Schlafly Bottleworks Hosts Three Stooges Nights

Why would a hip, bespoke brewery like Schlafly Bottleworks host a Three Stooges Night once a month? Because we love them, that’s why!

I realize that Three Stooges fandom is a much divided enterprise. You either love them or you hate them.  So, there’s a chance that you might already be not reading this. But, if you’ve not already tuned out, you might find there is much more to the story of the three knucklehead, slap stickers than you had thought. I promise intrigue, alcoholism, Nazis, brain damage, beating deaths, acid burns, brotherhood and nice Jewish boys who made a business of poking each other in the eyes.

The four main Three Stooges (I know that’s confusing, but we’ll sort it out) were born nice Jewish boys. Three were brothers: Samuel (Shemp), Moses (Moe) and Jerome (Curly) Horwitz. They were born in Brooklyn, New York in 1895, 1897 and 1903, respectively. The fourth, and with Moe the most consistent Stooge constituent, was born Louis Feinberg (Larry) in south Philadelphia in 1902.

In the later years the group also included Curly Joe DeRita and Joe Besser (born in St. Louis!!), but in general they are thought of as lesser Stooges by fans. Both were added to the group in the ‘50s to replace Curly, who by that time had been damaged by the constant beating he took from the not-as-fake-as-they-look blows to the head that was part of the Stooges’ trademark.

Shemp and Moe, having no love or money for college, entered trade school, Shemp for plumbing (no wonder there were so many plumbing skits!) and Moe to be an electrician. Neither found the trades very exciting because they had their eyes on performing and vaudeville.

StoogesEarly

In 1916, at the ages of 21 and 19, Shemp and Moe first put together a stage act and changed their last name to Howard. They kept at it until 1922 when they met a former schoolmate and successful vaudevillian, Ted Healy. Owing to Healy’s bossy nature (and severe alcoholism, we’ll get to that later), the trio was not yet known as The Three Stooges, but was billed as Ted Healy and His Stooges.

Cut to Louis Feinberg, or as we know him, Larry. Larry was son of a jeweler and, at the age of four, he was bringing a bottle of acid, used to test gold content, to his lips, thinking it was a beverage. His father noticed it and knocked the bottle away, but the acid fell on the boy’s arm, burning through his muscles all the way to the bone. The arm was skin grafted but was left weakened. Doctors suggested he take up boxing and he did, but his parents weren’t keen on it and also got him to take up violin. He excelled at both. Larry made money as a lightweight boxer and did well for himself but his violin led to him play with the Philadelphia Philharmonic at age 9. There was talk of sending the young man to a European music conservatory, but those plans were preempted by World War I.

Larry, who had changed his last name to Fine, took to vaudeville and was the master of ceremonies at Chicago’s Rainbo Gardens when he met Ted Healy and Shemp Fine, touring in the Shubert Brothers’ “Night in Spain,” in March 1928. Shemp was set to leave the production for a while and Larry was asked to take his place until Shemp’s return in September. Healy liked what he saw and when he signed a contract to perform in the Shubert’s new revue, “A Night in Venice,” in early 1929, he brought Shemp, Moe and Larry together for the first time, billed as the Three Stooges. The revue ran through the spring of 1930 and then the quartet toured as Ted Healy and his Racketeers for a while, culminating that summer with a trip to Hollywood to film “Soup to Nuts” for Fox Studios.

StoogesTrain

The movie was not a hit. Healy, who might have looked okay under stage lighting and from a distance, was not a prime candidate for the movies. Plus, his comedy relied largely on ad libs and improvisation and he wasn’t seen as “Hollywood material.” On the other hand, studio executives saw something in the other three and only they were offered contracts.

Healy exploded. He told the executives that Howard, Howard and Fine were his employees and that he already had them under contract. The offer was rescinded. The trio broke away from Healy after hearing of his actions and he forbade them from using any of the material, considering it copyrighted. Healy even threatened to bomb theaters that the Stooges might dare to play.

I did mention that Healy was a volatile drunk, didn’t I?

Amazingly, a couple of years later, in 1932, Healy managed to patch things up with the boys and they began working together once more. But it didn’t last. Shemp was a nervous sort and Healy’s penchant for violence and his turn-on-a-dime personality, both fueled by prodigious quantities of alcohol, sent Shemp off on a solo career. The oldest Howard brother was gone, but went on to have a solid career in movies and shorts.

