It was a fine mess Steve Eiss found himself in:
Someone had failed to pay the rent on a storage locker, and Eiss, manager at the Public Storage facility in South Gate, was cleaning out the compartment, preparing to auction off its contents.
As he sorted through the abandoned booty Friday, he came across a bronze plaque that read:
Genius of Comedy
Donated by Sons of the Desert"
"I realized it didn't belong in storage," said Eiss, who called the Screen Actors Guild, which put him in touch with the library at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science.
An academy librarian told him that Hardy, the rotund half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy team, had been cremated and his ashes placed in a mausoleum at Valhalla Memorial Park in North Hollywood.
Stolen From Crypt
A check with the cemetery revealed that the plaque had been stolen from Hardy's crypt in 1983.
"Mr. Hardy's family was very upset by the theft," said Eiss. "The original plaque had been replaced by a duplicate, but the family still wanted the original back."
Eiss said the locker had been rented in late 1983, but he would not reveal the name of the tenant.
"We will release that only to police authorities," he said.
Officials at the cemetery have contacted the late comedian's family, Eiss said, and a representative is expected to pick up the purloined plaque this weekend.
Sons of the Desert, which takes its name from a Laurel and Hardy film, is a fan club of the legendary comedy team.