Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, August 13, 2007

Dear Fellow Lucyfans:

Remembering Merv Griffin and Mel Shavelson

Was sorry to hear of the passing of entertainer/businessman Merv Griffin yesterday (August 12) and of writer/director Mel Shavelson on August 8. Griffin died of prostate cancer at the age of 82; Shavelson died of natural causes, and was 90.

Both men had worked over the years with Lucille Ball. Griffin, a longtime television talk show host, featured Lucy as a guest on many of his programs over the years. One -- circa 1971 -- also featured Lucy's second husband Gary Morton, and revealed that Gary and Merv had once worked together back in the early 1950s, when Griffin was a vocalist with the Freddie Martin band and Gary was a stand-up comic.

In 1973, Merv gave audiences a first glimpse of Lucy appearing in the title role of "Mame," and in 1974, when the film was released, he devoted an entire show to its premiere at the Los Angeles Cinerama Dome theatre. Yet another famous Griffin episode (that of June 24, 1982) saluted the great Ethel Merman, with Lucy, Ginger Rogers, composers Jule Styne, Hal David and Jerry Herman all taking part.

Griffin's success with the talk show genre -- his show lasted more than 20 years -- was often attributed to his ability to listen. Celebrities flocked to the show because Merv listened to what they had to say. "If the host is sitting there thinking about his next joke," he once explained, "he isn't listening."

Griffin was also a game-show maven, having parlayed his "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune" creations into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. When he was hospitalized a month ago, he was at work on yet another new game, "Merv Griffin's Crosswords."

Mel Shavelson, longtime writer on Bob Hope's radio show, went on to write or co-write more than 35 movies, and to direct a dozen films. He was nominated for best screenplay Oscars for "The Seven Little Foys," the 1956 comedy that starred Hope as legendary vaudevillian Eddie Foy, and for the romantic comedy, "Houseboat." He also directed both films.

In 1967, Shavelson teamed up with Lucy for what was to be her most successful film, "Yours, Mine & Ours," co-starring Henry Fonda and Van Johnson. Lucy had first optioned the true story of a couple raising 18 children in 1960, and various writers had worked on the project over the years. Shavelson was finally able to fashion the various real-life vignettes into a screenplay, but as a director he and Lucy often "had words" on the set. When shooting finished, he remarked that it was the first time he'd ever worked with 19 children -- and Lucy burst into tears. They did not speak again for several months -- but both were elated when the film turned out to be one of the year's biggest winners at the box office.

Shavelson served three terms as president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and was on the writing program faculty at University of Southern California. His autobiography, "How to Success in Hollywood Without Really Trying, PS: You Can't," was published earlier this year.

Jamestown Report Card: Another Great Weekend

The results are in: last weekend's "Birthday" celebration in Jamestown, New York, was another great success, with most of the festival events totally selling out, and the streets filled with many new faces. According to one of our friends, who sells memorabilia at these events, "This was one of the most succcessfull weekends ever in Jamestown. They had a very, very good turn out. If I'm not mistaken, I think MORE people showed up at this weekend than even last May...which, as you know, was very successful for the museum. Also, what was NOTICEABLY different this time...was that there were MANY new faces...first-timers...We repeatedly heard: 'this is our first time up here'".

We will post photos from the Birthday Weekend in the next few days.

The weekend opened on Friday, August 3, with an announcement by New York State Senator Cathy Young that New York State is awarding $100,000 to the Lucy-Desi Center for its future development. Executive Director Ric Wyman then announced that the Center will be using this grant to purchase a property in downtown Jamestown that will be the relocated and expanded home of the Lucy-Desi Museum.

Wyman revealed that the location of the new Museum will be 10 W. 3rd Street, in a building adjacent to the Desilu Playhouse. A major new attraction for visitors will be the exhibit of Lucy's 1972 gold Mercedes-Benz. The expanded offerings will also feature never-before-displayed items from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's wardrobe, costumes and personal memorabilia.

The Lucy-Desi Center hopes to have the new Museum location up-and-operational by spring of 2008. We will have more information about the new facility in the months to come.

Have a great week everybody.


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