Happy 55th Anniversary to "Here's Lucy"

Herbie J Pilato
Photo bythe Classic TV Preservation Society


The theme music echoed in living rooms across the country, accompanied by the booming male voiceover announcer.

The vivid colors on countless TV sets were ignited and highlighted by the blue curtain and the vibrant red hair that adorned an animated, wide-eyed, and tuxedoed female doll. All the flair was there, and it was the weekly start of something good.

For the next 30 minutes, something exciting and uplifting was going to transpire; something entertaining and funny; something special was in the air, and on the air. That something wonderful was and remains Here's Lucy.

A Closer Look

Initially sandwiched between Gunsmoke and The Doris Day Show on Monday nights at 9 PM, Here's Lucy originally aired from September 23, 1968 to March 18, 1974. The series was the third in a long line of weekly sitcom hits that former movie-star-turned-TV-legend Lucille Ball brought to life in the vivacious way that was her trademark.

The small-screen franchise began as I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951-1957), continued with The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour (CBS, 1957 to 1960) and The Lucy Show (CBS, 1962-1968), and then post-Here's Lucy, ended with the short-lived Life With Lucy (ABC, 1986).

I Love Lucy and The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour focused on the wedded bliss and blitz of the delightfully devious and dynamic housewife Lucy Ricardo and her charismatic Latin husband/band leader Ricky Ricardo, played by real-life spouses Ball and Desi Arnaz.

On The Lucy Show, Ball was the scatter-brained-but-lovable banking secretary-widow Lucy Carmichael to the cantankerous, penny-pinching Theodore Mooney played by Gale Gordon.

On Here's Lucy, Ball portrayed the also-widowed and slightly-ditzy and newly-named secretary Lucy Carter, who worked for the Unique Employment Agency, owned and operated by Gordon, now playing Ball's harried brother-in-law/employer Harrison Carter.

Gordon would return as grandfather-in-law Curtis McGibbon opposite Ball's grandmother Lucy Barker on Life With Lucy, but many moons before that, he had made a few guest appearances on I Love Lucy. It was on that show he was rumored to be Ball's first choice to play neighbor Fred Mertz before William Frawley was cast as the curmudgeon husband to Vivian Vance's Ethel Mertz, Ball's on-screen best friend.

Vance would later co-star with Ball in a similar capacity as Vivian Bagley on the first three years of The Lucy Show but only make a few special guest-star appearances as Vivian Jones (her real name) on Here's Lucy.

Also along for the Here's Lucy ride in some capacity were Ball series stalwarts Carole Cook, Mary Wickes, Doris Singleton, Vanda Barra, and real-life husband Sid Gould, who was cousin to Gary Morton, Ball's second-real-life husband (who served as the show's executive producer).

Mary Jane Croft had guest-starred on I Love Lucy, and would make regular appearances on The Lucy Show as the snooty Audrey Simmons and later Mary Jane Lewis (her real-life married name courtesy of her husband Elliot Lewis). On Here's Lucy Croft played Mary Jane Lewis, Lucy's daffy, but loyal pal.

Like I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, and later Life With Lucy, Here's Lucy featured a plethora of A-list special guest stars, everyone from Jack Benny, Helen Hayes, and Vincent Price, to Shelley Winters, and Eva Gabor. Top musical-variety performers also appeared on the show including Sammy Davis, Jr., Liberace, and Ginger Rogers, among many others.

The various Lucy formats changed over the years, but the heart and soul of Ball's comedic genius was the uncommon thread throughout each of her shows, which ultimately began on radio with My Favorite Husband, the precursor to I Love Lucy.

My Favorite Children

When it came to Here's Lucy, it was more like My Favorite Children. In updating the format of The Lucy Show, Ball requested the on-screen presence of her and Desi's real-life then-mid-teen children: Lucie Arnaz, 16, and Desi Arnaz, Jr., 15.

Both offspring had made periodic minor guest appearances on The Lucy Show, for which Desi, Sr. had produced the first few episodes. In the absence of Vance's regular presence on Here's Lucy, Lucie and Desi, Jr. stepped up to the plate with major league sibling characters Kim and Craig Carter.

