When you enter George Light's home in suburban Chicago, you know immediately you are in the company of a Lucyfan. Covering nearly an entire wall is a massive, beautifully-framed 3-sheet "Mame" poster, autographed by the redhead herself...
No longer an active collector of "all things Lucy," George today looks back on the years between 1978 and 1989 with fondness, wonderment, and more than a hint of melancholy...
"Sometimes it is hard to believe that period ever happened," he says . "In fact, most of the people who know me today have no idea that I once knew -- and received notes and telephone calls from -- Lucille Ball. Sadly, most of the younger ones have little or no memory of Lucy herself, of the lady that would turn up occasionally on The Tonight Show or Password. They only know her as the scripted "Lucy" of the reruns...
"I was unbelievably lucky to have met and gotten to known her -- but because I did, it is very hard for me now to get excited about some new doll or piece of merchandise that in reality has nothing to do with that lady. Most of the items are very nice, and I think they are fine for other people; they just do not mean 'Lucy' to me."
"I admit, however, I do still enjoy reading the occasional magazine article that comes along about her... Or popping in a DVD of one of her old movies or a tape of one of her talk show appearances. And, of course, I loved going to the Lucy Conventions and reminiscing with Wanda (Clark) and Irma (Kusely, photo right), and all the rest. I still love Lucy -- the Lucy I knew -- very much."
George first became a member of We Love Lucy in the spring of 1978. He was only 17 at the time, but had already collected a mountain of material regarding his favorite redhead. Because home video recorders were then just new on the market (and still quite expensive), George had started to make audio recordings of Lucy's various TV appearances. As a gift he sent us a three-or four-minute compilation of what he called, "Lucy's Best." Imagine our surprise when we discovered the entire tape consisted of sound bites -- of Lucy saying, "Hello, George," "Thank you, George," etc. The clips had been lifted from Lucy's various talk and variety show appearances with such personages as George Burns, George Gobel, and George Who-have-you.
Over the course of the next few years, George got to know Lucille Ball personally, and on many occasions she would call to speak with him on the phone. If, by chance, he was not at home, she was never reluctant to leave a message on his answering machine. By the time she left us in 1989, George had assembled a whole cache of precious personal messages from the lady he adored. When she said, "Thank you, George," on these tapes, she was addressing We Love Lucy's own George Light...
In 1992, George wrote the following for our club journal:
"By the time I was old enough to watch I Love Lucy, Lucy was several seasons into The Lucy Show. I was part of the first of the 'rerun generations.' Before I knew the title of the show, I would pester my mother to turn on 'the show with the heart.'
"As I grew up, so did the fascination. By the age of 8, I was writing fan letters...and collecting post-card size photos that Lucy's office would send out in return. Eventually, I branched out into sending greeting cards, flowers and/or gifts for any and every occasion, and before long the replies started coming. At first Lucy's thank-yous were dictated and typed, but later handwritten by the lady herself.
"When I was old enough to drive, I started showing up anywhere I thought Lucy might be. My diligence was rewarded on December 15, 1978, when I met Lucy for the first time at CBS Television City, where she had been taping a guest-shot on The Mary Tyler Moore Hour.
"I'd sent a bouquet of flowers to her dressingroom that afternoon, and after the show I just happened to be waiting backstage, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. I was about to give up when the door opened and I heard her nearly-baritone voice, 'Is George Light out here?' She proceeded to come out and thank me in person for the flowers -- and to admire the special Lucy T-shirt that I had made for the occasion. Whatta night!
"As the years went along, little by little she let me into her life. If Lucy was appearing before an audience, it was a foregone conclusion that George would be downfront or backstage to cheer her on.
"The highlight of these experiences came in 1986 with Life With Lucy...Many a Thursday afternoon I'd board a plane in San Francisco, wisk down to LA, and spend the evening watching the magic of Lucy being 'Lucy.'
(Photo left): George visits backstage at "Life With Lucy" with series co-star Larry Anderson
and Lucy's secretary, Wanda Clark. (Photo right): George and fellow-fan Ron Cervi ride with
Tom Watson aboard Lucy's studio golf-cart. (Ron is now a radio helicopter traffic reporter for
station KCBS in San Francisco.)
"The last time I saw this great lady was at a taping of Super Password in September of 1988. When I peeked through her dressingroom door at NBC to say, 'hello,' she charged across the room to give me a hug -- and, believe me, she hugged like no one else! The photo accompanying this story (photo right) was taken that afternoon. I was so pleased with it that I gave Lucy a framed copy that year for Christmas. A few months later, after she had been admitted to the hospital, I stopped by her house to deliver some flowers -- and was thrilled to see the picture sitting on the buffet in her dining room. The realization hit me that I really had become a part of her life.
"Life without Lucy hasn't been easy. But the cards, letters, and phone messages -- coupled with the wonderful memories -- help keep the magic alive. Having your idol come to think of you as a friend as well as a fan is a stroke of incredible luck that comes along only once in a lifetime."
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Original material © 2003 Lucyfan Enterprises.
I Love Lucy is copyrighted by and a registered trademark of CBS Worldwide, Inc.
Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used by permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
Licensing by Unforgettable Licensing, Northbrook, Illinois.