On the elegantly festive evening of April 24th Nobody had any splainin’ to do as roughly 200 Los Angeles denizens in the form of fans, journalists, colleagues, and caterers alike, descended upon the Hollywood Museum to celebrate the life, and 30 year anniversary of the passing, of one of America’s primary stand-out comediennes: Lucille Ball. In honor of her memory, Hollywood Museum president and founder Donelle Dadigan unveiled “costumes, props, photos, posters and more, from [Balls’] 1930s and 40s films, radio career, I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show: All the great shows we grew up watching…still on TV today.” — now all strategically placed right in the lobby of the Hollywood Museum for all the world to see!
A miasma jewels, eye make-up, and scarlet hair were the order of the evening as all traveled to the past by way of storied and celluloid celebration. On the sprightlier side of sentiment, every snaggle-toothed, bulgy-eyed, gorgeously goofball countenanced black and white photo of every ostensible character Ball ever portrayed was featured, up to and including the massaging of Superman’s bicep as only Lucille Ball could in the most bodacious of fashions! A Mame script sporting a surplus of well wishes and signatures, Lucille Ball’s most prominently featured, festooned a glass case, to speak nothing of a plethora of Emmys for the Arnaz/Ball’s efforts-turned-achievements!
Dresses and gowns copping of all manner of brocade and bodice action from the medieval to the mid-twentieth century, occupied display cases all their own. The flapper era in particular, stood out as one of the more noticeable ensembles, in part due to its pop out, golden, orange, and green hued leaves (boasting textured netting and baubled drapery, reminiscent of that of a court jester). Equal in its singularity was the fact that it was actually worn by Lucie Arnaz herself on The Lucy Show. Flanked by a black and white photo of Arnaz in the costume in question, standing adjacent to her proud mother, Arnaz sported a hairstyle the likes of which could have gotten her confused for Sarah Jessica Parker in her teenage years.
A singular glamor, combined with a youthful magic all her own, Lucille Ball was, in essence, the first Barbie Doll for those who grew up on her reruns. Resembling some of the LA Beat author’s more antique/retro style-light ginger-haired Barbies, encompassing the unbendable legs and most expressive cat eye countenances, the primary black-and-white veneer of her household introduction belied any and all multi-hued magic! In a psycho-parallel paradise all its own, Lucy still fits the bill for any and all glam to gid-inducing childhood forms of fascination: That and the fact that precious few at the Hollywood Museum unveiling were the least bit contemporary, rendering her entirely a magical thing of childhood for most!
In attendance, TV mom and funny lady in her own right, aka Raj’s mother on The Big Bang Theory, Alice Amter, one of America’s top three sons and Lucy Co-stars to boot, Barry Livingston of My Three Sons fame, Bob Bergen, voice of Porky Pig (and probably somebody’s son but nobody’s mother—Porky that is…Bob himself, is most definitely somebody’s son to be sure), Carolyn Hennesy of True Blood and General Hospital and potential mother (age-wise) of every conceivable date she ever embarked upon on Cougar Town, cutest ringlet-tailed daughter Susan Olsen aka Cindy Brady of The Brady Bunch, America’s most magical daughter Erin Murphy aka Tabitha from Bewitched, mother of a bewitching belief system all her own: that of Judy-ism, (and fellow red head in her own right) comedienne Judy Tenuta, additional fellow red head and youngest son on Family Affair, Johnny Whittaker, his older Sister Cissy aka Kathy Garver, adopted daughter of Julie Andrews aka Gretl by way of Sound of Music fame Kym Karath, another Maria in her own right, (starring in all things nuns only talk shop about) Maria Conchita Alonso of Saints & Sinners and The Lord of the Skies, Kate Linder of The Young and the Restless, singer and pre-Johnny Depp Pirate Movie personality, Rex Smith, current Emmy nominee for After Forever, and Days of our Lives regular Kevin Spirtas, Teresa Ganzel of The Toy/The Duck Factory, and Hollywood luminary Jack Betts famous for everything from spaghetti westerns to Another World, to Search for Tomorrow, to Batman. Also present, Conner Dean of 