Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Monday, November 5, 2007

Dear Fellow Lucyfans:

Carol Burnett Saluted on PBS Tonight

Actress-comedienne Carol Burnett will be profiled on PBS' "American Masters" series this evening, with a 90-minute special entitled "Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character." (The program airs 9-10:30PM on the East and West Coasts... But PBS stations seem to schedule things differently in different cities, so double check your local listings for exact day and time in your area.)

The special has received rave reviews... Here's a sample:

Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character," Nov. 5, PBS

By Harry Forbes Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Public television's long-running biography series, "American Masters," has already paid homage to the first great lady of television comedy in its excellent Lucille Ball profile, "Finding Lucy," a few seasons back.

Now, it's the turn of a lady with whom Ball frequently worked and hugely admired. "Carol Burnett: A Woman of Character" airs on PBS stations Monday, Nov. 5, 9-10:30 p.m. EST (check local listings). As actress Jenna Elfman observes appreciatively here, assessing Burnett's appeal, "She never was cynical. The humor was never based in insults, bitterness, cynicism. It was purely based out of humor."

As with the Ball special and most of the "American Masters" series, there's a heavy emphasis on the subject's work. And so it is that there are bountiful, and very funny, clips from Burnett's long-running series (which ended in 1978 after more than 280 episodes), her early work on "The Garry Moore Show," her Broadway musical "Once Upon a Mattress" (which has aired -- with Burnett -- on television) and her more serious dramatic work, such as "Pete 'N Tillie" and "Friendly Fire."

The special -- directed by Kyra Thompson -- is framed by Burnett as she is today doing one of her trademark audience Q-and-A sessions; her responses as trigger-quick as ever.

She's had her share of ups and downs in her personal life, including alcoholic parents, necessitating her being raised by her loving grandmother; caring for her kid sister; divorces from her brief early marriage to Don Saroyan and later from her producer-husband Joe Hamilton; and her daughter Carrie Hamilton's struggle with addiction and later premature death from lung cancer, the last just as mother and daughter were preparing a play for Broadway about Carol's early years, "Hollywood Arms."

Some of the scars of her unhappy childhood worked their way into the bittersweet sketches on her show about a bickering Southern family, which struck chords with many viewers. Director Peter Bogdanovich observes, "Carol has an enormous vulnerability, and we sense it, we know it; she's been wounded by life."

Burnett speaks of those travails throughout the film with the same directness that has always characterized her public persona.

There are interviews with Carol's repertory company of Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner, Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence, as well as colleagues like Betty White, Florence Henderson, Phyllis Diller, Tracey Ullman, Garry Shandling and Julie Andrews. The memorable teaming of Burnett and Andrews at Carnegie Hall in 1962 is recalled in a few priceless black-and-white clips.

Her writers -- like Gail Parent and Ken & Mitzi Welch, who wrote much of her early material -- provide interesting insight into the lady's comic style, her insistence that there be no temper tantrums on the set, and her skittishness about singing "as herself" when not in character.

As writer Kenny Solms aptly summarizes, "She gave of herself to the public by showing the funny parts in all of us. Carol is the Everyman. So we could always root for Carol Burnett because she was one of us."

Catching Up with the Mail

Many thanks to everyone who's been sending news-filled e-mails the past week or so... Here are just a few items I thought I'd share...

Peter Ennamorato of upstate New York wrote to share photos of a "Lucy inspired" Halloween pumpkin, carved by his friend Peter Marmonis, Jr. --

Peter E. was also saddened by the recent death of performer Robert Goulet, who entertained just six weeks ago (Sept. 20) at the Palace Theatre in Syracuse. Here's a picture of Goulet and Peter at the after-show reception:

And longtime Lucyfan Barry Barsamian wrote to share some pictures from the annual Thalians Ball, held in Los Angeles two weekends ago. Here's a pic of Barry with Stefanie Powers:


"I Love Lucy Square" Ceremony November 15

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that the Los Angeles City Council had voted to rename the intersection of Melrose Avenue and Plymouth Boulevard near Paramount Studios "I Love Lucy Square," in honor of both Lucille Ball and restaurant owner Lucy Casada.

We now know that the official ceremony will take place on Thursday afternoon, November 15, at 4PM.

We will report any additional details as they become available.

Lucie Back at Birdland

Lucie Arnaz will perform at New York's Birdland jazz club -- for two nights only -- November 18 and 19, 2007. Appearing with her are two of her children, Katharine and Joe Luckinbill, with musical direction by Ron Abel.

The shows start at 7PM each night. Birdland is located at 315 West 44th Street -- in the heart of Manhattan's famed "theater district."

For reservations or other information, call (212) 581-3080, or visit the Birdland web site at:

Kaye Ballard Stars in Palm Springs Follies

Actress-comedienne Kaye Ballard, beloved to many Lucyfans for her portrayal of Kaye Buell in Desi Arnaz's final TV series, "The Mothers-in-Law," will appear in this year's staging of "The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies."

The theme for this year's production is "Tin Pan Alley."

Ms. Ballard is scheduled to appear in the show October 30th through December 31, 2007.

For complete information about the show, please visit the Follies web site at:

"Make Room for Daddy" DVDs due January 22

S'more Entertainment will release a 6th season set of "Make Room for Daddy" DVDs on January 22, 2008. Included in the package are all 32 episodes of the 1958-59 season, including the show in which Lucy and Desi appeared as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.

These programs are reportedly "complete" and transferred from the original broadcast footage.

Also included in the set is a 12-minute blooper reel, and new interviews with cast members Marjorie Lord, Angela Cartwright and Sid Melton.

Have a great week everybody!

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