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My night at the opening of Hollywood Museum’s “Lucille Ball at 100 & I Love Lucy at 60″ exhibit

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It was an I Love Lucy fan’s dream come true.

On Thursday night, I was invited to Hollywood Museum for the opening night of the “Lucille Ball at 100 & ‘I Love Lucy’ at 60″ and a highlight was chatting with actress Doris Singleton (pictured with me above) who played Lucy’s “frenemy” Caroline Appleby in several classic episodes.

I was so excited that I blurted out some lines from the episode where Carolyn nominates Lucy for president of their women’s club in exchange for Lucy parting with her new stylish new sweater and handbag. She laughed and said: ‘That was the first episode I ever did!”

The exhibit, which featured more than 10,000 pieces of rare memorabilia, was a star-studded event that featured a moving appearance by Lucie Arnaz, daughter of Miss Ball and Desi Arnaz.

“This is very emotional,” Lucie told the crowd. “Not so much because of the memorabilia and the artifacts but because of this Desilu picnic effect that’s going on. When my folks had the Desilu Studios, once a year they used to give a picnic for everybody that worked at the studios and all of their families. They’d go out to this big ranch in the valley and have a barbecue and sack races. The family aspect of this is very important to me and to look around and see all the faces of people who wanted to show up.”

Lucie, who was born the year her parents launched I Love Lucy back in 1951, talked about how her then movie star mother and bandleader father became television pioneers and legends.

“All I know is, the truth was they wanted to stay together so they could have a family,” she said. “My father was on the road with his band and my mother was doing pictures in Hollywood and a radio show. They said, ‘We’re never going to have a family if we don’t try and do something about it. So they got my dad to be the husband on what was her radio show turned to television and they decided that had to film it here [in Hollywood] in front of an audience and they wanted to film it on film so the quality would be good enough to get all the way to New York. That had never been done. So they figured out how to do that.”

http://spotonli.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Lucy-and-Desi-Museum.jpg“They did it for all the right reasons,” she added. “Not to become famous, not to make a lot of money, not to be better than some other show. They did it because they wanted to work together and they loved what they did and they hired the best people they could find. They just got into the sandbox and they played and I think that’s the reason that this show has survived as long as it has. When you do it for the right reasons, God gives you a little gift.”

She then blew a kiss up in the air to “mom and dad.”

http://www.fiftiesweb.com/lucy-cast-emmy.jpgThere was just so much to absorb in the museum’s extensive exhibit which will remain on display through Nov. 30: The Emmys that Miss Ball won during her career can be seen up close; some of the hats she wore in episodes of I Love Lucy as well as costumes from the movie Mame; scores of magazine covers and posters from throughout her more than 50 years in television, radio and film,; some of her favorite outfits and even her signature glasses from her later years; rare family photos; and several original scripts from each of her four sitcoms which also included The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy and Life With Lucy.

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Miss Arnaz was joined on the stage by Miss Singleton as well as by Dann Cahn who is the only surviving member of the original I Love Lucy creative team; Miss Ball’s personal secretary for 26 years Wanda Clark; Bernard Weitzman who was executive vice president of Desilu Studios, composer Arthur Hamilton who wrote songs for the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour; and Tom Watson, Lucy’s one-time personal publicist and creator of the We Love Lucy website.

Many stars joined Miss Arnaz and company at the opening including: Carolyn Hennesy, Tab Hunter, Joan Van Ark, Rip Taylor, Rose Marie, Mary McDonough, Alison Arngrim, Morgan Brittany, Ilene Graff, Kate Linder, Carole Cook, Edie McClurg, Romi Dames, Ruta Lee, and Mary Jo Catlett.

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On the red carpet, I asked a few of the stars to share their thoughts on Miss Ball or favorite episodes of her classic sitcom.

“I loved when she was stomping grapes and I loved Vitamitavegamin or whatever that was called,” Tab Hunter said. “I loved them all. She’s great.”

Kate Linder of The Young and the Restless also loved the famous grapes episode set in Italy: “I loved the whole wine-making episode. I can see that forever. It’s timeless, it holds up. It doesn’t matter how many years have gone by, you still laugh even if you’ve seen it 1,000 times.”

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Mary McDonough (pictured with her daughter, left), whose series The Waltons is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, said of her show and Lucy: “They are such an enduring part of America and a part of family.”