Photo bythe Classic TV Preservation Society

Entertainment historian Robert S. Ray serves on the Board of Directors for the Classic TV Preservation Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the positive social influence of classic TV shows. "In most ways," Ray said, "Here's Lucy was better structured than The Lucy Show, at least in comparison with The Lucy Show's later seasons."

"The first years of The Lucy Show, with Vivian Vance as Lucy's cohort in comedy," Ray continued, "...was almost on a par with I Love Lucy. But by season four, the Lucy character had no family and no one to play off of on a regular basis, other than her bombastic boss Mr. Mooney, performed so wonderfully by Gale Gordon."

With the transformation of The Lucy Show into Here's Lucy, and after Ball and Desi Arnaz divorced and she sold their Desilu studio to Gulf-Western/Paramount in 1967, the creative changes made served as "an improvement to the Lucy character," said Ray.

"Lucy Carter, unlike Lucy Carmichael in the later seasons of The Lucy Show, was no longer a woman without a family. She had two teenage children, and Gale Gordon, while still her boss, was now also a relative [if by marriage, as her deceased husband was Harry's brother], which added to the plausibility of why he kept her on as an employee."

In the process, Lucie and Desi, Jr.'s presence as Kim and Craig became the show's crowning glory. Or as Ray noted, "the apples didn't fall far from the tree," even if a few developments threatened to uproot that blossoming forest throughout its harvest.

In the summer of 1971, production for Here's Lucy relocated from the Paramount lot in Hollywood to Universal Studios in Universal City. Wanda Clark was Ball's trusted secretary from The Lucy Show, through Here's Lucy, Life With Lucy, and until Ball's demise in 1989 from an abdominal aortic aneurysm (brought on and exacerbated by her heavy smoking).

At Ball's request, Clark even played a secretary in one episode of the show ("Lucy Protects Her Job," 12-22-69).

"We did the first few seasons of Here's Lucy on the Desilu lot as paying tenants," said Clark. "And we soon found out renters were different than owners."

Attorney Bernie Weitzman, then head of Desilu Business Affairs, "was very much a part of the decision to move to Universal," Clark explained. "At the time, he was working for Universal and urged Lucy to make the move. And she was always happy she did, too."

Years before, Desi Arnaz, Sr. had hired Weitzman away from CBS when negotiating deals for I Love Lucy. "Desi liked the way Bernie did business and Bernie was with Desilu until Lucy sold the studio," Clark said.

"Of course, Gulf-Western had promised Lucy they would keep her people working when they bought the studio but Bernie could see the writing on the wall and found other employment with Lorimar Studios, and other places instead of waiting to be let go. He was a great guy and apparently a good lawyer."

While the foundation of Here's Lucy remained steady, in 1972, the show's infrastructure faced another challenge: Ball had suffered a leg fracture while skiing. Initially fearing this incident would end Here's Lucy before its time, Ball persevered and, trouper that she was, performed much of the 1972-73 season in a cast.

Top: Gale Gordon. From left: guest star Robert Alda (Alan Alda's father), Ball, Lucie, and Desi, Jr.Photo bythe Classic TV Preservation Society

In fact, Ball's broken limb would go on to strengthen Here's Lucy in a number of ways. Robert S. Ray explained:

"Gale Gordon's Uncle Harry was now softened a bit. He stopped screaming at Lucy so much and became more of an 'Ethel/Viv' companion to her, something that was needed ever since Vivian Vance left The Lucy Show years earlier.

"Others in the cast, including the show's strong stock company of supporting characters, such as Mary Jane Croft and Vanda Barra, became more than straight people to Lucy. They were given more to do than simply say, 'Hi Lucy. What's up?"

"More importantly," Ray continued, "Lucie Arnaz was given more of the comedy to perform, allowing her to fully develop as a major talent. Some of Lucie's best moments, in particular, are from those later seasons."