9-1-1 fame, Drew Seeley from Dawson’s Creek and Glory Daze, Elaine Ballace of The Rich & The Ruthless, author of The Lucy Book Geoffrey Mark, Hunter Payton of A to Z fame, Comedian/TV Host Jaime Monroy, Jax Malcolm of Conservation Invasion, director John Bowab, designer Jorge Del Busto, Clique Wars’ Kacey Fifield, Melody Scott of The Young and the Restless, author of I had a Ball: My Friendship Lucille Ball Michael Stern, Mikaela Hoover from Guardians of the Galaxy, Ro Brooks of Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots, Robin Riker of Mood Swings, Sean Ryan Petersen, again with the Clique Wars, none other than Tom Watson: Lucille Ball’s Publicist, and aside from too many others at this point to name, but certainly last but not least, Kate Luckinbill Conner (daughter to Lucie Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s granddaughter to boot!) who gave a rousingly sentimental speech to cap off the stellar evening! It is interesting, if not arresting, (at least according to the LA Beat) to note that the second in her three key names sounds just a bit like that of her grandmother Lukinbill-Lucilleball, hmmm…
The night was as colorful and inspiring, as the black and white, 3 camera sitcom was funny, and swiftly evolved into that of a jovial gossip column personified, combined with that of sitcom-costume Ball!!!—Lucille style (natch). Retaining that in mind, the conversations and remembrances of celebrities, authors, publicists, and fans alike were some of the most buoyant, and colorful one might ever divine:
Councilman Mitch O’Farrell (always one of the author’s favorite speech makers and story tellers) comes by it honestly, in part, as one of his modes of employee in the 80s happened to be that of a bus tour guide. It was during one of his tale weaving trails through the Hollywood Hills, and those of Beverly, that he and his passengers had their one unwitting voyeuristic brush with Ms. Lucy; whereupon passing her house, they would witness the redhead exiting with her, then, husband Gary Morton. Legend has it, envelopes were extracted from the metal mailbox adorning the mansion’s front drive, and Ms. Ball could be witnessed opening them sans letter file as they drove off into sunset: Whether the actual natural lighting concept or Boulevard was unspecified.
And just a hint: The stomping of the grapes and the conveyer belt chocolate fiasco seemed to be (the top order of) number one in nostalgic preference on the night in question:
“That comedy just withstands…and sustains through the ages,” exclaimed an ever-sprightly Kathy Garver, best known as Cissy from Family Affair. “She had such a creative spirit, and she was so smart… with her physical comedy. It’s something that everybody can relate to. Things like that don’t really change. I mean everybody would like to stomp grapes…or put chocolates on a [runaway] conveyer belt…or even to say ‘Vitameatavegimin’. So, she was great, and I love Lucy!”
LA Beat: Did you ever get to meet her at all?
Kathy Garver: I was at an event with her and she sat right in front of me…so we met there, and she was just very vibrant and energetic. You need to have a lot of spirit if you’re going to do all the wonderful things that she did. [Then, when I was younger] I used to live off of Benedict Canyon in Beverly Hills…and we would go Trick or Treating [at her house] when I was a little girl. She never answered the door herself. [But someone answered it] and we got candy bars.
“I met Lucy when I was a little girl,” confessed an all grown up Susan Olsen aka Cindy Brady. “We were shooting The Brady Bunch…I think it was the first season, and I heard that [Lucille Ball] was rehearsing in a studio next to a commissary. We were having lunch, and I grabbed Mike Lookinland, who played Bobby…and [we] crashed the set… Little did I know everybody was…telling our parents… ‘No, no. Go after them because it’s a closed set and Lucy will be very angry!’ Well we walked in there, and she was sitting in a chair. So she was about our height, and she said ‘Hello Children, have a seat and make yourselves comfortable.’ So, we [sat down and watched.] …My sister [also] acted and… my mom always dressed us really cute. So…my sister had an audition when she was about five, and Lucy came walking along and saw her and goes ‘Oh my goodness,’ and kneeled down and said, ‘You look just the way a little girl should,’ and gave her a kiss.”
