On November 18, 1932, the biggest stars in Hollywood gathered at the now-demolished Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. The occasion? The 5th Annual Academy Awards. The evening is noteworthy for a couple reasons: Walt Disney received his first 2 Oscar statues (he eventually would receive 24 more), and the Academy introduced categories to honor short films for the first time. The very first winner in the Best Live Action Short Film, Comedy category was the Laurel and Hardy classic “The Music Box,” in which Laurel and Hardy are tasked with delivering a piano to the top of a giant staircase. As you can imagine, hijinks ensue. The entire film is on YouTube – watch it here.
What does any of this have to do with me? I’ll tell you. The other day, I trained on the very same staircase that was used in “The Music Box,” 81 years after that film was released. Here’s what the stairs looked like in the film:
And here’s what they look like now:
The steps weren’t built for “The Music Box,” but because of that film’s success, they were renamed in it’s honor. There’s a plaque honoring Laurel and Hardy embedded in the cement. The Music Box Steps are in Silver Lake, a hilly Los Angeles neighborhood that is teeming with public stairways, all built about a century ago to provide hillside residents more direct ways to get down to the major thoroughfares.
In order to prepare for my upcoming skyscraper charity race, I wanted to train on actual stairs, in addition to the StairMaster. When I found this stairway on an awesome website that lists LA’s public stairways, I knew I had to come. As you know from my Cardio to Vegas posts and my recent hike to the ruins of an old hotel, I get motivated when I can combine exercise with history. I love being a part of something much bigger or older than myself. I’m a nerd – what can I say?
At the base of the Music Box Steps is a small wedge-shaped park. It’s Laurel and Hardy Park, and I started my workout by walking a lap around it and stretching my legs.
Then, my workout really began. I ran up the Music Box Steps (133 in total). At the top, I turned right and ran a block or so, to a second set of stairs, called the Descanso Stairway. It has 138 steps, and I ran up those. Then, I ran another block or so, to the top of a third set of stairs, called the Micheltoreno Stairway. It has 205 stairs, spread out over 2 blocks, and I ran down them, to Sunset Boulevard, where I turned around and did the course in reverse, back to my starting point.
The entire loop took 15 minutes and totaled 0.9 miles, and it was exhausting. But what a great workout! My favorite part was that, at the highest point (between the Descanso and Micheltoreno Stairways), I was treated to a view of the US Bank Tower, the skyscraper I’m climbing at the end of the week!
(It’s the tallest one.)
In total, I did that 15-minute loop 3 times, with a 4 or 5-minute break in between. During one of the breaks, I roped in a friendly mailman to take a picture of me. Here’s Laurel and Hardy at the base of the Music Box Steps in 1932:
And here’s me in the same spot:
I’m not making a face – the mailman snapped the pic while I was talking, explaining how to use my iPhone.
“The Music Box” isn’t the only comedy classic that was shot at a public stairway. Nine years later, in 1941, The Three Stooges released a film called “An Ache in Every Stake,” where the Stooges have to deliver ice to the top of a staircase, and later get roped into catering a birthday party. (It’s also available on YouTube – watch it here.) “An Ache in Every Stake” was filmed at the Edendale Stairway, about 2 miles from where I was, so after my third and final loop, I jumped in my car and headed there.
The Edendale Stairway has 148 steps in total. Here are the Three Stooges looking up at it from their ice delivery wagon:
And here’s what they look like now:
I was already pretty beat at this point, but I figured since I ran the first three stairways three times each, I should run up and down this one three times too. So I did exactly that, with a minute or two break between runs. I was so tired that each run slowed to a walk near the top, but I never stopped.
Here’s Curly with his customer at the top of the Edendale Stairway:
Since there was no one around to take my picture, I took a selfie instead!
I was too tired to smile. Ok, that’s a lie – the sun was in my eyes.
Let’s crunch some numbers, shall we?
- Music Box Steps: 133 steps
- Descanso Stairway: 136 steps
- Micheltoreno Stairway: 205 steps
- Edendale Stairway: 148 steps
The four stairways together have 622 steps. I ran up each of them 3 times, so that’s a total of 1,866 steps!
For comparison’s sake, The US Bank Tower has a total of 1,679 steps, which means I climbed more steps than I’ll be doing during the race! Plus, I did some things I won’t be doing during the race:
- I ran down those 1,866 steps (I’ll be taking an elevator down the US Bank Tower)
- I ran 2.7 miles in between stairways, nearly all of it either up or downhill
I also took breaks, which I won’t be doing during the race, but still. That’s one damn impressive workout! I’m really proud of myself. Hopefully I’ll be able to squeeze in another workout on these stairways before the big day!
Keep. It. Up. DAVID!
Addendum! Just learned the Descanso Stairway was also a shooting location, for the 1945 comedy “It’s Your Move,” starring Edgar Kennedy. Watch it here. “It’s Your Move” was a remake of a 1927 Laurel and Hardy silent film called “Hats Off,” which was filmed at the Music Box Steps. No copies of “Hats Off” exist anymore – it’s been lost to the ages.