It seems like almost every time I’ve done something cool, Monty Python has been involved in some way or another. And so, when I found out about Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl, I began planning to drive to California. The story of my first trip to L.A. and appearing on stage with the Pythons will help me fill up a future blog or three. What is more relevant here is that I decided to look up the only non-Python-related star I knew. That’s right. Curly Joe.
I can’t remember if I was brazen enough to call him when I knew I’d be out there, or if there was another, more subtle reason for the call and subsequent invitation, but Joe and his wife invited me over to their house one afternoon. It was a nondescript house in a quiet neighborhood (Moorpark sounds right, for some reason). Joe answered the door, though it took him longer than I had expected. I wish I could recall more of the details, although I’m sure many of the stories he told me were the same ones he had told in our radio interview. I can recall that he was very detailed in describing the business relationship he had entered into with Moe when he joined the Stooges. Moe and Larry had died by that time, so he had resigned himself to retirement. His wife, a nurse, joined us for part of the time, and he happily autographed a few photos for me before I had to scamper off for the Hollywood Bowl. I was always a big Stooges fan, and although I had always wanted to be one of the lucky fans who had met Moe or Larry, I was delighted that Curly Joe proved a very nice brush with Stoogedom.
Long before I had met any of the Pythons, I did my first celebrity interview, and it was the first article I ever got money for writing. I was still in college at the time, working a couple of shifts a week at the college radio station, including a weekly comedy show which primarily consisted of playing album cuts by the Smothers Brothers and Jonathan Winters (this was before I had gotten my mitts on Monty Python albums. I discovered that a friend of a friend was running a convention in California, and he was bringing in several guests. One of them caught my eye.
Ironic, in retrospect, because his own eye had been caught by Moe on numerous occasions. By this time, though, Moe and Larry had both passed away. But Joe DeRita, “Curly Joe,” was still alive and well and apparently doing public appearances. Although I figured Jonathan Winters and the Smothers Brothers (to say nothing of the Pythons), would probably be too busy to deign to do a college radio interview, I had a feeling that Curly Joe might have a little more time on his hands. I was right. Using my radio show to justify my request, I finagled his number and made a call, and that very week I was interviewing Curly Joe. He couldn’t have been nicer, and answered all of my fanboy comedy questions with great patience and tolerance. Eventually, at the urging of Mr. Jewell, my former speech teacher, I transcribed the whole thing and sent it off to a nostalgia magazine, which eventually printed it. As a college kid stuck in the Midwest, I couldn’t believe I had spoken to someone who was part of a comedy legend, and to get paid for it? I couldn’t think of a better way to make money.