Moe suggested that his baby brother Jerome be considered as Shemp’s replacement. Jerome showed up for his meeting with Healy with long, curly hair and a handlebar mustache and Healy immediately pronounced him “not funny,” probably having something to do with a weapons-grade hangover. It has been reported that neither Moe nor Larry really felt that Jerry had any comic talent either but, you know, he was family. Shemp, however, either felt differently or just really, really wanted out of the group so, at his suggestion, a freshly-shaved Jerry stuffed himself into a too-small bathing suit and, carrying a tiny pail of water, burst in on a Stooges act on stage. The result was hilarious and Curly was born.

three-stooges-ted-healy
The Stooges with Ted Healy in 1934, three years before his murder.

Healy put together a one year contract with MGM and the group shot some shorts and a couple of full-length movies but, in 1934, the contract was not renewed and the men went their separate ways.

Let’s talk a minute about Ted Healy. Look, the guy was very successful. He influenced Bob Hope, Red Skelton and Milton Berle, by their admission. But he was the definition of his own worst enemy. Not only was he drunk most of the time (and violent and explosive and mean), he was also stupid. He insulted Lucky Luciano’s heritage. He tried to rob Al Capone’s safe as a gag. He had an affair with Pasquale DiCicco’s wife, Thelma Todd, and DiCicco was Luciano’s eyes-and-ears man in Hollywood.

Todd ended up very dead in 1935, ruled a suicide but always thought to be the work of hubby DiCicco. Healy thought maybe he ought to lay off the actresses and he married a UCLA student, surely many years his junior (it’s been going on forever, hasn’t it?). But he did not lay off the booze. Nor did he stop acting like an ass. A couple of years after Todd’s death Healy was out celebrating the birth of his first child, already knee-walking drunk, when he ran into Mr. DiCicco, along with a young Wallace Beery.

Did Healy behave himself?

No.

He started a fight with Beery and then suggested they “take it outside.” They did. Beery and DiCicco beat and kicked Healy with savagery. Healy fell into a coma and died the next day. An autopsy, no doubt supported by Mr. DiCicco, reported that Healy had died of acute alcoholism. While his organs surely would have been ravaged by his drinking, the report left out a lot about the trauma associated with being pummeled to a pulp in an alley. Healy’s wife, and a new mother, complained about the lack of investigation. She was fired from the MGM contract player job she had landed and never worked in Hollywood again. Wallace Beery took a three month vacation in Europe.

By this time, the Three Stooges had been under contract for three years with another Hollywood sociopath, Harry Cohn, of Columbia Studios. They had made a couple of dozen shorts and five features for Columbia and their shtick of pie fights and violence had formed and taken root. In a town as insular and gossipy as Hollywood, it’s possible, maybe even probable, that the trio knew what had really happened to their former partner but it would have been bad juju indeed to have let on or demand further inquiry.

StoogesHeader

The Stooges made 190 shorts for Columbia in their 23 years there. Their two-reel shorts became so popular that Cohn used them as leverage against movie theaters. He would not send the Stooges shorts they desired unless they agreed to play them before a great number of their not-so-great B movie features. But Cohn successfully held this information from the boys, granting them only one year contracts throughout their time there, telling them the market was dying for their humor and only renegotiating at the last minute. Moe, the group’s business manager, didn’t learn of Cohn’s con until they stopped making the shorts in 1957, learning only then of the millions of dollars that had been left on the table.

The Stooges were required by Columbia to make up to eight shorts per year in a 40 week period. The remaining time could be spent on their own or, often, touring to promote their act. The years from 1934 to 1941 were considered their prime and the shorts left few premises unturned. “Hoi Polloi,” in 1935, had a Pygmalion theme (with the boys attempting education).  Also in 1935, “Three Little Beers” depicted the boys doing their worst to a golf course. In “Disorder in the Court” the trio was cast as witnesses to a murder trial. In one of their most famous works, in 1940, the group became plumbers and nearly demolished a socialite’s mansion in “A Plumbing We Will Go.”

Then, in 1940 and 1941, respectively, the Stooges starred in two shorts that are among the favorites of aficionados and the Stooges themselves: “You Natzy Spy!” and “I’ll Never Heil Again.” Mind you, these productions were made while America was still neutral in the conflict already going on in Europe.

