The son of vaudeville performers, Buster Keaton was born in Piqua, Kan., on Oct. 4, 1895, while his parents passed through the town as part of a traveling medicine show. In 1908, Buster’s father, Joe Keaton, moved his family to Muskegon for the summer months — vaudeville’s traditional off-season — and when Keaton and some vaudevillian friends formed an “actors’ colony.”
Constantly traveling as a performer in the family act, the city of Muskegon became “home” for young Buster and his brother and sister.
“The best summers of my life were spent in the cottage Pop had built on Lake Muskegon in 1908,” noted Keaton in his autobiography.
Buster, of course, would later leave his mark on Hollywood as a comedian — with a career that would span silent era, the arrival of sound in the movies, and later the “golden age of television.”
“The greatest of the silent clowns is Buster Keaton,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert in 2002. “Not only because of what he did, but because of how he did it. Harold Lloyd made us laugh as much, Charlie Chaplin moved us more deeply, but no one had more courage than Buster.”
In 1997, a state of Michigan historical marker honoring Keaton and the Actors’ Colony was unveiled near Muskegon’s Pere Marquette park, the area of town that hosted the “actors’ colony.” In 2010, a life-size statue honoring Keaton was added to the landscape in downtown Muskegon.
In celebration of his life, the Keaton Society hosted its first convention in Muskegon in 1985. They’ve returned annually ever since to celebrate the work of their hero.
“The weekend is really two events,” said society board member and local historian Ron Pesch. “The first, of course, is the convention, which is attended by Keaton fans from around the globe. Over the years we’ve had visitors from the UK, Canada, Germany and New Zealand, and from coast-to-coast in the States. They run the gamut from casual fans recently introduced to the wonderful world of Keaton to experts on his career. We’ve had Buster’s family, friends, authors, co-stars and even one of his directors attend past conventions. You never know who will show up. This year, a nephew of Buster’s will be in town.”
The second event is the showing of films at the Frauenthal Theater. This is the first chance for many people to see these films as they were meant to be seen — with an audience interacting with, and of course, laughing at what is happening on the screen. For many, the musical accompaniment by Chicago’s Dennis Scott is the first time they’ve ever heard a theater organ in action.
“It’s really a New Your show staged in Muskegon, Mich.,” Pesch said. “This is an opportunity for the public to check out Keaton on the big screen — in a gorgeous, restored old movie palace. This is the setting where Buster brought joy to millions of fans.”
For more on Keaton’s ties to Muskegon, visit www.actorscolony.com
For more on Keaton and his life, visit www.busterkeaton.com
For additional details on the 2011 convention, visit http://silent-movies.com/Damfino...