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Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk!

Gary Lassin poses for a picture with life-size replicas of the Three Stooges, at the Stoogeum in Spring House, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007. The Stoogeum, the home of Lassin's priceless collection of Stooges memorabilia and what might be the world's only museum dedicated to the knuckleheaded trio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP
Posing for a picture with life-size replicas of the Three Stooges, Gary Lassin smiled but didn't say "cheese."

"Woob-woob-woob-woob-woob!" he trilled in a Curly-like falsetto before breaking into a grin.

The statues of Larry, Moe and Curly are near the entrance to the Stoogeum, home of Lassin's large and priceless collection of Stooges memorabilia.

The Stoogeum (think "Stooges" plus "museum") has about 3,500 items on display, from Stooges bowling balls and cereal boxes to Shemp Howard's Army discharge, Larry Fine's driver's license and the flying submarine from "The Three Stooges in Orbit."

"This is as good as it gets," Lassin said.

Lassin, 52, opened the Stoogeum three years ago in a renovated architect's office that looks like a large house. It's a gold mine for fans of the old-time knucklehead movie and TV trio, but its off-the-beaten-path location in Spring House - about 25 miles north of Philadelphia - has made it a fairly well-kept secret.

"People sort of have to work to find me," Lassin said. "I do want people to see it, but I want them to see it on my terms."

Those terms include no photographs of the memorabilia, as he fears too much exposure will cheapen it. And admission is by appointment only because Lassin, who has a day job as an executive with a mail-order catalog company, is the Stoogeum's sole employee.

The exhibits occupy three stories totaling 10,000 square feet, including an 85-seat theater. Rooms are filled with movie props, posters, toys, artwork, figurines, scripts and even a video game, while TV screens replay all the eye-poking, pie-throwing and general mayhem that made the Stooges famous.

The act started out in vaudeville in the 1920s as support for comic Ted Healy. The first Stooges film, alongside Healy, was 1930's "Soup to Nuts." The last one released was "The Outlaws Is Coming," in 1965. Brothers Shemp and Moe Howard, and Fine were the earliest Stooges. Curley Howard then replaced brother Shemp for many years. Later Stooges included Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita.

The Stoogeum has "more stuff than I even imagined existed," said Peter Seely, editor of the book "Stoogeology: Essays on the Three Stooges." "Going through there is sort of like a trip through the history of pop culture in the 20th century."

Yet, what visitors see is only a sampling of Lassin's estimated 100,000 items. His collection is both historical and personal, documenting the slapstick performers' indelible place in entertainment but also preserving a family legacy: Lassin's wife's grandfather, Morris Feinberg, was the brother of Stooge Larry (born Louis Feinberg).