In “I’ll Never Heil Again” Moe played Moe Hailstone, patterned on Adolf Hitler, Larry played an ambassador ala Joachim von Ribbentrop and Curly played a character very similar to Hermann Göring. Hitler was not impressed and he put them on his personal death list. So that’s fun.

All of this started months before Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator.”  (Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!)

The group produced a great many works during the war years, including one poking fun at Japan, “The Yoke’s On Me,” in 1944. But it seemed that, with a limited formula, the boys and their directors were trying to outdo themselves. Production costs rose, more scenes were shot on location and more violence was worked in. The productions became viewed as lesser works, especially after 1942, but the increased violence brought about a more ominous result.

Curly, the hulking man child, had an inherent innocence stuffed, like his body, into a too-tight suit. Audiences ate him up like theater candy. The formula for the Stooges’ comedy became heavily reliant on Curly, and on physical abuse directed at him. Curly was very conscious about his head being shaved, now an absolute requirement for his character, and he felt it kept women from liking him. He began to drink and eat heavily and his weight ballooned, starting in the ‘40s. The constant violence the act required, in addition to his hard living, took a toll.

Curly’s performances began to suffer. His hands shook; he had trouble delivering and remembering lines; his blood pressure soared and he suffered a series of cerebral hemorrhages. The 1945 short, “If a Body Meet a Body,” shows Curly visibly debilitated. Curly continued to make shorts through 1947 but he suffered a stroke during “Half-Wit’s Holiday” that ended his career. He did manage a part in 1949’s “Malice in the Palace” as a chef, the only short to feature all four Stooges.

CurlyMalice
A much thinner, mustachioed Curly as a chef in “Malice in the Palace,” from 1949.

With Curly unable to continue, Moe turned to his older brother, Shemp, and asked him to rejoin the group. Shemp was hesitant, having built a nice career of his own, but he knew that refusal would probably mean the end for his brother’s act. At the time, they believed that Curly’s ailments were temporary and that Shemp’s reunion would only be until Curly could return.

Curly, however, did not improve and comedian Buddy Hackett was approached to join. Hackett refused and Shemp signed on for a longer term. In 1952, Curly passed away of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Shemp made 76 shorts and one feature with the Stooges after his return. Larry, often a background character during Curly’s heyday, became more featured, even becoming the focus on “Fuelin’ Around” and “He Cooked His Goose.”  I liked those a great deal.

Shemp

The “Shemp years” also held another distinction: the Stooges invaded television, appearing on shows by Milton Berle, Morey Amsterdam, Ed Wynn, Kate Smith, Frank Sinatra and Eddie Cantor. But, three years after Curly’s death, in 1955, Shemp passed away, at age 60, from a heart attack.

Moe was devastated and wanted to disband the group but, ever the supportive boss, Cohn reminded him that the studio was owed four more Shemp shorts. Using recycled footage and a Shemp “look-alike,” Joe Palma (filmed only from behind), the group completed the final four owed under that contract, all released in 1956.

BesserA third Stooge was once again needed and Columbia insisted on someone they already had under contract. Joe Besser (our St. Louis boy!) made 16 shorts with the group from 1956 through 1958, the group’s final work under contract with Columbia.

In 1958, Columbia refused to renew the contract and things ended with a whimper. Moe went to the studio at one point to say some goodbyes, but since he didn’t have a current pass, was not allowed entry.  Without a contract, the Stooges thought they would try to make a go of personal appearances but Joe Besser’s wife became ill and he declined the notion of travel.

Moe and Larry were again searching for a third Stooge. Former burlesque performer Joe DeRita was chosen.

But a bit of a windfall was coming. The burgeoning television market was ripe for time-filling shorts and the Stooges work seemed perfect to fit the bill. In January 1958, Screen Gems, the Columbia television subsidiary, offered stations 78 Stooges shorts, most from the Curly era. They were a hit, so 40 more were released. By 1959, all 190 Columbia-produced Three Stooges shorts were available for broadcast.

Suddenly the boys were back in demand. It was suggested that DeRita shave his head in order to look more like Curly from their prime era and he became Curly-Joe. The lineup, billed as  Larry, Moe and Curly-Joe enjoyed a bit of a Renaissance, appearing in six full-feature films from ’59 to ’65 and they became one of the most popular and highest-paid live acts in the country. In addition to appearing on numerous television shows in the ‘60s, they filmed 41 short comedy pieces for “The New Stooges,” an animated series with 156 cartoons, in 1965.

