LOVING LUCY 2000:
A Weekend of Memories
Loving Lucy 2000, the fifth annual convention of Lucy fans and collectors, proved to be another "weekend love in" that attracted people from all parts of the country -- and a few from Canada and Europe as well. As always, it was a convention for Lucy lovers, put on by Lucy lovers. Everyone was there to celebrate their favorite Redhead and have a good time.
The convention was held the weekend of July 21, 22 and 23, 2000, and headquartered at the Hilton Burbank Airport Hotel and Convention Center. Joining the festivities for the first time this year were Lucy's cousin, Cleo (Mrs. Cecil) Smith, and Lucy's sister-in-law, Zo Ball (wife of Lucy's younger brother Fred).
Kicking off the celebration was a special unveiling of the new Lucille Ball commemorative stamp (see separate story), which will be issued by the US Postal Service in the year 2001. Joining Ms. Ball and Ms. Smith in the unveiling were Karl Malden, representing the Post Office's Stamp Advisory Board, and spokeswoman Terri Bouiffiou. Also on hand was Suzanne LaRusch, the actress who has gained national recognition for her portrayals of Lucy. Photos of Suzanne with the stamp not only made the front pages of the local Los Angeles newspapers, but were carried by wire services to papers around the world.
No sooner had the stamp ceremony ended than people lined up for this year's Lucy Bus Tour. Like in the past, the guided tours took fans past locations in Hollywood and Beverly Hills that were important to "the Lucy story." Locales included the sites of the Desilu Studios, Grauman's Chinese Theatre, the Brown Derby, Lucy's home, the Farmers' Market, etc. Added this year was a ride on the new Los Angeles subway, where Suzanne LaRusch joined in as Lucy Ricardo -- yes, with a loving cup stuck on her head! Tour guides included Mark Towner, James Gray, Gary Wares and Jeremy Sunderland.
Friday evening's Opening Night Ceremonies at the Leonard H. Goldenson Theatre at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences provided a glimpse of Lucy performances seldom seen today. First up was a 10-minute segment from the 1962 Desilu pilot for The Victor Borge Comedy Theatre, a proposed anthology that did not make it on the air. Lucy and Gale Gordon appeared in an airline sketch, written by Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh Martin (later Davis), and directed by Desi Arnaz. Gale portrayed a seasoned traveling businessman who has the misfortune of being seated next to Lucy, who is taking her first-ever airplane trip.
Also shown was a clip from Lucy's guest appearance with Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, November 17, 1969, to promote Carson's appearance the following week on Here's Lucy. Included in the Tonight Show were out-takes from an actual Here's Lucy dress rehearsal. Fun stuff!
The main portion of the evening was then given over to a special salute to Lucy's longtime writers, Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf. Included in the program was a documentary produced by Tom Watson and Stuart Shostak, recreating the Bobs' lives and careers. The salute also included extensive clips illustrating the writers' contributions to I Love Lucy, All in the Family and Maude.
After a short refreshment break, the evening concluded with a rare screening of Lucy's 1963 guest appearance on The Greatest show on Earth, a Desilu-produced dramatic series that aired on ABC Television, December 10, 1963. Lucy appeared as a lady equestrienne who seeks to adopt an orphaned boy. The screening was made possible through the generosity of Kurt Fethke and Concorde Productions, producer of the upcoming full-length documentary, "Desilu: The Lives & Legends of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz."
Among the special guests that attended the Friday screenings was Beatrice Arthur, who enjoyed a backstage reunion with Roz and Marilyn Borden ("Teensy and Weensy") who made a guest appearance on Maude 25 years ago (see photo).
Saturday and Sunday events were all headquartered at the Hilton Burbank. Visible throughout the Convention Center was the handiwork of artist Rick Carl, who decorated the halls and many of the rooms with original artwork, movie posters, magazine cover art, and huge photo blow-ups. Ric Wyman, curator of the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown, NY, brought four display cases worth of rare Lucy artifacts from the Museum collection, and had them on display for all to enjoy.
Memorabilia and merchandise dealers were set up for business in one portion of the convention center and in one of the building's spacious outer hallways. Being sold was everything from classic (i.e. original 1940s, 50s, and 60s) memorabilia to "the new stuff." Plates, dolls, movie stills, comic books, magazines, posters -- you name it -- were all on sale at one table or another. Being offered for the first time this year were Lucy's Chocolate Factory Chocolates and Lucy heart-shaped ice cream sandwiches. Mattel was on hand, offering fans their first look at the new 50th Anniversary Lucy-Desi dolls. Also available to attendees on both days were 8-hour screenings of various Lucille Ball television appearances, some of which had been out of circulation for some time.
Inside the convention hall on Saturday, Tom Watson hosted a late-morning panel discussion on "Desilu Studios -- The Little Company that Could." Celebrity guests included Lucy's cousin Cleo Smith (making her first appearance on a convention panel), writer Madelyn Davis, Desilu film editor Dann Cahn, studio business affairs executive Bernie Weitzman, and attorney Ed Perlstein. Panelists recalled the early days of Desilu, and offered insight into how the one-show company grew into a multi-million-dollar studio operation in five short years. Dann Cahn shared with the audience a "group photo" of the original Desilu production crew, gathered backstage at I Love Lucy in 1953.
