...a 26-year-old Englishman who has been a Lucy fan most of his life. He is currently working as a Housing Benefits Assistant for Eastbourne Borough Council, and lives in the village of Willingdon, a tourist resort on the South Coast (approximately 70 miles south of London and 22 miles east of Brighton). David is seen in the photo to the right with his two nieces, Emily (left) and Sophie (right).
Meet David Hillman
“Can you believe most people my age here in the U.K. have never even heard of Lucille Ball, let alone seen I Love Lucy?” he laments. “People old enough to remember her shows from the 1950s and ‘60s find it incredible that someone my age is one of her fans.”
I Love Lucy was the first imported show to air in Britain (it made its debut there in 1955) – but is seldom seen today. “There seems to be a prejudice in this country against black and white shows, particularly those that date back to the early days of television. We do have various channels that claim to show ‘classics’ – but the programmes they feature are rarely more than 10 years old.”
David’s fascination with Lucy started in 1982, when – at the tender age of 8 – he saw his first I Love Lucy. A new television network, Channel 4, was being launched, and as part of its first summer of programming, it presented one episode of Lucy every week. “I watched the first one and was instantly a fan!” he recalls. Alas, when summer ended, so did the weekly broadcasts.
In 1989, David discovered both Lucy’s movie career and some of the television programs that followed I Love Lucy: one of the English channels showed “Lured,” and David was mesmerized. The same year, satellite television became available, and a new channel, Sky One, scheduled both The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. Then, in 1992, Channel 4 brought I Love Lucy back for the summer.
“This time they were showing it 5 times a week, so I decided to tape it. They ran a total of 55 episodes in all, ending with ‘The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue.’ It was over this summer that I really became a huge fan. I began to tape any and all Lucy performances that I could find – but unfortunately, by then, Sky One had stopped showing The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. I wrote them a letter, and guess what? They brought back The Lucy Show and ran a total of 64 episodes (which they said was all they had) – so I added those to my collection.
“Not that it was always so easy. Just after Sky One started showing The Lucy Show again, Polegate, where I was living, was hit with heavy rain and our bungalow started to flood. I raced around picking up all of my things, trying to ensure that my Lucy items stayed dry. The damage was so bad that we had to move into a flat for six months while the bungalow was being repaired. Our satellite connection was still at the bungalow, however – so every Friday night I would rush over there after work and set up the recorder to tape The Lucy Show… then go back the next day and collect everything. The floor had to be taken up and replaced, so on some occasions I had to walk about on joists – and one day I slipped and now have a permanent dent in my leg where I hit the joist. You could say I have a permanent mark of my dedication to Lucy!”
“And then, of course, I discovered Lucy memorabilia. One day my sister came home, having been to a shopping center 75 miles away, and told me she had seen three pictures from I Love Lucy in a shop. Naturally, the next day I raced up there and bought all three. (They were the classic scenes from ‘The Chocolate Factory,’ ‘Vitameatavegamin,’ and ‘California Here We Come.’) Other than these, however, it was virtually impossible to find anything to do with Lucille Ball in the shops in Britain.
“One day my Dad bought a new computer, and on this we found a list of video retailers, so of course I wrote to them and received a reply from the International Film and Video Center in New York and Hollywood’s Attic in California. They had a huge list of Lucy films and rare appearances available, so I slowly started to buy these.
“Four years went by without Lucy being on British television at all! Thank goodness for all the tapes in my collection! Finally, in 1996, a new channel was launched on the satellite – The Paramount Channel – and the second programme they showed on the day of launch was I Love Lucy. Yes, I was there with my video. Unfortunately, they showed only up to ‘Equal Rights,’ and then stopped showing it on a regular basis. They brought it back for a month every now and then – but I was able to add many shows to my tape library.
“It was also in 1996 that I wrote to yet another new television channel – Turner Network Television, a classic movie channel – asking them to show some Lucy films and if they had any information on a fan club. They answered yes to both. They started showing films such as ‘The Long, Long Trailer,’ ‘Forever Darling,’ and ‘Two Smart People’ – and suggested I write to Tom Watson at We Love Lucy. I did, and have been a member of this club ever since.
“I received an issue of the club magazine that was filled with details of new Lucy merchandise that was coming out. Unfortunately, I could only find one shop over here that was able to get anything, and they helped me get a few books. Then, in 1997, I discovered a travel agent that was launching a new holiday to the states that they were selling very cheaply (£ 460) – and it included visits to Las Vegas, San Francisco and Hollywood. I could not resist! Whether I had planned it that way or not, my holiday turned into a Lucy merchandise-hunting expedition, and I ended up purchasing items in all three cities. The Lucy Boutique at Universal Studios in Hollywood was a real treasure-trove. It took me a few months to clear my credit card, but it was worth it. Then I heard about Cathy’s Closet – but controlled my spending this time and bought only the few things I really wanted.
“The month I was away, I Love Lucy was brought back to British television – so I had my brother tape it in my absence. They ran almost every episode of the show, leaving out only ‘Baby Pictures’ and ‘The Handcuffs’ … and, of course, the famous Christmas show that has to this day never been shown in this country. After six years, I finally had nearly a complete set of I Love Lucy!
“It has now been three years since any Lucy show has been shown on British television, except or an episode of The Phil Silvers Show in which she made a guest appearance. I have continued to collect her shows from fans in other countries – I even had to go out and purchase a special video player that would play American videos as well as English, as the two are on different formats. One thing that makes it difficult to find Lucy films is that they are often released in this country with different titles. For example, ‘The Fuller Brush Girl’ was released here as ‘The Affairs of Sally,’ and ‘Miss Grant Takes Richmond’ was released as ‘Innocence is Bliss.’
“I have recently gotten access to the Internet, and this is both the best and the worst thing I have done. It is the best because I have found an endless supply of Lucy items for sale (I have had the Internet only three months and I have purchased over 40 videos and tapes, including radio plays that I had never even heard of before, let alone dreamt of getting.) It is the worst because of what this is doing to my finances! I am desperate to come to one of your conventions – particularly the next one that will celebrate the 50th anniversary of I Love Lucy… but having just gotten a mortgage, I will have to see...
“So that is my life with Lucy here in Britain. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved with We Love Lucy, as due to your service I have been able to contact a few very helpful people in America, and found out a lot about Lucy. Until I joined the club, I had never heard of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, Life With Lucy or My Favourite Husband and I would definitely not have the collection I have now. Many thanks, indeed!
“I would love to correspond with other Lucy fans around the globe. If you can help me find the TV shows and movies I am missing from my collection, perhaps I could provide a British show or trade for something you need in return. The e-mail address is email@example.com
Fan Clubs, Etc.
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