Celebrity Museums

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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Faith Lapidus.

This week on our program, we tell you about some celebrity museums.Some museums present the best of high culture. These are not the museums we are going to talk about today. We are going to explore places where people can learn about the lives of famous entertainers from the past.

We start with a museum that is not even very easy to find. It opened in 2004 in a building behind an office park and a food store near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Welcome to the Stoogeum. It honors the old comedy team the Three Stooges.Over the years there were more than three Stooges, but the best remembered team was Larry, Moe and Curly. The Three Stooges were popular in movies during the 1930s and forties. They were on television in the fifties and sixties.

They were known especially for their physical comedy -- things like hitting each other over the head while caught in some bad situation.

Fans can relive the group's history at the Stoogeum. About 50,000 photographs and articles written about the Three Stooges are on display. The museum also has about 20,000 other objects in its collection.

The Stoogeum is a public display of the personal collection of Gary Lassin. He began collecting items about the Three Stooges more than 25 years ago. That was after he met his future wife, Robin.

Gary Lassin always liked the Three Stooges. But his interest grew after he learned that Robin's grandfather was the brother of Larry Fine -- the Larry in Larry and Moe.

The Three Stooges got their start in the stage entertainment of the 1920s known as vaudeville. The museum collection follows them from there through TV appearances in the 1970s.

The collection include games, comic strips, comic book covers, theater posters, costumes, show scripts and an art gallery. The gallery has a room-size painting along with drawings of the Stooges made by famous artists. And the museum has an 85 seat theater that continually plays Three Stooges films.

People who want to visit the Stoogeum must make an appointment. Gary Lassin has a full time job, at a mail-order company. But there is no charge to see the collection. He just wants to share it with others.A museum in Branson, Missouri, honors Roy Rogers and his wife, Dale Evans. They entertained people for more than a half a century. Roy Rogers was called the King of the Cowboys. He sang and acted in cowboy movies beginning in the 1930s. He and Dale later had their own television show.

The museum includes western hats, boots and saddles; family photographs; letters and recordings; and items from their movies and TV shows.

A statue of Roy Rogers' horse, Trigger, stands outside the museum. Inside the museum are mountings of Trigger; Dale Evans' horse, Buttermilk; and their dog, a German shepherd named Bullet. These animals were among the most famous ever to appear in Hollywood movies.

The museum also has a cowboy-western show presented by Roy Rogers Junior. He talks about growing up with Roy and Dale. He also performs songs that his parents sang -- like the one at the end of their TV show in the 1950s. Here are Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with "Happy Trails."Another museum, this one in New York State, honors two other entertainers who were married to each other: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center is in Jamestown, New York, where she was born.

Lucy and Desi are best known for their weekly television series "I Love Lucy" in the 1950s. It was a situation comedy.

Plots often went like this: Lucy would get into some kind of trouble, often as a result of some attempt to break into show business. Her nightclub-entertainer husband, the Cuban-born Ricky (played by Desi) would get mad at her. Fred and Ethel, their friends who owned the building where they all lived, would get involved. And somehow there was always a funny ending.

The show has remained popular in repeats all these years. The museum says "I Love Lucy" has never been off the air in the United States since it was first broadcast in 1951. The show has appeared in 22 languages in more than 70 countries around the world.

Here is Desi Arnaz singing the words to the familiar theme song.The Lucy-Desi museum opened in 1996. It tells about the lives of the famous Hollywood couple. Included are stories told by some of Lucy's childhood friends in Jamestown.

Also part of the center is the Desilu Playhouse. Desilu was the name of their production company. The playhouse has clothing from the show as well as some of the sets used in the filming. These include the couple's New York apartment and the California hotel rooms where Lucy had some of her adventures.

Groups visiting the museum can hold parties on the set of the Tropicana nightclub where Ricky worked in the show. One of the songs he performed was "Babalu."The city of Indiana, Pennsylvania, is home to a museum that honors a local resident who became a famous actor. James Maitland Stewart, better known as Jimmy Stewart, was born and raised in the community. His father's hardware store had been in the family since the 1850s.

Jimmy Stewart appeared on stage and television, but he is best remembered for his work in the movies. He won an Academy Award for best actor in "The Philadelphia Story." He also appeared in 79 other films -- funny ones, sad ones, dramatic ones and musical ones. He even sang in the movie "Born To Dance." The song is called "Easy To Love."The Jimmy Stewart Museum is on the third floor of the Indiana Free Public Library. The library is across the street from the building that once was the hardware store owned by the Stewart family. A bronze statue of Jimmy Stewart is nearby, in front of the courthouse.

The museum tells the story of his life in relation to history and the development of the communications and entertainment industries. There is a lot to tell. The actor was also a fighter pilot during World War Two, and later rose to the rank of major general in the Air Force.

The museum displays some of the awards he received going as far back as when he was a Boy Scout. The museum says Jimmy Stewart's life was an example of good character and citizenship. Many of his movies celebrated loyalty and love of family, values he learned as a child growing up in western Pennsylvania.Opening a celebrity museum can be risky from a business position.

In 2004, a man named David Loehr opened the James Dean Museum in the state of Indiana. He established it in Fairmount, the community where the actor grew up.

James Dean was a movie star in the 1950s. He was killed in a car crash in 1955 at the age of 24. He appeared in only three films --"East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant." Yet his fame has lived on all these years.

But not enough people came to see the museum. So David Loehr first moved it out of Fairmount, then finally closed it in 2006.

Still, the Fairmount Historical Museum has a James Dean collection, including his motorcycle.Our program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. I'm Faith Lapidus. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.