Today's Video Link
After Stan Laurel died in February of '65, a man named Gene Lester proposed to CBS that there be a big, prime-time special honoring Mr. Laurel and also Mr. Hardy. Lester was an acclaimed photo-journalist, a friend of Stan's and a devout fan of The Boys, and what he had in mind was an hour or two of clips and "talking head" tributes telling the story of the World's Greatest Comedy Team. As the star of a then-current CBS series and a friend of Laurel's, Dick Van Dyke was the obvious host.
The notion was accepted and an hour-long special aired on November 23 of that year and apart from Van Dyke hosting, it in no way resembled Lester's concept. He'd been shoved aside and it had been transformed into a jumble of a variety special with many stars including Lucille Ball, Phil Silvers, Tina Louise, Bob Newhart, Louis Nye, Audrey Meadows…and somehow, they even got Cesar "he's always available" Romero to appear on it. A few of those folks even had a slight connection to Laurel and Hardy. Most did not and the material they performed had little to do with the honoree. The show aired in Red Skelton's Tuesday night time slot and was taped on the stage Red used with most of his crew involved.
Here's poor video of the show in two parts. The most interesting thing in it — and there isn't a lot of him in here — is Mr. Keaton, making what was probably his last appearance. Keaton died a little more than two months after this special aired…and it wouldn't surprise me if he'd asked that no such "salute" be done for him. Fans of Laurel and Hardy seem pretty unanimous in disliking this tribute and many mentioned that a different salute — one assembled and hosted by Chuck McCann for local New York television — did the topic justice and was pretty much what Gene Lester had in mind. I wish I could show you that one but here's the one CBS ran…