With both Lucie and Desi, Jr.'s early performances, the kids in fact proved all right. Throughout the entirety of Here's Lucy, they rose to the occasion with their artistic gifts and just as much style, talent, verve, and enthusiasm as their iconic mom and dad had previously done on any show.

With her long and limber legs, natural beauty, and comedic chops, with his deep brown eyes and matching touseled hair, Lucie and Desi, Jr. were simply adorable. And having a mastery over various vocal and physical movements, and literally being born into the performing arts, certainly didn't hurt.

"I had always thought that I was a part of I Love Lucy," Desi, Jr. said, "as I was born on the same day as Little Ricky."

He's referring to the Ricardo's on-screen son, played by Keith Thibodeaux, who remains a close friend to the Arnaz family, and whose alter ego made TV history as the first baby born in a weekly sitcom. TV Guide even ran a cover story about the episode, "Lucy Goes to the Hospital," which aired January 19, 1953, the actual date of Desi, Jr.'s birth (coordinated by a planned cesarean).

In several I Love Lucy episodes before the "Hospital" segment, however, Ball was seen as pregnant which is exactly what she was in real life with Desi, Jr. "That was my first job as an actor," he mused. "I like to call it 'fetal performing,' as I was in my Mom's stomach."

While Desi, Jr. had made an actual visible cameo appearance on I Love Lucy (in "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue," originally airing May 6, 1957), he performed with an even more noticeable presence on The Lucy Show.

He played Billy Simmons, the on-screen friend to that sitcom's Jimmy Garrett and Candy Moore, who played Ball's children, Jerry and Chris Carmichael, and Ralph Hart, who portrayed Sherman Bagley, son of Vance's Vivian Bagley.

Although Lucie Arnaz did not appear in the "Statue" segment (contrary to previous false reports), she also performed on The Lucy Show, as Cynthia, another friend of Moore's Chris Carmichael. "I pulled my hair back into a ponytail with my little chopped-off bangs," Lucie recalled, "and I played a soda-jerk, as they called them in those days.

"And I thought, 'That's really a grown-up thing for me to do. I look really grown-up.' And if you watch the show, you'll laugh hysterically because I was only 11 years old and had buck teeth. But Mom gave me a shot, and I learned how to catch those sodas as they came running down the counter, and put them on a tray, served them, said my lines right, and I didn't fall down."

"Those spots were fun," Lucie continued, and she was excited when her mother recruited her to portray Cynthia. But she was still wet behind the ears and preparing for bigger fish to fry.

Lucie would always perform shows in her backyard in Beverly Hills, where she operated a small theater group. She was headed toward doing live theater, wanted to be on the stage, and grew up listening to soundtracks and Broadway cast albums.

"I just knew I wanted to be in musical theater," she said. "So, those little bit parts on The Lucy Show were good training for me. They were filmed in front of a live audience, like theater. And I had to memorize lines and see if I could perform in front of an audience and not choke."

While attending Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles, Lucie invested herself in that facility's theater department. "I wanted to learn more about the stage," she noted.

She, and her brother, however, would also soon learn more about television. It was around Lucie's sophomore year that her mother decided to transform The Lucy Show into Here's Lucy.

"She had completed six seasons of The Lucy Show," Lucie recalled, "and that's all you needed for syndication. And it's suggested that sometimes it's better to begin a brand new show, and you can have syndication for that show, as well, as opposed to having 12 years of one show. They don't do that so much now, but in those days they did."

But when Ball offered Lucie and Desi, Jr. regular roles on Here's Lucy, they were initially hesitant to comply. For one, Desi, Jr. had found success with the rock group, Dino, Desi & Billy, which featured Billy Hinsche and Dino Martin, son of Dean Martin (a good friend to Ball who guest-starred on The Lucy Show episode, "Lucille Ball Dates Dean Martin," 2-14-66).

"We were doing extremely well," Desi, Jr. observed of his involvement with the early '60s musical trio, which was one of the first boy-bands in history. "But we were coming to the end of that because we all wanted to go to college, with only two years left in high school," which was Beverly High for him, while Lucie was attending Immaculate Heart.

