by Moe Howard
Note: This excerpt is taken from ‘the files of Moe Howard’ published in his autobiography that released in September of 1965. Sam Juliano has transcribed it for the countdown.
What most people don’t know is that Larry, Curly and I were professional plumbers before we went into show business. We once worked in the basement of the Empire State Building -Curly, joker that he was, told the security guard that it was upstairs- in the months before the place opened in 1932. It was at that time that we perfected the art of mixing electrical and water pipes, a stroke of vocational brilliance that gave plumbers and electricians more work, and by having the consumers always in suspense as to what might happen when they turned on a switch or pushed a button. And we had loads of fun too. I’ll never forget the time when one of the building’s architects was rung up by his wife at lunchtime and no sooner did he pick up the receiver, a stream of water gushed out into his ear. The three of us laughed our asses off, but Bill Purdy -ah that was his name- was fit to be tied. Curly had done some experimenting that morning with phone wires by connecting a wall switchboard box with the a copper pipe that was connected to a tee-shaped elbow. Curly was a card and though he was my brother and I loved the guy I often had to straighten him out by turning his nose with a pipe wrench or by lovingly banging the back of his head with the blunt side of a claw hammer. Larry was a good worker, but he was a simpleton who needed to get disciplined now and then. Usually I’d grab hold of his head and rip out a few hairs or sear his arm with the molten lead that we used to connect cast iron drainage pipes. I laughingly remember I once used a lock of Larry’s hair after we ran out of oakum. Ah so you don’t know what oakum is, huh? It’s a fibrous hair-like hemp product that was used for caulking in wooden vesels dating back to the Victorian period. Heck, that guy Charley Dickens wrote about oakum in Oliver Twist when he described what the orphaned extraction for use in navy ships for the British fleet.
What I loved best about being a plumber back in those days was all the equipment that I could use to keep the boys in line. All kinds of vice grips and pipe groovers gave me the ammunition to enact the discipl;ine that these two assclowns serverely needed. We wound up losing the Empire State Building gig after three months on the job because of Curly losing interest. One Friday afternoon he tuned the hands on the main clock in Purdy’s office, effectively making the time two hours later than it was. Curly danced around, voicing his patented nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, before announcing it was time to wrap things up. I will never forget the look on Purdy’s face when he noticed the time on the Times Square clock was two hours earlier. We were all fired on the spot, but Curly at least got some measure of revenge by pouring some sugar down the gas tank of Purdy’s Model T when we returned to the building to get our tools. The thought of Purdy getting stranded on the road because of a ceased engine brought smiles to all our faces
Anyway, because of our expertise (I always referred to us as “the best plumbers who ever plumbed a plumb!”) a studio big shot suggested that our knowledge of the trade would give us a heads up on a short about a trio of plumbers who service the home of aristocrats in a rural community. Curly, Larry and I were concerned that such a short would poke fun at our estimable talents, but we needed the scratch badly, so we gave our seal of approval. We were told to act natural and everything would fall into place. At the start we were all hauled into a courtroom under suspicion of stealing chickens. The judge didn’t buy the flimsy charges, and Curly triumphantly flicked his fingers three times to the husky cop, only to get a swift kick in the rear. As the Great Depression was taking its toll on everybody and their brother, it was always a struggle to secure your next meal. The three of us saw the perfect opportunity in the front of a pet store, and armed with our fishing rods we tried to lure our grub from a stocked tank. The same assclown watched us from down the block, and chased us to a sidewalk magician’s stage, where we hid out in some secret compartments. Curly hid with some gorgeous blonde, and told an intruder “Beat it! This is private!” The hand of the law wouldn’t give up, and before you could bat an eyelash, we were again being pursued. After we disconnected our legal stalker from a triler attached from the plumber’s truck we commandered, we entered a house and were immediately appraoched by a butler, who informed us that we were late, and that the owners f the house called for the plumbers “hours ago.”
While Larry and I retreated to the basement, Curly went up to the second floor and evicted a gent who was taking a bath. Our ‘Johnny on the spot’ plumbing colleague quickly diagnosed the situation, and aggressively applied a wrench to the leaking faucet, causing it to break off. Mayhem ensued, but Curly, through his knowledge of plumbing and architecture, found a rather unorthodox way to stem the gushing. He connected pipe after pipe, bending many to shape a boxed maze of pipes that would do Brancusi proud. Curly’s mind set as always was to fix the immeiate problem, then worry about the consequences later. Ya gotta love the guy! Still, he found himself in a pickle as he trapped himself, and needed to find a drain for the water that continue to crash through the pipe opening, so he ingeniously drilled a hole in the floor. Problem is, the water came through the basement ceiling, and before Larry or I could react, Curly came crashing through along with a torrent of water, destroying the pipe we worked so hard to repair just as I boasted “Who says you need brains to be a plumber?” This earned him a few clunks over the head with a wrench and a nose twist. One of my attempts to enact punishment backfired when my suspender caused a boomerang that instigated a tee-shaped tool to smash into my head.
Needless to say I was fit to be tied, and I angrily told Curly to find another pipe. He did find one, but complained it was all clogged up with wires. I knew straight away that here was an opportunity to strut our stuff for all these society snooties. We cleared most of the wires and attached the pipe to the open end of the pipe that had been repaired. The devoted cook then found out that the house may be haunted after turning on the light resulted in water filling the bulb until it burst. He then turned on the gas to the kitchen stove, and water streamed through stove plates. At that point the came back wearing a raincoat, uttering “This house has sho’ gone crazy!” Meanwhile, Larry was approached by the butler, who tried to stop my friend from digging a huge hole in the manicured lawn trying to find water source. Larry reprimaned the butler with a curt “Don’t tell me how to run my business!” Gotta love em! Our real coup de grace happened in the living room, where the matron of the house unveiled her new television set to an impressed group of women. Almost on cue (isn’t it great sometimes how things happen to perfection?) as Niagara Falls appeared the screen, water came smashing through the front of the set, drenching everone within earshot. Ah, it was a glorious moment! Still, more was to come. The matron/hostess tried frantically to reach the plumber by phone, but was promptly regaled by a stream of water to the face. The owner of the house came home and was appalled at what was going on, marching up to the bathroom and falling through the carpet Curly had styrategically placed over the open hole. Another crash, and another pipe busted. I eyed the perpetrator, and accused him of “wrecking our whole day’s work!” He responded angrily with a “Why you!” and we recognized him as the judge who had tried us in the chicken case. We dashed out the door and into the large hole Larry had dug, only to later appear back in one of the box compartments on the magician’s cage. We ran off closely followed by cops and members of the society gathering at the house we worked in. We all had a lot of fun, but could never understand why some of those people were so serious.
About eleven years later Curly was asked by a good friend of ours to repair a leak under the sink, and it all ended up with a massive flood in the guy’s basment that destroyed funiture and many of his holdings. The guy lived on a hill and never had any need for a sun pump, so water had to be drained by a hose. We never spoke to that friend ever again. Some important people in the business have told us that this short is probably the funniest one we ever did, but to be honest, we were really playing this one straight. If only people gave us a chance I think we could have been the best plumbers ever to work in this country. You can’t win em all I know.
How A-Plumbing We Will Go made the Top 100:
Dennis Polifroni No. 28
Frank Gallo No. 35
Bobby McCartney No. 36
Jon Warner No. 37
Sam Juliano No. 41
Peter M. No. 41
Mark Smith No. 43