StoogesCurleyJoe2

In 1969-70, the group was working on a series that would depict the Stooges as retired and traveling the world. During production of the pilot episode, Larry Fine suffered a stroke and was paralyzed, ending plans for the series. DeRita made an attempt at forming “The New Three Stooges” but the results were not good and he quietly retired.

Larry suffered more strokes and passed away in January 1975. Moe was diagnosed with lung cancer and also passed away that year.

Seventy years after their prime season, the Three Stooges are still popular. It seems they are still constantly delighting older fans and always managing to draw new ones. They have been a presence on television consistently since 1958. Theaters hold festivals of their work. While they may not have had the sophistication of Charlie Chaplin, or the subtlety of Buster Keaton, they did, as Steve Allen once said, “succeed in accomplishing what they always intended to do: they made people laugh.”

Schlafly Bottleworks, 7260 Southwest Avenue, in Maplewood, hosts “Three Stooges Night” the second Monday of each month from 7-9 pm.  The series is set to continue well into 2018.

Long live the Stooges!

Advertisements

Reader’s Delight! Jewish Book Festival Kicks Off November 5

Adreon-2 copyCool fall weather is a clear signal to go indoors and do indoorsy stuff—like reading a good book. If you’re looking for a great read, and some insight from the author him or herself, the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival will start on November 5.

The annual event has been introducing readers to noted Jewish authors for nearly forty years. All lectures by participating authors will be held in the heart of St. Louis County at the Jewish Community Center at 2 Millstone Campus Drive.

Boxer copy
Senator Barbara Boxer.

This year’s festival kicks off with Senator Barbara Boxer of California. Sen. Boxer will talk about her new memoir, The Art of Tough, which details her career.

On Monday, Nov. 6, local authors will be featured, including Korean War veteran Leonard Adreon. As a Marine corpsman, Adreon bore witness to the brutal horrors of war, detailed in his new book Hilltop Doc.

Another local author, Ron Kaplan, will discuss his book on “Hammerin” Hank Greenberg, one of three Jewish sluggers who have hit home runs in a World Series game. Trivia buffs—can you name the other three? See the end of this article to find out if you were correct.

Sepinwall-2 copy.jpgOn Sunday, Nov. 11, it’s TV Time with critics Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoiller Seitz, who will discuss their book entitled simply TV, chronicling vintage classics to modern masterpieces.

Jeff Rossen from The Today Show will appear on Saturday, Nov. 18 to discuss his new book Rossen to the Rescue.

Tickets to the festival and a complete schedule are available online at the Jewish Book Festival website. You can purchase tickets for individual lectures (most are about $20) or a complete festival Premier Pass for $99.

And for the sports trivia experts–the answer to the World Series home run derby, the names of the other three Jewish major leaguers to hit home runs in the series are:

  • Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros
  • Joc Pederson of the L.A. Dodgers
  • (St. Louisan) Ken Holtzman of the Oakland Athletics

Bregman and Pederson hit their first homers in the first two games of the 2017 World Series, followed up by one each in game four (both hit in the 9th inning).

Perfect Harmony: The River Blenders Chorus

Since 1978 the River Blenders Chorus has performed for audiences far and wide. The group sings barbershop harmony and has been a member of Sweet Adelines International since their inception. Although that may sound a little “old-timey,” let me assure you that the River Blenders have taken the art of barbershop harmony to a whole new level. The group’s next performance, entitled “The Bedrock Road Show,” will be held on November 4 and is inspired by everyone’s favorite stone-age family, the Flintstones.

Each year this company of women concocts a fantastic new theme show for the chorus, complete with a script, choreography, outrageous costumes and heaps of hilarity. Past performance highlights have featured themes taken from “Laugh-In,” “Psycho/Bates Motel” and “Orange is the New Black.”

The vocal quality of the group is quite superb as well, and the Blenders have proven their mastery of song by winning a number of prestigious awards, including First Place in the Harmony Classic Division AA Chorus Competition in 2015 and the Regional Chorus Competition Division AA Midsize Chorus Award in 2014. They are also the current Region 5 Sweet Adelines International Champions.