"I had tunnel vision," Lucie said on her Immaculate theatrical conception. She wanted to graduate high school and attend a university such as Northwestern, where she could study theater. "That was my plan. So, when Mom asked me to do Here's Lucy, I immediately said, 'No, no, no, no!"

Lucie feared backlash from the industry. Both she and her brother had no desire to be perceived as privileged. "I didn't want anyone to think I was cast on the show because my mother was the star," Lucie noted, "which would have been the absolute God's honest truth." So she told her mother forthrightly, "I don't want to go down that road. I want to learn how to be really good before I get big jobs."

To which Ball replied, "Well, you can learn a lot on the new show."

"She tried to talk me into it," recalled Lucie who, along with Desi, Jr. ultimately agreed to do the series. But not before they requested a special promise from their mom:

If after one year, or even just two episodes, if the industry buzz was not promising; if all they heard were comments like, "The kids are cute…but what are they there for?" or "They're not ready" or "They should have hired real actors," then they wanted to be written out of the show.

Lucie, in particular, told Ball, "You would have to find a way to send Kim away to school or something. I won't want to continue in the part. I would want to go back and learn my craft."

In the end, Ball agreed to her children's terms, and Lucie and Desi, Jr. went on to perform winningly on Here's Lucy. "I guess we were okay enough for that first season," Lucie noted modestly, "where we didn't look like we shouldn't have been there. And then I think we gradually got better and better and learned how to do more."

That meant riding horses, as in "Lucy and Wayne Newton" (2-16-70), which was the second segment featuring the famed singer, who had first appeared in "Lucy Sells Craig to Wayne Newton" (11-25-68).

In "Lucy Sells Craig," Lucy persuades Newton to hire her son as his drummer. In "Wayne Newton," Lucy, Harry, Kim, and Craig vacation in Las Vegas, where they return a lost horse to Newton's ranch. The star then positions them as hired hands so they can afford to attend a few live stage shows in Vegas.

As a result, Lucy and Harry are saddled with the more menial ranch chores, while Kim and Craig join Newton in more high-end work with elegant equestrian presentations.

In preparation for those regal-riding moments, Lucie and Desi dedicated themselves to three weeks of arduous lessons at the Randall Ranch, a facility in the San Fernando Valley, some distance from the Here's Lucy set.

As Lucie recalled, they would "drive two hours in rush-hour traffic all the way up to this mountain where we get on with this horse dressage and learn from scratch how to ride so that we could do that show with Wayne Newton. I mean stuff like that just blows my mind."

In one sense, there was horsing around on Here's Lucy, in general, because working on a TV sitcom beats working in the stables any day. But in another very real and professional sense, appearing on the series, as on any television show, especially for episodes that involve honing a new skill or dexterity in any unfamiliar arena, required a great deal of stamina and dedication.

Fortunately, in the end, Lucie and Desi delivered the goods. Their natural-born talent, combined with their newly acquired expertise, paid off.

And while both Lucie and Desi hoofed it with panache in "Lucy and Wayne Newton," there were several other episodes, musically geared and otherwise, in which everyone involved put their best foot forward.

Vivian Vance returned to the "Lucy" world in an episode with guest star Lawrence WelkPhoto bythe Classic TV Preservation Society

Lucie is frequently asked to choose her favorite episodes of the show but always finds it difficult to do so. "I never have an answer to any question like that about any topic on the planet," she said. "I don't know what that is about me in that respect, but I refuse to pick favorites in any category. I just can't; not my favorite songs…or my favorite color or any favorite anything."

In the entire cache of Here's Lucy, Lucie has "lots and lots of favorite episodes. But I would have to sit down with a list of the shows in front of me and go, 'Oh, my god…I love that one, this one…and 'Oh, and remember that?!'"

Such selections would be made for "all different reasons," she said, "which is true of I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, and every other show I have ever seen in my life," Lucie adds, whether or not she appeared in them.

