Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, here today to perform a bit of catchup. That is, Frank is.
Whereas Joe has written a book about Lucille Ball, Frank remains farther behind the the informational curve on this great star, stuck in the period of her monumentally successful Fifties tv series with husband Desi Arnaz, I Love Lucy.
To correct this deficiency, Frank unearthed from Joe’s library a 1954 paperback (retailing then at a swift 35 cents a copy) written by Eleanor Harris and titled The Real Story Of Lucille Ball. The adoring picture of the couple that emerges details the trials and hurdles both went through both to establish their movie careers, and to start their tv careers together with at least a decent chance of succeeding.
About I Love Lucy, Harris writes:
In this comedy program — the Number One show in U.S. (since 1951 when it started on CBS) — Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, act the roles of a married couple named Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. So closely do the fictionalized lives of the Ricardos resemble the real lives of the Arnazes that baby Ricky Ricardo Jr. was “born” on the same day as Desi Arnaz, IV (Desi and Lucy’s first and only son).
To make the most of the birth, the couple decided (brilliantly) to incorporate Desi IV’s real life arrival into the plot of I Love Lucy.
The child was born on the morning of January 19, 1953, wrote Harris. That night, over forty-four million Americans turned on their television sets to watch the fictionalized account of the boy’s birth on the program. (By way of comparison, a mere 29 million Americans tuned in to watch President Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration while 33 million Yanks followed Queen Elizabeth’s coronoration on the tube.)
Amidst all this mind boggling success, Harris depicts the Arnazes’ real married life as tempestuous but generally solid. They lived far beneath their considerable means. Each treated the other with respect. Desi was a Roman Catholic of Cuban descent who prized hearth, home and family. Lucy loved catering to him noting that in marriage, “it is the woman’s place to make changes.”
But cut to 58 years after Harris’ biography was published, when Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars, written by Scotty Bowers with Lionel Friedberg, emerged.
Published last year, this account makes a whole bunch of bawdy assertions about the private lives of some of Hollywood’s most famous stars based on Bowers’ shady career — running a bisexual prostitution ring for several decades beginning in the years after World War II.
Although he denies being a pimp, the ex-Marine writes that he set up hookers for sexual liaisons with Desi Arnaz. Bowers writes that while he didn’t know Lucy, he certainly knew Desi, six years younger that his wife.
He was a “hot-blooded Cuban,” who supposedly used Bowers’ services to line up at least two or three girls every few days. He was a lusty fellow, to say the least. And the girls were crazy for him.
A big reason for that, the book suggests, is that Arnaz was a big tipper. “Instead of handing over the typical $20, which was the going gratuity at that time for a trick, he would often slip a girl as much as $200 or $300.”
One night at a Hollywood party Bowers was working as a bartender, Ball showed up in an evening gown. “Lucille came striding over to me…stopped in front of the bar, glared at me for a second or two, and then…Wham!
She slapped me in the face and yelled ‘You! You stop pimping for my husband, y’hear!’ “
Turns out that Lucy — not a small woman, and one who could deliver quite a wallop — had apparently been monitoring Desi’s phone calls to Bowers, and knew all about her husband’s extra curricular sexual escapades.
“I know exactly who you are, mister!, she shouted. You’re the infamous Scotty Bowers. Get out and stay out of my husband’s life.”
Desi, who had witnessed the confrontation along with other stunned guests, is described as being in shock. No one said a word as Lucille stood there glaring at me, her chin thrust out, her eyes on fire.
Lucille Ball’s 20-year-marriage to Desi Arnaz ended in divorce three years after I Love Lucy concluded its initial CBS run in 1957, and six years after Eleanor Harris’ book was published.