Book review: Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball

Ginger Rogers’ mother Lela became a stage mom to Lucy and many other aspiring actresses.

The book Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball I actually read last summer, on a transcontinental flight from Newark to San Diego. I meant to write about it then, but forgot. Now it’s nearly thirty years since Lucy died, so I guess it’s time.

If you don’t know, Lucy was the star of the most popular situation comedy in the US in the 1950s, I Love Lucy. She had successful programs in the 1960s as well, The Lucy Show/Here’s Lucy.

The existence of the book is a tale of its own. After Lucy died on April 26, 1989, her children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr., were tasked with wading through artifacts. Lucie came across a 300-page manuscript written by her mother c. 1964.

Most people, including Lucy’s closest friends, didn’t know about the existence of this work at all. Perhaps she didn’t want to share it because her portrayals would hurt her then-ex-husband Desi Arnaz. But he had died in 1986, so the book was published in 1996 and became a best-seller.

The details were astonishingly precise, starting with her birth on August 6, 1911, in her grandparents’ apartment in Jamestown, NY, in the southwest corner of the state. She had many challenges growing up, including her father dying at age 28 when she was not quite four.

She was raised by an extended family, including her beloved grandfather, who everyone called Daddy. Later, there was an what she thought was a legal injustice borne by Daddy which affected Lucy’s viewpoint throughout his life.

Lucy took almost any job in New York City: showgirl, extra in Broadway and road shows, modeling coats and dresses, posing for illustrators. It was as a “Chesterfield (cigarette) girl” that first got her to Hollywood.

Ginger Rogers’ mother Lela became a stage mom to Lucy and many other aspiring actresses. “Lela was the first person to see me as a clown with glamour.”

Many more tales were shared before she met this Cuban musician and band leader named Desi. They fell hard for each other, and married rather quickly after they met.

Keeping their marriage together, though, was challenging, as they were both on the road separately a lot. I Love Lucy, in part, was born from addressing that need.

If Lucille Ball, or her TV roles are interesting to you, or if you’re just trying how one young woman worked hard to make it in show biz, I highly recommend Love, Lucy.


Ken Levine: The History of Sitcoms podcast.

What’s My Line? game show (1954), Lucille Ball as mystery guest.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, or just Leonardo

The Last Supper was redone by such diverse artists as Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol.

leonardoLONG before Cher, Madonna or Beyonce, Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519) was simply the single-named Leonardo. He was “an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, painting, sculpting, architecture.”

His art is STILL in the news. From the 31 March 2019 New York Times: “It’s the most expensive painting ever auctioned. Now there’s no sign of it… Since a Saudi royal, most likely the crown prince, paid $450 million for ‘Salvator Mundi,’ it has vanished from view.”

People throw around the term “Renaissance man” to describe someone who is interested in many topics. Leonardo is the OG of the term, and during the period, no less. “He was a painter, architect, inventor, and student of all things scientific.”

Leonardo was “a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equalled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.”

You can read about the guy born in Anchiano, Tuscany from History.com or the Museum of Science or Britannica or a slew of other places.

Still, he’s best known for two works: the Last Supper (1495–98) and Mona Lisa (c. 1503–19). You can tell the impact of a cultural icon by the sheer number of parodies and remakes.

The Last Supper was redone by such diverse artists as Salvador Dalí and Andy Warhol. “Sculptor Marisol Escobar rendered [it] as a life-sized, three-dimensional, sculptural assemblage using painted and drawn wood, plywood, brownstone, plaster, and aluminum. This work, Self-Portrait Looking at The Last Supper, (1982–84) is in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

The Mona Lisa has been described as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.” Dalí and Warhol are among the many caricaturists.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of his death, I invite you to rediscover Leonardo.

Pop Hits 1940-1954, #1 on the charts

This song was in my father’s folk repertoire. Sometimes he’d sing it in my classroom, causing idle speculation that I had a crush on a girl in class.

Tennessee WaltzJoel Whitburn has compiled several books about the variety of pop hits from the Billboard charts plus other sources, and even before magazine was published. (He has a Pop Memories book going back to 1890!)

But the results are a tad confusing, because there were actually THREE different charts: Best Sellers (BS from 1940), Juke Box charts (JB from 1944) and Disc Jockey charts (DJ from 1945).

So I thought I’d pick out songs that charted at #1 ten weeks or more, or if there were none for that particular year, the songs that charted most often.

