Book Review: Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

 

Desilu The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz by Coyne Stevens Sanders and Tom Gilbert  reveals Lucy and Desi, in an entirely different light  from the personna they exhibited on I Love Lucy and also tells a different story about William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who played their landlords Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy.

The book also has a heavy emphasis on the forming of Desilu Productions and how it was so tightly woven into their lives, as they made many deals with other entities that would benefit Desilu.

Lucy Very Difficult To Work With

Lucille Ball was very difficult to work with as the book tells of many situations where she went overboard with her criticism of the other actors she was working with. For instance she once had a table removed from a scene that Jack Benny had requested because he was standing on one foot in the scene and needed the support at his advanced age. Lucille saw the table had become part of the set and wanted it removed saying that they should try the scene again to see if Jack could do it without the table so they did the scene again and Jack fell flat on his face.

Fred and Ethel Mertz portrayed by William Frawley and Vivian Vance were not too happy being cast as husband and wife. Vivian Vance was quoted as saying about Frawley ” He is old enough to be my grandfather”. When Vance won an Emmy award Frawley had a sarcastic remark about her winning the award.

Arnaz Was Astute Businessman

One of the biggest surprises from the book was how astute a businessman Desi Arnaz was. I always thought of him as a bongo playing musician who was the foil of Lucy’s escapades. However he was running the Desilu empire at the same time and would do a scene on the show and then return to his office to make business deals. He knew the television business extremely well and was equally adept at many facets of television production. He was also blessed with great ability at producing, directing, writing, editing scripts but his acting was mostly limited to I Love Lucy. The Untouchables which came under the Desilu umbrella caused Desi a lot of grief, because the show’s portrayal of Italians angered the Italian community.

One story that stands out in the book is when Lucy would call Vivian Vance, before filming was to start for another season and remind Vance to gain 20 pounds so that Lucy would be the thin one on the show.

Lucy Mean To Vivian Vance

The saddest story of all was when they had a reunion show years later, when Vance had cancer and asked Lucy for her opinion on which of two dresses to wear for the show and Lucy said “It doesn’t matter because you look like a cow in either one.”  Vance left the room crying. However after Vance died Lucy missed her very much.

Lucy and Desi stayed together many years before Desi asked for a divorce but it was a long time before Lucy consented and agreed to divorce. She then married comedian Gary Morton.

Lucy Ran Desilu After Departure of Desi

Eventually Desi left Desilu and Lucy was left to guide the company’s fortunes but was extremely rattled at one stockholders meeting, when a stockholder questioned her about her huge salary as an actress in one of her later series while the stockholders received no dividend that year.

Lucy eventually agreed to a merger with Gulf and Western and stepped out of the everyday management of the company.

The book is full of the run-ins Lucy had with the other actors, directors and writers, which are too numerous to mention them all in this review.

Her Contracts Included Desilu Stipulations

When she was doing the Lucy Show later for CBS she made sure that the contract included stipulations that CBS would help financially with current Desilu pilots they were trying to sell to the networks. The Untouchables, Mannix, Mission Impossible and Star Trek were the best known shows to have been produced by Desilu Productions.

There is no doubt that Lucy and Desi loved each other very much and did till they died. Desi had looked so bad at the end that he didn’t want Lucy to see him that way but she saw him anyway and he died in the arms of his daughter Lucie Arnaz.

When Lucy went to the hospital shortly before her death an outpouring of love, by her fans was shown as cards and flowers poured in from her many fans.

Only Touches The Surface

This review only touches the surface of the content of the book. After reading the book I have a different memory of Lucy and Desi than I had before reading the book.

I had never known the extent of Lucy’s temper when dealing with others on her shows. I didn’t know how much of an alcoholic Desi would become, which ultimately led to the breakup of his marriage with Lucy and also his womanizing which Lucy hated with a passion and rightly so.

If you don’t want your perception of Lucy and Desi to change then don’t read this book, but if you want to learn what was going on behind the scenes, from the early years of their marriage till their deaths many years later this is a book worth reading.

