I was honored to be the guest speaker at this year’s Fredonia Marxonia, an annual event celebrating the Marx Brothers at SUNY Fredonia (and so named because the 1933 film Duck Soup takes place in a fictional country called Freedonia). The event is managed with great energy and aplomb by research librarian Cindy Yochym, and her sister Barb, who functions as an unofficial one woman welcoming committee. Those ladies made me feel like a sultan! As we detailed in this post, Barb took me all over hither and yon, way over and above the call of duty. And then she did things like serve me an actual bowl of duck soup. These home-made chocolates were the desert:
The event was officially launched in SUNY Fredonia’s library with speeches by Cindy Yochym and Fredonia President Dr. Dennis Hefner (no, not Rufus Firefly) and then the glee club sang the school alma mater as well as the Fredonia National Anthem.
Then everyone was distributed Groucho glasses for the big photo op, followed by birthday cake for Groucho, slightly belated.
Below, I’m with Marxonia supporters Matthew and Cheri Hahn. Matthew is also the author of the book The Animated Marx Brothers.
Cindy Yochym put together a marvelous exhibition in the library:
You may notice the odd reference to Noah Diamond above — and who more odd to receive one? This is because Noah was the featured speaker at Fredonia Marxonia two years ago. And his legend lives on across Fredonia. Stories are still told in local taverns in hushed tones about a man who rode into town– and DARED. Not only that, but double dog dared! The cats have not yet recovered.
At any rate…more transpired. Animal Crackers was screened. Then Cyndy interviewed me before a goodly audience about vaudeville, the Marx Brothers, and me.
Then came a screening of Duck Soup, at which I spoke afterwards. And finally my big talk at the Fredonia Opera House. Curious about the content? Then you should have attended! I don’t care that it’s 500 miles away! But, if you must know, I talked a bit about the origins and definitions of vaudeville, some about the local circuits in upstate New York (Shea’s, Proctors, and later Keith’s), lots about the early years of the Marx Brothers and how their characters evolved from the vaudeville years through their Broadway and film breakthroughs, and odds and ends like that. If you’re mega curious about the Marx Brothers, don’t forget that there are over 100 articles on the team here on Travalanche, and naturally I drew heavily from these previous writings.
And it went like gangbusters! One man told me it was the best talk about the Marx Brothers he’d ever listened to. But how many had he listened to? Surely not Noah’s! I haven’t yet come across any photos of the actual talk, but if I do, I will add them here forthwith. Thank you everybody who made this magical three days possible, and you know who you are!
Meantime, a neat thing happened on the way home. I noticed that the train stops along the way were the sites of major vaudeville theatres: Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Rome, Utica, Schenectady, Albany…back to NYC. So I have in mind to try a tour that hits those cities. But meantime, look for the account of my next leg of my fall tour, Boston and environs, starting this weekend.