Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, January 8, 2007

Dear Fellow Lucyfans:

Calling All Researchers: Looking for Lucy's Other Viv

We received an e-mail this past week from a gentleman in New Hampshire who is seeking information regarding his late aunt, one-time show girl Vivian Keefer. Apparently there had been a major rift in the family back in the 1920s, and our correspondent grew up knowing very little (if anything) about his aunt. For the past few years, he has been looking high and low for details about his once-famous relative. If anyone reading this letter has any info, we'd love to hear from you...

Here's what we know so far:

Vivian Keefer, like Lucy, was one of the girls who traveled to Hollywood in July, 1933, to appear as a Goldwyn Girl in Eddie Cantor's new picture, "Roman Scandals." Here's the well-known photo of the ladies arriving in LA. Lucy's the blonde on the far right, Vivian's the blonde in the middle (and in the close-up to the right):

Like Lucy, Vivian had been a New York model. Lucy was "The Chesterfield Girl," having appeared in that brand's print ads the previous spring. Vivian was "The Listerine Girl."

Unlike Lucy, Vivian had also been a successful Broadway chorus girl, having appeared in at least three major shows:

She was a member of the ensemble in 1930's "Girl Crazy," the George Gershwin hit that starred Ginger Rogers and featured a young newcomer with a blast-furnace voice named Ethel Merman. (Even the musicians were stellar: in the pit for "Girl Crazy" was the Red Nichols Orchestra, featuring Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Glenn Miller, Jimmy Dorsey, and Jack Teagarden.)

The following season brought "Earl Carroll Vanities of 1931," the Burton Lane-Harold Adamson musical that starred Lillian Roth and William Demarest. A young Vincente Minnelli designed the settings and many of the costumes. (Yes, Harold Adamson is the man who later wrote the lyrics to the "I Love Lucy" theme, William Demarest later replaced William Frawley in "My Three Sons," and Vincente Minnelli became... Vincente Minnelli!)

Vivian was also in the chorus of "Earl Carroll Vanities of 1932," which featured a young Milton Berle, actress-comedienne Helen Broderick, and a newcomer acting under the name Brice Hutchins. (Ms. Broderick very quickly moved to Hollywood, where she was featured in many of the Astaire-Rogers pictures; Mr. Hutchins also became a movie star -- using his real name, Robert Cummings.)

Lucy and Viv became friends on the train west, and the two of them -- plus a couple of other girls -- later shared a large apartment within walking distance of the Goldwyn Studios. Both ladies stayed with Goldwyn for a year (see publicity photo, left), appearing in both "Roman Scandals" (1933) and "Kid Millions" (1934). Both also were loaned to Darryl Zanuck's new 20th Century Pictures, which rented space on the Goldwyn lot, and appeared in "Bottom's Up" and "Moulin Rouge."

That, unfortunately, is where the trail ends. Lucy left Goldwyn in 1934 to join a stock-company at Columbia Pictures. We do not know what happened to Vivian. Ultimately, she married someone named Woods, and she was living in Florida when she passed away at age 69 -- on Lucy's birthday! -- August 6, 1978.

Again, if anyone has any additional information about Ms. Keefer that they wish to share, please contact us!

"The Untouchables" Comes to DVD

Desilu Productions' second-most-successful television series, "The Untouchables," starring Robert Stack, is coming to DVD April 3.

CBS plans to release all 28 episodes of season one (1959-60), but this initial set will include only the first 14 episodes (spread out over 4 discs). It will also include the two-part "Desilu Playhouse" production that inspired the weekly show.

Part Two of Season One will be released later in the year.

Have a great week everybody -- and, once again, Happy New Year!


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