October 27, 2005

IU journalism grad became 'I Love Lucy' writer

A funny thing happened to Madelyn Pugh Davis on her way to a career in newspaper journalism.

She became a comedy writer instead.

One of the first women to write comedy for television, in fact. One of the three principal writers for "I Love Lucy," among other accomplishments. And a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement in Television Writing award from the UCLA Film School.

Not bad for a self-described "Indianapolis girl" who arrived on the Indiana University campus at age 17, "as green as green can be."

Davis recounts her experiences in the recently published book, "Laughing with Lucy: My Life With America's Leading Lady of Comedy." It's an entertaining and informative book whether you loved Lucy, loathed Lucy or simply enjoy a well-written memoir focused largely on one of the most popular television comedies of all-time.

Now retired, the 1942 IU journalism graduate's wit and humor elevates "Laughing With Lucy" well above the standard remembrance fare, which raises the question, why did you wait so long to do it?

"I never thought about such a thing," she said from her Los Angeles-area home last week. "I went to a luncheon for women writers one day and they all made such a fuss over me ... they were all so impressed that I was one of the first women comedy writers in television and everyone kept saying I ought to write a book.

"I thought, 'There have been so many books written about Lucy. Who needs another one?'," Davis said. "But they did convince me to sit down and get started and once I did, I realized that so many people have written about Lucille Ball that didn't work for her that I thought maybe I did have something to offer."

Getting started

Davis tried, unsuccessfully, to get a job with the Indianapolis Star, News and Times before landing a job at the AM radio station, WIRE. After a brief stint there, she moved to Los Angeles, where she continued to write for radio and had the good fortune of working with Bob Carroll Jr., who became her lifelong writing partner and contributor to "Laughing With Lucy."

Eventually the two writers would be hired to work on the radio program, "My Favorite Husband," which featured Lucille Ball. Once they became familiar with Ball's talents and working style, they became the natural candidates to be the writers, with producer Jess Oppenheimer, for the proposed "I Love Lucy" television program.

"She was remarkable. We were very lucky. She loved doing comedy and anything we wrote, she'd do," Davis said. "We'd say, 'Would you mind working with a horse or an elephant?' or 'Would you mind blacking out your teeth?' and she'd say, 'Is it funny?' and that's about all she wanted to know."

Working it

The writers didn't just rely on intuition or confidence. They'd act out what they'd written and often improve scripts in the process. "One time we wrote a scene that involved handcuffs and Bob and I handcuffed ourselves together and we realized how you can't do much of anything with handcuffs on. We tried to take our jackets off and saw what a circus that was and we came up with some of the stage directions just from experiencing that," Davis recalled.

Lucy rarely questioned her writers' work and when she did, her husband and co-star, Desi Arnaz, usually stepped in to alleviate her apprehensions. "Desi was a very charming man and he was great at protecting the writers," Davis said. Once when an advertising agency (agencies had a lot of say about content in those days) called and didn't like our script, Desi called them back and said, 'Don't you ever do that again. You talk to me. You don't talk to my writers.'

"So we were in the enviable position of having a star who'd do anything we wrote and a co-star who would protect us so we could do our jobs," Davis said. "Lucy was wonderful about giving us credit, too. When people would ask her on talk shows, 'Why are you so successful,' she'd say, 'My writers.' A lot of stars would never do that."

The legacy

Davis said she continues to be amazed at how popular - how remembered - "I Love Lucy" is. "I think part of it is because we picked story lines and ideas that could happen to anybody. We didn't do topical jokes because we didn't particularly care for them and now that seems very wise," she said.

"For example, in one episode, the Mertzes bought the Ricardos' old washing machine and it broke, so everyone knows what that's like. Who hasn't sold a car to a brother-in-law and then found out the engine dropped out? Things like that," Davis said.

Davis and Carroll worked with Lucy for 20 years, including the shows that followed "I Love Lucy." They went on to write for other shows and produce the hit sit-com, "Alice," for eight years.

