November 30, 2005

'She Made It': Initiative honors women of radio, TV

She Made It: Women Creating Television and Radio, an ambitious three-year initiative of the Museum of Television @ Radio, officially launches Thursday, December 1st with the announcement of the 2005 honorees — 50 women who were pioneers in broadcasting fields. Among them are Marlo Thomas (who is also co-chairwoman of the initiative), Barbara Walters, Gertrude Berg, Ida Lupino, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lucille Ball, Agnes Nixon, Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Oprah Winfrey.

"It is a way to look at the history of radio and television, but in a different way," says museum curator Ron Simon. "When we researched the lives of these women, it is amazing what impact they had on various genres of radio and television and how much of it isn't recorded in the official textbook. We are trying to show the whole breadth and the different genres of these women both as creators and executives."

Over the next year the museum will offer screenings of work in which the honorees were involved. There also will be clips from museum seminars that the women have participated in, and the museum's radio listening room will spotlight their work. Over the course of the initiative, approximately 150 women will be honored.

"We are looking at Lucille Ball as the first woman president of a television company (Desilu), and what did that mean," says Simon. "We are trying to gather as much information as we can on what her struggles were like when she took it over. It will give people a different perspective."

Ball, adds Simon, also directed episodes — usually uncredited — of her series Here's Lucy, as well as several pilots. "That calls for more research in finding out the type of shows she chose and the episodes she directed. We want to work with her estate and maybe find some of these pilots in our collection."

The museum will hold seminar series on both coasts in support of She Made It.

November 19, 2005

Lucy-Desi Center Hosts Legacy of Laughter Seminar

Following the inspiring inaugural event in the hometown of The Queen of Comedy, The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center is coming to Hollywood with its second "LOL", an interactive celebration and exploration of The Legacy of Laughter.

On Saturday, December 10, actress, singer, dancer, business executive, director, Broadway star, and Emmy Award-winning producer Lucie Arnaz will moderate a panel of noted individuals who use humor in their personal and professional lives. Panelists for the seminar include:

Marc Cherry: writer-creator of Desperate Housewives
Sam Denoff: writer-producer for The Dick Van Dyke Show and That Girl
Sherry Dunay Hilber: founder of Rx Laughter, a research and healthcare initiative utilizing the healing power of humor to help the seriously ill


In announcing the event, Ms. Arnaz noted, "As the children of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and as president and vice president of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in our mother's hometown of Jamestown, New York, my brother Desi and I searched for some time for a way to explore, extend and celebrate the global impact that our parents created through their television show, I Love Lucy. Last month’s initial ‘Legacy of Laughter’ in Jamestown was so well received that we are eager to share our experience with a new audience."

After the resounding success of the October 15 LOL in western New York, on the 54th anniversary of the first airing of I Love Lucy, plans were begun immediately for a similar event on the west coast. The second LOL will be held in the theatre at the Howard Fine Acting Studio, 1445 North Las Palmas (just south of Sunset) in Hollywood, California. A reception will follow the 8 p.m. event. As audience participation is important, there is limited seating for this event.

For tickets and more information, contact the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown, New York: (716) 484-0800 (toll-free: 1-877-LUCY-FAN), ext. 203; or online at www.lucy-desi.com.

November 18, 2005

Season 6 of I Love Lucy - Where is It?

I have just run across some news that may interest all you Lucy Fans! I've been asked numerous times when the final season of I Love Lucy will be coming out. Well, it is rumored that Greg Oppenheimer should be finished with I Love Lucy's season six DVDs by late December. It's unofficial, yet it is expected the set's release date will be May 3, 2006.

This would be the final "I Love Lucy" season. The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, which was previously out on VHS has not been slated for DVD as of yet. But I am sure it will be on the plate as there were only 13 episodes, 14 if you count the Christmas Special that was done. These can still be found on Amazon.com in VHS format.

November 15, 2005

Lucy-Desi Center Acquires Famous Cello

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.

November 11, 2005

Missing Out on Lucille Ball Items and News?

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November 07, 2005

Red Not Orginally So Beloved!

A new PBS documentary, Pioneers of Primetime, airing on PBS Wednesday, November 9th (check your local listings) will feature interviews with the living legends of yesterday's best loved television shows.

It’s worth remembering that not all beloved primetime pioneers were originally so beloved. “The critics didn’t like our show at first,” I Love Lucy writer Bob Carroll once remarked at a TV Land press conference, surveying a room full of television critics. “Nothing personal.”

Carroll’s old writing partner, Madeleine Pugh-Davis, recalled that she was at first heartened to read a Time review that described the show as “a triumph of bounce over bubbling material.”

