“I personally believe that each of us was put here for a purpose. If I can make people smile, then I have served my purpose.” — Red Skelton
And served his purpose indeed. For more than 60 years, millions of Americans grew up listening to the slapstick Skelton on radio or watching his hilarious comedic skits on stage, television and film. His tenure in those entertainment industries taught us so much about the language of laughter, “a language everyone could understand,” according to Skelton, and one of the reasons for the new Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy opening on Thursday at Vincennes University.
The brainchild of Phillip M. Summers, chairman of the Red Skelton Museum Foundation board of directors and former president of Vincennes University, “the museum will celebrate comedy and humor as seen through Red’s life and his love of making people laugh,” Shirley J. Ray, the museum’s executive director said.
“Summers was president of VU when Skelton died of pneumonia in 1997,” according to Anne Pratt, the museum’s Marketing and Development director. “He approached the university’s board of directors to do something for Red and donors, visitors and volunteers came together to help create and open the adjacent Red Skelton Performing Arts Center in 2006. The plan was to later open an accompanying museum celebrating his legacy and we’re thrilled to do that on July 18.”
Performing Arts Center
You know you have arrived in Skelton territory on the east side of VU’s campus when street banners sporting Skelton in his various characters and a huge caricature of him adorning the museum greet you. Upon entering the acoustically perfect 850-seat performing arts center, visitors can’t help but smile at the gigantic black and white pictorial gallery of Red captured in some of his favorite personas, including “Freddie the Freeloader” and “Sheriff Deadeye.” A glass case of his numerous Emmy awards, one of his tuxedos, reading glasses, a cigar “carried on stage, but never smoked,” and a volume of his original bound scripts adorn its shelves.
Recently encased is a dedicated display of Skelton’s Masonic and Shriner’s artifacts. Skelton was a 33rd Degree Mason at Vincennes Lodge No. 1, and became a member of Scottish and York Rite bodies on Sept. 20, 1939.
The center offers a vast array of campus, community and professional events annually, and has hosted such celebrity performers as the Smothers Brothers, Debbie Reynolds and Crystal Gayle. Information on upcoming activities can be found at www.vinu.edu/red-skelton-theater.com.
American Comedy Museum
Aptly themed “A Legacy of Laughter,” the new, colorful museum is a “collection of exhibits where Red connects us to his life of inspiring laughter during the advent of radio, vaudeville, movies and television,” Ray said. “It’s a story beyond just him, it’s about history. From his early childhood days watching circuses and vaudeville performers come to town, to offering a reason to laugh during the Great Depression and World Wars, the exhibits provide connection for those who grew up listening to and watching him, but it’s also about rediscovery for new generations.”
Known as a clown with many faces, a mime, an actor and a comedian, Skelton was respected by many — including the late talk show host and former script writer for Skelton, Johnny Carson, and actor Jamie Farr of M.A.S.H. fame. He was a master of physical and verbal comedy. Throughout the museum, guests will read Skelton was an “observer of life and a commentator on its idiosyncrasies.”
Skelton was inspired by such noted actors as Ed Wynn and Charlie Chaplin. His observation, “being funny is a business — but one that takes a bit of learning to bring the laugh that counts,” is represented in the time and effort he put into his loveable characters who are immortalized in individual museum exhibits. “Clem Kadiddlehopper: Country Bumpkin” is remembered for his mustard-colored garish three-piece plaid suit, an exaggerated lisp, crossed eyes and exaggerated overbite. He liked to say, “What I lack in training, I make up in stupidity.”
“George Appleby: Henpecked Husband” was stereotyped as a neurotic 1950s husband who just didn’t get what marriage was all about. He was usually dressed impeccably and even wore his derby hat to bed. Nobody wanted to mess with “Cauliflower McPugg: Punch Drunk Boxer,” the fighter who had taken one too many knocks to the head. His outfit, a floppy plaid newsboy cap worn askew, a gray turtleneck emblazoned with his name, and vivid gold boxing shorts, accentuated the goofy character Skelton loved to portray.
Pompous and wily “San Fernando Red: Eccentric Self-Promoter” was a slick con artist whose outfit included a broad Stetson hat, top shoes, a blond wig, and a coat with tails. “Sheriff Deadeye: Good for Nothing Cowboy” was inept and always wore a hand-tooled leather belt with guns and holsters, in his one-horse western town.
