MAGNOLIA PARK -- In the middle of the Joslyn Adult Center’s ballroom
dance class Tuesday, a voice broke out over the intercom: “We have some
special guests this morning -- Laurel and Hardy and company.”
He wasn’t kidding. With their antics unflawed, Stan Laurel and Oliver
Hardy traipsed into the dance hall with company -- Marilyn Monroe,
Groucho Marx, two Tiny Tims, an elf and the big man himself, Santa Claus.
The perplexed faces of center members soon gave way to smiles.
“Nobody knew this was happening,” said Gayle Migden, the center’s
program coordinator. “We thought it would be so much fun to have the
element of surprise.”
Except for the Tims and Hardy, the entertainers were employees of
Universal Studios. Their job is to stroll the Universal lot and park,
providing an atmosphere of Hollywood lore and fun for guests. Under the
guidance of their supervisor, Chris Sonnek, the look-alike characters
began volunteering their time outside the studio about three years ago.
“We’re sharing the spirit of Christmas for those who have lived
through more of them than most of us,” said David Gotcher, who was
filling the role of Santa.
Sonnek said the stars from a bygone era are almost like old friends to
many members of the adult center.
“They grew up with these wonderful comedians and Santa Claus,” Sonnek
Because some of the regular characters were stricken with the flu,
other Universal employees had to fill their shoes. Holly Beavon donned
Marilyn Monroe’s white dress and Chris Durmick snatched Groucho’s famous
“I’m very thankful for these people who jumped in at the last minute,”
Burbank resident Donna Farrell, who helps serve lunch at the Joslyn
Center on Tuesdays, immediately drew the attention of Stan Laurel.
“Laurel is terrific with his fumbling hat,” Farrell said. “They’re all
adorable and effective. I wonder if they’re eating with us. I’d be glad
to serve them.”
Center member Stuart Mitchell found Beavon’s personification of
cinema’s most famous blonde riveting.
“It was like Marilyn Monroe was living inside her,” Mitchell said.
“She never let up, she did it to a ‘T.’ ”
When the dancing ended, the characters visited each group of adult
center members as they ate lunch.
When a certain mustachioed gentleman lingered at a table, Santa Claus
warned the ladies.
“Groucho’s flirting again,” he said, rolling his eyes.