Ric Wyman --
Preserving the Heritage
The mission of the Lucille Ball-Desi Center in Jamestown, New York, is relatively simple:
"To keep alive the memory, celebrate the legacy, and preserve the personal effects and professional works of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz..."
Who better to lead the organization as its Executive Director than longtime Lucyfan, Lucy collector, and author -- Ric Wyman. Ric is perhaps the world's foremost expert on Lucille Ball memorabilia, a distinction he learned almost by accident.
According to We Love Lucy club president Tom Watson, "Ric started writing to the club back in 1983 with rather straight-forward questions. He wanted to know how much a person should expect to pay for various Lucy lobby cards. The question itself was not unusual... but I soon learned that it was being asked by a 14-year-old boy living in a small town in Wisconsin. That caught my attention. When I was 14 years old, I did not even know what a 'lobby card' was!"
Indeed, by 1983, Ric was a well-established Lucy afficianado... He had been watching the Redhead almost daily since his days as a pre-schooler. "She was one of my first babysitters," Ric confesses. "Many of us have that kind of relationship with her. She's almost like one of the family."
Ric remembers very clearly watching Lucy for the first time. The family home was in Elderon, Wisconsin (population: 175), just outside of Wausau. One day Ric's dad installed a satellite dish, and the I Love Lucy reruns were suddenly in their livingroom every afternoon, courtesy of WGN Channel 9, Chicago."As a youngster I laughed hardest at Lucy's wacky messes," Ric recalls. "I remember watching her and Ethel sitting at the chocolate factory conveyor belt -- and laughing as Lucy stuffed the candy down her blouse, into her hat and finally into her mouth. I also loved the Empire State Building show, with Lucy and Ethel dressed as Women from Mars ("It's a moo-moo!")."
Not only did these shows quickly become habit-forming, but Ric also discovered The Lucy Show and Here's Lucy. "As a kid, all I knew was that I enjoyed the shows. I had no idea that Lucille Ball was already something of a living legend -- and that her movies and television programs had 'spawned' a treasure trove of memorabilia."
That realization came one afternoon in 1983 when Ric, a freshman in high school, wandered into an antique shop called The Peddler's Cart. There among the glassware, costume jewelry and perfume bottles was a 1963 children's book, "Lucy and the Madcap Mystery," based on the characters from The Lucy Show. Ric examined the volume, which had a full-color image of Lucy Carmichael on the cover, and quickly decided to buy it. Little did he realize that this $3 investment would start a massive collection that over the next three decades would be valued at many thousands of dollars.
"Those were the days before computers -- before e-bay," he says with more than a hint of nostalgia. "The hunt, the quest for finding something new and wonderful was almost as much fun as actually finding an item."
Over the years, Ric's search for Lucy artifacts brought him everything from calendars to comic books to the 'Little Ricky' items issued in the 1950s, to advertising slicks, magazines, watches, movie posters -- a little bit of everything.
Ric quickly 'branched out' beyond the confines of the Elderon community, and attended flea-markets and collector shows around the state. He had business cards printed, circulated them among fellow collectors, and was soon corresponding with dealers and collectors all over the country. As a result, he located a cherished Lucy Ricardo rag doll in Pennsylvania, a Here's Lucy View Master set in New York, and a Desilu Sales ashtray in Washington.
Ric continued his hobby while attending the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point, where he earned a degree in communications. As part of his studies, he produced a documentary on another of his favorite actresses, Stefanie Powers. He also started to write the first draft of what would become his first book, "For the Love of Lucy" -- a compendium of information regarding Lucille Ball memorabilia.
"The book evolved naturally," he says. "As my collection of memorabilia grew, I started making lists, keeping track of what I had, how much I had paid, etc. I started to learn as much as I could about each item -- who made it, when was it released, why was it done... One day it dawned on me that my 'lists' were becoming histories unto themselves." The book was published in 1995 by Abbeville Press.
Lucie Arnaz was instrumental in bringing Wyman and Abbeville together. "I had sent Lucie a copy of my manuscript early-on, just so she would know what I was doing," Ric explains. "Abbeville was one of many publishers who had asked Lucie and Desi Jr. to write books about their parents. The Arnazes had no interest in doing that. When Abbeville asked Lucie if she would consider doing a 'Lucy Cook Book,' she found the idea was intriguing, but had no time... She remembered my manuscript, told Abbeville about it, and got the two of us together."
By then, Lucie and Desi Jr. had also gifted the Arts Council in the city of Jamestown, New York, with thousands of personal items from their parents' estates. Jamestown wanted to establish a Lucy Museum, and the Arnazes felt this a great way to preserve all the treasures their parents had saved over the years.
The facility officially opened in May, 1996, and in February, 1999, Ric was appointed its director. Three years later, the by-then-burgeoning Museum and Gift Shop were reorganized as the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, Inc., with Ric as Executive Director.
Ever supportive of the fan club, Ric wrote columns for our newsletters and attended all of the Loving Lucy Conventions -- the early ones as a private citizen, the later ones as a representative of the Museum.
When authors meet: Ric asks Bart Andrews for an autograph at
Loving Lucy '98.
Lucy talk: Ric catches up with Lucy Show co-stars (left) Ralph Hart
and Jimmy Garrett.
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of I Love Lucy in 2001, Ric published a second book -- "The 'I Love Lucy' Book of Trivia," featuring page after page of brain-teasers, photos, and facts. To date, it is the only book to include a forward by Desi Arnaz, Jr.
Says Arnaz, "The number of fans who know the smallest details about the most popular show on television is truly amazing. My thanks to Ric Wyman for giving "I Love Lucy" fans this wonderful opportunity to test their skills, learn even more about the show, and laugh again at Mom and Dad's wonderful creation!"
So what is next for this energetic Lucyfan? Ric is not shy about that --
"Helping the Museum blossom and grow -- 'taking it to the next level,' if you will... The past few years have been amazing, but there is so much more to do. Physically, we need to grow. We have an enormous amount of material in storage that has never been displayed -- only because we have no room. So moving to bigger quarters is a top priority...
"We are also investing in 'state of the art' methods of cataloguing, preserving and maintaining all of the wonderful artifacts that have been donated by the Arnazes and by other Lucy admirers as well.
"Lucy was one of the most influential people of the 20th Century, certainly one of the top entertainers, and we have this golden opportunity to preserve the things that were important to her, and make them available for future generations to study and enjoy."
Obviously, the Museum is in good hands!
For information about the Lucy-Desi Museum, visit its web site at:
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.