The barbershop style of singing originated in America in the 1830s when local neighborhood barbershops became a common gathering place for men. Often a barber would sing to entertain his customers while he worked, and customers would add their harmonies and use “call and response” types of songs as their repertoire. Around 1890 the advent of printed sheet music helped to propel the style to the top of “Gay 90s” culture. When vaudeville houses began using Barbershop Quartets to entertain audiences between acts, the traditional costume evolved to include oversized mustaches, red and white striped vests and straw hats.

River Blenders 2011

So, what is Barbershop Harmony anyway? According to Wikipedia, it is “a style of a cappella close harmony, or unaccompanied vocal music, characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note.” Each quartet will have a leader who sings the melody, a tenor who sings harmony above the melody, a bass who provides the bottom of the chord and a baritone who provides another harmonic note to complete the chord. The Barbershop Chorus is simply a larger group singing in the traditional four part manner described above.

Diane Huber, a self-described “homemaker and domestic engineer,” originally joined the group as a member of the chorus, but in 1989 assumed the position of Musical Director, a position that she still holds today. When asked about her background, Diane advises “I served on the Sweet Adeline International Board of Directors for 12 years, was the International President from 2004-2006 and I’ve coached choruses and quartets all over the world. I was also in a championship quartet called Ambiance and we traveled extensively to teach and perform for 10 years.”

DianeHuber2
Musical Director Diane Huber

Sweet Adelines International, born in 1945, is an organization dedicated to the preservation of Barbershop Harmony and providing competitive opportunities for female barbershop quartets. Today the Adelines hold an international competition that hosts over 8,000 participants annually.

Diane discloses that over the years the River Blenders have had as many as 110 members, with approximately 85 currently participating. The youngest member is 19 and the oldest may possibly be around 90, although no one is brave enough to ask. Diane says that the group is a “great mix of women from all walks of life, including doctors, educators, stay-at-home moms, students and a variety of others.”

The group has had many notable performances over the years, including several opportunities to sing the National Anthem at Busch Stadium, providing vocal backup for both Kenny Rogers and Andy Williams at the Fox Theatre, and even singing for then President Ronald Reagan at an event under the Gateway Arch.

RIVER BLENDERS CardsGame

Most of the arrangements performed by the chorus are obtained from Sweet Adelines International, however the River Blenders are lucky to have Kevin Keller, a choir member’s husband who is also a musical arranger, and Holly McKee, a member of the chorus, who write and contribute special arrangements for the group. Kevin and Holly have crafted many of the specialty numbers used by the group and, according to Diane, have been a god-send for the chorus. It is often these specialty numbers that give the chorus a leg up in competitions.

When asked what she would like the public to know about the River Blenders, Diane conveyed “I would love for people to know who we are and what we’re all about; about the education and empowerment that these women gain by being members. The group currently performs in public about six times a year, but we would love to perform more!”

RoadShowPoster

In 2018 the International Convention and Competition of Sweet Adelines will be held in St. Louis at the America’s Center, where the River Blenders will be competing in the International Chorus Competition. Stiff competition from Europe, Asia, Australia and, of course, from all over North America will be there, but there is little doubt that the Blenders will bring home another trophy.

The River Blenders Chorus rehearses each Monday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Ellisville. Rehearsals are open to anyone who is curious or might be interested in joining the group. Diane relays, “The doors are always open, come to any rehearsal. We’d love to have the company!”

“The Bedrock Road Show” performance is on Saturday, November 4 at 8 p.m. at the Purser Center at Logan University in Chesterfield. For more information visit www.riverblenders.org.

From YouTube to Reality TV: The Many Personalities of Libbie Higgins

(WARNING – Videos in this article are rated PG-13.)

When Libbie Higgins was a little girl she dreamed of growing up to be a great comedian, but as she confesses “life got in the way.” Plagued by a terrible case of stage fright, she never dared audition for any of the high school plays that she so dearly wanted to be in. Libbie grew up, got a job and got married, and like so many dreamers often do, put her reverie on the back burner. Little did she know that fame was waiting for her in the new millennium.

Libbie, a resident of St. John, is an honest to goodness “Viral Internet Personality” with a fan base of well over 100,000 people. Her video entitled “Woman Rages Over Extra McRib” became a viral hit near the end of 2015 and, to this day, provides fodder for a lively topic of discussion on many online forums.

How does someone become a viral video sensation?

