Still in Love with Lucy
by Thomas Watson
Monday, January 20, 2003
Dear Fellow Lucy Fans,
It's been a week of ups and downs, excitements and sadness... The latter, of course, arrived with the unexpected death last Friday of Richard Crenna, the veteran actor who played a teenager in the "Young Fans" episode of I Love Lucy back in 1952. Crenna died of pancreatic cancer. I had just seen him a few weeks ago at a holiday party, and he seemed to be in the best of health. Certainly his spirits were high as he and Bob Carroll reminisced about days gone by...
The first time I met Richard was in November of 1986 at a Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters' luncheon honoring Gale Gordon. Lucy and Gale had finished the final episode of Life with Lucy a few days earlier, and Lucy asked me to escort her. Richard was there, of course, along with Eve Arden, to applaud Gale's work in Our Miss Brooks.
Lucy and Crenna hugged when they met backstage. I knew at the time of Lucy's great affection for the man... A few weeks earlier, during one of the countless interviews Lucy had done to promote Life with Lucy, someone asked her if she had any favorite actors. She said no, not really, but that there were a few people she tried never to miss when they performed; one she mentioned in particular was Richard Crenna. "He seems to be able to do everything," she explained. "I worked with him when he was just starting out. Now he does movies, TV shows, TV movies, comedies, dramas, you name it. The only time I don't really dig it is when he has to play a villain. He's like Spencer Tracy -- he has one of those honest faces you want to believe in."
Richard thrilled us a couple of years ago when he agreed to appear in our Loving Lucy 2001 Convention banquet show. Not only did he appear (with good buddy Janet Waldo), he asked permission to write the material he and Janet would do. Their interplay was charming and the audience loved seeing them together again after so many years. But Richard had another surprise: he refused to take the small honorarium we paid our celebrity guests. "Just being part of it was payment enough," he said.
We are going to miss this talented, generous man. May God be with him.
* * * *
On a lighter note, we received a message last Wednesday from a Portland newspaper, asking to borrow photos of Joe and Michael Mayer, the second set of twins to play Little Ricky. We had posted the pictures as part of our "Lucy Photos of the Week," and the newspaper wanted to include one or both in an article they were doing on Friday about Joe -- whom we were happy to hear is alive and well and living in Portland. Brother Mike still lives here in Southern California. Both are happily married and have children of their own.
The article, by Nelle Nix, indicated that neither twin has many memories of working on I Love Lucy -- they were barely a year old when they started and four when they retired. Joe does have faint memories of the episode in which he and Mike were expected to crawl through wet cement bearing John Wayne's footprints:
"We both had new outfits with new red shoes, and we didn't want to get them dirty. Finally, they told Mike they'd get him new shoes, so he did it. As I recall, we got to eat the oatmeal (a stand-in for the cement) afterwards."
We will post the entire Nelle Nix article elsewhere on the web site later in the week.
Happy Martin Luther King Day everybody; have a great week!
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