Saturday afternoon offered the annual We Love Lucy Auction, hosted by Mark Towner. Included were a wide range of artifacts and mementos, many of which were originally owned by Lucille Ball and/or Desi Arnaz. Also available were a variety of merchandise items. A separate selection of items were auctioned to raise funds to benefit Lucy's favorite charity, the Orthopedic Ward at Childrens Hospital/Los Angeles.
Among the more interesting items sold in the auction this year were
- The garter belt that Lucy wore as part of her wedding outfit the day she married Gary Morton
- One of Lucy's beaded evening bags.
- The pink sneakers and aqua sweat pants worn by Lucy in Life with Lucy and for her final TV Guide cover.
- A Desilu studio letter opener, with the Lucy/Desi stick figures on the handle.
- A 1947 program from the Copacabana nightclub in New York, autographed by both Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
- A red silk shirt and pair of blue trousers once owned by Desi Arnaz.
- The shoes Lucille Ball wore in the film, "Critic's Choice"
- A costume sketch by Elois Jenssen for an outfit worn by Lucy in the "Lucy and Ethel Buy the Same Dress" episode of I Love Lucy
- A Lucille Ball lipstick lip print
- An original script for the I Love Lucy episode, "Lucy Gets Chummy with Her New Neighbors," autographed by the writers, director, film editor, and actors Keith Thibodeaux and Mary Jane Croft
A second silent auction was also conducted Saturday evening, funds from which benefited the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown. Called "Visions of Lucy," the auction offered original artwork featuring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The paintings were created by artists from the Jamestown area, and had been displayed there for two months before being shipped to Burbank. The special auction raised $3000 for the Museum, money which was quickly earmarked to pay for two computers for the Museum Gift Shop.
Saturday night's banquet show again presented a "would be" episode of I Love Lucy, starring Suzanne LaRusch as Lucy Ricardo and Adrian Israel as Ricky. This year's show was "Lucy at Radio City," and attempted to answer the question, "Whatever happened to Ricky's Hollywood movie?" Making special guest appearances in the show were Shirley Mitchell, recreating her role as Marion Strong, Janet Waldo as "keep jiggling" Peggy Dawson; and Eve ("how do you do?") Whitney. Roz and Marilyn Borden appeared as entertainers at the Music Hall. Roberta Wall portrayed as Ethel Mertz, and Donovan Scott, Lucille Ball's real-life co-star in Life With Lucy, played Fred.
Saturday also marked the 49th wedding anniversary of Desilu business affairs executive Bernie Weitzman and his wife Barbara. Both were on hand for the banquet, and the rest of the attendees serenaded them with a chorus of "Happy Anniversary," while the chef presented them with a special cake. (Bernie is pictured here with Barbara (left) and Lucy's secretary Wanda Clark (right).
Sunday morning's schedule included our annual "Meet the Authors" forum during the morning breakfast. Lucy writer Bob Schiller, who stopped by for a bagel and some coffee, joined the panel and fielded questions about writing for the Redhead. Also on the panel, discussing their books about Lucy and/or Vivian Vance, were Bart Andrews and Tom Watson, Gregg Oppenheimer, Tom Gilbert and Steve Sanders, and Alvin Walker and Frank Costelluccio.
At noon, host Stuart Shostak unveiled the "new and improved" Lucyfans Are Fabulous: the Ultimate 'I Love Lucy' Game Show. The brand new, deluxe edition of our annual Lucy trivia contest included a professional, full-size game-show set, and offered more than $5,000 in prizes. Jimmy Garrett (of The Lucy Show) and Donovan Scott (of Life with Lucy) were celebrity panelists. Questions included in the game were penned by trivia experts Bart Andrews and Celia Weiner, who also served as the game's judges.
The convention concluded with a special panel discussion moderated by Richard Brock, entitled "Memories of Lucy and Desi." Guests included Lucy's sister-in-law, Zo Ball (making her first appearance on a convention panel), actress Carole Cook, hair stylist Irma Kusely, Lucy's longtime personal secretary Wanda Clark, Lucy's assistant Frank Gorey, and the man Lucy called her "number one fan," Michael Stern.
For even more visual highlights from all five conventions, visit the beautiful web site of longtime club member Glen Charlow (pictured below with author Bart Andrews). Glen has attended all conventions and has graciously included his personal snapshots from his trips within his tribute to our favorite redhead.
Visit his web site at GlenCharlow.com
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Original materials © 2001 Lucyfan Enterprises. All Rights Reserved.
"I Love Lucy" is copyrighted by and a registered trademark of CBS Worldwide, Inc.
Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used with permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
Licensing by Unforgettable Licensing, Northbrook, Illinois.