In my opinion this was a very objective book, which told both the good and the bad about Lucy and Desi and I didn’t perceive the book to be a vendetta against them, but more a telling of a wonderful love story, that was going on between Lucy and Desi which lasted to their dying days.

This book shows how little we really know of celebrities like Lucy and Desi who have the same human foibles the rest of us have and how little we know of what went on behind the scenes of one of the greatest television comedies ever in I Love Lucy.

 

 

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Special Thanksgiving

 This was similar to the Thanksgiving TV dinners we had in the freezer for Thanksgiving because we were in bankruptcy at the time and little money was left for food from the checks from the Alexandria Town Talk newspaper in Alexandria, Louisiana.

 

 

This turkey is similar to the turkey we ate that day.

My son Kenny had just finished his tour of duty with the Air Force and when he saw we were having frozen turkey dinners he went to the grocery store and bought  a real turkey for Thanksgiving.

His generosity turned a very forgettable Thanksgiving into a memorable one that is still recalled over ten years later. It is indicative of how an act of kindness can linger on in our memories years later.

This Thanksgiving will be another special one since my dad will be 95 on Thanksgiving Day. We have a lot to be thankful for knowing my dad still operates a tiller to plant his garden and mows with a pushmower at an age when most people have died or are in nursing homes.

He was born so long ago in 1914 that he wasn’t even born in a hospital.

At the same time Thanksgiving is a time of sadness having lost my mother 11 years ago. Will never forget her cooking Thanksgiving dinner.  We may not have eaten till 3:00 in the afternoon but it was worth the wait for a nice Thanksgiving dinner back in the 50’s and 60’s.

 

 

Perry Como: Barber to Crooner

Perry Como sang in the same era as such greats as Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby but was the last one of the three to die dying in 2001.

Perry Como was born May 18, 1912 in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania and was a barber before he became a well known singer.

He like Sinatra was a big band singer early in his career and was known for being one of the most relaxed singers in the business when on stage.

Despite the advent of rock and roll in the 50’s he still would record an occasional hit song.

When our Pineville Elementary in Pineville, Louisiana took a trip to a Fishville, Louisiana skating rink I can remember skating to Perry Como singing Round and Round the perfect skating song.

Perry Como singing It’s Impossible in this audio version of this song accompanied by stunning visual graphics.

Perry singing If I Loved You and No Other Love. Viewers who watched the Perry Como Show will remember the “we get letters” introduction before the songs.

Found this Perry Como Christmas album in a local bookstore for 25 cents and am looking forward to playing it this Christmas season.

 

Perry Como died six days before his 89th birthday on May 12, 2001 with May 12 being a significant date since my mom died on May 12 of 1998.

Petula Clark: 70 Years In Show Business

Petula Clark recorded her signature hit Downtown in 1964.

It was 45 years ago when 32 year old Petula Clark recorded Downtown which would be her first song to reach No.1 on the U.S. record charts. This year she is celebrating her 70th year in show business.

Earlier this week she celebrated her 77th birthday. She will be entering her ninth different decade in show business in January as she is still presently active and has been in show business since 1939 and appeared in her first movie in 1944.

Petula Clark singing Downtown which was No.1 hit in 1964.

Petula singing This Is My Song in 2001.

Rutt’s Hut: Home of the Ripper

 

Rutt's Hut in Clifton New Jersey is the home of the deep fried hot dog.

Rutt’s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey has been in business since 1928 and has been serving their deep-fried hot dogs called the Rippers for 81 years.

They are called Rippers because they aren’t removed from the oil until the skin breaks loose from the rest of the hot dog. Rippers that turn black are called Cremators.

 

The Cremator which is burned or close to burned hot dog at Rutt's Hut for those who like their hot dogs burned to a crisp.

This Travel channel video about the Rippers at Rutt’s Hut tells about the deep fried hot dogs served there with a lot of words of praise for the specialty hot dogs.