But she fondly gravitates towards Here's Lucy episodes that made her "work the hardest" or the musical-oriented adventures, like the Wayne Newton segment, or "My Fair Buzzi," featuring guest-star Ruth Buzzi.

In the "Fair" episode, which originally aired December 11, 1972, Buzzi, of Laugh-In fame, plays Kim's actress-friend Annie, to whom Kim and Lucy give a make-over to help with an upcoming audition. But the director, portrayed by Hal England, rejects the new look, and all three ladies, along with Uncle Harry, are eventually cast in a 1920s-styled speakeasy show.

It's in a dance number in this show-within-a-show, that Lucie showcases her tap-dancing skills with the song, "Nagasaki," which she performed with two female dancers. "We jumped and danced on a bar, slid down a fire pole…the entire time not missing a step," she recalled. "I did not grow up as a dancer. So, just learning to do all of that in one take, in front of the audience that one night was…just the best…feeling…ever."

One of the most famous episodes of "Here's Lucy" featured monumental guest stars Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.Photo bythe Classic TV Preservation Society

Other memorable episodes for Lucie are "Lucy and Donny Osmond" (11-20-72). Here, Lucy and Kim attend an Osmond concert with Cousin Patricia (Eve Plumb on loan from The Brady Bunch), who has a crush on the teen rock star.

Unbeknownst to Kim, however, Donny becomes enamored with her.

Subsequently, he volunteers to perform at Kim's charity event. Once learning the truth, Kim feels obligated to clear the air, and she and Osmond then perform a rousing duet of "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" at her event.

Lucie said, "It was a blast" working on the "Osmond" segment, behind the scenes of which Donny had a crush on her in real life. "And the funny thing is," she laughs, "I had a crush on his older brother Alan Osmond."

Michael Stern, known throughout the industry as "Lucy's Number 1 Fan," was one of Ball's dearest friends, and remains close to Lucie and Desi, Jr. In his best-selling book, I Had A Ball, Stern recounts meeting the famous redhead on July 12, 1973, which he calls his "12 ½ birthday." That's the day he attended a filming of the episode, "Lucy, The Peacemaker" (airdate 9-24-73) with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

Other episodes Stern was present for include: "Lucy's Punctured Romance" (2-7-72), with Bob Cummings; "Lucy Gives Eddie Albert the Old Song and Dance (9-15-73), featuring the Green Acres star; "Lucy and Phil Harris Strike Up The Band" (2-25-74), and "Lucy and Donny Osmond."

And as Stern recalled, Alan Osmond, and all of the older Osmond brothers, were seated in the front row for that episode's filming. But their sister, Marie, unfortunately, did not join them. "She was recording 'Paper Roses,'" Stern says of the song that became her first hit single.

While Eve Plumb had also made a guest appearance in "Lucy and Donny Osmond," Desi, Jr. had portrayed himself in The Brady Bunch episode, "The Possible Dream" (2-27-70) in which Maureen McCormick's Marcia, older sister to Plumb's Jan, would have a crush on Desi.

Only a few weeks before, Desi as Craig Carter was crushing on Ann-Margret during her guest appearance in the Here's Lucy episode, "Lucy and Ann-Margret," which premiered February 2, 1970. In this adventure, a career-minded Craig decides to pursue songwriting, instead of the medical field, much to his mother's dismay.

As life can only happen on any Lucy show, he soon finds himself enamored with and performing alongside Ann-Margret in her home and another time on her TV special.

Before Here's Lucy, Dino, Desi & Billy had appeared with the actress-dancer-singer in the 1966 feature film, Murderer's Row, which was part of the Matt Helm movie series starring Dean Martin.

Desi recalled, "We did one of our singles at a disco with Ann-Margret and Dean dancing in front of us. And that was kind of a big deal because it was our first movie as a rock-n-roll group.

"Back in the day, bands would make movie appearances like that" [i.e. The Beach Boys and other musical acts like Stevie Wonder were seen in the Beach Party films directed by William Asher producer of Bewitched, who had helmed episodes of I Love Lucy].

