony” Cartoon, “The Skeleton Dance” before the lights went up and Chris, Paddy, and their interviewer, Joe Furey entered onto the stage.
The stories they shared were heartfelt, sentimental, funny, and informative. For example: Lou did actually pay for Dean Martin’s nose job; a Universal prop of a large swan was in the backyard of their family ranch; Paddy remembers with amusement seeing Frankenstein (Glenn Strange) sitting in a chair at the studio, smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper- and there were so many more stories- too many to tell here. I suggest Chris’s book, “Lou’s On First” if you want to read more.
Here’s its link on Amazon:
Once the interview was completed the floor was open to questions, and Chris found an opportunity to introduce a surprise guest- Tanya Lees, granddaughter of Robert Lees. Robert Lees was a legendary Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Chris asked her to stand up and be recognized. What a thoughtful gesture.
Screenwriter Robert Lees (1912-2004)
The feature began at the conclusion of the Q and A session. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is just as fresh and funny as the day it was first screened. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times we’ve seen it, but we were laughing just as hard as if we were seeing it for the first time- and so was the audience. Actually, as I’d mentioned before, we’d never experienced it in a theater with an audience- what a new thrill that was!
Paddy on the set of her favorite A&C, “The Time of Their Lives.”
When the film ended, we returned to the lobby and waited as Lou’s daughters graciously posed for more pictures. Both Chris and Paddy signed a photograph for us, and with fond memories tucked firmly in place, we said our goodbyes to began our journey back home.
Visiting with A&C fans- So much fun!
I cannot thank Chris and Paddy for allowing us to touch their lives. It is a memory both Susan and I will cherish for the rest of our lives. In fact you could say that it was the time of our lives!
Remember to check out the dedicated A&C page on FACEBOOK:
Who’s On First? Abbott & Costello
The November 1st issue of the A&C e-newsletter is just around the corner but it’s not too late to get on their subscriber list. Email Chris Costello at: ACCollectibles@aol.com and she’ll add you on. It’s free and you can cancel at any time.
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel, “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His second novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was next released early 2012, and in July of this year, his latest Tom Logan Mystery, “A Murder Amongst Angels” was published and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden. His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.
My earlier bestselling novels, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” and “Anything Short of Murder” now joins “A Murder Amongst Angels” on Amazon’s Kindle at a new, low price of $2.99. Now you can have hours of adventure, thrills, mystery, and romance for the price of a cup of coffee- and just as stimulating! Look for it on Amazon. Print versions have also been reduced.
Also: The new Tom Logan mystery thriller, A Murder Amongst Angels .
Find them all on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Also available for $2.99 on Kindle.