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The following article is reprinted from The Los Angeles Times (California Living Section) of September 12, 2001. Unfortunately, that particular day few people saw beyond the tragic stories making the front page headlines. We reproduce it here now for Lucyfans everywhere:

LOVING LUCY: Lee Tannen visits with Lucie Arnaz,
daughter of Desi Arnaz and Tannen's friend, Lucille Ball.

He Loved Lucy


Lee Tannen's book on his friendship with comic legend Lucille Ball reveals a powerful and demanding woman who asked a lot from her friends but rewarded them with intense devotion.

"It sounds crazy, but I'm able to deal with just about anyone in the world, having known Lucille Ball," Tannen said over the phone. "She was so big and so iconic .... Celebrity-wise everyone pales in comparison."

Tannen first met Ball shortly after the star married her producer, Gary Morton, in 1961. (Morton was Tannen's distant cousin.) "I remember trying to rehearse in the elevator how I was going to greet her," Tannen said. When the moment came, he was too overcome to speak. He met her again about 18 years later, when Tannen was 30 and Ball was in her late 60s. He arrived at Ball's Beverly Hills home and she answered the door dressed completely in black and topped with a shock of orange hair. She scolded him for bringing bad luck by using the front door. "She said, 'What ... are you waiting for? Come in!"' Tannen recalled. "'Never use the front door again! When you come back use the side door.' Lucy loved to give orders."

Tannen's book "I Love Lucy: My Friendship With Lucille Ball" (St. Martin's Press) helps mark the 50th Anniversary of the CBS show "I Love Lucy." Tannen still chokes up when he recalls Ball's April 1989 death from a ruptured aorta. She called him the night before she died, but couldn't reach him. "I was supposed to call her hospital room and ask for Diane Belmont," Tannen said. "That was the code word."

The friendship had its ups and downs. "There was one time we didn't speak for a year and a half," he said. "You just didn't disagree with Lucy. It was kind of like her way or the highway. But she was incredibly loyal, giving and generous."

Photo by Phil Lobel.

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© 2001 by Los Angeles Times
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