9th Annual Buster Keaton Celebration
|October 3 and 4, 2002|
It was like the scene from Buster Keaton's 1921 movie, "The Playhouse." In it, Keaton plays every part, his unsmiling countenance adorning every actor, musician and audience member in the theater. Now, more than eight decades later, his great stone face was again everywhere in the room.
needle-pointed Keaton, which took
It was the
ninth annual Damfinos Convention in
Keaton was born Joseph Frank Keaton on
Oct. 4, 1895 in
Members of the Damfinos, the official Buster Keaton fan club, gather each year around the time of their idol's birthday to share their love for the deadpan, porkpie hat-wearing, comedic master they affectionately call "Buster."
"The cake didn't turn out," she said. "How about we start a club?"
With Tobias' sister Wendy, the three women named the organization after Keaton's ship in his 1921 movie, "The Boat." The word's pronunciation, which resembles "damned if I know," is a running gag throughout the movie.
Keaton also served as a matchmaker, of sorts, for Tobias. Her involvement with the club brought her in touch with Emmy Award-winning writer and fellow Damfino Joe Adamson. Three years ago, they married.
Keaton's connection to
Then, Pesch recalls, "She hands them to me and says, 'Take those with you. It's obvious that you would enjoy having those.'"
interest in preserving
At this year's convention, stuntman-turned-director Cliff Cronan screened his short film, "The Lucky Penny" to great accolades. Produced for a paltry $300, the silent, black and white, digitally recorded movie features Cronan doing stunts that pay distinct homage to Keaton.
Originally a Jackie Chan aficionado, Cronan discovered that one of Chan's main inspirations as a stuntman was Keaton. Further study of Keaton led Cronan to realize how revolutionary Keaton's stunt work was at the time.
Lucky Penny" has earned rave critical reviews and revved up Cronan's career. "It all worked out pretty well. ... I
went to a film fest in
Keaton's movies inspire many of the Damfinos, but so does his life -- a roller coaster tale of struggles with alcoholism and a lack of rewarding film work.
before I saw many of his films, I read about him," said David Macleod,
announcer for the
"And sadly, most people who end up like that don't survive. The fact that he'd gone down and then pulled himself back again, I found fascinating. And shortly afterwards I saw the films, and the two things came together. That was it."
Keaton has often been praised for never having to use studio trickery for his stunts. However, careful frame-by-frame analysis by Macleod revealed that the movie-makers, for once, probably used simple animation to fake the dive.
Much of the conference was spent studying minutiae of Keaton's career, in addition to an auction where Graceann Maciolek's needlepoint sold for $2,200.
On the night of Oct. 4, the Damfinos presented six short films at the Frauenthal Theatre with live organ accompaniment. This gave the audience a chance to see the films in the way they were intended to be seen. Showing some of Keaton's best work to the public was an appropriate conclusion to a weekend spent examining all aspects of his life.
"Why are we here to celebrate a comedian who died almost 40 years ago?" asked unofficial fan club chronologist Steve Friedman during the convention.
The question was difficult. The answer was simple to everyone there.