1940/2/10 In the Mood -Glenn Miller and His Orchestra – 13 weeks (including a week in 1939)

1941/3/29 Amapola (Pretty Little Poppy) – Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra; Bob Eberly & Helen O’Connell, vocal – 10 weeks.

1942/10/31 White ChristmasBing Crosby with the Ken Darby Singers, orchestra conducted by John Scott Trotter- 11 weeks; it also went to #1 DJ in 1945. A new version, with same backing, hit #1 for two weeks DJ in 1946. One of the biggest singles of all time.

1943/3/6 I’ve Heard That Song Before – Harry James and His Orchestra, Helen Forrest, vocal- 13 weeks.

1943/11/6 Paper Doll – Mills Brothers – 12 weeks. I loved those guys.

1944/1/15 Shoo-Shoo BabyAndrews Sisters – 9 weeks JB,

1944/8/5 Swinging On A Star – Bing Crosby, with The Williams Brothers Quartet, orchestra conducted by John Scott Trotter – 9 weeks BS; 8 weeks JB.

1945/2/10 Rum And Coca-Cola – The Andrews Sisters, orchestra conducted by Vic Schoen- 10 weeks JB; 8 weeks BS.

1945/9/15 Till The End Of Time – Perry Como, orchestra conducted by Russell Case -10 weeks JB; 8 weeks BS. This is based on Chopin’s Polonaise.

1946/3/16 Oh! What It Seemed To Be – Frankie Carle & his Orchestra, vocal by Marjorie Hughes – 11 weeks JB; 6 weeks BS. This track competed with a version by Frank Sinatra, orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl, which was #1 for ONLY 8 weeks DJ.

1946/5/25 The Gypsy – Ink Spots – 13 weeks JB; 10 weeks BS; 2 weeks JB.

1947/8/30 Near You – Francis Craig & his Orchestra, vocal by Bob Lamm – 17 weeks DJ; 13 weeks JB; 12 weeks BS.

1948/11/6 Buttons And Bows – Dinah Shore and her Happy Valley Boys – 10 weeks BS; 9 weeks JB; 5 weeks DJ.

1949/5/14 Riders In The Sky (A Cowboy Legend) -Vaughn Monroe & his Orchestra, vocal by Vaughn Monroe and the Quartet – 12 weeks DJ; 11 weeks BS; 10 weeks JB.

1950/3/25 If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked A Cake – Eileen Barton with the New Yorkers – 10 weeks DJ; 3 weeks JB; 2 weeks BS. Occasionally, my mother would sing this chorus.

1950/4/29 The Third Man Theme – Anton Karas – 11 weeks BS.

1950/5/6 The Third Man Theme – Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians, guitar solo by Don Rodney – 11 weeks JB.

1950/8/13 Goodnight Irene – Gordon Jenkins & his Orchestra and The Weavers – 13 weeks BS; 12 weeks JB; 8 weeks JB. This song was in my father’s folk repertoire. Sometimes he’d sing it in my classroom, causing idle speculation that I had a crush on a girl in class.

1950/12/16 Tennessee Waltz -Patti Page, orchestra conducted by Jack Rael – 13 weeks JB; 9 weeks BS; 8 weeks DJ.

1951/9/8 Because Of You – Tony Bennett, orchestra conducted by Percy Faith – 10 weeks JB; 8 weeks BS; 8 weeks DJ. His voice has changed a LOT over the years.

1951/12/29 Cry – Johnnie Ray, with The Four Lads – 11 weeks BS; 10 weeks DJ; 9 weeks JB. I only really know Johnnie Ray from references in other songs.

1952/3/15 Wheel Of Fortune – Kay Starr, orchestra conducted by Harold Mooney – 10 weeks JB; 9 weeks BS; 9 weeks DJ.

1952/9/13 You Belong To Me – Jo Stafford, orchestra conducted by Paul Weston – 12 weeks DJ; 5 weeks BS; 2 weeks JB. I remember this song surprisingly well.

1952/9/27 I Went To Your Wedding – Patti Page, orchestra conducted by Jack Rael – 10 weeks JB; 5 weeks BS; 2 weeks JB.

1953/5/16 The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart) – Percy Faith & his Orchestra, featuring Felicia Sanders – 10 weeks BS; 9 weeks DJ; 6 weeks JB.

