June 21, 2006

Lucy-Desi Center Receives Donations from Oppenheimer Family

The family of Jess Oppenheimer, "I Love Lucy" creator, producer and head writer of 153 episodes, recently made two significant donations to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Lucille Ball's hometown, Jamestown, New York.

When a movie projector was needed as a prop for "Home Movies", episode 86 that first aired on March 1, 1954, Jess Oppenheimer came to the rescue by bringing his personal projector from home. "I Love Lucy" fans can’t help but smile when they recall Ricky’s anger at Lucy and the Mertzes for their bored response when he shows his home movies of the baby - and all the hilarious repercussions that follow!

The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center is honored that Estelle Oppenheimer, Jess’s widow, has given this historic Bell & Howell film projector to the Center to be part of its permanent collection. It was presented by their son Gregg at “More ‘I Love Lucy’ Behind The Scenes,” a special event during the recent Lucy-Desi Days 2006 Memorial Day Weekend Festival.

It was a bittersweet farewell when Oppenheimer bid adieu to the show in the spring of 1956. Lucy and Desi opened their Beverly Hills home for a gala party in his honor, complete with a musical comedy review performed by the show’s four stars. For his contribution, Oppenheimer created special “Oppy Awards” that he presented to the cast and staff. In Laughs, Luck…and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time, he described the bronze statuette as looking “a little bit like an Oscar but more like me – a little man with glasses, very little hair, and his hands discreetly positioned in front of his crotch.”

Gregg Oppenheimer, who completed Laughs, Luck…and Lucy after his father’s death, recently donated an original Oppy to the Lucy-Desi Center. It is on display in Jamestown’s new Desilu Playhouse, complete with a picture of Jess Oppenheimer presenting his Oppy to The Queen of Comedy.

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