Another perfect little girl also met Lucy along the way, in the form of Erin Murphy aka Tabitha from Bewitched: “I met Lucille Ball because the producer/director of Bewitched Bill Asher, who was married to Elizabeth Montgomery, directed every episode of I Love Lucy. So, I did meet Lucy a few times and then I met her husband when I lived down in Del Mar… [What can I say] she’s Lucy. I will always say it’s the best sitcom that was ever made!”
Teresa Ganzel (clearly comprehending what she truly needed to study and observe in line with her future career of choice admitted the following):
“I never got to meet Lucy. But in Kindergarten, I actually skipped a lot of days…because the reruns were on at 9:30 in the morning and I would throw a temper tantrum. I wouldn’t go because I had to watch Lucy. At five years old, I was loving her that much!”
LA Beat: Wow that’ a rebel right there!
Teresa: And my first crush was Ricky Ricardo.
LA Beat: I just like that they moved all over the place. They didn’t keep it static like so many other sitcoms. It wasn’t the same set, the same house.
Erin: And they moved to Connecticut and they had all those little chickens and little chicks!
LA Beat: Yeah just go there if you’re gonna go there!!!
Comedienne and prime guru of Judy-ism, Judy Tenuta, sporting a most fetching crimson flower atop her equally red Lucy-like hair, bolstered by a bustier of the same color and lipstick to match, could only state the following in her temporary twilight conversion to Lucy-isim:
“I tried to be like Lucy, but I couldn’t get my hair up.”
LA Beat: Well I think you look better with it down anyway. That’s your signature, trademark look.
(And frankly, both inspired hairstyles look a thousand times more attractive than that Franciscan inspired monk thing… Just saying…)
LA Beat-I love how your lipstick matches your flower and your bustier. Very coordinated. Just real quick, a sound byte ‘cause obviously you’re a comedienne so you really get it, What’s like your favorite episode or your favorite Lucy memory if you’ve met her?
Judy-I like when she was in the mirror…I don’t know with who. But the really my favorite episode is…[when] they’re making the chocolate and they get stuck in the conveyer belt!
Looking all of 45, a 60-year-old Rex Smith admitted to loving Lucy but having had a date and dalliance with Liz Taylor, a story so hot, the LA Beat’s recording mechanism unfortunately did not capture it, but still a nice little nugget nonetheless.
The Lucy stories did not halt as podium takers the Max Factor Building over, took center stage to celebrate the life, times, talents and goodwill of the woman who once was, and forever is, via tales more nuanced, detailed, and touching than ever expected.
Hollywood Museum President and Founder, along with the event’s host and coordinator Donelle Dadigan was no exception:
“So, I’m pretty sure that everyone has a favorite Lucy story about an encounter with her from Once Upon a Time, and tonight is going to be the night to hear them all. I even have a Lucy story… And [I can hear you saying], ’How it that possible DD. How old are you?’ I’m old enough. In my last life, my exe’s best friend who [owned] the old Jack Benny home on Roxbury Drive [would] have a barbecue [and we would attend]… Almost every Sunday without fail, this lady with bright peach colored hair, holding a glass of scotch in one hand, and a cigarette in another, would lean over the fence with this gravel, dirty voice and say, ‘Hey Billy, what are you barbecuing tonight?’ Now everyone knew that Lucille Ball lived on Roxbury Drive…and they knew she lived next door to Jack Benny, or I should probably say to this group, that Jack Benny lived next door to Lucille Ball. But you know, for the life of me, I still could not believe that the one and only Lucille Ball was leaning over that fence and having a casual conversation about what kind of meat or chicken was being barbecued that evening. So we would always take barbecue over to Lucy when it was finished!”
“Several years later, when Ms. Ball passed away, a box was delivered, and it was a ‘for the young girl with long brown hair.’ In it, were her lightly tinted glasses…with the extra-large frames…[so popular in the late 80s]… And of course, some make-up from Max Factor, because if you all remember, the I Love Lucy show…always credited Max Factor,” disclosed the President and Founder of the Museum now occupying the Max Factor building itself! “[Included in the gift package] was costume jewelry, and some ear clips…from The Lucy Show…and now fast forward you can now see them today, in the ‘Redheads Only Room’. She was a very gracious lady as I’m sure everyone can agree who met her.”
