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.

Lucy Desi Museum

The radio show My Favorite Husband morphed into the TV show I Love Lucy.

Lucile Ball's monogrammed 1972 Mercedes-Benz
Lucile Ball’s monogrammed 1972 Mercedes-Benz

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. Continue reading “Lucy Desi Museum”

July rambling #1: a dog for mayor of Schenectady, and the benefits of music

“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” – Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
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On ISIS’ Terms: Courting a Young American.

Nicholas Winton, Rescuer of 669 Children From Holocaust, Dies at 106. Here’s the 60 Minutes piece from 2014.

Why Don’t the Poor Rise Up? Is it because of a loss of the spirit of e pluribus unum?

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight on transgender rights.

Same-Sex Marriage DOES Threaten “Traditional” Marriage. It’s “a threat to those who do not believe in EQUALITY between the sexes in general.”

So much anger about love. Related: There are 6 Scriptures about homosexuality in the Bible. Here’s what they really say. He could have gotten into St. Paul’s interesting pro-celibacy position in 1 Corinthians 7.

100 Percent Is Overrated. People labeled “smart” at a young age don’t deal well with being wrong. Life grows stagnant.

John Green explains — in under eight minutes — the mess that is the economy of Greece.

Leonard Starr, R.I.P.

Stephen R. Bissette: comics pioneer & evangelist, from Radio New Zealand.

Dondi creator Irwin Hasen’s final interview.

I Can’t Believe This Is an Archie Comic.

A most disturbing story about Jackie Fox of the Runaways: One famous band. One huge secret. Many lives destroyed.

Garrison Keillor sees transition out of ‘A Prairie Home Companion’.

Ken Levine’s ode to radio, and your own “radio station.”
Nailed_it
Brian Eno Lists the Benefits of Singing: A Long Life, Increased Intelligence, and a Sound Civilization.

Polyphonic overtone singing – Anna-Maria Hefele.

Keith Richards: Life. Full Documentary Movie – 1 hour.

Music video: “HAVE A NICE DAY” – WORLD ORDER.

Songs that Stephen Sondheim wishes he’d written. (This is part 3, but the first two are linked within.)

Paul McCartney Opens Up About Lennon, Yoko, and More. “Our greatest living rock star on why Lennon’s a martyr, who gets the credit, and touring in his seventies.”

Nice story about guitarist Lawrence Juber.

Now I Know: A Tale of One Cities.

Leonard Maltin remembers Omar Sharif. I noted that I knew him better from reading his bridge column, initially with Charles Goren, trying (and failing) to ascertain the art of the artificial bid.

BBC Radio 2003 half-hour documentary of the romantic (and business) relationship of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz available for the month of July. Here’s Mark Evanier’s brief encounter with them.

Korean age.

Meet The Obscure Exclamation Comma: Because Excitement Can Happen In The Middle Of A Sentence. Sorry, I ain’t buying.

A Dog Named Diamond Is Running for Mayor of Schenectady, New York. And her owner, Kathy, sits about ten feet from my desk at work. In fact, I have Roger Fur Mayor bumper sticker on my office cubicle wall, from when that cat ran in 2011.

Maria from Sesame Street retires. That would be Sonia Manzano.

Muppets: Congressional Muppets and what is marriage and number six and a thank you.

This Crazy Fan Theory About ‘Jeopardy!’ Actually Makes Total Sense. Or not.

GOOGLE ALERT (me)

The Friends of the Albany Public Library presented the library with a check at the Washington Avenue branch. “The $3,500 will go towards the costs of the summer reading program. Albany’s Tulip Queen was also on hand for the presentation.”

Preparing the circus’ center ring. The state of the Republican debate.

Jaquandor links to stuff.

August Rambling

GayProf noted Perry when he wrote: “Numerous songs en vogue right now celebrate women consuming alcohol to the point of blacking out, hooking up, or hurling (not always in that order). ”

Because I was out of town, I managed to miss a couple of significant cultural anniversaries. One was the 50th anniversary of the first real Marvel superhero comic, the Fantastic Four, by Stan Lee and Jack “King” Kirby. Mark Evanier explains why it had a November cover date. Check out this hour-long Kirby documentary. And here’s a link to the intro to the FF TV show.
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The other was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball. I watched most, if not all, of the episodes of every single one of her ongoing series, from the seminal I Love Lucy (1951-1957; 8.9 out of 10 on the IMDB scale), which started before even TV Guide and I were born, but lives through the clever concept known as the rerun; to the star-studded (and too long, in my recollection) episodes of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (1957-1960; 8.6); to The Lucy Show (1962–1968; 7.3), which was the one with Lucy as Lucy Carmichael, Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz in the earlier shows) as Viv, and Gale Gordon as Lucy’s testy boss, Mr. Mooney.
Continue reading “August Rambling”