Doc's Red Skelton Tribute Page

[a picture of Red as Freddie the Freeloader]

Red Skelton, a Shriner and entertainer, as Freddie the Freeloader. Shrine tribute site to Red.  You may also want to check out the International Shrine Clown Association tribute site to Red. Did you know that Red was a member of the first class of inductees to the International Clown Hall of Fame? Click here to find out more.



Gourgas Medalist

Red Skelton wins top Scottish Rite honor

(The Northern Light, Vol. 26 No. 3,  pp. 4-6, 1995)

Ill. Richard B. "Red" Skelton, 33, now joins the elite list of Gourgas Medalists.  The presentation was made by Sovereign Grand Commander Robert O. Ralston, 33, at a news conference in Reno, Nevada, on July 14, prior to the opening of an art show of Ill. Brother Skelton's paintings.

The events were timed to coincide with Red's 82nd birthday.  A special birthday tribute had been arranged by Steve Addi, president of Addi Galleries, whose corporate headquarters is located in Reno.  Addi is the largest retailer, distributor and exhibitor of the actor's paintings, most of which are whimsical clown faces with a variety of themes.

In making the presentation, Grand Commander Ralston pointed out that the Gourgas Medal is the highest honorary decoration offered by the Scottish Rite Supreme Council in the Northern Jurisdiction.  Since the first presentation to Brother Harry S.Truman in 1945, only 28 awards have been granted. 

Known for many years as America's #1 clown, Red claims his acting career began at the age of 10.  He built a reputation for his work on stage and screen, but his popularity soared with the advent of television.  His highly rated television show consistently remained in the top ten.

He charmed TV viewers for 20 years with his characterizations of Freddie the Freeloader, Clem Kadiddlehopper, Cauliflower McPugg, Sheriff Deadeye, San Fernando Red, and the Mean Wittle Kid.  He would flap his wings as he relayed the conversation between his favorite seagulls, Gertrude and Heathcliff.  His program has not aired for 25 years, yet he says even today on Tuesday nights he still misses doing the show.

In November Red was treated for a blood clot and has been taking medication to thin his blood.  Although it may have been a minor setback, it did not appear to dampen his spirits.  His wide grin and frequent chuckle are still very much a part of him.  He has had his share of tragic upsets during his lifetime but has learned to overcome them.  He says he has earned his "diploma from the school of adversity".

Red entered the room for the news conference driving a motorized cart, chuckling like a kid with a favorite toy, and holding his traditional large unlit cigar.

Ill. Brother Skelton was obviously moved when the Grand Commander placed the Gourgas Medal around his neck.  The proud grin on the recipient's face grew even wider as a tear formed in his eye.

Responding to the award before a gathering of nearly 100 media representatives and guests, Red relayed the story of his first encounter with Freemasonry.   He said that he was only a young boy when he met a Mason who was kind and considerate to him.  He asked about theman's lapel pin and learned that it was Masonic.  When the man asked him what he was doing downtown, Red told him that he was trying to find a job so he could buy his mother an Easter present.  The man then gave Red $5 and said, "I'm going to help you out".  From that moment on, Red said, I told myself I was going to try and be a Mason.

Brother Skelton was raised a Master Mason in 1939 at Vincennes Lodge No. 1, Vincennes, Indiana, and became a Scottish Rite Mason in the Valley of Evansville a year later.  He received the 33 in 1969.

In his presentation, Grand Commander Ralston pointed out that "Red never needed to use profanity or other sensational means to entertain us and to make us laugh and feel good".  Responding to the amount of vulgarity today, Red said, "Personally, I don't think anyone should have to pay money at the box office for what they can read for nothing on public bathroom walls".

Red called his wife, Lothian, forward to make a presentation to Masonic charity from the Lothian and Red Skelton Foundation.

Although known basically for his career as an entertainer, Red is a man of many talents. Over the years he has written many short stories, and he says he continues to write a love story to his wife every day.

He also writes musical selections daily and now claims some 15,000 copyrighted pieces.

Although he seldom makes stage appearances today, he does continue to paint.  "I started painting when I was about five years old", says Red with an occasional chuckle.  "I wanted to paint so badly - and I did paint badly."  He credits his mother for being his greatest inspiration.

Red's clown paintings have been increasing in value each year.  Of his 3,000 paintings, many of the earlier ones were given away.  He now sells his originals as well as limited-edition prints.  The faces on some of the paintings were painted with a Hollywood star in mind.  These include Lucille Ball, Ed Wynn, Carol Burnett, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Emmett Kelly, among others.

His newest painting is "Freddie at Your Service," based on his movie, "The Yellow Cab Man."

One of last year's paintings was "The Noble," a proud clown wearing a square and compasses pin.  One bystander noted the resemblance of the facial expression to Red.  Another work is a drawing of a clown holding the Shrine emblem.  This framed piece was sketched on a portion of a tablecloth.

The limited-edition prints have been reproduced on canvas, and the canvas transfers have Red Skelton's original thumbprint on the certificate of authenticity.   Each reproduction is signed  and sealed personally by Red. 

Lothian Skelton also enjoys painting, using horses as her favorite theme.

The birthday celebration planned by Addi Galleries opened on Friday with a news conference and a preview showing for those who had previously purchased a Skelton work of art from Addi Galleries.

At a private reception on Saturday for some 2000 invited guests, a series of tributes were presented via videotape projected on a large screen.  Among those paying tribute was Brother Ernest Borgnine, who recognized Red as a fellow 33 Mason.

A Sunday reception was open to the public.  In each instance the audience was treated to a bevy of Red's favorite stories, as he showed that he hasn't lost a beat with his storytelling.

Two years ago, Steve Addi put together a similar celebration for Red's 80th birthday.  At that party Red was inducted into the Comedy Hall of Fame by Hollywood producer George Schlatter, who offered that Skelton was really a kid at heart and that he had actually eight ten-year-olds trapped inside him that made him 80.

Steve Addi was concerned that he could not top the 80th birthday party by attempting another celebration.  What he failed to realize is that Red Skelton still carries the show.  Red doesn't miss a beat.  He can make you forget about his age as he lets you remember the good times you enjoyed sitting in your living room watching your black and white TV.

 



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