Jitterbugs 20th Birthday Meeting
- by Stephen O'Crowley
Jitterbugs Tent is twenty years old? You don’t believe me!
Foundered back in the last millennium our tent has reached this great milestone and what better way to celebrate than to have a party. After months of planning out every detail what could go wrong – well, one or two things as it turned out!! It all started when a couple of days before the meeting Liam asked Sean (who looks after our venue reservations) to re-confirm our booking. Sean got back to Liam with the news that the Inn had no record of our reservation. Panic attacks ensued. Next day, after a sleepless night for our Grand Sheik, Sean got back in touch – all was well … he had rung the wrong venue the day before! Saturday came along, and the committee arrived early to set up. Liam unpacked his impressive life-sized display of Stan and Ollie… only to see Charlie Chaplin stare back at him. He bought two of these displays for Slapstick.ie – Laurel & Hardy and Chaplin – and both are identical when packed up and he had grabbed the wrong one… what are the odds of that happening (…tell me that again?). So, Charlie joined us for the day and we went to test the projector. All was working fine, until we got the blue screen of death on the laptop. Not to worry, we had brought a second one and after a few frantic minutes we were back on track. Tent members began to arrive and before long the room filled up. All enjoyed the photo slide show that was shown on our big screen, with pictures showcasing twenty years of Jitterbugs (and we haven’t changed a bit!). We were honoured to have some very special overseas guests who came to join in the fun. John Ullah and Mandy Finney, from Laughing Gravy Tent in Birmingham, are long time friends of our tent. We were thrilled that they made the trip over to Dublin and meeting up with them again made our birthday celebrations all the more special. And then came quizgate… but more of that later! See More...
Our second guest of honour was Gene Sorkin, Grand Sheik of The Chimp Tent in Cincinnati. Gene is on an extended trip of Europe and we were delighted that he added Dublin to his itinerary in order to join in our celebrations. As an added bonus, he and Liam even managed to get in a quick visit of Hardy's bar in the Royal Marine Dun Laoghaire on Saturday morning! And last, but not least (although thanks to a bus misunderstanding a trifle late) was another Grand Sheik (bringing the total to four!) - Bob Hickson from Be Big Tent in Manchester, who is also a friend of the tent and ever present at conventions.
Our meeting began, and Liam welcomed all to the party and introduced our special guests. Our first film was "Near Dublin" – the Stan Laurel Roach short (featuring Fin and, as John informed us, Charlie Hall although we didn't spot him!). "Near Dublin" is a special film for Jitterbugs tent – we first showed it at our European Convention in 2007, and although it doesn't feature Ollie, it's always well received when we view it. It's also the name of Liam's book about Laurel and Hardy in Ireland, but he doesn't like to talk about that! So, the film started… and after four minutes stopped. As Vice Sheik and alleged I.T. guy I tried to fix the problem, but to no avail until it was pointed out that the laptop wasn't plugged in and the battery was dead – D'ohhhhh. The problem was quickly remedied, and the film began (again) and this time thankfully finished successfully.
Liam then recounted a message he received back in March from tent member Tom Copperwaite. Tom loves the tent meetings and was excited about our 20th anniversary party and marked the 18th in his diary – unfortunately the 18th of March not May and when he texted Liam he was sitting in an empty room wondering where everyone was. Liam asked Tom to come up accept an award – a calendar so he will avoid such problems in the future!
We then showed our second film – The Chimp… in honour of Gene. We also told our younger members that afterwards, there would be an under-thirteen's quiz, based on the film. The film concluded, and the quiz sheets were handed out to young and young of heart alike. At the end of the quiz the answers were checked and we had a four-way tie, one of which was Mandy! We got all four finalists of the "under-thirteen's" quiz to come up (we wouldn't take no for an answer!) and had a winner takes all question, which was won by Tommy Muldowney. However, no child (or Mandy!) left empty handed as all were awarded big bags of jellies.
Liam then shared some of the great (and bizarre) memories that we have had over the last twenty years – my personal favourite was when in a hotel, a German guest, wearing pyjamas, came into the meeting to ask us to keep it quiet as he was trying to sleep (for the record we didn't!). Liam thanked the committee members individually for their efforts over that last twenty years. I turned fifty recently and as a very special surprise I was presented with a framed Christopher Lee autograph – a fantastic gift which now hangs proudly on my wall.
Liam then asked me up to make another presentation or two. I firstly acknowledged all of the hard work that Trudi has done for the tent – too numerous to list here but suffice to say that without her help we wouldn't have reached our 1st anniversary let alone our 20th and I was very happy to present her with a bouquet of flowers.
Next I asked our honoured guests to come up and accept a small memento of the day – Irish pins for their fezzes. And finally, I moved away from the preapproved script to talk about our Grand Sheik, who foundered the tent twenty years ago and has run it successfully ever since, and without whom there would be no Sons of the Desert presence in Ireland. I was delighted to present him with, on behalf of a grateful tent, a Pineapple drinking glass and to reflect his unconservative dress sense, the inaugural Oliver Hardy Fashion Award.
And then on with the show. For our final viewing we showed "Another Fine Mess", again one of note for us as it was the first film that we showed at our very first meeting. As with "Near Dublin" and "The Chimp", it was very well received and to hear a room full of people of all ages laughing at Stan and Ollie is a special thing. We then had our raffle and asked our special guests up to help us with the Loyal Toasts. In addition to the normal toasts, Liam added two extras ones – to the committee members long suffering wives (God Bless Them!) and to our past members who are sadly no longer with us. A rousing edition of "We are the Sons of the Desert" was sung and all were invited to stay for some tasty treats – a really fabulous "Fez" shaped birthday cake that Trudi made and some yummy rocky road , buns and brownies made by Linda (Mrs Vice Sheik!) – Our thanks to you both and can this be a regular feature at all of our meetings from now on please???
Alas all things must end but after we cleaned up our room there still was time to park the camels and have one for the desert with John and Mandy in the main bar. And as we enjoyed our last drink before heading home we noticed that on a high shelf right above us there was a bust of our good friends Mr Laurel and Mr Hardy – thankfully, T'will ever be thus.