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Letters from Lucyfans_____________
The following was e-mailed on 4/04/02:
From a Lucy Fan in Kankakee, Illinois:
Thanks for the info regarding Billy Wilder... What about Sylvester Weaver? He passed away in March, and the obituaries I saw in the newspapers and on the internet stressed his great career at NBC. There was no mention of Lucy, so can I assume they never worked together?
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What is it they say -- "Never assume"? Actually, Lucy and Sylvester "Pat" Weaver, who died March 15, worked together on at least one project -- but it was on radio, not television.
Weaver was the vice president in charge of radio and TV at Young & Rubicam advertising agency in the late 1940s. In December, 1948, he was instrumental in lining up his client, General Foods, to sponsor Lucy's CBS radio program My Favorite Husband.
Weaver was an old friend of Husband writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer. They had first worked together at a San Francisco radio station fifteen years earlier. By 1937, Oppenheimer had moved to Los Angeles, where he became a writer on The Packard Hour radio program -- and Weaver had gone to work for Y&R in New York. Packard was one of his clients.
Weaver, as the obituaries stressed, joined NBC in 1949, and helped the company develop its new television network. He not only gave birth to the concepts behind both The Today Show and The Tonight Show, but pioneered the idea of long-form specials, which he called "spectaculars." Among the first that he scheduled were Hallmark Hall of Fame's production of "Amahl and the Night Visitors" and Mary Martin's Peter Pan. The latter -- and many others -- were scheduled on Monday night, as NBC valiantly tried to woo viewers away from CBS' Monday powerhouse comedy -- I Love Lucy.
Weaver and Oppenheimer remained friends, and, in 1955, as Oppenheimer's five-year contract for I Love Lucy entered its final year, Weaver made him an offer he found hard to refuse: come to NBC and work on special projects. Oppenheimer handed in his resignation at Desilu, effective at the end of the 1955-56 season.
Sadly, as Oppenheimer steered the Ricardos and the Mertzes through their trip to Europe, Weaver's star at NBC started to fade. He was replaced as network president -- "kicked upstairs" to the position of Chairman -- and the network moved away from his philosophy of variety and innovation. He resigned a few months later. Essentially, by the time Oppenheimer arrived at NBC, Weaver was gone -- and, although he stayed on the payroll, Oppenheimer found himself with little to do.
For more about Sylvester Weaver, find a copy of his 1994 memoirs, The Best Seat in the House: The Golden Years of Radio and Television, published by Knopf.
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