Poor Ricky

Posted by on July 13th, 2010 at 6:01 AM

© 1993 Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were married in 1940, divorced for the last time in 1962. A quarter of a century later and Desi died of lung cancer; he was holed up in a room of his mansion and on morphine day and night.

Lucy called him before he died. Their daughter was there and says:

“She just said the same thing over and over again. It was muffled, but you could clearly make out it was the same thing over and over again.

“It was, ‘I love you. I love you. Desi, I love you. You could even hear the intonations of the voice change, how she meant each one, the interpretations.”

They divorced because he drank a lot and cheated, usually with prostitutes. He ran their studio, Desilu, and was the brains behind its success, but his drinking torpedoed him. He gave up Lucy and the company at the same time, and he never found his feet again, just lived off his pile and kept drinking.

Lucy’s temperament. She was a grind. An I Love Lucy producer [Jess Oppenheim] describes Lucy at work: “Lucy stumbled through the first reading and then took the material to the mat. She fought with it, examined it, internalized it, and when it reappeared, she owned it.”

In her view, comedy was just what she did. “I’m not funny,” she told associates. “I don’t think funny.” She could be morose about that. When she was joking with one of her writers, she fell silent, then said, “You know, if I had your sense of humor, I could really be something.”

© 1993 Coyne Steven Sanders and Tom Gilbert

Gary Morton. He’s the man in the second photo, Lucy’s second husband. He was a comic, a good-natured showbiz schlepper, and then he married Lucy and hung on for dear life. Her kids would make him watch The Parent Trap. The daughter remembers asking, “Don’t you love this part, Gary, where they get back together at the end?” She adds: “He was a good sport, I must say. . . . He let Dad kid him mercilessly—he was great about that. . . . But he didn’t have a lot to complain about. He got the best of the deal.”

Morton’s job was to keep Lucy happy, which became harder as the years passed. She would shove actors into position when shooting The Lucy Show. She broke the jaw of her old makeup man, Hal King, because he wanted to take a week off from shooting Mame. In the late 1970s, rehearsing a Lucy Show reunion, she yelled “at everyone—the wardrobe lady, the makeup man, everyone. She kept screaming at Gary Morton ‘shut up!’ whenever he tried to say something.”

Confidential jargon. The scandal magazine wrote about Desi’s affairs. Some of the phrases involved: “vice dollies,” “cuddle-for-cash babes,” “door-to-door dame services.” One girl is “a veteran of the Hollywood nightlife who marketed love.” Desi is “a duck-out daddy.”

A sentence from one account: “Sally limped back to her own hotel room and her weekend pal. To her, Sally sighed one rapturous comment: ‘Who ever said Latins are lousy lovers?” she asked drowsily.”

[ All info to this point from Desilu by Sanders & Gilbert, 1993. ]

ZooFest. It’s a comedy/theater festival held here in Montreal. I don’t know much about it, but I liked the program’s design. I assume it and the fly card here are the work of Nicolas “Diezart” Royer, who is listed in the program as graphic designer/illustrator for ZooFest.com.

Sinatra/Carson. From 1976. Sinatra isn’t wearing a suit; he’s dressed ’70s-style, with spars and projections everywhere.

I offer the clip because the Simpsons “Tik Tok” has been yanked by Fox, which I guess means it was an amateur job. But the clip was all one tracking shot. Nobody picked thru extant Simpsons footage and nabbed the bits that could go with the song. Someone fresh-rolled this stuff. Can fans produce pro-looking animation footage with software? I guess so, but it’s a startling thought. Also, I actually saw the clip just before it got yanked, which is pretty remarkable timing. [update, Wait, here it is, unyanked. ]

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