Barry Livingston, best known for his role as Ernie on My Three Sons had some uplifting experiences with Lucy all his own back in his childhood and not so much involving picnics, but possible picnic activities of the most athletic kind:
“I had the opportunity and the good luck of first meeting Ms. Ball [when] I was working on My Three Sons as a recurring character… So I had plenty of time [between takes] riding around on my bike [at Desilu Studios]… And you’d [always] see this golf cart go by with a red blur…going 90 miles an hour…cigarette, bandanna… And one day…I see her come along [and she says in a gravelly voice] ‘Hey Barry’ and [I almost] crashed my bike, [‘cause I thought] ‘Hey she knows my name…’ After that, she used me in a couple of [Lucy] episodes. I was playing Gale Gordon’s son. She gave me a Mohawk in one of the episodes. Never grew back as a matter of fact,” (to much laughter as Barry does not have much hair these days). “But one of the other fond memories I have of Lucy was that [between My Three Sons takes] I used to wrap up gaffer’s tape. I used to make a giant ball, and I was obsessed with the Dodgers! So I’d go out and…take that ball, and I’d throw it as hard as I could against the sound stage! And I would do that for hours, and hours. And I didn’t realize it would leave little pock marks: Every time the ball would hit it would leave little marks… Then one day I heard this voice ‘Heyyy whaddaya doin’? Whaddaya doin?’ It was Gary Morton…[Lucy’s] husband and partner. ‘That’s gonna cost me a fortune to repaint that! Look what you did kid!’ [Until] Lucy came up behind him in her cart and…said ‘Gary leave that kid alone. Get in the cart. We’ve got business to do!’ And then she turns to me in the cart and says, ‘Keep playing kid. One day you might be on the Dodgers! Keep playing!’ She was a trailblazer! She was probably, as far as I know, [the first woman] studio chief/production head of a major studio…”
Biggest fan and author of I had a Ball: My Friendship Lucille Ball Mike Stern imparted some intriguing tales all his own which might have seemed mundane (at first), if they SO WEREN’T!
“I met her by going to one of her filmings of Here’s Lucy. And I was a fan. And I actually went to Lucille Ball’s mother [with] my stuff [and my] photos and she said, ‘How would you like to meet Lucy after the show?’ …It was on July 12th 1974 and [her mother took me backstage] … All the people who worked on the show [had] crafted this street…called Lucy Lane and I got to [go there and] meet Lucille Ball… She gave me a kiss. She signed an autograph for me, and off I would go [as a one-time thing]. But then, I would happen to see her over, and over, and over, again. She finally took me [aside] and said, ‘Look kid, if you want to be my number one fan, make sure you get a job and stay in school.’ So, I did. I got a job at May Co. in North Hollywood and she actually came over the hill…over Coldwater Canyon, to make sure I was working. And that day, she bought over $600.00 worth of linens from me. She sort of thought of me as her son. She would always tell me these things like, ‘This is good. If you’re having trouble here, did you ever talk to your parents about this?’ I said, ‘No’. She said, ‘Talk to your parents.’ She always said, ‘Get closer to your family.’ And some of my family is here tonight so I really appreciate that. …[Later when] I was [prepping to go] to Europe for the very first time, she says, ‘Oh if you see the Queen, tell her I said “Hello”.’ So, I actually went to London and I actually saw the Queen and…have pictures to prove it. So I got a chance to actually talk to the Queen. I said, ‘Back home in the United States [Lucille Ball told me if I saw you to] say “Hello”.’ And she turned around and she goes, ‘You know Lucille Ball?’ I called Lucille Ball at home 3 hours later and I said, ‘Lucy, I just saw the Queen and the Queen told me to say “Hello” to you.’ …and Lucy was like, ‘The Queen knows who I am?’ Lucy did not know how big of a star she was.
