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STAR STRUCK

Robert Blechl

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.”

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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.

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“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.

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“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

said.

Because some of the regular characters were stricken with the flu,

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other Universal employees had to fill their shoes. Holly Beavon donned

Marilyn Monroe’s white dress and Chris Durmick snatched Groucho’s famous

cigar.

“I’m very thankful for these people who jumped in at the last minute,”

Sonnek said.

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.


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