Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, November 7, 2005

Dear Lucyfans,

Lucy Cello in Jamestown

The "loaded cello" used by Lucille Ball in the pilot episode of I Love Lucy, has found a new home -- at the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown, NY. The instrument, originally owned and redesigned by performer "Pepito" (Jose Perez), was purchased on the Museum's behalf by a group of Lucy-Desi fans last summer, when the cello, and other Lucy-related articles were offered in a Hollywood auction. The following news release, issued this past weekend by the Lucy-Desi Center in Jamestown, explains further:

Jamestown, NY – The possibility of acquiring a significant artifact in the history of the creation of “I Love Lucy” inspired supporters of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center to step forward as founding members of the Center’s Acquisition Society.

The cello credited with helping to found the most popular show ever on television was offered this summer as part of a Hollywood memorabilia auction in Beverly Hills. In response to the cello’s availability, friends of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center joined forces to launch an Acquisitions Society so that key artifacts could be secured for the Center.

Jamestown area residents who are founding members of the Acquisitions Society are the Bud and Deanna Black Family, Chuck and Pat Brininger, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Mary Hunt, Mike Latone, Lucy-Desi Center board treasurer John Lloyd, and Ric Wyman. Other founding members include Joel Ashley, Bill Rapaport, and board members Desi Arnaz, Jr., Lucie Arnaz, Wanda Clark, Eric Cohler, Mary Rapaport, and Melody Thomas Scott.

In 1950, when Lucille Ball was asked to move her successful radio series to television, she agreed on one condition: her husband, Desi Arnaz, would be cast in the role of her TV husband.

CBS executives balked, believing the American public wouldn’t accept an all-American redhead being married to a Latin bandleader. To prove the network wrong, Lucy and Desi launched a successful vaudeville tour. Their friend Jose Perez, known on the vaudeville circuit as Pepito, The Spanish Clown, developed several skits for the couple to take on the road. The most famous of these cast Lucy as “The Professor” who breaks into Desi’s performance and insists on auditioning for the band. The skit was so successful, Lucy and Desi worked it into the pilot episode of “I Love Lucy” and again in episode 6 of the show’s first season.

After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Perez, their estate was left to Biola University in California. When University staff familiarized themselves with the contents of the Perez home, they made an amazing discovery: Pepito’s cello—complete with the plunger. Inside the cello Pepito had safely stored a 1950 Western Union telegram from Lucy and Desi, thanking him for his help. Providing ultimate authenticity, the telegram reads“…Prop cello the hit of my offering. We love you very much and appreciate you even more. Lucy & Desi.” Lucy-Desi Center staff are making plans to unveil the cello early next year at the Center’s new Desilu Playhouse.

The Acquisition Society's winning bid for the cello was reportedly $30,000 -- although a recent issue of "Antiques and Collecting Magazine" placed the total (including fees, etc.) closer to $35,400! Here are photos of the cello from the auction catalog:

Desi Arnaz Performance on New DVD

In 1972, the Tony Awards presentation included a salute to lyricist Lorenz Hart, for which Desi Arnaz recreated one of the numbers he had introduced in Rodgers and Hart's 1939 Broadway musical, "Too Many Girls." The number: "She Could Shake Her Maracas." Happily, the 1972 presentation was preserved on video tape, and Desi's number is now one of 23 great performances presented on "Broadway's Lost Treasures -- Volume III," just released by Acorn Media.

Also on the disc are Julie Andrews (recreating songs from both "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot"); Gwen Verdon and Ray Walston (in a number from "Damn Yankees"); Zero Mostel (doing "Comedy Tonight" from "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum"); Angela Lansbury (performing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from "Gypsy"), and many, many more... If you enjoy Broadway musicals, you will love this disc -- and the two volumes of show stoppers that preceded it!

Charles Lane Gathering

Last week we shared with you some photos taken at the recent "Legacy of Laughter" seminar in Jamestown and the Madelyn Davis book signing in Los Angeles. Here are a few pictures taken at Charles Lane's special appearance in Santa Monica, CA, on October 23:

As we reported at the time, Mr. Lane -- at the ripe old age of 100+ -- was guest of honor at a special screening of the 1962 motion picture, "The Music Man," in which he appeared. Lane participated in a pre-screening interview, recalling the highlights of his long career. He was most appreciative of the fact that this was the first time his name ever appeared on a theatre marquee. Afterward, he happily sat for pictures with some of his family, fans and friends:

Mr. Lane's appearance was arranged by producer Garret Boyajian (above, standing left), who is currently preparing a feature-length bio-documentary about the actor entitled "You Know the Face." His associates include co-producer (and co-editor) George Ridjaneck (above, standing right), and Associate Producer (and Photographer) Jeff Scott (above, kneeling).

Assisting with the presentation were volunteers Pam Palesano (above, right) and Ted Tessensohn (above, left). (Events like this wouldn't happen without caring volunteers!)

Among Mr. Lane's special guests were his children Alice (above, left) and Tom (above, right)...

... and his longtime good friend, actor Robert Donner (above).

Also in attendance were such longtime admirers as artist Rick Carl (above), who designed the posters and artwork for the Lane appearance...

Michael Stern (above)...

... Julie Shepperd (above, left) and actress/impressionist Suzanne LaRusch (above, right).

(Photos courtesy of GAB Entertainment)

Have a great week everybody!


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Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used with permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
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