Lucille Ball’s Publicist Tom Watson had some functional, and somewhat funky remembrances of only the most close-life-imitation-via-art-encountering kind:
“I was lucky enough to work with Lucy and Gary thirty years ago when they were doing The Life of Lucy series… Lucy and Gary would drive into the studio, usually together, and she had like a ten o’clock call time. And because Gary was the producer of the show, he often had to work late either with the editors or the writers or the producers or the Network people who were always around. So, his day never ended. When the director would release the cast about 4:30/5:00/6:00…they knew I lived just over the hill in Sherman Oaks, so they asked me, ‘Tom, would you mind taking Lucy home on the nights that Gary is not available?’ … So, I did. The first time she got in my car, we were backing up and she said, ‘Oh my God. I forgot.’
‘You forgot what?’
‘Your license plate. It says “Lucy Fan”… Anybody sees me, they’re gonna think, “Oh my God. That woman’s so much of a Lucy fan, she even looks like Lucy.” Or they’re going to recognize me and think, “Oh my God that Lucille Ball’s such an egotist, she’s riding around in a car that’s got ‘Lucy Fan’ on the license plate.’”
“Occasionally she would get finished before I did if [they] dismissed the cast at 4:30. She would go back to her dressing room and have her favorite drink she called the ‘Green Slushie’. Think of it as a margarita without all the liquor, [almost like a lemonade smoothie] ‘cause it was 4:30 in the afternoon. She was not going to get zonkered… When I was finished. she would pour out what was left and put it in a Big Gulp glass. And we’d get in the car and head home. So, one evening, we were buzzing down Sunset, and some son of a bitch comes around, and cuts in front of us! Missed our car about like that, and I slammed on the brakes, and the green slushie came out of the cup…all over the front of the car. Now somehow, it’s funnier when you see her do things like that on television. She was mortified, but I said, ‘This is not your fault. The guy cut us off.’ And she was still worried about it a few months later… Three months later, at Christmas time, she had the entire interior of my car reupholstered!”
“One other quick memory if I can: Two days from now will mark the thirtieth anniversary of one of the blackest days of my life, and I refuse to go there. But we just recently celebrated Easter and Passover and always had nice pleasant memories. Easter in 1989 came early in the month… I had to pick up Lucy at the house. She was involved with some project and she needed to go to rehearsal or a fitting or whatever. So I picked her up and we weren’t out of the driveway and she starts to giggle. And I said ‘Lucy what’s so funny?’ and she Said, ‘My granddaughter.’ I said, ‘Oh?’ She said, ‘Yeah. I called over to the house yesterday and wished everybody a Happy Easter and they were right in the middle of watching The Greatest Story Ever Told… Little Kate got on the line and said, “Grandma, I can’t talk to you right now, we’re watching God.”’ And I know she’d be thrilled to know that Kate is here tonight, all grown up…
Kate Luckinbill Connor radiantly pregnant, and fittingly maudlin had only the following wonderfully tear inducing sentiment to convey:
“I’m Kate or Katherine Desiree Luckinbill Conner. I’m so intrigued by so many of these stories [and they] really sort of captured what I wanted to talk about tonight because I think that people sometimes are really amazed by how normal [my grandmother] was. And that’s…what I’m focusing on these days in bringing the next generation into the world, and working with my mom to…bring their legacy forward. So I wrote a little something [for tonight]… ‘Remembering is a funny thing. People always seem to remember what they want to remember. This happens a lot with my grandmother. Either it’s the tabloids wanting to remember some high-flying crazy scandal that never occurred, or it’s feminists wanting to use her as their matriarch, or a real estate agent swearing they lived in that house. Here’s the real thing. My grandmother was a regular girl from up-up-UP state New York. She worked hard, and never took for granted the opportunities that came her way or the chance to learn from others. She was the first woman to be pregnant on television, not because she wanted to make a statement, but because she wanted to have a baby. She was humble. She was a real person who just didn’t take “no” for an answer when life got in the way of her dreams. Her dreams were complex. She wanted to be a mom and she wanted to be a wife and she also wanted to be an actress and a comedian. She was determined to do both. She didn’t set out to be anyone’s icon or influence. Unlike the reality stars of today, she was someone who only dreamed of the life she ended up living. In her book she describes her first arrival in California like this: “In my wildest dreams I never expected to get to Hollywood. Yet here I was with the movie contract in my pocketbook, already creased with wrinkles from having been read so often.” She always did her homework, studied her lines, and made sure to show up, and do the work. That’s the legacy she left women: Show up, do the work, be the best. Don’t take “no” for an answer, and they can’t ignore you. She always persisted. These are the things that I want people to remember about my grandmother, not just the fact that she was an excellent clown.’”
