August 22, 2013

Sale of ‘I Love Lucy’ Dress Drives Gains for Artfact

Last month the famous polka dot dress worn by Lucille Ball in "I Love Lucy", which was sold at auction by the auction house, Profiles in History for $140,000 increased the revenues of Artfact.

Profiles in History is one of many such houses that is a customer of Artfact, a Boston-based company that designs platforms, software, and e-commerce applications for the online auction industry.

Artfact said its July auction revenues increased by 142 percent on a year-to-year comparison basis. The number of transactions that were conducted on Artfact platforms was up sharply from July 2012.

“As Artfact continues to shape the future of the online live auction marketplace, making auction items more accessible and scalable to a global audience, we have seen a surge in bidding activity from collectors and dealers around the world,” Artfact CEO Rob Weisberg said in a statement. “Our roster of auction house partners also continues to grow as more houses embrace millions of online bidders coupled with increased demand delivered by Artfact’s online marketplace. This combination of bidder growth and new auction houses has driven Artfact’s robust growth.”

August 20, 2013

Memories of Her Big Sister, Vivian Vance

By GARY HERRON, Observer staff writer

Who didn’t love Lucy in the 1950s? Or even in reruns of “I Love Lucy,” which premiered in 1951, and ran ad nauseum for several decades.

Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball starred in the old sitcom, which just wouldn’t have been the same without the couple’s next-door neighbors and traveling companions, Fred and Ethel Mertz.

All four are long gone, and not many realize that the woman who portrayed Ethel Mertz, Vivian Vance, always called Albuquerque her hometown — even though she was born July 26, 1909, in Cherryvale, Kan., and attended high school in the Jayhawk State.
Why the loyalty to New Mexico?

Let’s ask someone who should know: her younger sister, Lou Ann Graham, who talked about her sibling on the Albuquerque Little Theatre stage for about an hour on July 31.

That’s the very same ALT stage where Vance got her start, back in 1930 – and one of the reasons Vance was so fond of the Duke City. Even after her first Broadway role, in the 1932 musical “Music in the Air,” she returned regularly.
Of course, her family, including Graham, was then living in Albuquerque — their father ran a store on the northwest corner of Broadway and Coal — and Vance was always close to her family. One sister married legendary New Mexico high school football coach and one-time Lobo Ralph Bowyer.

Graham recalled one amusing incident in which Graham, Vance and the Bowyers were eating at a restaurant in Cuba, N.M. Vance noticed a waitress kept glancing at their table and, when the waitress approached, muttered, “Here we go,” expecting a request for an autograph. Not to worry: “Aren’t you Ralph Bowyer?” the inquisitive waitress asked.

Vance’s days as Ethel were mostly what the 100 or so ALT visitors wanted to hear, and Graham had plenty of stories, plus a 33-minute video to show them. According to Lucille Ball in her autobiography (“Love, Lucy,” 1996), Vance and her were “extraordinarily compatible” once Vance had been selected to play Ethel Mertz in 1951.

Vance was “actually much younger” than her TV husband, William Frawley, and didn’t mind portraying Ethel in “dowdy clothes, no false eyelashes or eye makeup, and hair that looked as if she had washed and set it herself. But she drew the line at padding her body to look fatter.”

Graham, who attended Albuquerque High and the University of New Mexico, before living in France, San Francisco and other locations, is back “home” in the Duke City. She’s understandably proud of her sister, who was much more than Ethel Mertz, and had once been an understudy to Ethel Merman.

“Many people think she never did anything but Ethel Mertz,” Graham said. Maybe that’s because the role was played perfectly by Vance, who was always scheming with Lucy while trying to be the voice of reason, receiving four Emmy nominations for best supporting actress — and winning once, in 1954. (That Emmy is encased on a wall of ALT.)

After “I Love Lucy” ended, Ball starred in “The Lucy Show,” again with Vance — this time still her best friend but named Viv — on board. Many years and roles later, Vance’s body was ravaged by terminal breast cancer, and she wanted her sister nearby. Graham was called and told, “Vivian wants to die and she wants you there. In 1979, people didn’t do that,” she said.

“It took three weeks and she never lost her sense of humor,” Graham said, telling another humorous incident in which a nurse asked Vance, “Is there anything I can get you?” and Vance replied, “Yeah, another body.”

After she died, on Aug. 17, 1979, her ashes were scattered in San Francisco Bay.

“I could go on for another week with stories about my big sister,” Graham said, who touted Vance as a good decorator, someone who loved to garden, loved to cook and “tried to be our second mother … She was always very generous.”

For more on the late Vance, visit Graham’s website,

August 06, 2013

Lucille Ball Would be 102 Today - Happy Birthday Lucy!

Happy birthday Lucille Ball! Though the beloved comedienne and actress passed away at age 77 in 1989, she would have turned 102 if she lived today.

Even though she is no longer with us, Ball is still a big part of America's pop culture. We still "love Lucy" even today.

There are still "I Love Lucy" comedy festivals. In fact, The Lucille Ball Festival of Comedy met just this past weekend in Jamestown. You can still see Ball's influence on television today. Sitcoms today greatly benefit from Ball's brand of comedy. "I Love Lucy" is just as funny in today's world. The show still airs on the Hallmark channel and reruns of the show are just as funny today as they were back then. Ball is still a relevant part of the pop culture conversation. The Library of Congress even put together an exhibition in honor of "I Love Lucy's" 60th anniversary.

Lucille Ball's Polka-dot Dress Is A Big Hit At Auction In Hollywood

Lucille Ball's signature polka-dot dress and props from Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom have smashed expectations at a Hollywood auction. The items went under the hammer at a Profiles in History sale last week (30Jul13) and experts were left staggered as bids sailed past the estimate prices.

Ball's Lucy Ricardo dress was expected to sell for between $40,000 and $60,000, but it sold for $168,000, while a lot of sankara stones and a pyrotechnic bag from the Indiana Jones film went under the hammer for $72,000 - $64,000 more than the estimate.

Profiles in History bosses also raked in a fortune at a Hollywood sale over the weekend (28Jul13) when a selection of costumes from classic movie The Sound of Music sold for $1.3 million.

The garments included the main outfit worn by the Julie Andrews' character Maria, which was described in the auction handbook as "a heavy brown homespun Austrian-style dress with a wheat-coloured homespun blouse".

Floral lederhosen worn by cast members who played the Von Trapp children also went under the hammer.

Another highlight was a costume worn by late actor James Gandolfini in his final scene of The Sopranos, which sold for $22,000. The outfit was placed under auction before Gandolfini passed away from a heart attack while in Italy last month (Jun13).

Other big sellers included Steve MCQueen's signature brown tweed jacket from Bullitt, the original Charlie Chaplin 'Tramp' cane from Modern Times, and Judy Garland's 'Dorothy' dress from The Wizard of Oz, which sold for $360,000 - exactly twice its estimate.