“In 2008 I started to do online broadcasting on Justin.tv.” says Libbie. “There was a chat room, and you could broadcast and people would watch. I would do a “show” and I would do different characters.” The first character to emerge on those broadcasts was Trixie Higgins, “who was essentially me with a wig on,” reveals Libbie. “That’s where I created Claudette, the neck brace lady.”

Claudette Higgins, aka @TheNeckbrace, is a church-going Southern lady who wears a padded foam cervical collar, collects disability checks and is a monster fan of the band New Kids on the Block (NKOTB). When asked how Claudette obtained her neck injury, Libbie says “Supposedly, she was riding one of those mobility scooters (at Walmart) and she hit an end cap and all of the Suave shampoo fell on her. It hurt her neck and she has a “pending lawsuit,” so she has to wear the neck brace at all times. I just love the absurdity of it. It’s so ridiculous.”

Claudette Higgins
Claudette Higgins – aka @TheNeckbrace

The rising popularity of YouTube around the same time convinced Libbie to begin posting her videos on that platform as well. It was this move that began to push Claudette into the limelight and brought her to the attention of NKOTB and their fan base, known as “The Blockheads.”

“As a 14 year old I loved them so much,” says Libbie, “and back then you couldn’t get close to them. I would have given anything just to be in the same room with them, and now I literally know them, which is nuts!”

She continues, “so, when the New Kids had their reunion in 2008-9, I got on Twitter. Celebrities were really accessible then, so they would tweet you back. Then Donnie Wahlberg had this contest to make a video to one of their songs, and I ended up winning it. I was winning the popular vote (online) up until the last couple hours, and then a ballroom dancer won, but Donnie liked my video so much that he created his own category called “Donnie’s Picks,” so that I could also be a winner.”

The video in reference is called “Dirty Dancing,” and features Claudette and her “son” Cletus re-enacting the famous dance scene from the movie of the same name. “The prize was me and some other girls got to go to Donnie Wahlberg’s house and make a video with him. Still at the time though, I had such bad anxiety that I couldn’t even really talk to him and I just wanted to go home.”

Her introduction to Wahlberg was a god-send, as he would often re-post Claudette’s videos on his personal social media account, driving other fans to view her videos. Libbie admits, “I have a lot of fans in the Blockhead Universe, so Claudette’s kind of famous in that realm.”

In 2015, another NKOTB contest brought Claudette’s talents front and center again when she served as a “ring girl” for the group’s performance in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “They had a contest for ring girls for that tour because it was a boxing theme, and I thought ‘I wanna do that!’ So I made a video of ‘I wanna be a ring girl’ and then they let me do it! I’ve discovered that if you want to do something, just put it out there and often times it will happen. They (NKOTB) have always been really good to me.”

The New Kids were not finished with Claudette however, and later in 2015 she was chosen to be a cast member on the reality TV show “Rock This Boat,” which documented the annual fan cruise held in the Caribbean by NKOTB. Although she was now a member of the cast, Libbie was still expected to pay her own way and this posed a hardship. Fans of the group, also now fans of Claudette’s videos, created a GoFundMe account where hundreds of people donated to pay for Libbie’s cruise.

“If you’ve ever wondered if a reality show is grueling? I have never worked so hard!,” confesses Libbie.

Libbie Higgins

The series prominently featured Libbie and her sister Leigh, their antics aboard ship and their interactions with the New Kids. Near the end of the cruise, Claudette was given the opportunity to do a six minute standup routine for all of the people who had donated money for her passage. The performance was a hit and Claudette was forever linked to the lore of NKOTB.

Although Claudette has garnered a lion’s share of the fame from her deluge of fans, other characters appear regularly in Libbie’s videos; Mathilde Barnstool and Holly Moore who are reporters for iReport News, Donna Carol, a licensed clinical sex therapist, Nancy Graceful and the earlier mentioned Trixie.

And then there’s Carla …

In 2012 a new service named Vine hit the internet and featured short six second videos on a loop. The allotted time was perfect for delivering one-liners in character, and this is where Libbie birthed her most famous creation to date … Carla Higgins.

