Monday, June 19, 2006

Lucie Arnaz

In an attempt at lightening the weekend mood after suddenly finding myself unemployed, I spent much of the weekend revisiting yet another old crush by watching the HERE’S LUCY DVD set seen here. Lucie Arnaz was tall, loud and had gorgeous black hair on this sitcom which started when I was 9 and ran into puberty. Basically a fourth variation on Lucille Ball’s I LOVE LUCY, this version featured both of the famous redhead’s children, Lucie Arnaz and TV GUIDE’s famous first cover boy, Desi Arnaz, Jr. as well as the ubiquitous Gale Gordon (one of the greatest of all radio stars) this time as "Uncle Harry." Watching some of these episodes "Little Lucie," as she was called in spite of her height, obviously had a lot to learn but this was certainly a good place in which to learn it. HERE’S LUCY frequently featured guest stars and this DVD highlights this well, presenting episodes with Ann-Margret, Johnny Carson, Ginger Rogers and the famous Richard Burton/Elizabeth Taylor episode. Jack Benny appears in two episodes as well as a long clip from his own TV special, JACK BENNY’S CARNIVAL NIGHTS guest-starring Lucy. Perhaps the best part of this superbly compiled DVD set is that many episodes feature illuminating, nostalgic commentaries by Lucie (who has long-since become the keeper of her mother’s flame) and Desi. Wayne Newton and Carol Burnett even contribute commentaries to episodes in which they appeared. HERE’s LUCY offered old-fashioned, family-friendly sketch comedy that lasted well into the ALL IN THE FAMILY years. Desi left the show before it ended. Lucie stayed but then spread her wings on stage and in TV movies such as one in which she portrayed the ill-fated Black Dahlia.
Our paths crossed in 1977 when I was 18 years old. Lucie, by then an established stage star, was appearing in summer stock in Dayton, Ohio in SEESAW, a musical version of the Shirley MacLaine/Robert Mitchum film, TWO FOR THE SEESAW. I had previously had some success with writing to celebrities appearing on tour at the theater so I tried it again. Honestly, I don’t recall one word of what I said to Lucie in my letter but apparently it was enough to make her blush (and yet not enough for her to get a restraining order). I talked my parents into going with me to a matinee and I loved it! It was only the second professional stage play I had ever seen! To this day I sometimes get the big show-stopping number, IT’S NOT WHERE YOU START, IT’S WHERE YOU FINISH stuck in my head (and this week, that might actually be encouraging!). A few weeks after we saw her, I received a big gray envelope in the mail from Lucille Ball Productions containing the picture seen here and the brief note on Lucie’s cardboard stationary.
Lucie’s attempts at big screen stardom were stalled that same year when BILLY JACK GOES TO WASHINGTON was barely released (after premiering in Cincinnati. Seems to have been a lot of that going around.). When Neil Diamond’s JAZZ SINGER remake sunk, Lucie’s career took a dive along with it. Over the years, she became the family archivist, producing and/or overseeing numerous projects dedicated to preserving the memory of her famous parents. Lucie has also continued working with choice roles in a number of TV series and even a brief run with her own sitcom in the eighties (I may have been the only one watching). At this writing, IMDB lists two potentially major releases featuring Lucie Arnaz in various stages of completion. Given the chance, I’ll definitely see them. Perhaps more than just about any other celebrity, seeing Lucie Arnaz is like spending time with an old and dear friend. If you'd like to spend a little time with her she has a marvelous website , Lucie Arnaz -- The Official Lucie Arnaz Website. With any luck, as she says in her note, we will meet still. I’d like that. I love Lucie.

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