Perhaps the most beloved and endearing character Skelton created was “Freddie the Freeloader: Tramp Clown.” His ever-present five o’clock shadow, white face makeup, scuffed brown shoes and bedraggled costuming even garnered Lucille Ball as his hobo companion several times while performing.
Visitors will love pulling copies of Skelton’s signature hats off of bobble heads and appraising themselves in mirrors. A virtual makeup booth will show you how authentic you look as a clown. A 32-seat theater and several individual screens through the museum play portions of Skelton films. A detailed timeline guides sightseers through Skelton’s life from boyhood (his childhood home is located across the street from the museum) through his storied career, and parallels our country’s significant events.
A museum store will offer prints of Skelton’s paintings, make-up kits, and books on comedy. And eventually traveling exhibits will be available for rotation at libraries and other museums and venues.
The public and donors alike — including Lothian Skelton, Red’s third wife, his daughter Valentina Skelton, and Jamie Farr — will participate in the opening celebration and events. Mrs. Skelton has graciously given more than $3 million worth of Skelton’s memorabilia to the Red Skelton Museum Foundation. In 2010, the foundation entered into a partnership with the Indiana Historical Society to create the IHS Red Skelton Research Archive, which includes archival material donated by Lothian, other designated archival material from the foundation, and a growing number of items that IHS separately acquires. For more information on the archive, contact the IHS’ reference staff at (317) 234-0321 or email@example.com.
Those interested in attending the festivities, including family and seniors days, can access information at www.redskeltonmuseum.org or by calling Pratt at 812-888-2105.
Once you’ve immersed yourself in all things Skelton and laughed until you cry, you’ll remember Skelton’s oft used parting words, “So until next week, I’ll say good night and may God Bless.”
Red Skelton with Museum of American Comedy
“I personally believe that each of us was put here for a purpose. If I can make people smile, then I have served my purpose.” — Red Skelton
- Valley Life
Effort under way to restore Civil War monument to original grandeur; ‘Soldier of the West’ unique in state of Indiana
“How sleep the brave, who sink to rest with all their country’s wishes blest.”
A lone soldier sits atop Forest Hill Cemetery in Greencastle. He is seated with his foot on a cannon of long ago, looking westward, perhaps toward the future he fought for. “He” is a stone memorial, rising nearly 30 feet in the historic cemetery. He represents all the men, young and old, from Putnam County who fought and died in the Civil War, and he is aptly titled “Soldier of the West.”
Wedding listings: Dec. 8, 2013
GRAPE SENSE: Riedel has been creating grape-specific glasses for nearly 50 years
Anyone serious about wine has probably learned the size of the glass can have an impact on the taste of the wine. You’ve probably seen all those different size and shaped Riedel crystal wine glasses in shops or advertisements and thought it was all silly.
Tried n True: Tea party cookies, lemon and orange
When you get done with these cookies, you will have two different flavors. Our grandkids loved to make the balls and roll them in powered sugar. I can’t remember when I first got this recipe, but it has to have been at least 40 years ago.
Francis Rowe celebrates 95th Dec. 14
Francis “Rowdy” Rowe will celebrate his 95th birthday on Dec. 14, 2013.
Anniversary listings: Dec. 8, 2013
Mr. and Mrs. Donald R. Bowden
Mr. and Mrs. David Hunter
Walk of a Lifetime: Writer discovers views fit for a painting while walking the cliffs of Prout’s Neck, home to famous artist Winslow Homer’s seaside studio
Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day walking the Maine seacoast in search of the great artist, Winslow Homer. Join Mike in January for the fifth installment of this series as he visits Edna St. Vincent Millay’s rural New York farm, Steepletop.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Sustainability hubs will leave the world a better place
There is something powerful that happens when people ban together for greater good. In many cities throughout the United States there are sustainability hubs. While each one is uniquely different, they all have the common theme of leaving the world better than when they entered into it.
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: You can’t tell there’s Velveeta in this fudge
At Christmastime we make sweets, candy, cookies, etc. When we were in State Soil and Water, we would bring cookies and candy for the last night at the meetings. A friend of mine, Marie Bunting, brought this fudge recipe and samples.
Anniversary listings: Dec. 1, 2013
Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Copeland
Mr. and Mrs. John Hemminghouse
Engagement listing: Dec. 1, 2013
Wedding listing: Dec. 1, 2013
Heightened Sense of Place: Educators’ efforts helped put geography back on map in schools
Geography transcends dots on a map.