Top: Desi, Jr. with Ann-Margaret Bottom: Guest star Susan Tolksy, Gale Gordon, Lucie ArnazPhoto bythe Classic TV Preservation Society

Desi was only 13 when he met Ann-Margret on Murderer's Row, and 16 by the time they reconnected on Here's Lucy. "But she was always wonderful," he said, and that her guest appearance on Here's Lucy was the result of a co-agreement with Ball. "Mom did the [real] Ann-Margret special [from 1969], and Ann-Margret would do our show."

Desi had also helped to write the Ann-Margret episode, but the songs that Craig Carter created in the segment, including "Touch Me, Magic," were in reality composed by Steve March Torme, son of Mel "The Christmas Song" Torme.

Recalled Desi: "Performing the kind of crush-sequence that Craig had on Ann-Margret…in the scene where he goes to the rehearsal in her home…kind of puppy love stuff…and actually doing the song with her…supposedly only her TV special [within the episode]…was incredible.

"And it was a great song. It wasn't just a good song. It was a great song. Billy Strange did the arrangement…and we got to sing and dance. It was pretty amazing."

During the second performance sequence of the episode, Desi dazzled with a guitar solo in a glitzy black jumpsuit reminiscent of a certain "King of Rock-n-Roll." "I call it my Elvis impersonation," he smiled in recollection. "It was kind of a take-off on Viva Las Vegas," the 1964 film Ann-Margret did with Presley.

The guitar Desi utilized in the Here's Lucy episode belonged to Jimmy Burton, Presley's guitarist who according to Desi, "played on everything Elvis ever did. And Jimmy actually played the guitar part for me…the guitar-syncing," he adds with another grin.

A few months later, Desi performed on Here's Lucy with a more familiar instrument, the drums, which he had played with Dino and Billy in their band. In the "Drum Contest" (10-5-70), famed drummer Buddy Rich, portraying himself, inspires Craig to enter a drumming contest.

It all seemed to be the natural progression of things, as playing the drums on-screen and off, either with Dino, Desi & Billy or with Rich, allowed Desi, Jr. to follow in the famous footsteps of his father, Desi, Sr., who was known for his remarkable skills with the conga drum.

Further into this mix, both Desi, Jr. and his sister Lucie had known Rich prior to his gig on Here's Lucy, and were friends with the drummer's daughter Cathy before and after his appearance on the show.

"Buddy was my idol," Desi said. "He was the greatest drummer in the world. He had a technique of playing the drums called 'finger and wrist control,' where you bounce your sticks with the fingers and your wrists. He didn't have to move his arms that much, and didn't have to work very hard because he had really fast wrists."

"It was a kind of classical jazz style" that Desi had learned from having taken drum lessons for approximately 15 years from Bill Wilson, a percussionist from the Long Beach Philharmonic Orchestra. "Bill was a great teacher and a great drummer," Desi noted.

But when Desi performed as Craig with Rich as himself on Here's Lucy, the real-reel worlds blurred. "We had drum challenges," Desi recalled, "where we challenged each other in solos. Buddy would do his solo and then I would do mine, and I would do whatever he did but it wasn't as easy for me because I was using more of my arms.

"And I remember Buddy asking, in one of his great comments as my mentor on the show, 'Why are you working so hard?'

"It was all about relaxing," Desi said, "…and not getting tense in order to play incredible solos at an incredible speed, which he did. He was the fastest drummer and I always respected someone who played fast, trying to see how fast you can go with a double stroke roll, how fast your feet, hands, or wrists can go when you play.

"Rock-n-roll music isn't like that. But Jazz music is. You can do all sorts of things fast, like fast breaks.

Desi, Jr. with Buddy RichPhoto bythe Classic TV Preservation Society

"The reason why Buddy was the world's greatest drummer," Desi continued, "was because he could play fast and not get tired. When playing the drums, sometimes you're doing so for two and a half to three hours at a time, and it's a real physical workout. It's like dancing. You have to pace yourself."