And despite spending most of her life in Southern California, Davis said on behalf of herself and her Marion-born husband, Dr. Richard Davis (who she dated at IU), "We're still Hoosiers at heart. I mean, I've never thought of myself as anything but a Hoosier living in California."

October 24, 2005

Everything Lucy Now Has Membership Page!

The Membership page and login for exclusive content is now completed. For those who have registered with Everything Lucy, you can now login to receive content that is customized for you.

Currently the only thing on the page right now is the ability to Update your profile when you registered. But shortly we will be placing links to our ecommerce section where you can find products specifically for members only!

The store is being setup and configured now and will feature those underground products that are not available in the retail market!

Stay tuned as it will be completed shortly for your Christmas orders!

October 20, 2005

Lucy Comes in Third in Top 100 Entertainment Icons for the Century

Variety, the world’s premier source of entertainment news, celebrated its 100th anniversary with the publication on Tuesday of a centennial edition. The centerpiece of this special issue is Variety’s list of the Top 100 Entertainment Icons of the Century – the men and women who have had the greatest impact on the world of entertainment in the past 100 years.

The choices were made by Variety’s editors, critics and reporters, with input from notables in the global entertainment community.

As mentioned earlier in the Everything Lucy Blog, The Beatles came in on the top spot at #1 followed by Louie Armstrong and then Lucille Ball in the third spot. In fourth place was another favorite of mine, Marlyn Monroe!

The Beatles
Although they were topping the charts in 1963, the Beatles were still considered provincial, faddish and well below the radar of unforgivingly hip London.

But at a show in Bedford, Andrew Loog Oldham, in his ’60s memoir “Stoned,” remembers the pandemonium: “Onstage, you could not hear the Beatles for the roar of the crowd and the roar I heard was the roar of the whole world. The audience that evening expressed something beyond repressed adolescent sexuality. The noise they made was the sound of the future. I didn’t see it – I heard and felt it.”

On April 14, 1964, Billboard Magazine reported the Beatles at Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 31, 41, 46, 58, 65, 68 and 79.

The music spoke directly to young people’s own sense of alienation and disenfranchisement. Most important, it was a joyful noise, a celebration over adversity. It provided a jolt that jump-started a thousand bands.

The Beatles – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and George Harrison – were less concerned about shedding their influences than in finding their own sound.

Louie Armstrong

His smile alone would captivate millions around the world, but it was Armstrong’s distinctive trumpet playing and singing style that set him apart from virtually every American musician who came before or since.

The songs Armstrong made between 1925 and ’29 include some of the most important recordings in the history of jazz, which was then breaking out as America’s most popular music and would become its greatest export to the world. His solos were the models for millions of musicians’ solos that followed over the next eight decades.

Armstrong’s first recordings as a leader – with his Hot Five – were made in late 1925: “Gut Bucket Blues,” “My Heart” and “Yes! I’m in the Barrel.” Those discs, along with his sides made with the Hot Seven, have made it through the 78, vinyl album and CD eras. In a world in which each generation discards the pop music of its predecessor, that’s a unique achievement.

The Grammy Hall of Fame has inducted eight of his recordings.

Lucille Ball
The red hair, the giant eyes, the rubber face: Those were the physical tools that Lucille Ball used to ply her comic craft so expertly. In the process of trying to make viewers laugh, she also stole their hearts.

When she died in 1989 at 78, the White House issued a statement noting that “no television program in history was better-named than ‘I Love Lucy.’ ... She was Lucy, and she was loved.”

The depth of feeling for Ball spoke to the power of the medium she helped popularize. Thanks to television, viewers around the world would form an intimate bond with the comedienne, thinking of her not as a star like Humphrey Bogart or Lauren Bacall but as a part of their extended family who dropped by on Monday nights. It’s no surprise that the episode including the birth of her small-screen son was seen by more Americans than Eisenhower’s inauguration.

