November 03, 2011

Lucy fan has a perfect dress for the ball

Collector Richard Lucas is donating a dress once worn by Lucille Ball for an auction as part of the Canadian College of Performing Arts' Lucy-themed gala on Friday, November 4th at The Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC, Canada. For any Lucille Ball collector, it was an incredible score. Indeed, some devotees would consider the item a sacred relic.

Richard Lucas has proudly owned of one of Lucy's formal gowns for two decades. It is black, with gold sequins and black ostrich-feather trim. It comes with matching jacket - and a certificate of authenticity. Lucas says Lucy once wore it to a Dean Martin roast. Now, the collector is ready to bid his prized item adieu.

The gown will be displayed at The Lucille Ball Gala, a fundraising event for the Canadian College of Performing Arts happening Friday night. Following the gala, it will be auctioned off, with partial proceeds going to the college and Vancouver's Performing Arts Lodge, a seniors lodge for retired performers. Lucas said he has no idea what the dress will fetch.

Lucas runs Vancouver's Lucas Talent Inc., a talent agency. He also teaches courses in career management and working in film at the Canadian College of Performing Arts.

A North Saanich native who divides his time between homes on the mainland and in Fairfield, Lucas is an avid collector of Lucille Ball memorabilia. His 130-piece cache includes lunch kits, clocks, a signed script and Lucy comic books from the 1950s.

"They're worth a lot of money, the original I Love Lucy comic books," he said. "I have tons of stuff." Lucas bought the gown from Jane Withers, the former child star who later played Josephine the Plumber on TV commercials for Comet cleanser. Lucy had originally donated it as a sale item for a Hollywood fundraising event.

Learning of the upcoming Canadian sale of her mother's gown, Lucy's daughter Lucie Arnaz sent Lucas a letter of support. "She said, 'I know my mother would be thrilled and proud to know her clothing is going to such good use,' " he said.

Lucas, who grew up in North Saanich, met Lucille Ball several times. It was when she was shooting her final television show, the short-lived 1986 sitcom Life With Lucy. Lucas was invited on set by actor Gale Gordon, who'd played Mr. Mooney on I Love Lucy. Lucas and Gordon had become close friends in the mid-'80s performing together in comedy plays for Edmonton's Stage West theatre.

When Lucas met Lucy, she was 75 years old and past her prime. "[The TV series] was just scary and sad and didn't work," he said. "TV Guide called it one of the worst - or maybe the worst - series of all time.

"There was one episode called Lucy and Curtis Up a Tree. You don't have a script that has a 78year-old up a tree. They literally had to climb a tree."

Lucas's Lucy fascination bloomed young. He used to write and act his own Lucy show scripts while attending North Saanich Junior Secondary School."We would always perform them in the lunchroom at lunch time. I would always play Mr. Mooney."

He says he's donating the gown because he's impressed with the high level of teaching and students at CCPA.

Lucas will attend the gala to display items from his collection. Two dozen CCPA students are expected to dress up as Lucy, and the famous scene in which Lucy tries to eat all the chocolates coming down a conveyer belt will be re-enacted.

And an orchestra will play songs associated with Lucy, such as Mame. "I've been to a lot of boring fundraisers," Lucas said, "but this is going to be fun."

What: The Lucille Ball Gala
Where: Fairmont Empress Hotel, 721 Government Street, Victoria, BC, Canada
When: Friday, November 4th - 7 p.m.
Tickets: $115 (250-595-9970)

Among the highlights of what promises to be an unforgettable evening are performances by the Lovely Lucys and students of the College, some of the country’s top young performing artists. As well, guests will enjoy dancing to the music of Victoria’s own Latin band, Kumbia, performing the music of the Ricky Ricardo Orchestra. Event sponsor Rogers Chocolates will also contribute to the fun atmosphere with a recreation of the classic Lucy chocolate conveyor belt scene.

The Lucille Gala Ball is also a kick-off to the international auction of an authenticated Lucille Ball gown which is being donated to CCPA and The Performing Arts Lodge (PAL).

10 tickets or more enters groups into a draw for a special super prize package which includes an up-close and intimate performance by the rising stars of CCPA and special Lucy memorabilia.

There is also a special Star Package of $150 which includes champagne, special musical theatre performances, gifts of Lucy memorabilia, photo opportunities, and a conversation with renowned Talent Manager Richard Lucas who will recount his favourite Lucy memories from being on her set. The public is asked to call the CCPA box office at 250-595-9970 for tickets.

CCPA is owned and operated by The Canadian Heritage Arts Society (CHAS). a non-profit society and a registered charitable organization. It established the college in its endeavour to promote higher education and to support young people who wish to establish careers and contribute to Canadian society.

Click here for the Ticket Order Form.

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