The Sons of the Desert

The Sons of the Desert is an international fraternal* organisation devoted to the lives and films of comedians Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

We take our name from a fictional lodge that Laurel and Hardy belonged to in the 1933 movie Sons of the Desert. *The film was released in the UK as Fraternally Yours! There are over 40 active Tents in the UK and a full list can be found on the brilliant Bowler Desert Website here.

We are determined to meet with intellectual overtones and heavily social undertones to watch, enjoy, discuss but most of all, laugh at the films of Laurel and Hardy.

The Sons of the Desert Escutcheon

In 1964, a few years after his book, Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy, was published based on his friendship with Stan Laurel, author John McCabe formed a small group of Laurel and Hardy admirers, including Orson Bean, cartoonist Al Kilgore, Chuck McCann, and John Municino. McCabe created a mock-serious ‘constitution’ with input from Stan Laurel that satirised the formalities of many social organisations.

Stan endorsed and humorously revised the document; he suggested that members might wear a fez or blazer patch with the motto “Two Minds Without a Single Thought.” Founding member Kilgore created the Escutcheon with the motto in Latin (in the spirit of Laurel’s dictum that the organisation should have “a half-assed dignity” about it) as Duae tabulae rasae in quibus nihil scriptum est (literally: “Two blank slates on which nothing has been written”).

The first public Sons of the Desert meeting was held in New York City in 1965, shortly after Stan Laurel’s death. McCabe’s group quickly inspired chapters in other United States cities, and then in the United Kingdom and other countries. In-keeping with the tongue-in-cheek “desert” theme, each local chapter of the society is called a “tent,” and each is named after a different Laurel and Hardy film.

There are more than 100 active “tents” worldwide, the Beau Chumps Tent being one of these, mostly in the United States and United Kingdom. Members meet up regularly to enjoy Laurel and Hardy movies in an informal atmosphere. Many chapters formed in the 1960s are still active today.

In addition to local and regional meetings, the Sons of the Desert has held international conventions every two years since 1978. Most have been located in the United States but some have been held in the United Kingdom and other countries. There is an annual UK Convention, where special guests, and rare films and memorabilia are exhibited. The original Beau Chumps hosted the UK Convention in 1988.

The 2020 UK Convention, hosted by the Bonnie Scotland tent of Paisley, would have been the 40th UK convention, but Covid-19 put paid to that. The convention will now take place in 2021.

The Sons organisation has been profiled periodically in media outlets, usually in a newsworthy context (as when long-lost films have been discovered). In 1974 the BBC featured the Sons in its documentary film Cuckoo, which like many things these days is easily found on YouTube!

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