But at first she had to fight CBS, who didn’t want anything to do with Desi Arnaz, who became one of the top straight men ever to roll his eyes on television. To prove that the audience would accept them as a couple, the pair created a vaudeville act and toured. It got rave reviews – “a socko new act,” Variety said – and CBS gave in.

Marlyn Monroe
She first came to notice in a couple of 1950 movies, “Asphalt Jungle” and “All About Eve.” The ripe blonde who was supposed to be both ornamental and negligible – a Hollywood cliche. But the moviegoer’s eye kept drifting her way. There was something about the lushness of her lips, the glow of her skin and hair, and the delicious, post-coital languor of her eyes, that altogether exuded luminous sensuality. It seemed like her voluptuous image...

Variety’s Top 100 Icons of the Century!
These are the top entertainers of the century:

1. The Beatles
2. Louie Armstrong
3. Lucille Ball
4. Humphrey Bogart
5. Marlon Brando
6. Charlie Chaplin
7. James Dean
8. Marilyn Monroe
9. Mickey Mouse
10. Elvis Presley

The remaining entertainers are in alphabetical, not numerical, order:

Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Josephine Baker, Brigitte Bardot, Jack Benny, Irving Berlin, Chuck Berry, Lenny Bruce, James Cagney, Maria Callas, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Kurt Cobain, Gary Cooper, Bill Cosby, Walter Cronkite, Bette Davis, Miles Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Kirk Douglas, Bob Dylan, Clint Eastwood, Duke Ellington, Federico Fellini, Aretha Franklin, Clark Gable, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, D.W. Griffith, Woody Guthrie, Vaclav Havel, Edith Head, Jimi Hendrix, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Billie Holliday, Harry Houdini, Hope and Crosby, Michael Jackson, Robert Johnson, Al Jolson, Janis Joplin, Gene Kelly, Grace Kelly, Laurel and Hardy, Lassie, Bruce Lee, Jerry Lewis, Little Richard, Sophia Loren, Madonna, Bob Marley, The Marx Brothers, Marcello Mastroianni, Edward R. Murrow, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Laurence Olivier, Pac Man, Edith Piaf, Mary Pickford, Sidney Poitier, Robert Redford, Will Rogers, Rogers and Hammerstein, The Rolling Stones, Mickey Rooney, The Sex Pistols, Tupac Shakur, Frank Sinatra, Steven Spielberg, Jimmy Stewart, Igor Stravinsky, Barbra Streisand, The Supremes, Quentin Tarantino, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, Rudolph Valentino, John Wayne, Orson Welles, Mae West, Hank Williams, Oprah Winfrey, Stevie Wonder

I have one complaint - where's Carol Burnett?

October 18, 2005

TV Guide Era Ends with Lucy Appearing the Most on its' Cover

Small by magazine standards, the digest-size TV Guide nevertheless made an impact on pop culture worthy of a 50-inch, flat-screen plasma TV.

Since its April 3, 1953, beginnings, it did more than provide program listings; TV Guide helped us monitor evolving broadcasting trends and viewing habits, not to mention our collective obsession with all things celebrity.

Now, as it morphs into a full-size magazine, it's time for a station break to observe the passing of an icon. After all, we loved our old TV Guide. (Although we've probably not seen the last of it; the digest remains one of those publications that collectors like to hoard. A recent eBay auction netted $86 for a 1953 issue featuring "Superman" George Reeves on its cover.)

Here are some TV Guide tidbits to remember:

First cover: Lucille Ball and her newborn son, Desi Arnaz Jr.

Cost of the first issue: 15 cents

Going collector's rate for the first issue: $2,000

Most valuable cover: A Jan. 23, 1953, New York regional edition featuring Marilyn Monroe, which is now worth $3,000.

Cost of last digest-size issue: $2.49

Viewers' choices, then: The first TV Guide covered three networks: ABC, NBC and CBS.

Viewers' choices, now: The final digest version, which included various regional and cable editions, covered nearly 400 channels.

TV nation, then: There were television sets in 20.4 million U.S. households during the 1952-53 television season, representing 44.2 percent of American homes.