Carla Higgins

Carla is brash, has a very foul mouth, is incredibly sexual, self-confident and sports one of the largest mullets known to mankind. Claudette brought Libbie to the attention of her childhood idols and their niche fan base, but Carla became a firestorm in 2015 when she released the “McScuse Me” video. The performance is truly one of the funniest viral videos you will ever see, and at press time has in excess of 4.5 million views. What made this video even funnier is that the world at large assumed that Carla’s rant was by a real person, which propelled it into the limelight and onto the front pages of dozens of well-known news websites.

New fans began subscribing to Libbie’s social media accounts and watching her videos in droves. Since her “McScuse Me” video went viral, Carla has appeared as a guest on podcasts hosted by Jenny McCarthy (wife of New Kid Donnie Wahlberg,) and Shaquille O’Neal. Invitations continue to pour in for Carla, which is overwhelming to Libbie, who says “I have these two parallel lives going on, there’s Claudette and the New Kids, and then there’s Carla and the real world. It’s bizarre.”

Almost two years after the initial release of the “McScuse Me” video, Carla’s fame continues to rise and is evident in that at least a dozen online websites offer “McScuse Me” t-shirts for sale. Imgflip.com provides a “McScuse Me” Meme Generator, MobiRingtones.net offers a “McScuse Me” ringtone, and #cooterpunch became a popular hashtag on Twitter.

Unfortunately, Libbie does not receive a penny from any of these outlets.

Most telling of Libbie’s viral success is that the McDonald’s on Dorsett in Maryland Heights, the location of Carla’s ire in the “McScuse Me” video, confirms that they still receive more than 100 calls a day asking for “Charlene,” the catalyst of Libbie’s story. The manager of that location, who asked to remain anonymous, admitted that these calls are quite a disruption to their daily routine and advised that efforts are underway to try and trace and dissuade the callers.

Libbie travels with a bag in her car that contains her wigs and props, so that when inspiration hits she is ready to produce a new video on the spot. Free from the hassles of a traveling entourage or crew, Libbie is the sole writer, producer, director, cameraman and actor in her videos. “That’s how it is all of the time,” she says, “I’m most comfortable when I’m by myself.”

Libbie’s characters are larger than life, however the woman under the wig is somewhat reserved, introspective and incredibly modest. After her divorce four years ago, Libbie decided that it was time to finally chase her dream of pursuing a comedic career and advises “that’s when I started doing stand-up. It was like ‘I gotta do it now, it’s now or never.’”

Still plagued with self-doubt, Libbie discloses, “I have major stage fright, like bad, to the point that it makes me ill.” Luckily, all of that worry subsides the minute that her foot hits the stage. Her dream goal is to move to Los Angeles and become a full time stand-up comic.

Although stand-up is still relatively new to her, Libby has been a member of the Improv Shop since 2015. She asserts that “the Improv Shop is kind of my church, because it’s where I always end up at the end of the night, and everybody that I love is there. It’s like the most comfortable place I go.” She also concedes, “I used to prefer stand-up over improv, but now I prefer improv over stand-up, because you don’t have to prepare for improv … you just show up!”

New opportunities continue to find Libbie. In early August she opened for Tom Green at Helium Comedy Club and starred in the recently released short film “Carla and the Dolls.” Regarding the latter, she explains “it was written by a friend of mine from the Improv Shop, his name is Brandon Rice, and he always makes really weird, dark videos, so I said ‘I want to be a part of this!’”

Upon being presented with a new blonde wig from a fan, Libbie holds the wig in the air, strokes it lovingly and proclaims “Oh … my … god! This is like giving me diamonds! It’s gorgeous!” You can literally see the gears grinding away in her brain as she contemplates the new persona. “Whenever I get a wig I have to try and think, ‘What kind of person would inhabit this … what kind of accent would they have?”

The answer to this question is something only Libbie knows, and while her fans eagerly await her next creation, we also know that it won’t be long before she joins the ranks of St. Louis’ other top comedic talents, including Cedric the Entertainer, Kathleen Madigan, Redd Foxx and, perhaps one of the greatest female comedians of all time, Phyllis Diller.

No one is more shocked at these successes than Libbie herself. Humbly, she exclaims how amazing it is to have such a devoted fan base, while at the same time she realizes that “it’s ridiculous … it’s insane!”

One final note, if you ever find yourself dining at the McDonald’s on Dorsett, be sure to tell them that “Carla sent ya!” (Disclaimer – this publication does not, in any way, endorse “cooter-punching.”)

Links to Libbie Higgins’ social media pages: