April 24, 2006

Lucie Arnaz and daughter help open beleagered Theater

America loved Lucy, but Miami loves Lucie.

The Playhouse, Coconut Grove located in Miami Florida had closed it's doors last month prior to the opening of Sonia Flew, in which Lucie Arnaz is to star with her daughter Katharine D. Luckinbill.

Lucy Arnaz and daughter, Kate LuckinbillOutside the closed doors, Arnaz joins the theater staffers whose paychecks have bounced. Also gathered are the media and supporters of the play, rallied by Arnaz, who has told them that Sonia Flew is an important Cuban story to tell. Daughter Kate, a student at the University of Miami, has quietly slipped into the gathering with two other members of the cast.

To show her commitment, Arnaz matched a $50,000 donation from Bacardi USA for Sonia Flew's opening. That gets others to give.

After a 2 1/2-hour meeting, Playhouse board chair Shelly Spivack stands together with Arnaz before the television cameras to announce that the play will run at least two weeks. A third week may be added, she says, if the community packs the house and supports it financially.

This play is important to Lucie as she shares a professional theater stage with her 21-year-old daughter for the first time. Kate (named after Katharine Hepburn and also the daughter of another actor, Laurence Luckinbill) plays a younger Sonia in 1961 Cuba, and when the scene shifts to the present, plays Sonia's daughter.

It's Kate's first serious role.

Mother and daughter playing mother and daughter. And doing it with the history of being daughter and granddaughter to two of the most beloved figures on American television. Both are women who, while honoring their pedigree, want to be seen for themselves.

To prepare for their roles, mother and daughter have dipped into the Cuban side of their heritage - something Arnaz has been doing in the four years since she has been in Miami acting in three other productions at the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

For more information about the Coconut Grove Playhouse, or on Sonia Flew, visit their web site at http://www.cgplayhouse.com/.

April 20, 2006

What's all the Hoopla over the Cruise Baby!

With all the news of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes's birth of their baby girl, you'd think that was the first celebrity birth. But 53 years ago was arguably, one of the most-covered births of the 20th century.

Actually it was two births one in a hospital and one on a TV sitcom.

On Jan. 19, 1953, Lucille Ball gave birth to a boy named Desiderio Arnaz IV at Cedars of Lebanon hospital in Los Angeles.

That evening, Lucy Ricardo, Ball's character on the hit TV series "I Love Lucy," had a son called Little Ricky before a record 44 million television viewers in one of modern media's first examples of art and life intermeshing.

Lucy Clown CostumeWithout all the media outlets that we have today from blogs to cable news shows, the Arnaz baby was a big story in newspapers worldwide, and on the radio, not to mention the famous TV Guide issue.

The hugely popular series "I Love Lucy" was thrown into a turmoil at the start of its second season in the autumn of 1952 when Lucille Ball announced she and co-star Desi Arnaz were expecting a baby. The production team agreed the only solution for the show was to have Lucy Ricardo have a baby, too.

The bosses at CBS were alarmed. No series character had ever been pregnant before. In fact, the word "pregnant" was banned from the network.

The early "Lucy" episodes that season brought a scattering of complaints about how showing pregnancy on TV was in bad taste.

Aware of a possible backlash, producer Jess Oppenheimer arranged for a Catholic priest, a Jewish rabbi and a Protestant minister to review the scripts and attend the filmings. The word "pregnant," for example, was substituted in the dialogue with "expecting a baby."

As the real-life delivery approached, Oppenheimer and writers Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll Jr. faced another challenge: What sex should baby Ricardo be? One suggestion was to film two endings to the birth episode one with a baby boy, one with a girl and at the last minute, insert the ending that matched Ball's real baby.

Ultimately, Desi Arnaz decided the TV baby would be a boy, whether it matched the real one or not.

"Lucy gave me one girl (Lucy Arnaz), she might give me another," Desi Arnaz reasoned. "This is my only chance to get a son. You give me a boy on TV."

As it turned out, timing of the TV baby was easy: Ball was having a Caesarean section. Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV was born in the morning, and Little Ricky Ricardo was born that night.

The news was flashed around the world, including to countries like Japan, where "I Love Lucy" was yet to appear. Little Ricky became a character on the show, acted alternately by twin boys, not Desi Jr.

There was even some tie-in merchandising, with Little Ricky dolls and other knickknacks becoming popular items in children's stores.

April 19, 2006

"I Love Lucy" Costumes Donated to Lucy-Desi Center

Two costumes worn in the classic I Love Lucy television series have been donated to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Lucille Ball’s hometown, Jamestown, NY.

Lucy Clown CostumeBoth costumes, a 13-piece clown outfit and a lion tamer ensemble complete with safari hat and bullwhip, were worn by Pepito Perez, a long-time friend of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Perez was responsible for helping develop Lucy and Desi’s 1950 vaudeville act which toured the country to prove to CBS Television that the American public would accept the redhead and the band leader as a comedy team. The following year, Pepito appeared in the pilot for I Love Lucy where he can be seen wearing his famous clown costume.

Later, Perez wore both costumes in "Lucy’s Show Biz Swan Song" known as Episode 52 to I Love Lucy aficionados worldwide. The storyline finds Pepito, the Spanish Clown auditioning for Ricky at the Tropicana Nightclub. In the scene, Pepito performs his world-famous baby crying act, does a lion tamer routine, and rides the world’s tiniest bicycle. The episode was filmed October 17, 1952 and aired later that year.

These original costumes were recently purchased by William and Mary Rapaport of East Amherst, New York. After the passing of Pepito's widow, many of the personal effects from the Perez Estate appeared on the Hollywood auction block. The Rapaports, staunch supporters of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, participated in the auction and immediately donated the costumes to the organization in Lucille Ball's hometown.

"We were happy to secure these rare costumes so that they can be shared with the thousands of folks who not only love Lucy, but who make the pilgrimage to her hometown each year," Bill Rapaport said. "We're glad that Jamestown celebrates the First Couple of Comedy in a first-class way and are happy to lend our support."

Mary Rapaport added, "One of the things that is especially touching to me is to see how the I Love Lucy show continues to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It's evident every time I visit the Lucy-Desi Museum and Desilu Playhouse in Jamestown. I hope these costumes will not only be enjoyed by all visitors, but will especially light up the faces of Lucy and Desi’s younger fans."

Last year, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center opened the Desilu Playhouse, a showplace devoted to the I Love Lucy television series. Jamestown's newest attraction was made possible primarily through private funding from the Rapaports. The Desilu Playhouse occupies the ground floor of the Rapaport Center at 2 W. Third Street in downtown Jamestown.

April 11, 2006

Bid for 'I Love Lucy' Doll Sets Record in Auction

An "I Love Lucy" doll with red hearts on her apron and stains on her feet sold for an unexpectedly high price of $880 to a Buffalo, New York toy collector who outbid an Ohio dealer and a Lucille Ball fan club member.

I Love Lucy DollThe doll is a commemorative relic from the 1950s era of the TV show starring the comedian. It has Ball's blue eyes, red hair and now, a new perch in Noreen Binkowski's cabinet since it sold last week at the Lodge Auction House on Cazenovia Street in South Buffalo.

The price was higher than the $575 value estimate in Binkowski's guide book and an $815 selling price notice of a similar doll that the auctioneer spotted in the newspaper.

"I Love Lucy is one of my favorite shows," said Binkowski who shares her collection of TV memorabilia and board games with her husband. "It just makes me laugh."

For the auctioneer Stephen L. Phillips the sale was fun for the surprise end price of $880 after bidding began at $200.

"We were all in shock," he said. It made him laugh to hear Binkowski walk out clutching a box with the doll inside as she said, "I just had to have it. I just had to have it."

April 07, 2006

Lucy-Desi Center Receives Forever Darling Donations

With plans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the premiere of Forever, Darling in Lucille Ball’s hometown, some recent donations to Jamestown, New York’s Lucy-Desi Center couldn’t be more timely!

San Francisco film collector and Lucy-Desi Museum member Ken Souza donated a 16mm print of the Forever, Darling trailer to the Center. This theatrical preview will be shown during Lucy-Desi Days Memorial Day Weekend Festival, May 26-28, in Jamestown.

And, locally, Jamestown resident Cecile Wilson surprised Lucy-Desi staff by stopping in last week to donate three original photographs of The First Couple of Comedy when they were here in February of 1956 for the world premiere of their final film together.

A special Forever, Darling Golden Anniversary Celebration is planned at the Reg Lenna Civic Center, the former Palace Theatre where the film premiered 50 years ago. The Saturday morning breakfast event will include stories from Jamestown natives about that famous weekend in Lucy-Desi history, never-published snapshots of the historic events that took place, some very special people who were involved in Lucy’s homecoming, and an exclusive video tribute. Dann Cahn, the film editor of Forever, Darling (and “I Love Lucy”) is coming from Los Angeles to share memories of working with the First Couple of Comedy. The film itself will be screened on Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m., also in the Reg Lenna Civic Center.

“Lucille Ball’s hometown is the most legitimate place in the country for artifacts and memorabilia of our First Lady of Comedy to be safely stored and cared for,” said Souza from his home in San Francisco. “Jamestown is lucky to be able to call her their very own, and I’m more than happy to support the Lucy-Desi Center there as they continue to make amazing strides in building a world-class attraction for all of us who need to keep humor in our lives.”

As an added bonus, when Souza learned that the Center was working to schedule flights for the Festival’s celebrity guests, he donated frequent flyer miles to bring “Ethel Mertz” impressionist (actress Rhonda Medina) to Jamestown from her home in Texas.

For information about or tickets for the Forever, Darling Golden Anniversary Celebration, 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.

April 05, 2006

Desilu Playhouse Offers "Saturday Night Special"

"Come Early or Stay Late!", that’s the invitation the Desilu Playhouse is extending to Saturday night’s Unexpected Guests’ audience.

The Unexpected Guests, Jamestown, New York’s own improv comedy troupe, offers two performances on the second Saturday of every month in the Tropicana Room above the Desilu Playhouse on the corner of Third and Main Streets in downtown Jamestown. The Guests’ 7:30 show is rated PG for families; the 10 pm show is rated R for adults. As with all improvisational comedy, these performances depend highly on participation from the audience to offer story lines, styles, script, and sometimes even performers!

The Unexpected Guests’ new home is the Tropicana Room, a reproduction of television’s most popular nightclub ever: Ricky Ricardo’s Tropicana Club from “I Love Lucy”. Located above the new Desilu Playhouse, it is the perfect venue for the intimate relationship needed between improv performers and their audience. The Unexpected Guests’ audience enters and exits the Tropicana Room through the Gift Shop of the Desilu Playhouse.

This weekend (April 8), the Desilu Playhouse is offering a Saturday Night Special with an admission price of only $5 between 7:00 and 11:00 p.m. Named after the studio in Hollywood where “I Love Lucy” was filmed, the Desilu Playhouse offers re-creations of the most familiar studio stage sets ever on television, plus memorabilia from the 1950s, a Vitameatavegamin opportunity, screenings, and more.

Tickets for both the Desilu Playhouse and The Unexpected Guests’ performances – also just $5 – are available at the door.

For more information about the Desilu Playhouse or The Unexpected Guests, call or visit the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center Gift Shop, 300 N. Main Street in downtown Jamestown, (716) 484-0800 (toll-free: 1-877-LUCY-FAN). Hours for the Lucy-Desi Museum at 212 Pine Street, 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.