TV nation, now: During the 2004-05 TV season, there were sets in 109.6 million U.S. households, representing 98.2 percent of American homes.

Repeat performances: Lucille Ball appeared on the cover of TV Guide 34 times.

Repeat performances, Part II: Johnny Carson closely follows Ball's record; the late-night talk-show host appeared on the magazine's cover 28 times. Michael Landon and Mary Tyler Moore come in third place, tied at 27 covers apiece.

Three is the magic number: Landon is the only person to have appeared on three consecutive covers of the magazine.

Stage run: With the final, Oct. 9 issue, there have been a total of 2,741 digest covers.

October 17, 2005

Beatles Beat Out Lucy!

The Beatles were singled out on Friday as the most influential entertainers of the past 100 years, beating out the likes of Elvis Presley, Charlie Chaplin, and Mickey Mouse, according to a survey conducted by show business newspaper Variety.

Behind the Fab Four's first-place finish, were in alphabetical order: jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong, television comedienne Lucille Ball, movie legends Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe, cartoon hero Mickey Mouse and singers Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

Variety said the Beatles were named "Icons of the Century" because they were the entertainment personalities who made the biggest impact on the industry and the world in the past 100 years.

The newspaper published a list of 100 entertainers from all branches of show business, including actors, directors, screenwriters, musicians, television presenters, animals, comedians and cartoon characters. Among other names on the list were Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash and Lassie.

The winners were chosen by Variety editors based on polling of entertainment industry professionals and Variety staff and by online voting by the public on variety.com.

Among the criteria for selection were a performer's commercial, creative, political and social impact and even whether their image was presented -- like James Dean's -- on a t-shirt.

The list was to be published in Variety's Sunday issue to celebrate the paper's 100th anniversary. "It seemed only natural to celebrate 100 of the people who gave us something to talk about," said Steven Gaydos, the paper's executive editor.

October 14, 2005

Lucie Arnaz To Host Rapaport Center Ribbon Cutting

Lucie Arnaz will be in her mother’s hometown this week to host the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Rapaport Center, home of the Desilu Playhouse -- Jamestown’s newest Lucy-Desi attraction -- on Friday morning (October 14) at 10 a.m.

The renovation of the former Rite Aid Pharmacy at the intersection of Third and Main Streets in downtown Jamestown was made possible by a generous donation from William and Mary Rapaport of East Amherst, New York. Named for the studio where “I Love Lucy” was filmed, the Desilu Playhouse features exact replicas of the Ricardos’ New York City apartment and the Hollywood hotel suite where Lucy set her nose on fire with William Holden, as well as a life-sized wall mural of the original studio audience, a “Vitameatavegamin” opportunity, memorabilia from the 1950s including an “I Love Lucy” bedroom set, and more. The second floor of the Rapaport Center houses the Tropicana Room Conference Center.

As part of Friday’s celebration, the Jamestown High School A Cappella Choir Madrigal Singers, under the direction of Norman Lydell, will perform the “I Love Lucy” theme song, and some “surprise” entertainment can be expected. The event is open to the public, and admission to the Desilu Playhouse will be free all day (10 a.m.-5:30 p.m.).

October 15, 2005, is the 54th anniversary of the first broadcast of “I Love Lucy”, the most popular sitcom ever on television. According to TV Guide, “Lucy” is on television 24 hours a day, seven days a week, somewhere in the world; it has been broadcast in 77 countries, in 22 languages. TV Guide also recognized Lucille Ball as having the face that has been seen more often by more people than the face of anyone else who ever lived.

For more information about the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, call or visit the Lucy-Desi Gift Shop, 300 N. Main Street, Jamestown, NY 14701, (716) 484-0800 (toll-free: 1-877-LUCY-FAN) or online at www.lucy-desi.com. Hours for the Lucy-Desi Museum at 212 Pine, the Desilu Playhouse at 2 W. 3rd Street, and the Lucy-Desi Center Gift Shop are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays.