“I thought, that’s not so bad,” Pugh-Davis said. “And I read it again and it said, ‘A triumph of bounce over bungling material.’ They didn’t like the writing. But I think the show got better.”

Lucille Ball was such a brilliant physical comedienne that Lucy fans always ask how much of the show was written and how much was improvised. The answer is that almost all of it was written. I remember Lucille Ball herself telling an audience that, a few years before she died.

“We wrote everything out, all the moves,” said Pugh-Davis. Ball always called this “the black stuff” because in the scripts, her physical antics were described in big black capital letters. “But she added so much on the set,” Pugh-Davis noted. One example: In the famous pizza-making episode, the script has Lucy letting the pizza dough fall on her head so she could hide when Ricky happens by.

“And then the thing she added,” recalled Pugh-Davis, “was she made two little holes for the eyes.”

Did Lucy ever balk at any of the physical indignities the writers imagined for her?

“Well, she’d say, ‘Is it funny?’” said Pugh-Davis. “And we said, yeah, it’s going to be real funny. So she’d say O.K. She never minded looking awful, blacking out her teeth, getting hit with mud. And that gave us a wonderful license. We could just think of anything because she would do it. She was fearless.”

I Love Lucy director William Asher added that once Lucille Ball turned to him and said, “Bill, would you ask your wife to do this?”

“I was married to an actress,” Asher noted. “And I said, ‘I’m not married to Lucille Ball.’ And she said, ‘Oh,’ and went on and did it–did it very well.”

It’s worth noting that I Love Lucy got all its laughs with just three writers (Carroll and Pugh-Davis also worked with Jess Oppenheimer) and a couple of sets. Contrast that, Carroll pointed out, with today’s rooms full of sitcom writers, not to mention reality shows.

“Sixteen contestants, 100 crew, tons of equipment, go to Borneo,” he said. “And all we had to do was say, ‘Ethel, if Ricky finds out I bought this hat, he’ll kill me.’ It was that simple.”

November 04, 2005

Lucy featured in new Sitcom Book published in October.

"The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed," published in October, is one of the first books to take a serious look at the situation comedy or sitcom, one of the oldest, most popular forms of television programming.

Edited by professors from Wake Forest University and Marist College, the book is a collection of critical essays examining the ways sitcoms depict and influence American culture. The editors are Mary Dalton, Wake Forest University associate professor of communication, and Laura Linder, Marist College associate professor of media arts.

Because the sitcom has enjoyed such popularity and longevity since it debuted on radio in the 1920s, the genre has become a barometer of American culture and warrants academic study, Dalton said.

The book's 21 chapters, all new material from different contributors including a chapter each by Dalton and Linder, cover topics including conventions of the sitcom genre, family dynamics and representations of gender, race, sexual orientation and work and social class. Chapter authors focus on shows from the earlier years of the sitcom such as "I Love Lucy," "Our Miss Brooks" and "The Andy Griffith Show," as well as contemporary programs including "Sex and the City," "South Park" and "Will and Grace."

"One chapter in the book brings up the dichotomy between Lucy Ricardo and Lucille Ball," Dalton said. "Lucy Ricardo was a woman who wanted to work outside the home, but was confined to her role as a stay-at-home wife and mother. Lucille Ball, also a wife and mother, was a business-savvy woman working outside the home. The reason Lucy Ricardo could not be more like Lucille Ball was that when 'I Love Lucy' was in production, American culture was not ready to accept a woman like Lucille Ball. She was not the norm."

"The Sitcom Reader: America Viewed and Skewed" is published by State University of New York Press and is available on the Web at http://www.sunypress.edu.

November 01, 2005

Still Popular in the Afterlife

Dead celebrities are in enough demand that a market research firm has begun rating their popularity with consumers. Marketing Evaluations Inc. of New York compiles the "Dead Q" list, which can help advertisers find reposing talent to pitch a certain product.

The most popular dead celebrity of all time, according to the latest list, is Lucille Ball. The comedian, who as the character Lucy Ricardo on the "I Love Lucy" show once did a TV commercial for a concoction called Vita-meata-vega-min, found work after death doing commercials for the California Lottery.

This year's "Dead Q" list ranks these top 10 dead celebrities as the most popular among 169 choices, based on opinion polling conducted in May.

1. Lucille Ball
2. Bob Hope
3. John Wayne
4. Jimmy Stewart
5. Charles Schulz
6. Red Skelton
7. Johnny Carson
8. John Ritter
9. Jackie Gleason
10. Michael Landon

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