Tag Archives: i love lucy

Lunch with Lucy

The other day, Kimi and I got to hang out with the Lone Ranger, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Mae West, Harold Lloyd, Hopalong Cassidy, Ozzie and Harriet, Mae West, Jed Clampett, George and Gracie Allen, and Mr. Ed.

Actually, we got to be at a place where these stars (and hundreds more), used to be found. It’s called Hollywood Center Studios, which, as its name implies, is located smack in the middle of the old studio district, just off of Santa Monica Boulevard.

We were there as a guest of our friend Jeff, who is a cameraman working for a Comedy Central show starring Norm Macdonald.

During breaks from taping, Jeff led us around the studio, which dates back to 1919 and became the home of comedian Harold Lloyd a few years later.

It was here that Howard Hughes made his big budget flop Hell’s Angels that same decade after the place was wired for sound.

During the 30s, Mae West and Hopalong Cassidy made their films here, and in the 1940s, the Marx Brothers made A Night In Casablanca on the lot, and for a time Jimmy Cagney was part owner of the studio.

In the 1950s, new owners made the lot available for television production – something the big studios initially refused to do – and it became the television home of The Lone Ranger, Ozzie and Harriet and Burns and Allen.

In 1951, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz came to Studio 2 to film the pilot episode of I Love Lucy and ended up staying for their first two seasons.

Some of the best loved shows of the 1960s were filmed on the lot, including Green Acres, Mr. Ed, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction, Perry Mason, and The Addams Family.

Since then, it has appeared in dozens of television shows and films, like The Player and When Harry Met Sally, and was often seen in music videos for stars like Jackson Browne, Prince, and Michael Jackson.

After visiting the sets of Wizards of Waverly Place and So Random!, we met Jeff back on Studio 2.

It was here that Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel first filmed in front of a live studio audience, creating the then revolutionary three-camera filming technique.

On this day it was empty except for the tables set up by craft services to feed the Norm Macdonald crew and guests (meaning us).

While we ate, we could see from pictures on the wall that if we turned the clock back 60 years, we would be dining in the Ricardo’s living room.

It was a place we had been invited to dozens of times over the years. We’d finally made it.

Desi Loved Lucy

Anytime you watch a rerun, or dance in a conga line, or yell, “Lucy, you got some splainin’ to do,” pause and thank Desi Arnaz.

Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III was born in Cuba in 1917 to a wealthy father who was the mayor of the city of Santiago, and a mother who was an heiress to the Bacardi Rum fortune. His family was stripped of its substantial wealth and forced to flee to Miami after a revolution in 1933.

Desi worked odd jobs to support his family before becoming a professional musician, playing guitar and percussion for a Latin orchestra in New York. He returned to Miami to head up his own combo, which caused a sensation when they introduced the conga line to America. Arnaz soon found himself on Broadway in the musical Too Many Girls in 1939. The following year, Desi went to Hollywood to appear in the filmed version of the play. It was there that he met actress Lucille Ball. As Lucy later states, “it wasn’t love at first site. It took a full five minutes.” They eloped on November 30, 1940 – seventy years ago this week.

Late autumn would prove special for Desi on several occasions. In the fall of 1950, CBS executives approached Lucy to bring her popular My Favorite Husband radio show to television. She agreed as long as Arnaz was cast as her husband in the show. This met with a fair amount of resistance from network executives fearing that American audiences wouldn’t warm to the Cuban-accented Arnaz. They needn’t have worried. After I Love Lucy debuted during the autumn of the following year, it went to top the television ratings where it remained for most of its nine-year run.

Arnaz produced the show employing a three-camera setup that allowed for shooting before a live audience. He also insisted that the show be captured on film, and that Desilu Productions, the company that Arnaz and Ball created, retain the rights. This single act created the rerun. The couple was also able to purchase RKO Studios in the autumn of 1957.

Shortly after the show ended, the marriage dissolved. It had been a rocky relationship for years due to Desi’s drinking and womanizing. Desi sold his shares of Desilu to Lucy and lived in semi-retirement near San Diego for the rest of his life raising thoroughbreds.

The late autumn wasn’t always good for Desi. He passed away from lung cancer on this date in 1986. Lucy, who remained a friend, telephoned him shortly before he died.