Rippers and Cremators cost $2.00 each but if you want relish it will cost an extra dollar.

Some fast food aficionados are not so quick to praise Rutt’s Hut after eating there as evidenced by these reviews left at Roadfood.com.

http://www.roadfood.com/Restaurant/Reviews/1362/rutts-hut

The best option is to try the Rippers yourself to see if you agree with those praising the Rippers at the Travel Channel or agree with those who posted at Roadfood.com that it was the most disgusting place they had ever eaten at.

 

 

Secret Ingredient: Grease From 1912

Dyer's Burgers on Beale Street in Memphis uses a special recipe in cooking their burgers using the same grease they used in 1912 with the grease being 100 years old in only three years.

Dyer’s Burgers in Memphis has found the secret to a good greasy burger by using 97 year old grease from 1912. The grease is locked up at night to prevent anyone from tampering with it.

Patrons are sometimes asked if they had their Vitamin G today with the G standing for grease.

The burgers and buns are soaked in grease to get the ultimate 1912 grease flavor into the 2009 burgers. The grease has been protected by armed police escorts when it was transported from one Dyer’s location to a new one.

A burger from Dyer's Burgers ready to eat after being soaked in 1912 grease.

One website says this place will have the nutritional police sirens wailing. I doubt that any nutritional information is posted in the restaurant unless required by law.

The following link will take you to the home page for Dyer’s Burgers and includes a video which I saw on the Travel Channel yesterday which gives more information about the 1912 grease.

There are also links to reviews of the burgers by Playboy and Esquire.

Anyone eating here more than once a month might be wise to visit their attorney and make their last will and testament.

http://www.dyersonbeale.com/

Conway Twitty: Recorded 40 No.1 Hits

Conway Twitty recorded forty No.1 hits during his career that spanned from when he joined his first group at the age of ten till his unexpected death in 1993.

Conway Twitty recorded an amazing 40 No.1 hits during his career. Only George Strait has recorded more with 44 No.1 hits. Alan Jackson is closest among other active country singers with 25 hits that reached No.1.

Twitty started his career singing pop music and he reached No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with It’s Only Make Believe in 1958.

It would be ten years later in 1968 before he recorded another No. 1 song when the aptly named Next In Line was No.1 on country singles chart.

After three more songs including one of my favorites Fifteen Years Ago reached No.1 in 1970 he also saw his signature song Hello Darlin’ also reach No.1 in 1970.

He and Loretta Lynn recorded Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man which also went to No.1 in 1973.

There are too many No.1 songs to list them all but some of my favorites were This Time I Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me, Linda on My Mind and She Needs Someone To Hold Her When She Cries.

His last No.1 song was Desperado Love recorded in 1986 and he would die seven years later unexpectedly in 1993.

I think it is safe to say that no country singer touched the hearts of women the way Conway Twitty could. Anyone who doesn’t agree is welcome  to share their views on the subject.

Twitty took his obligation to entertain his fans seriously and never missed a show in 36 years of touring. This and other facts about Conway can be read at this website:

http://conwaytwitty.com/index.htm?id=9266

Conway Twitty singing his first No.1 song It’s Only Make Believe in 1958.

Conway singing his signature song Hello Darlin’.

Conway and his daughter Joni singing Don’t Cry Joni which peaked at No.4 on the country charts in 1975.

This is country music at its best with the pure country audio rendition by Conway of This Time I Hurt Her More Than She Loves Me.

Conway singing Fifteen Years Ago in an audio version since this song is legally prevented from being shown in video form.

Conway singing Darling You Know I Wouldn’t Lie a song that reached No.2 on the country charts in 1969.

The following list of his his charting songs includes short sound clips of some of them:

http://allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&searchlink=CONWAY|TWITTY&sql=11:diftxql5ldfe~T51

Conway Twitty died in Branson, Missouri at the age of 59 on June 5, 1993. He would be 76 if he was still alive but he leaves a musical legacy that will live on for many years through his many recordings from 1957 till 1993.