“The Best Summers Of My Life”–Buster Keaton’s Boyhood In Muskegon

This is my own post for the Seventh Buster Keaton Blogathon. Enjoy, and please check out all the other wonderful posts, too!

When you love a performer from classic Hollywood, it’s not uncommon to make little “pilgrimages” to the places where they used to live and work: studios, filming locations, former homes, gravesites, and, of course, their hometowns. Seeing where your favorite star grew up can give you insight into what shaped them and their future career. And, of course, it’s just plain fun–some towns are tourist destinations simply by for being the hometown of a beloved performer.

But what of a performer like Buster Keaton? Since he was the child of travelling medicine show performers, his birthplace was a matter of happenstance. Joe and Myra Keaton were travelling through the tiny town of Piqua, Kansas (today its population hovers a little above 100) when Buster arrived. Their stay was necessarily short, so while tiny Piqua had the honor of being Buster’s birthplace it would be a stretch to call it his hometown. (Fun fact: in the 1960s Buster and his wife Eleanor did stop there briefly while they were on his State Fair tour!)

1093 Birthplace of BUSTER KEATON Piqua Kansas - Jordan The Lion Daily  Travel Vlog (8/4/19) - YouTube
Another fun fact: Piqua’s also home to a tiny Buster museum.

But despite an upbringing spent travelling from theater to theater, there was a spot on earth that Buster considered his true hometown: Muskegon, Michigan. A mid-sized town with the vast waters of Lake Michigan along one side and sparkling Lake Muskegon along another, the Keatons chose it for their summer home in the 1900s. It turned out to be a match made in heaven. In his biography on Buster, written not long before Buster passed away, Rudi Blesh wrote: “Those long-ago summers must have been, in a special way, one of the wonders of his life. Whenever he speaks of them he seems to be turning on the lights of a faraway stage.”

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In Memory Of Buster And Eleanor’s House

Last weekend Buster Keaton fans heard the sad news that his last home, the comfortable ranch house he and his wife Eleanor bought in the 1950s, had been demolished. I’m sure I’m not the only fan who would’ve liked to glimpse it in person one day, if only from a car window. Sadly, that is one item on my bucket list that will go forever unchecked.

A nicely retouched/enhanced image courtesy of Steve Stubbs.

The one-story house, built in 1947, was bought with the $50,000 given to Buster by Paramount for the screen rights to his life story. The resulting film, The Buster Keaton Story (1957) starring Donald O’Connor, was frankly terrible (Eleanor recalled attending a preview with Buster and how they “felt like crawling out on our hands and knees”), but it did give them the ability to finally purchase their own house. The couple had been living with Buster’s family for years, and Buster’s career had gone through numerous ups and downs in that time. They took proud ownership of their new home in June 1956, and were content there until Buster’s death in 1966.

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ANNOUNCEMENT: The Sixth Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!

Cue the trumpets, my friends–for our annual celebration of all things Buster Keaton is coming back for a sixth year in a row!

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(Yes, I’m having it in March this time–all the February dates were already gobbled up by other blogathons. Man, my fellow bloggers are fast. Next time I’ll have to announce it in July! 😉 )

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My Experience At The 2017 Buster Keaton Convention

This is my own post for the 4th Annual Buster blogathon–hope you guys enjoy!

In case you haven’t noticed, I kind of made a big deal out of Buster Keaton’s 2017 film centennial here on Silent-ology. From book reviews to July’s Comique Month, there was plenty of nods to that year-long celebration. But there was one more thing I did in honor of the centennial that I haven’t really shared with you guys yet–attend the 23rd Annual Buster Keaton convention in Muskegon, Michigan, hosted by the lovely Damfinos!

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I’d heard a lot about the beloved convention from fellow Buster fans, who shared photos and raved about its great events and friendly atmosphere. The fact that it’s held in Buster’s adopted hometown was the cherry on top. After wanting to attend for ages, the chance to go during the centennial was simply too much for me to pass up.

Plus, I must humbly add, I had been invited to give a presentation there–a 40 minute presentation–me. More to follow! Continue reading

Buster Blogathon UPDATE! (A Prize Drawing…And More!)

Only ten days until the Second Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!! Are you getting as excited as I am?!

Although NO ONE’S as excited as Buster clearly is in this photo!

I’m doubly excited about what I’m about to share right now. You might remember that in my original announcement post I mentioned a drawing for all the blogathon participants. Well, I’ve got the details for you–and how! Continue reading