Historical Calendar features Lucille Ball

Whether it's a photo of the Rat Pack in the early 1960s on stage at the Sands in Las Vegas or a 1910 shot of the Reno Evening Gazette, the 2006 Nevada Historical Calendar holds many surprises.

The 2006 Nevada Historical Calendar features 13 historical photos. The cover features a fourth anniversary celebration in 1956 of the Sands in Las Vegas. They include (from left) Lucille Ball, Loretta Young, Danny Thomas, Marlene Dietrich, Jack Entratter, Mitzi Gaynor and Esther Williams.

The calendar, published annually for almost 30 years by Nevada Magazine, features 13 historical photos in an oversized 101/2- by 14-inch format, to give people plenty of room to write appointments and notes, said magazine publisher Richard Moreno.

The calendar also includes a photo of snowy streets in 19th-century Virginia City, the Joseph Platt Store in Carson City and the Minden School, circa 1914.

The calendars, which regularly sell for $10.50 each, will be priced at $6 each or two for $10 from Oct. 24 through Oct. 28 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Paul Laxalt Building, 401 N. Carson St.

October 12, 2005

Teen Star of Movie Remake - Yours, Mine and Ours

To most teenagers, Drake Bell lives the perfect life. He stars on his own TV show, Drake & Josh on Nickelodeon. He just finished his latest movie and a new album.

In November, Bell, 19, will appear in the movie Yours, Mine and Ours, a remake of the 1960s film starring Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda. The movie depicts the life of a family of 18 kids, created after handbag designer Helen North (Rene Russo) marries Coast Guard Adm. Frank Beardsley (Dennis Quaid). In the movie, Bell plays second-oldest kid Dylan, a graffiti artist who plays guitar.

Growing up in Orange County, Calif., Bell started with roles in Jerry Maguire with Tom Cruise, and High Fidelity and The Jack Bull, both starring John Cusack.

In January 2004, Nickelodeon turned his The Amanda Show segment into Drake & Josh. When it premiered, the show gave Nickelodeon its highest-rated live-action launch in 10 years.

Now, after scoring a Kids Choice Award nomination, the show only trails Nickelodeon's Zoey 101 as cable's highest-rated show for teens.

In addition to acting, Bell also has a recording career. His new album, Telegraph, released last month under his own label, contains 12 songs written and produced by Bell. The album also includes I Found a Way, the Drake & Josh theme song. Though the album is classified pop-rock, Bell says his main influence comes from the Beach Boys and the Beatles.

Bell wants to continue his acting career on TV and in the movies. He wants to model his career after Leonardo DiCaprio but said that continuing with his music is the most important thing.

To promote the album, Bell begins a three-state tour on Friday in West Palm Beach and then the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center Saturday. The concert is at 7pm Saturday in Feguson Hall. Tickets are $26. Call 813-299-7827 for more information.

Saturday Marks a Big Anniversary

This Saturday, October 15th marks the big anniversary of the hit "I Love Lucy" TV show, which premiered on CBS on October 15th, 1951 starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz! Visit "Everything Lucy" for a complete history and career of the most famous redhead ever, Lucille Ball.

October 11, 2005

Mame, Now Opening in June '06

The creative team has been assembled for the upcoming Kennedy Center production of Mame. In addition, the Jerry Herman musical has also pushed back its opening date. It will now open at the Eisenhower Theatre on June 1st after beginning previews on May 27th; it will run though July 2nd. The show was originally to have played its limited engagement from February 18th through March 26th.

Starring Christine Baranski (Rumors, Sweeney Todd at the Kennedy Center, "Cybill") in the title role of the exuberant Mame Dennis Burnside, Max Von Essen (Dance of the Vampires, Les Miserables) as the older Patrick and Emily Skinner (The Full Monty, Side Show) as Agnes Gooch (with more casting underway), the show will be helmed by Eric Schaeffer. Joining him in bringing the show to life will be choreographer Warren Carlyle (associate choreographer of the Oklahoma! revival and The Producers), set designer Walt Spangler (Hollywood Arms), costume designer Gregg Barnes (Side Show, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Tony Award-nominee for the Flower Drum Song revival) and lighting designer Dan Wagner (eight-time Helen Hayes Award winner for Washington D.C.-area shows).