Teachers traveling abroad alongside Terre Haute geographer Dorothy Drummond have experienced the real-life cultures, atmosphere and people existing within those dots. An educator herself, Drummond has organized affordable geography tours of foreign lands for Wabash Valley schoolteachers for many years. The journeys involved more than sight-seeing.
Families to remember children at Dec. 8 candle lighting
Members of the Clark County (Ill.) Chapter of The Compassionate Friends will participate in the Compassionate Friends 16th annual Worldwide Candle Lighting on Dec. 8. The event is designed to honor the memories of children who have died.
Shakamak Park earns honors for 4-H camp
Shakamak State Park was recently honored by Purdue Extension for hosting a 4-H summer camp that has served children since 1931.
The park was given the 2013 Friend of Extension award at the Purdue Extension Professional Development Conference Awards Banquet at West Lafayette earlier this month.
GRAPE SENSE: ‘Today’s Bordeaux’ campaign features more affordable wines
There is an old saying among wine enthusiasts: “The more you drink wine, the more you gravitate toward the French.”
And if you haven’t heard that one, certainly you’ve read and heard people talk about expensive French Bordeaux wines.
CASY to host Orientation I, II training in December
Chances and Services for Youth provides Orientation I training for those interested in becoming a licensed child care provider. Orientation I is part one of two trainings on opening a child care site.
TRIED ‘N’ TRUE: A good bread for dishes like spaghetti or lasagna
I have made this bread for many years. It is wonderful with spaghetti or lasagna. I’m not sure where the recipe came from. We all love garlic bread. If you are just starting to make bread, this is a good one. I have taken this bread to the field, carry-in dinners, just about everywhere.
Anniversary listing: Nov. 24, 2013
Mr. and Mrs. L. Ray Shew
Find your roots at the Marshall Public Library
Marshall Public Library’s Genealogy Department has many tools to help researchers discover their family roots. On-site resources available include a collection of local history books and binders, marriage and probate record indexes, cemetery surname index and locator maps, plat books and land records, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, Marshall High School yearbooks dating back to 1912 and newspapers on microfilm from 1865 to 2012.
Wedding listing: Nov. 24, 2013
Fade to Black: A few local theaters among last to part with century-old 35-mm film
The projectionist behind the first movie shown in the Indiana Theatre nearly 92 years ago would likely feel right at home in that same booth today.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Nothing healthy about seeing green in mid-to-late November
Fall is in full force, the skies are gray and trees have shaken their leaves to the forest floor. The outskirts of dormant wooded areas are lined with a thick brush of green. While green may signify a healthy forest, there is nothing healthy about seeing bright green in mid-to-late November. What you are witnessing as you drive by is an invasive species called Asian Bush Honeysuckle.
CHRIS DAVIES: While you’re waiting on a quick fix for weight loss, a couple suggestions …
By now you may have heard about a wonder supplement Cortislim. Annoying Cortislim ads claim to rid your body of unwanted belly fat by suppressing the stress hormone cortisol. Like other supplements before, their claims were not proven.
Sewing Connection auction Nov. 18 to feature homemade items
The Wabash Valley Sewing Connection will have an auction on Monday in the Girl Scout Service Center in Fairbanks Park beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing until all items are sold. Admission is free.
Correctional Facility seeks kids’ books
The Hope Center, a parenting program at the Rockville Correctional Facility, is asking for donations of gently “pre-read” children’s books to use for their Read-to-Me program. Donations may be dropped off at the Rockville Public Library, 106 N. Market St.
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: Serve Pecan Sour Cream Coffee Cake as breakfast appetizer
Last July I was with a friend of mine helping her with her home and dog. I was looking through her cookbooks and I saw this coffee cake recipe. This would be a good recipe for when we have family and friends overnight for Thanksgiving
Rox Alumni gets nonprofit approval
The Rockville Alumni Foundation, Inc. has been approved by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) public nonprofit organization.
Donations made to the organization will be tax–deductible. The approval is retroactive to June 27.
Time to submit Komen grant apps by Dec. 15
The Wabash Valley affiliate of Susan G. Komen is now accepting grant applications for the 2014-2015 grant cycle. The deadline for grant applications is Dec. 15.
Terre Foods encourages co-op membership
Terre Foods Cooperative Market is launching a holiday membership drive by offering people the opportunity to purchase a membership gift for themselves, a loved one or a friend.
- More Valley Life Headlines
- Effort under way to restore Civil War monument to original grandeur; ‘Soldier of the West’ unique in state of Indiana