1953/8/8 Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You) – Les Paul and Mary Ford – 11 weeks BS; 9 weeks JB; 3 weeks DJ.

1954/6/5 Little Things Mean A Lot – Kitty Kallen, orchestra conducted by Jack Pleis – 9 weeks BS; 8 weeks DJ; 7 weeks JB.

1954/8/7 Sh-Boom – The Crew-Cuts, orchestra conducted by David Carroll – 9 weeks DJ; 8 weeks JB; 7 weeks 7 weeks. The pop hits of rock and roll era are on the horizon.

For ABC Wednesday

Arctic permafrost no longer permanent

It’s easy to think planting a tree, bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, or forgoing a plastic straw is meaningless.

arcticWhen a new study shows “the Arctic has entered an ‘unprecedented state’ that threatens the entire planet” and it’s “a massive conglomeration of nearly 50 years of research,” it’s difficult to feel optimistic.

Nearly 50 years. The first Earth Day will be a half century ago come next year. I expected that things would be better, way better, on the planet, certainly not appreciably worse. “Because the Arctic atmosphere is warming faster than the rest of the world, weather patterns across Europe, North America and Asia are becoming more persistent, leading to extreme weather conditions.”

It’s easy to think planting a tree, bringing your reusable bags to the grocery store, or forgoing a plastic straw is meaningless. Yet my family does it anyway. Maybe (probably) it’s a certain arrogance but we are trying for the destruction of the planet to be less “on us.” So we have our hybrid car. We compost. We reuse.

But even as the Midwest US braced for a major, long-lasting blizzard called a “bomb cyclone” AGAIN this month, the regime was signing executive orders designed to further roll back energy and environmental regulations and promote the fossil fuel industry, apparently to meet his goal of making global warming worse.

Andrew Wheeler, the the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, has said that human-caused climate change is not his top priority.

This despite a new study by EPA scientists “published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The paper urges action on climate change, declaring the urgency of the issue and pushing for strategies to address the potential effects.”

Earlier this year, EPA scientists priced out the cost of climate change. “By the end of the century, the manifold consequences… will cost the U.S. hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

“Those costs will come in multiple forms, including water shortages [Wheeler’s purported top priority], crippled infrastructure and polluted air that shortens lives, according to the study… No part of the country will be untouched, the EPA researchers warned.”

Happy Earth Day. This is probably NOT the only mention of the topic this week.

Demisemiseptcentennial or dodransbicentennial?

Rats and cops and drug dealers

175thMy grad school alma mater, UAlbany, is celebrating its 175th anniversary. It was founded in 1844 as the New York State Normal School. It became the Normal College in 1890, the College for Teachers in 1914, and a university in 1962. So 2019 is its demisemiseptcentennial.

WHAT? Demisemiseptcentennial is literally one-half (demi-) x one-half (semi-) x seven (sept-) x 100 years (centennial). Is this a real word? Villanova used it 2017.

According to the Wikipedia, the Latin-based term for 175th anniversary should be dodransbicentennial. It’s from “a whole unit less a quarter,” but I’d never heard that one and I’m even less likely to remember it. My spell checker likes neither of the terms.


There’s a large window behind me where I work in downtown Albany, on the third floor. (Note to self: Water the plant!)

About 4:50 p.m., I hear some male voice yelling. I assume he’s part of an argument. But looking up the street, I see just one guy . He’s carrying some sort of plastic bucket, with stuff, and holding a thin white pole. Even from fifty meters away, I can tell he has holes in the knees of his jeans, and it was cold enough for him to be wearing his dark knit cap.

I tune him out and leave to catch the 5:40 p.m. bus. When I exit the building, the guy is still there. Now I can understand what he was saying: “Rats and cops and drug dealers”, which he repeated every ten seconds, sometimes directed at worried pedestrians.

The #10 Western Avenue bus arrives and folks queue up to enter it. The guy mumbles, “Oh, this will do,” and returns to his litany. He enters, then stands near the front of the bus, saying to nearby customers his message. The driver miraculously ignores him.

Sometimes he adds a few words. “Do you you know it’s rats, and cops and drug dealers?” At least one rider is amused, but others are clearly terrified.

He gets off at the stop near the Washington Avenue branch of the library. At once, I am both relieved that the auditory performance is over, and worried the APL patrons will be subjected to it.