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The Nyuk, Nyuk Stops Here
There are three stories of this stuff, including what Lassin calls "the strangest art gallery in the world," featuring oils, charcoals, murals and an original Al Hirschfeld etching of the Stooges.
Lassin -- who is also president of the Stooges Fan Club and editor of the Three Stooges Journal, a quarterly of mind-bogglingly serious (and fun) pieces on the trio's history and meaning -- collected everything here, plus thousands more artifacts he hasn't yet worked into the exhibits. Amazingly, Lassin also holds down a full-time job as an executive at a mail-order firm. But to the everlasting joy and frustration of his family, he has devoted thousands of hours to finding, acquiring and displaying Stoogeiana.
For years, he haunted collectors' shows and badgered local TV stations for the old films they used to show each afternoon. Slowly but steadily, he acquired original costumes, props, ads, scripts and -- I actually think I once owned one of these -- records such as "Christmas Time With the Three Stooges."
More recently, eBay has taken most of the fun out of the hunt: "It's not as satisfying now," Lassin says. "On eBay, it's just a question of who's going to pay the most, instead of it being all about the skill of finding the stuff."
At 52, Lassin realizes there's a generation of younger people who don't know and don't necessarily care for the Stooges -- his own kids among them. But he's thrilled whenever children visit who love the old shtick, and there are still plenty of boomers eager to dive into the silliness of their youth.
"I collected all this as if I was the Stooges' mother," Lassin says. "I don't do James Bond, Batman or baseball cards. I do one thing. Outside of playing a little golf, I am uni-dimensional. But the Stoogeum is not just for fans. I'll often see three generations sitting in the theater: a father, grandfather and son, all rolling on the floor in laughter together. I love to watch that."
Admission to the Stoogeum is free, and there is no museum shop. This is a labor of love, available by appointment, a shrine that is also a window onto a zany, silly and wildly optimistic chapter of the great American story of possibility.