The story of a boy's loving but complex relationship with his unconventional aunt, Mame was first adapted by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee from Patrick Dennis' 1955 fictionalized memoir into a hit play starring Rosalind Russell (who also starred in the film version). Lawrence and Lee, with Herman, refashioned the piece into a musical in 1966, and it starred Angela Lansbury. She, Beatrice Arthur and Frankie Michaels all won Tonys, and the show was nominated for five others, including Best Musical. The musical was then turned into another film starring Lucille Ball, and an ill-fated 1983 Broadway revival that also starred Lansbury folded in a little after a month.

Mame tickets will go onsale to the general public on November 7th. Visit The Kennedy Center for more information.

October 07, 2005

Pregnancy Considered Top Secret

Early in 1951, when the great funny lady Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz made the pilot episode that sold CBS on 'I Love Lucy,' Lucy was very pregnant with daughter Lucie Arnaz. I Love Lucy was almost cancelled before it even got started! The network couldn't show her pregnant! That just wasn't done! Instead of canceling her show, the network decided that Lucy's stomach would be hidden behind furniture at all times. For the cameras, they hid the pregnancy as much as they could.

A couple of years later, when Lucy was pregnant with son Desi Jr., they realized that they couldn't hide the pregnancy so they took a chance and went a different route. Lucy's pregnancy was mirrored by her TV character's pregnancy. Instead of conforming to society's standards, they revolutionized the entire television industry. TV history was made on Jan. 19, 1953, when the episode that gave birth to 'little Ricky' was watched by 44 million viewers -- or 72 percent of U.S. homes with TV.

My how times have changed!

October 06, 2005

DVD Release Revisits Golden Age of Comedy

Time-Life transports you back to the golden age of television with the release of a stunning gift-set comprising a 5 Volume DVD collection of classic TV comedy sketches, a 15 track CD album of hit songs of the era and a 16-page colour reference guide to the shows and the stars, available to buy from 17th October 2005!

The Golden Age of Comedy collection chronicles the formative years of live television, a time when a host of comedic talents transferred their craft from the vaudeville stage to become television’s first stars. From the wealth of variety shows that dominated the US TV schedules in the ‘50s sprung an entire generation of comedians who hosted and guest-starred in them.

Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Martin & Lewis, Abbott & Costello, Milton Berle, Sid Caeser, Red Skelton, The Three Stooges, Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, Phil Silvers and many others conquered the new medium and became television royalty.

Many of the top programmes were broadcast on UK TV and became as popular in Britain as they were at home. Lucille Ball, Jack Benny, Burns & Allen, Abbot & Costello, Red Skelton and Phil Silvers found fame on both sides of the pond, with Bob Hope and Sid Caesar even recording shows for the UK’s own ITV and BBC networks.

The legacy of these performers and the recordings that survive them continue to inspire comedians and delight audiences of today, the world over. For many they remain the greatest comedy heroes of all time. Now, Time-Life has scoured the US television archives to track down these classic recordings and restore them for the new ‘DVD generation’. With over 8 hours of highlights from thirteen different shows, the Golden Age of Comedy forms one of the most unique and comprehensive compilations of television’s earliest and best comic moments.

The bonus audio CD included with the DVD collection is from Time Life’s hugely popular Fabulous Fifties series and features 15 hits by top artists from the year 1954. It includes original recordings from Perry Como (Papa Loves Mambo), Alma Cogan (Bell Bottom Blues), Doris Day (If I Give My Heart To You), Billy Eckstine (No-one But You) and Nat King Cole with the evergreen classic Smile; a fitting soundtrack to the DVD series.

Lucy and Desi are featured on Volume 2, "Bob Loves Lucy" on the show The Bob Hope Chevy Show from 21st October 1956!