Lucy! You’re in colour!! You’ve got some splainin’ to do!!
I was fortunately to be at Ball’s final TCA press conference in Los Angeles in 1986 when she was promoting her last sitcom, Life With Lucy. It was a mistake, right down there with Atoll K, Life with Henry or Love Happy when it comes to comedy legend swan songs.
|TV’s first Fab Four: Vivian Vance, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, William Frawley|
This was one of my first TCA press tours for TV Guide. Aaron Spelling–who had once appeared in an I Love Lucy episode as an actor–was behind this misguided effort. I remember the TV critic from San Francisco, who was sitting beside me, suggesting we form a posse and get Spelling for doing this to Lucy.
I’ll never forget, at the start of the press conference, she looked out over the packed ballroom full of critics–maybe 200 at the Century Plaza–and finally spotted somebody she recognized, Kay Gardella from the New York Post. Gardella went back to Gleason, Skelton, Lucy–the ’50s. Ball took her hand and the two talked about old times. I think Arnaz had just died, and Vance and Frawley were long gone. Lucy actually started to cry.
|A different company did the “Italian Movie” colorization|
At one point they asked the head writer of this new Lucy show to stand up and take a bow. This elderly gentlemen struggled to his feet. It was Bob Carroll, Jr., one of the original I Love Lucy writers! He was 70 but looked 90. That’s when we all knew this show was in trouble.
Somebody asked her why she was bothering with a comeback. I’ll never forget her answer: “The ham always rises.” It has been my own motto ever since.
|Keith Thibodeaux (left), now 63, is the only surviving member of the cast|
The art directors who worked on the colorization clearly took some cues from this rare footage posted on YouTube. It was shot by a studio audience member using an 8mm home home movie camera he somehow snuck into a taping. It’s very early in the series’ run, 1951, and shows the Ricardos apartment really did have a pretty bland grey/beige colour scheme. No wonder Lucy always stood out.