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In memory of Thelma Todd: Four-day festival for Lawrence film star opens Thursday

Four-day festival for Lawrence film star opens Thursday

by Terry Date, Eagle Tribune

They are two guys in love with the same gal. Sort of.

Because of them the torch still burns for Lawrence film star Thelma Todd, who is being honored this week at a four-day festival in her hometown.

The platinum-blond comedienne's young life ended mysteriously at 29 years old more than eight decades ago on Dec. 16, 1935, in a garage near Hollywood.

But the two fellows with Lawrence roots and an abiding affection for Todd have kept her memory alive.

This year, Dave Stevenson and Joseph Bella are combining forces, presenting the Thelma Todd Celebration.

It starts Thursday (actually Wednesday night if you count the pre-celebration cocktail mixer at the Andover Hilton) and ends Sunday graveside with a singing of "Bye Bye Blackbird" at the Todd plot at Bellevue Cemetery.

Festival highlights include a presentation from W.C. Fields' granddaughter Harriet Fields, a birthday bash, movies galore, music by silent film accompanist Jeff Rapsis, games, stand-up comedy and tours of Todd landmarks.

The moveable feast's three core days run from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The main venue and stepping-off point will be Lawrence Heritage State Park, except for Thursday, when the Thelma fest's base is upstairs at El Taller on Essex Street.

The state park's supervisor, Jim Beauchesne, a Lawrence native, says Stevenson was the architect of the Thelma celebrations and Bella has kept them going.

"They are a celebration. Like-minded people enjoying something unusual that is very entertaining," Beauchesne says. "People think old movies are not as exciting as current ones, but they were very creative."

It's not just movies and talks, but adventure that drives the festival.


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