The possibility of acquiring a significant artifact in the history of the creation of “I Love Lucy” inspired supporters of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center to step forward as founding members of the Center’s Acquisition Society.
The cello credited with helping to found the most popular show ever on television was offered this summer as part of a Hollywood memorabilia auction in Beverly Hills. In response to the cello’s availability, friends of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center joined forces to launch an Acquisitions Society so that key artifacts could be secured for the Center.
Jamestown area residents who are founding members of the Acquisitions Society are the Bud and Deanna Black Family, Chuck and Pat Brininger, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Mary Hunt, Mike Latone, Lucy-Desi Center board treasurer John Lloyd, and Ric Wyman. Other founding members include Joel Ashley, Bill Rapaport, and board members Desi Arnaz, Jr., Lucie Arnaz, Wanda Clark, Eric Cohler, Mary Rapaport, and Melody Thomas Scott.
In 1950, when Lucille Ball was asked to move her successful radio series to television, she agreed on one condition: her husband, Desi Arnaz, would be cast in the role of her TV husband. CBS executives balked, believing the American public wouldn’t accept an all-American redhead being married to a Latin bandleader. To prove the network wrong, Lucy and Desi launched a successful vaudeville tour. Their friend Jose Perez, known on the vaudeville circuit as Pepito, The Spanish Clown, developed several skits for the couple to take on the road. The most famous of these cast Lucy as “The Professor” who breaks into Desi’s performance and insists on auditioning for the band. The skit was so successful, Lucy and Desi worked it into the pilot episode of “I Love Lucy” and again in episode 6 of the show’s first season.
After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Perez, their estate was left to Biola University in California. When University staff familiarized themselves with the contents of the Perez home, they made an amazing discovery: Pepito’s cello-complete with the plunger. Inside the cello Pepito had safely stored a 1950 Western Union telegram from Lucy and Desi, thanking him for his help. Providing ultimate authenticity, the telegram reads“…Prop cello the hit of my offering. We love you very much and appreciate you even more. Lucy & Desi.” Lucy-Desi Center staff are making plans to unveil the cello early next year at the Center’s new Desilu Playhouse.