“So this past year, I have joined my mother in an effort, to reignite the legacy of Lucy. Together with our partners at CBS, we have entered into a new and exciting deal to bring Lucy, Desi and the whole crew into the present. We want fans to remember what class meant. We want fans to share their stories of love and positivity. We want the world to know what it was like when celebrities weren’t famous for the size of their butt… We don’t want to get stuck in nostalgia. We all just want to have a reminder that you, we can be better. So I invite you to join us, follow us on Instagram and facebook at The Lucy Legacy and keep an eye out for new and exciting products that we feel are representative of more than just a conveyer belt of chocolates and a funny face: ‘Experiences that represent the impact they had, on not just one, but three generations of Americans.’ Okay, I’m a little pregnant to say this last part without crying, I want the fourth generation that I carry with me today, to know who she really was and why she was so important. I hope you’ll join me.”
A recorded message from Lucie Arnaz, courtesy of Ms. Luckinbill Conner (performing an annual show in Palm Springs on the night in question) followed to teary-eyed and inspirational appeal:
“I just want to say how grateful we are that the entire world embraced this little dream that mom and dad had to create a live audience, three camera filmed television series just so that they could stay together here in California in the hopes of starting a family. God knows I’m grateful for that little (plan) but that brave manifestation of desire worked out so much better than anyone could ever have predicted. Congratulations Mom. You are the gift that keeps on giving!”
And as testament, not only to Lucy, but Donelle Dadigan’s curation of the incomparable collection, only superlatives could be expressed:
“I have always loved the Hollywood Museum,” declared Teresa Ganzel. “Not only do I make it a must see for out of town guests, I also love to turn people who live here onto it. It never disappoints! Last night’s special tribute to Lucille Ball was amazing. The memorabilia was truly wonderful . As were the speakers. Lucille Ball’s granddaughter’s tribute to her mom was especially beautiful. So funny and brought a tear to the eye.”
Director John Bowab had only gratitude to convey: “Thank you Hollywood Museum! What a joy to see the young and never old Lucy thru your incredible exhibit. It is a must see for Lucy fans and who isn’t?”
“Where else but at the exceptional Hollywood Museum could you find an extraordinary salute to Lucille Ball, and then find exhibit after exhibit showcasing the entire breadth of classic Hollywood history? A visit to the Museum is a must for anyone interested in the best that Hollywood had to offer, curated in the lovingly restored and iconic Max Factor building!” according to Geoffrey Mark — Emmy Winner, Grammy nominee and Author of “The Lucy Book”
If comedienne Judy Tenuta had anything to say about Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy, she harbored just as much sentiment for the exhibit in question: “As a fellow redhead I love Lucy! She drove Desi crazy with her nonstop antics to get into show biz, til he screamed, ‘Lucy you’ve got some Splainin to do!’ Lucy was just like everyone in Hollywood trying to catch a break! But she did it with hilarious style & beauty & that signature look which is preserved beautifully by Donelle Dadigan in the Redhead Heads Only Room at the Hollywood museum. It displays her earrings, iconic costumes & that fabulous fiery red hair! Get thee to the Hollywood Museum and Love Lucy! It could happen!”
“The wonderful thing about sharing a salute to Lucille Ball is that we should all be grateful that she is STILL ON THE BALL!” quipped Jack Betts of Batman fame!!!
“The Lucille Ball Tribute at the Hollywood Museum delivers a close up look to memories and laughter that has touched us all! Long rein the queen of comedy!” declared comedian Jaime Monroy of Life with Lucy.
According fellow comedian in his own right, Bob Bergen primarily known for his voice of Porky Pig, “There is so much to love about Lucy at The Hollywood Museum. The tribute to the red headed legend was a memorable night of career highlights as well as loving stories of how she touched the lives of friends, colleagues, and family. To the nation she was a TV treasure. To her family she had the starring role of mom and grandma.”
For more information on the Hollywood Museum and the Lucy (Lobby) Display, please visit: