There were a lot of aggravating incidents that occurred during my trip, but nevertheless, in spite of everything that went wrong, the Loving Lucy Convention made up for every problem that I encountered. It was an absolutely incredible experience and Tom Watson is responsible for all of it. I just want to say to you one great big loud "THANK YOU." You're the greatest. I hope to be able to attend next year's convention as well (I'm assuming this is going to become a tradition.) Now, here is my account of my trip out west for Loving Lucy '96.
I got off to a very frustrating start on Friday, July 19. The aggravation all began here in Washington when my plane sat at the gate for three hours after it was supposed to take off. I had a connection in Chicago which I obviously couldn't make. I wound up getting off the plane, retrieving and re-checking my luggage, and catching another flight with a connection in Dallas. My flight to Dallas didn't get off the ground until an hour after the scheduled departure time, causing me to miss my connection in Dallas. As soon as I arrived in Dallas, I rushed to catch the very next Dallas to L.A. flight. I finally arrived in L.A. at 5:00 -- four and a half hours later than I had planned to be there. And as Tom mentioned, my luggage wasn't there to greet me. Because I was alreadly late for the convention, I didn't have time to deal with my luggage problem at LAX and had to rush to Burbank because the festivities were about to get under way. But first, I had to rent a car to get from LAX to Burbank, and then deal with the very slow rush hour traffic on the 405 and the Ventura Freeway. I didn't have my itinerary with me, so I didn't know the address of the Burbank Hilton. I thought maybe it wasn't actually in Burbank, but might be the Hilton I had remembered being in Universal City. Wrong! After arriving there and realizing that wasn't the right place, I decided to find a telephone, get the number of the Burbank Hilton, call and get directions. So that's what I did. When I arrived, I learned that all the activity for the night was taking place at the Television Academy. So off I go to the Television Academy. But before I can go into the theatre and enjoy the fun, I had to contact American Airlines about my luggage. They kept me on the phone for half an hour. Finally, I was able to go into the auditorium and view most of the thoroughly fascinating "Behind the Scenes at 'The Lucy Show' and 'Here's Lucy'" and "A Very Special Lucy." I had a wonderful time watching those presentations and certainly would not object to seeing them again next year -- especially "Behing the Scenes." It was so interesting to see Lucy go back and forth from Lucy Carmichael/Carter to Lucille Ball -- very different personalities. The bloopers were also great fun to watch. I especially liked the intentional blooper from the LS episode "Lucy and Viv Reminisce." Lucy is explaining to Viv that she always had a sensible reason for the crazy things had done in the past. Viv responds, "Sensible, my a--!" I about lost it when she said that. Lucy was cracking up as well.
The final portion of the evening was the presentation of "The Facts of Life." I stayed and watched most of the film and had every intention of seeing all of it, but two things prevented me from doing that: I was still on East Coast time and was struggling to stay awake, and I also needed to find a store to purchase a few necessities since I was now living without my luggage.
I began Saturday morning rushing out to buy some clothes since I had none other than the ones I arrived in L.A. wearing. But before I could leave the hotel to shop for clothes, I had to find my car! The previous day had been so hectic, I hadn't taken the time to figure out what the car I had rented looked like or to take note of where I had parked it. All I remembered was that it was white. I spent about 15 or 20 minutes wandering around the parking lot peering inside about every white car I saw.
After an unsuccessful clothes shopping trip (I couldn't find a store in the vicinity that was opened and that sold clothing), I returned to the Burbank Hilton. I wasn't going to let anything get in the way of my attending the two panel discussions held that afternoon. Both were absolutely fascinating. The first panel discussion included not only the four living ILL writers, but also ILL film editor Dann Cahn. The second, as Alexis pointed out in her message, featured Mary Jane Croft, Doris Singleton, Shirley Mitchell, Keith Thibodeaux and Jimmy Garrett. It was so much fun to hear each of these individuals recall their experiences and memories of working on "Lucy." I was also astounded by how well everyone looked. Mary Jane Croft even continues to wear her hair the in the same style she wore it in her "Lucy" days. But I was unable to tell whether her hair color was now white or a really light blonde. I had this discussion with Glen. He thinks it was white. Could anyone else tell?
Something else that struck me about Mary Jane Croft was how foggy her memory seemed to be on certain aspects of her "Lucy" experience. For instance, she commented that one reason she remembered the "Return Home from Europe" episode so well was that it was her first experience working with Lucille Ball. Somehow, she had forgotten her appearance two years earlier in "Lucy is Envious." Also, Mike asked a very good question about why she did not appear on "Here's Lucy" in its first season, even though she had been in "The Lucy Show" during each of its last three seasons. At first, she seemed confused and thought "Here's Lucy" was filmed right after "I Love Lucy." She appeared to have forgotten all about "The Lucy Show." Her ultimate response to the question was that she couldn't remember why she had not appeared on the first season of "Here's Lucy." She speculated that she was simply not needed that season.
Another interesting part of that panel discussion occurred when Doris Singleton was discussing how well rehearsed "I Love Lucy" always was and how everyone knew their lines and cue cards were never used. Mary Jane Croft, in amazement (obviously referring to the later "Lucy" shows) turned to Doris and said Lucy *always* had cue cards. At another point, the actors were comparing their experiences working on "Lucy" with other shows they had done. Mary Jane Croft commented that there was always a sort of excitement in the atmosphere around the show, largely due to the presence of a studio audience. By comparison, she said working on Ozzie and Harriet was "boring." Keith Thibodeaux chimed in at this point and compared his work on ILL to working on the "Andy Griffith Show." While acknowledging that he thought "Andy Griffith" was a good show, he did not find it much fun to work on. He like the excitement of performing before an audience on ILL and the fact that it was performed from start to finish like a play. The "Griffith" show, on the other hand, was filmed out of sequence like a movie, and without an audience. Sometimes, he said, he didn't even know what the episode was about that was being filmed. He just went in and read his lines and that was it.
After the panel discussions, I went back to the hotel reception desk to check on my luggage. Fortunately, I learned Saturday afternoon that it had been found. As my luck would have it, though, it was not at the hotel. Because I was staying in the room registered under Glen's name, the hotel had no record of my being there, so when American Airlines had arrived earlier in the day with my luggage, the hotel staff sent them away, claiming I wasn't staying there. This was in spite of my detailed explanation the night before of who I was, where I was staying, who had registered the room and a promise from hotel staff that they would take care of my luggage when and if it arrived. After a number of other complications, my luggage was finally tracked down to the Burbank Airport. So, off I went to the Burbank Airport at about 5:45 only to discover the American Airlines desk was closed. After a few more calls to American Airlines practically yelling at them, I finally got my luggage at about 6:15 -- 45 minutes before the banquet.
At long last, I could relax and enjoy the remainder of the convention. It was so wonderful to meet some of the people from the internet list, including Cathy, Alexis, Gregg, Tom, Neil and Derek. And it was fun, as usual, to again see others who I had already met -- Mike, Margaret and Glen -- and to meet many more Lucy fans who are not on the list.
*Neil -- I was truly fascinated by your stories of meeting and hanging out with Bob and Madelyn during their "Here's Lucy" days and of meeting Lucy herself.
*Glen -- thanks for the newsletter (and other stuff) from the Jamestown Lucyfest. I'm enjoying reading the articles.
*Thank you Mike for the tape. I watched it almost as soon as I got ome last night.
*Gregg, thanks for embarrassing me with a trivia question I couldn't answer. : ) Also, please accept my apologies for confusing your father with Harpo Marx. Gregg brought along a photograph of his Desi and Jess Oppenheimer in which Jess was wearing the wig Lucy wore in "The Young Fans" episode. With that wig on, I thought he was Harpo. I just couldn't figure out what Harpo was doing on the set of the Ricardo's first apartment since his appearance on the show was a few years later in a Hollywood segment.
*Alexis -- thanks for showing me those shoes you purchased. What a souvenir!
*Derek -- it was so good to meet a bonafide Lucylist fan from my home state (NC). I'm so glad you could make it.
*Thank you Margaret for making me feel better about my late arrival on Friday night by your late arrival. : ) (Margaret and I -- friends from the DC gatherings -- coincidentally ran into eachother on the way into the theatre on Friday night.)
*Cathy -- I'm sorry I got to your booth so late in the day. You had some really brisk business that day and had sold out of the one thing I was looking for.
Oh, and I wanted to mention the special screenings that were going on throughout the day on Saturday. I stopped by for a couple, including the uncut, original broadcast (including commercials) of the 75-minute version of "Lucy Takes a Cruise to Havana" (airing under the actual series title, "The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show"). Watching that film, I discovered that more than just the Hedda Hopper segments have been cut out of the version that now airs on Nick-at-Nite. There were some things, such as the Mertzes' presence on that episode, that don't make sense in the Nick version, but do in the uncut version. I also stopped by for a viewing of the "Here's Lucy" episode, "Lucy Meets the Burtons." I hadn't seen that episode in about 14 years and found it to be every bit as hilarious as I had remembered.
Saturday night was certainly something special. The dinner (including arroz con pollo) was wonderful. And the events that followed couldn't be topped. I think everyone was incredibly impressed with the video presentation of clips (generally consisting of one line each) from all 193 Lucy/Ricky/Fred/Ethel show, presented in order starting with episode number one. That was fantastic! I loved it! And everything that followed -- including the impeccable performances by the Lucy & Ricky imitators, the Borden twins, and Keith Thibodeaux's drum solo -- were stupendous. This was top-notch entertainment folks! I didn't want it to end. Unfortunately, though, it did. But not before having the unusual experience of sleeping in a room with one of Lucille Ball's gowns -- not something I ever imagined I would do. I have Glen to thank for that. : )
Sunday turned out to be a fun day at Universal Studios Theme Park. I hadn't been there since 1994 and was happy to get back to the Lucy museum again. While there, I also had another unusual experience -- watching Glen fall off the Statue of Liberty ( I'll let Glen explain that one). And naturally, I ran into a number of Lucy fans, including Alexis (briefly), Mike and his friend Steve from Jamestown, NY. (Where else?)
After a day of fun at Universal, and with the Lucy convention behind me, I headed south to San Diego. While there, I took a side trip to Tijuana. (No, I didn't wind up in a bullfighting ring being pursued by a bull. And no little Mexican boy attempted to stow away in the trunk of the car I was driving.) On Tuesday, I went over to Coronado and visited the beautiful Hotel del Coronado. It was rather quiet that day there, though. I didn't hear the Ricardos and Mertzes squabbling about spending money for souvenir shopping.
Next, I headed off to spend the day touring and hiking around the hot, hot Joshua Tree National Monument. From there, I went to Lake Havasu for some jet skiing and a view of London Bridge. After that, I would have been wise to have barricaded myself in a hotel somewhere, not realizing the misfortune to come. About 30 minutes outside of Lake Havasu, I was stopped for speeding. Somehow, I had had the idea that cops didn't hang out in the desert. Boy, was I wrong. Next, I found myself headed towards Las Vegas. I don't know quite why I was going there because when I was there last September, and left several hundred dollars poorer than when I had arrived, I swore I wouldn't go back. But off I went anyway. On the way there, somewhere out in the Arizona desert on a freeway, I somehow became hipnotized by the road. I don't think it was fatigue because I hadn't been feeling tired. But nevertheless, I fell into some sort of trance and didn't come out of it until I drove the car off the road; this immediately brought me back to consciousness. I found myself headed very swiftly towards a roadside sign. My immediate reaction was to turn left to try to avoid it and to get back onto the pavement. But the loose gravel I was driving on caused the car to start spinning, first causing the car to ram into that sign on the right rear side of the car, creating a huge dent and detaching and cracking the rear bumper. The car continued spinning as it hit the pavement. It made two full rotations across both lanes before finally stopping. It kind of reminds me of what it must be like to get caught on a runaway lawnmower in Westport, Conn.
After that incident, I got the car pointed back in the right direction and continued on to Las Vegas. Once there, I decided to follow my initial instincts to avoid Las Vegas, and within half an hour of arriving, I was on my way out of town. There was no point in hanging around there anyway because Ricky Ricardo wasn't going to be performing that night. It seems he was trying to follow up on some rumor about uranium being found out in the desert. Well, that was Wednesday. From Las Vegas, I decided to head back to L.A. and spend my last few days hanging out at the beach. That seemed like a pretty harmless way to stay out of further trouble. But as fate would have it, Friday night I found myself with a flat tire. Thank goodness for this modern day product in a can that not only seals the puncture in the tire, but inflates the tire as well. I'd hate to think what might have happened had I resorted to jacking th car up and putting on a spare tire. With my Lucyesque luck, the jack would have pierced a hole through the car's frame. (At this point, Mike Elliot has probably figured that I'm a jinx. He came down from Canada last year and stayed at my place after one of the DC gatherings. The following morning, we discovered his car had been towed from my apartment complex.)
My vacation finally came to an end on Sunday. Tomorrow, it's back to work. Now, even after enduring late plane departures, missing plane connections, arriving at the Lucy convention late, having my luggage lost, found, then lost again, wrecking the rental car I was driving, then getting a flat tire, I would do it all over again for a chance to be a part of the Loving Lucy convention. It was one of the best times I ever had. Thanks again, Tom. You're a real hero!
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Richardson, Glen Charlow,