Lucy-Desi Museum, Jamestown, NY: July 12, 2016
A stop in Jamestown was a last-minute addition to the itinerary when we decided that we should see a state park on the return trip, rather on the way out.
We knew that Jamestown was the birthplace of actress Lucille Ball, back on August 6, 1911. There’s something about a small town that needs to embrace its stars the way that New York City or Los Angeles simply cannot. Her childhood home is in nearby Celeron, on what was 8th Street, but is now Lucy Lane. Those homes are privately owned.
But in downtown Jamestown is the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Museum on West Third Street, where you can find out about the early years of Lucy, from her grade school piano to costumes and gowns from her wardrobe, and some paintings and photos that once hung in her Beverly Hills home.
You also get the background about her future first husband, the Cuban-born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha, III (1917-1986), whose father was the youngest mayor of Santiago, and his mother’s father an executive at Bacardi Rum. The family fortune was seized during the Batista revolution of 1933, and the family eventually fled to Miami, FL.
I was particularly interested in learning about a radio show called My Favorite Husband, starring Ball and Richard Denning, who played the characters of Liz and George Cugat, as a happily married couple. “Beginning with the 26th episode on January 7, 1949, confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat prompted a name change Cooper.” Apparently, coincidentally, Desi Arnaz had played guitar for Cugat.
My Favorite Husband morphed into the TV show I Love Lucy, with Desi as Ricky Ricardo, a struggling orchestra leader, and Lucy as Lucy (nee McGillicuddy), a housewife with show business fantasies but no real talent. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of this television show on the medium.
Adjacent to the Luci-Desi Museum, and at no additional charge, is the Desilu Studios, which has costumes and prop. But most impressively, it has replicas of both the Ricardos’ New York City apartment of the first six seasons, and the Hollywood Hotel suite of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (shown), thirteen hour-long episodes which aired from 1957 to 1960.
“On March 2, Desi’s birthday, 1960, the day after the last hour-long episode was filmed, Lucille Ball filed for divorce from Desi Arnaz.” But they managed to maintain a friendship until he died of cancer. She died in 1989
Desilu Studios would produce Lucy’s subsequent programs, plus Dick Van Dyke Show, Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.
Even though she was largely unfamiliar with I Love Lucy, The Daughter was captivated with the actress and wanted an Andy Warhol-designed cup as a souvenir. We were so fond of the site that we recommended the Lucy-Desi Museum for some family members at the family reunion.
We did NOT see the Scary Lucy statue that was not too far away but agree that the new rendering is much more suitable.
All photos c 2016 by Lydia P. Green