Still in Love with Lucy

by Thomas Watson

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dear Fellow Lucyfans:

Happy New Year one and all! Many thanks for all the nice e-mails, holiday cards and, yes, Get-Well-Soon cards that came my way the past 10 days... It was certainly a Christmas to remember! (More on that below.)

Remembering Estelle Oppenheimer

We were saddened to learn of the death last Sunday of Estelle Oppenheimer, widow of I Love Lucy producer Jess Oppenheimer and mother of our good friend, Gregg Oppenheimer. She had been ailing for about a year. Her death on December 23rd came only a few days shy of the 19th anniversary of her husband's passing.

Born Estelle Weiss, she first met her future husband in 1942 while working at what was then the most famous music store in Hollywood -- Wallich's Music City, near the corner of Sunset and Vine. Jess, an established radio writer who by then was serving in the Coast Guard, had an office in the nearby Taft Building. Jess often wandered into Wallich's on his lunch hour, was immediately smitten by Estelle, and was surprised when she refused to date him. "It's nothing personal," she explained, "all the girls at the store make it a rule not to date service men."

Jess persisted, however, and the two dated for five years. They were married on August 5, 1947, honeymooned in Hawaii, and 13 months later welcomed daughter Joanne. Son Gregg was added to the family two and a half years after that.

Although Estelle was what the show business trade papers would have called a "non pro," electing instead to be a devoted wife and mother, she was close with many of the I Love Lucy cast and crew, and attended many of the Desilu-hosted special parties and events. Here's a photo of her with the Arnazes and Vivian Vance at a backstage party celebrating Jess' birthday:

Jess passed away on December 27, 1988.

Estelle is survived by Joanne and Gregg and their respective families.

Oh, My Aching Back!

Sorry to have missed last week's letter. Actually, I missed much of last week, period. Spent most of the last 10 days flat on my back, often wailing in pain (not a pretty sight!), courtesy of a couple of bad discs -- the spinal variety, not DVDs... Am happy to report, however, that I seem to be on the mend, and can now at least sit up long enough to answer a few e-mails and work on this web site... Hope to be back at my desk full time in the next week or so... Thanks again for all the nice cards and messages...

And, again, have a great New Years -- and great new year!

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