Nyuks for Bucks

updated 07/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/26/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HIS PUG NOSE AND INTENSE DARK EYES CONJURE something weirdly familiar. Then Jeffrey Scott slaps on what looks like an old Beatle wig—and he becomes the snarling image of his late grandfather, Moe Howard, leader of the Three Stooges. Scott usually tells no one about his family connection—despite "the inevitable crying need," he says, "to just walk up to total strangers and blurt it out." When people do find out, their jaws invariably drop in admiration. Why? Because as Scott, 38, well knows, Moe, his brother Jerome (better known as Curly) and their partner, Larry Fine, were inestimably more than chowderheads. Of the Stooges, he says proudly: "They represent idiocy to the world! They've created such an incredible symbol!"

Until last month, that symbol was the undisputed domain of Scott, who acquired the family business when his father, Norman Maurer, Moe's son-in-law and the Stooges' manager for 28 years, died in 1986. Scott purchased the merchandising rights to the Stooge names and likenesses—as well as such immortal trademark phrases as "Woob, woob!" and "Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!" Then, on June 18, the widow of replacement Stooge "Curly-Joe" DeRita, along with Larry Fine's granddaughter, filed a civil suit alleging that Scott and his mother, writer Joan Howard Maurer, 66, have improperly withheld some $5 million in profits—a charge Jeffrey vehemently denies. "The Stooges never even made near $5 million," he says. (Sixteen heirs, including the litigants, are already splitting Stooge revenues.)

The case is now pending in a California court, but in the meantime, Scott (who says he traded in his original surname for something easier to pronounce) has quit Jim Henson Productions, where he won three Emmys writing for the Muppet Babies TV show, to oversee what he hopes will be the biggest surge of Stoogemania since the boys were rediscovered in the late '50s. Obviously no nyucklehead, Scott is working on a Stooges stage show for the MGM Grand Hotel, Casino & Theme Park that will open in Las Vegas next year, and he and Columbia, which owns the 194 Stooge shorts (some of which feature Moe's other brother, Shemp) plan to produce a feature based on the capers of fictional Stooge grandsons.

In a spacious home in the Pacific Palisades section of L.A., Scott sticks to family capers with his wife of 14 years, Sonya, a former teacher, and daughter Caroline, 4. As playful pa, he further resembles his granddad. For while the four-times-married Curly (who died of a stroke at age 48 in 1952) was a hard-drinking gadfly, Moe, like Larry (who died at age 73 in 1975), was a family man and loving grandpa to Scott and his brother, Michael. Scott remembers Moe, who died in 1975 at age 77, picking him up from school in a periwinkle T-bird. "This sea of kids parted, and I felt like a prince," recalls Jeffrey. Now the hair apparent is ready to pounce. "I have the perfect upbringing for the perfect opportunity!" he proclaims. As Great Uncle Curly would put it, Soytenly!

TIM ALLIS
F.X. FEENEY in Pacific Palisades

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