Still in Love with Lucy
by Thomas Watson
Monday, December 16, 2002
Dear Fellow Lucy Fans,
Happy Holidays one and all! What with Christmas just around the corner, there seems to be very little "newsy news" to share, so for the next few weekly letters I thought we might just talk a little about Lucy... For each, I will use an e-mail/inquiry as a starting point...
We Love Lucy Member Mark Easley recently asked:
"Lucy's home on Roxbury Drive was very accessible to the public. No gates or bars in the front. As a result, many people probably sent fan mail to her home address. Did the post office deliver bags and bags a day to her home? What was the process that she went through to get her "real" mail and separate it from the fan mail? Did Wanda have to open every letter to see if it was from a family member or close friend?"Lucy did receive a lot of mail at the house, and a lot was sent directly to her office as well. Basically, Frank Gorey, who worked in Lucy's home, would go through the morning mail and pull out items that were easily recognizable as "personal" (i.e., from friends). These were called to Lucy and Gary's attention, and the rest was taken over to the office, where Wanda would add them to the batch that the postman had delivered.
Wanda would then divide the mail into three basic groups -- fan mail; business mail; and bills. She would review the business items and the bills with Gary and/or Lucy later in the day.
The fan mail included a wide variety of things -- everything from basic letters and requests for photographs, to special gifts, to items being sent to Lucy for autographing, etc. Wanda would prepare answers to the inquiries, address envelopes for photos, etc., and send or take an armful back out to Lucy (at the house) for autographing.
One time -- I know I have told this before -- a lady sent in a picture and asked that Lucy autograph it. Without really looking Wanda put it in the stack and out it went to the house... A little while later the phone rang -- it was Lucy. "I'd love to sign this beautiful picture," she said, "but do you think the lady knows it's of Ann Sheridan?"
Often times my job as Lucy and Gary's director of publicity required me to shuttle back and forth between the office and their home, and if a stack of mail were ready to go, I would take it one direction or another... I remember being at the house early one morning when the postman arrived, and I could not help but notice the magazines. I knew Lucy had long-running subscriptions to many publications, but the mailing labels surprised me... Many of them still read "Lucy Arnaz" or "Mrs. Desi Arnaz," etc. Even after 25 years, she'd never bothered to have them changed!
Seldom did mail arrive by the bags full. They did for a while in 1986, when Life with Lucy first went on the air -- and again in 1989 when Lucy left us... The latter was an incredible experience because it came in two waves: when Lucy was hospitalized and underwent heart surgery, tons of mail arrived -- at the home, the office, and especially the hospital -- literally from fans all over the world. Cards and notes arrived from celebrities, too, people like Red Skelton, Aldo Ray, Bob Hope, Lauren Bacall, Pearl Bailey, etc., etc., all wishing her a speedy recovery.
No sooner had Wanda and I made a dent in sorting the various cards and letters into manageable sub-categories for responses, than Lucy passed away, bringing yet another avalanche of mail. It arrived from young, old, black, white, straight, gay, literally all walks of life, all people who considered Lucy to have been an extension of their own families... It was heartwarming to see such an outpouring of affection... Lucie, Desi Jr., Gary and Wanda all agreed that every card and letter should be answered -- and we all worked on doing just that for the next four months!
So, Mark... that's just a little insight into Lucy's mail and how it was handled, at least during the latter years of her life. Many thanks for asking!
Have a great week everybody -- and not too much eggnog!
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