The Real ‘Lucy'

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I have been fortunate to have had a most interesting life. Some of it has been involved in producing and directing programs in the earlier days of television.

A few of my credits include agency producing "The Gary Moore Show," "What's My Line," "Art Linkletter's House Party" and directing the TV productions of the New York Philharmonic Young Peoples Concerts, "NBC Opera," and lastly, "The ABC Evening News." There were many productions in addition to these.

I lived many years in Los Angeles and New York City. These were and still are the major production centers in the U.S. I really didn't associate with many in show business, as I wanted to just be a regular person rather than hobnob with the many phonies and hanger-ons in the "business." I did have a few good friends, especially in Los Angeles and people who have knowledge of my background have asked me to share some of my experiences with the people I have known.

The one person who seems to interest many is my friendship with Lucille Ball. We became friends in the 1960s, well after her success in "I Love Lucy" and after her divorce from Desi Arnaz. She had remarried. Her circle of friends was few and I was fortunate to be one of them for a period of time.

Her home was one of those classic Mediterranean two-story corner dwellings in the older and very fine section of Beverly Hills. In her backyard were a nice swimming pool, a guesthouse and a rather small pool house, which was no larger than perhaps 15 by 25 feet. Here, she held court with friends to play cards, spend time on the telephone, snack and visit.

One of her best friends was an old castmate, Vivian Vance, who lived mostly in Santa Fe, but who visited by phone. Most of her friends were from show business.

I don't think Lucille knew how wealthy she was. However, through all this she was still a normal person, and a good and caring mother. Nothing like her Lucy character on TV.

Unknown to most was the fact that she was very much into hairdressing and hair coloring. In her guest cottage, just off a side of the pool, she had a hair salon. She would ask most newly acquainted women if she could do their hair. And, in so doing, Lucy would almost insist that she color the hair. Well, just about any woman would say yes to Lucille Ball being their hairdresser.

Lucy had all the equipment required to do a most professional job. Interesting to note here that in her TV shows, she often wore a very fine wig made by Max Factor. But, her hair in real life was always the same color, red.

Once, I asked her what one of her more unusual experiences was as an actress. She responded with a fascinating story about an earlier time when she and Desi had a weekend cabin at Lake Arrowhead located in the mountains. She said that one night she had gone outside to dump garbage and was frightened by what she thought was a bear near the garbage cans. Instead, it was a neighbor wearing a bear costume. This neighbor was, in fact, the son of the owner of the leading newspaper in Oklahoma City and who later invited Lucy to bring her then-young acting troupe to that town and perform a play they had rehearsed and were ready for public showing.

A date was set and Lucy and troupe flew to Oklahoma City for the big opening. She told me that she suspected something was wrong when there was no press to meet her group when they arrived at the airport.

This man was the only greeter. Lucy asked him "where is the press?" He said, "Oh, there won't be any ... the play will be a private showing." This was to be presented in the largest theater in the city. Well, Lucy was horrified!

She was driven, with her troupe, to the hotel and after checking in and settling quickly into her suite she picked up the phone and called every newspaper, TV and radio station in town announcing that her group would be performing that night in the downtown theater and tickets were available at the door. She then made the rounds of the TV stations for interviews. That night the theater was almost filled for the single performance, having had only seven hours notice to the public.

Lucy shared many other great stories with me. She was an exceptional performer and a very special individual and real person.

Her voice was pitched much lower than her Lucy character and her persona was that of a down-to-earth lady, very smart and easy to know. Only now do I realize how special she was and what a privilege it was to have known her.

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