Moe, Larry & . . . Cubby Broccoli?

 

There are many stories, myths and urban legends in Hollywood but I never thought I would one day come across a story that involved The Three Stooges and James Bond producer Albert R. (Cubby) Broccoli.  

Although the four men were not associated directly, they do have one acquaintance between them, comedian Ted Healy.  Healy was an Irish vaudevillian, a stage comedienne who may have been the inspiration to other comediennes of that time, such as Bob Hope.  He was the one who helped establish Moe and Shemp Howard, and Larry Fine as The Three Stooges.  Known for slapping his Stooges around the stage so hard that the people in the back rows could hear the slap.  He was their employer and would pay them comparable in peanuts to what his share of the weekly box office.

 

The Three Stooges and Ted Healy

 

He was also known for his barhopping, bar-brawling and womanizing.  After years of vaudeville, Healy and his Stooges traveled west to Hollywood and moviemaking.  "Soup to Nuts" in 1930, marks the big-screen debut of the Stooges.  Ted Healy's performance however is considered pathetic by Hollywood insiders, so much so that he became addicted to alcohol.  When under the influence, Healy enjoyed aggravating powerful gangsters in both New York and Chicago with his off-stage antics. (In Chicago, Healy tried to pick the lock on Al Capone's private safe as a gag!)  Eventually, Healy meets his end in 1937, while bar-hopping on Hollywood's Sunset Strip to celebrate the birth of his child.  

According to the book: The Three Stooges: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Most Popular Comedy Team of All Time, Healy gets into a heated argument with gangster Pat DiCicco, and MGM's screen star Wallace Beery at the fabled Trocadero nightclub.  Also present is Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, DiCicco's cousin.  Healy asks his tormenters to step outside, announcing that he will beat each man senseless, "one at a time." But when Healy steps into the Trocadero's parking lot, the men jump him and beat him savagely, kicking him in the ribs, stomach and head until Healy lies in a pool of blood, unconscious.  

The following day, 41-year-old Healy dies as a result of the beating, but the entire incident is covered up by MGM's powerful head honcho (and mob-influenced executive) Louis B. Mayer.  Meanwhile, Ted's former wife Betty Brown is an MGM player at the time, and she complains to the press that Healy's death is not being investigated properly. She promptly finds her MGM employment terminated, and she never works in Hollywood again. The Stooges themselves are also aware of Beery's involvement with Healy's death, but are too afraid of Pat DiCicco and his vicious gangland connections to make waves. (Pat DiCicco later marries Gloria Vanderbilt, who divorces the violent gangster as a wife-beater, while DiCicco's cousin, Cubby Broccoli, gets his first job in movies as an assistant director in the months following Healy's death. Also during that period, Broccoli's then-wife, Gloria Blondell, starts showing up in short-subject comedies.) *

 

Pat DiCicco and Gloria Vanderbilt on their wedding day.

 

However, according to the book From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons The Three Stooges An Illustrated History it appears that Healy got into at least two separate knock-down, drag-out brawls.  In one, dished out by an anonymous trio, Healy was beaten so badly that a cut over his eye had to be closed with surgical clips.  A Long Island man named Albert Broccoli came forward to claim that he'd been attacked by Healy that fateful night, but denied being the one who opened up a huge gash above Healy's eye.

"I was standing in the Trocadero Sunday night when Healy entered," said Broccoli. "I knew he had become a father a few days before, so I asked him to have a drink. He seemed quite unsteady, turned to an attendant and asked: Who is this fellow?  I laughed that off and extended my congratulations.  He staggered toward me and struck me on the nose.  My nose began to bleed.  The next thing I knew, he had hit me in the mouth, and followed this with a blow to the chin that almost floored me.  I shoved him away, because I didn't want to hurt him, and attendants took him to an ante-room.  Later, the attendants came back and told me Healy wanted to see me. I went in and we shook hands. He got into a taxicab and that's the last I saw of him." **

 

Cubby Broccoli in 1936

 

Was Cubby Broccoli directly involved with the death of Ted Healy?  Was he involved with gangsters?  

According to Spy Guise proprietor Lee Pfeiffer, author of The Incredible World of OO7 and friend of Cubby Broccoli, "Cubby, although Italian and from New York, was never involved with gangsters.  He did get to know some very influential people in Hollywood but for every job he landed it was not by personal favors.  He was a hard worker and his legacy shows that."

Cubby Broccoli's autobiography When the Snow Melts mentions his famous cousin Pat DiCicco as a dashing Hollywood playboy who introduces Cubby to famous people such as Cary Grant, Randolph Scott and Howard Hughes.  Not once does he mention Pat as a gangster, and in fact, writes about how Howard Hughes hated the mob influence in Las Vegas.

Recently I wrote to Donaldson Books, publisher of The Three Stooges: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Most Popular Comedy Team of All Time and webmaster of www.stoogebook.com, and asked if they truly believed Cubby was involved with Ted Healy's death.  They responded by e-mail and wrote "Yes.  Thanks for your interest.  For more information, buy the book and read all about it." 

Not exactly the explicit answer I was hoping for since I had already read the book.  Do you think they were trying to sell me something?

C3 Entertainment, Inc. and the owners of The Three Stooges never returned my inquiries on the same question.  Do I detect a pattern here or just some publishing companies trying to make a quick buck on dead celebrities?

Despite the newspaper headlines in late December 1937, an autopsy proved that Ted Healy had actually died of a heart attack.  His death was attributed to natural causes.**

 

* The Three Stooges: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Most Popular Comedy Team of All Time by Jeff Forrester & Tom Forrester; Chapter 2 and 3

** From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons The Three Stooges An Illustrated History by Michael Fleming; Chapter 8

 

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