The actress refused to pick a favorite episode for me (“That would be too hard to choose, there’s too many.”) but did remember sitting just three people away from Miss Ball in a giant portrait taken for the 50th anniversary of CBS: “I’m just so glad to have been a part of it.”

P1050270Mary Jo Catlett (pictured with Rip Taylor) was quick to name a favorite episode: “Vitamitavegamin. She was brilliant in that. I also loved the candy factory one, it’s fabulous.”

Ilene Graff of Mr. Belvedere fame said she loved any episode “that took place in the nightclub because my dad was a nightclub performer during the 50s. Whenever Desi would get onto that floor at the Tropicana, I just thought of my dad and I just loved it that she was just always trying to get into show business. We are so gifted with so many reruns of Lucy. It’s there, we watch it, enjoy it and we treasure the accomplishment.”

Morgan Brittany, best known for playing Pam Ewing’s sister Katherine on Dallas, acted with Miss Ball in the film Yours Mine and Ours, and said: “I believe it was the one where she steals the concrete John Wayne footprints from Grauman’s Chinese. Those were my favorite, all the ones with the celebrities when they went to Hollywood. I would sit and watch those and it was awesome.”

I knew Carolyn Hennesy, Emmy nominated for her role on General Hospital and a real stand-out as Barb on Cougar Town, is a huge I Love Lucy fan. In the first interview I ever did with her, we launched into lines from various Lucy episodes and I knew she had it as bad as I did.

P1050262I was eager to get her thoughts, on this occasion, about Miss Ball and the enduring popularity of I Love Lucy.

Carolyn said: “There’s literally no one finer than Lucille Ball as a comedienne, as a physical comedienne, as someone who was simply not afraid to go, as they say, ‘Balls to the wall.’ She was not afraid to be unattractive and in her clownishness, in her being very bold in her choices and in her mugging, she shed a new, wonderful light that had been completely unexplored before.”She also pointed out the Lucy and Ethel ingredient: “Something I think a lot of people overlook is that, yes, Lucille Ball was an absolute genius when it came to comedy, but we would not know her as we know her without Vivian Vance. Viv will always be the best second banana in the business. She and Lucy together was a combination that neither one of them could have found with anyone else. That’s where the true genius lies. Lucy sets it up, Viv has the button. Viv sets it up, Lucy has the button.”

P1050306I was so happy to see Joan Van Ark who I am a huge fan of. She played Valene Ewing on Knots Landing and really was that long-running show’s heart. She told me she is still in touch with members of the show’s cast and had spoken recently with Gary Shackleford who played her on-again, off-again husband and true love Gary Ewing as well as Michelle Lee who played Valene’s next door neighbor and best friend Karen MacKenzie.

Since Knots, Joan spent some time as a regular on the daytime soap The Young and the Restless and did a few episodes of Nip/Tuck. More recently, she did a guest spot on the hilarious FX series Archer and also appeared in the web series Pretty.

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The photo of me and Joan as well as the ones with Lucie Arnaz and Doris Singleton were snapped by my brother, Roger Hernandez, who I took to the event as my guest (we are pictured, left). Everything went smoothly until my photo op with Lucie Arnaz when a security guard accidentally knocked my camera out of Roger’s hand and it went flying to the floor. I thought it was broken but managed to fuss with it a bit and it is now back in working order.

My brother and I joked about making up a story for the blog post saying that the security guard picked up his arm and THREW the camera to the ground because it reminded us of the episode when the Ricardos and the Mertzes ended up in court over a television set that Fred kicked in. Ethel exaggerates on the stand and tells the judge that Ricky “picked up my husband’s foot and PUSHED it through the glass!”

It seemed appropriate that my brother would go with me to this event since our family has been absolute Lucy fanatics basically all of our lives. We watched the show as little kids, then as teens, then as young adults and now as not-so-young adults!

Whenever we have a family gathering, more often than not, we will all end up in the den watching I Love Lucy and Roger and I and our younger sister, Denise, typically do the lines before the character on the screen says it and this never fails to crack our dad up.

We will always, always, love Lucy.

FILE UNDER: About Town, Television

Comments

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2 Remarks

  1. Thank you, Greg, for sharing this historic night with your fans. It looks like it was such an exciting time for all to share the joy we have for Lucille Ball and everyone involved with I Love Lucy! I did want to make one correction though… Lucy gave Caroline Appleby a sweater and matching handbag for the President nomination (not a hat).

  2. awesome story they were great miss them all so much.

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