For Desi, Buddy Rich and Ann-Margret appearing on Here's Lucy proved to be two of his "greatest inspirations," with the latter being "an inspiration in a different way," he clarified with another smile.

The esteemed Here's Lucy guest list then continued to expand with stars such as Lawrence Welk, and the return of Vivian Vance, the latter two of whom appeared together in "Lucy and Lawrence Welk" (1-19-70).

Here, Lucy's good friend Viv, now visually impaired without new glasses, pays a visit. Chaos ensues when Lucy tells Viv that she is friends with the "bubble-making" bandleader and TV personality Welk, which is not the case at all. With help from Mary Jane and a Welk wax dummy, Lucy then attempts to fool Viv, while Kim and Craig coordinate a meeting with the real deal.

Vance is always a welcome presence on any of Ball's shows and makes the second of her three Here's Lucy appearances with this episode, following "Lucy The Matchmaker" (12-6-78) and before "Lucy Goes Hawaiian," Parts 1 (2-15-71) and 2 (2-22-71), the latter in which Desi Jr. offers an impression of famed island songbird Don Ho. "That was a lot of fun," he said.

Welk, meanwhile, is in on the joke during his Here's Lucy appearance; game for all the ribbing of his "square" image, while his renowned catch-phrase, "Wunnerful! Wunnerful!", is spoken several times through the episode.

From a writing perspective, "Lucy and Lawrence Welk" is what Robert S. Ray affectionately refers to as "a shameless reworking" of a classic I Love Lucy episode. In "Lucy and Harpo Marx" (5-9-55), Lucy Ricardo and Harpo Marx recreate the classic glass-less mirror routine from the Marx Brothers' 1933 film Duck Soup.

Although that scene is not mirrored in "Lucy and Lawrence Welk," Vance ultimately replaces Caroline Appleby as the woman from the Love edition who loses her glasses and is unable to tell that it's Lucy wearing a mask at first, before the real celebrity surfaces.

Another I Love Lucy adventure, "The Handcuffs" (10-6-52), inspired what is considered one of Here's Lucy's best episodes featuring what is arguably the show's most prestigious guest stars. In "Lucy Meets the Burtons," premiering September 14, 1970, Lucy Carter intermingles with then-married movie icons Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

In the original Love segment, Ricky and Lucy Ricardo are handcuffed together by accident – courtesy of Guess Who? But when Ricky has to go on live TV and sing before they can get separated, Lucy devises a scheme whereby he stands in front of a curtain and her free arm doubles for his handcuffed left arm. "The humor stems from a few 'inappropriate' gestures by Lucy's hand over which Ricky has no control," Ray said.

In Here's Lucy's clever reworking of the idea, Lucy Carter's left hand, wearing the notorious ring, doubles for Taylor's, who says things like, "No, I don't know her!" and other subsequent gags that are equally amusing.

Gale Gordon remembered the episode in his conversation with author Dina-Marie Kulzer (today known as Dina DiMambo) for her book Television Series Regulars of the Fifties and Sixties in Interview (McFarlund, 1992).

"Lucy and I were both thrilled to work with someone of [Richard's] caliber. He was utterly charming and delightful, and so was Liz Taylor. I had admired Richard Burton for years before I had ever worked with him. He was a great actor. It was a joy to get to know him as a person."

According to Wanda Clark, "Elizabeth and Richard had just returned from a vacation, and Elizabeth was quite tanned, and Lucy's hand from behind the curtain was not very tanned at all, which I think just added to the fun."

The "Burtons" episode was "a special event" for many reasons, she added. For one, "it was the first and only time there would be an invited audience."

It also featured on-screen cameos of many entertainment critics portraying themselves in a party scene - those like Rona Barrett, Jim Bacon, and Cecil Smith, who not only covered television for the Los Angeles Times but who was married to Cleo Smith, Ball's cousin and one of Here's Lucy's producers.

To celebrate it all, Clark said, "There was a very big party on the stage after the show."

Certainly, it was always a party when Carol Burnett would show up on Here's Lucy. Burnett had performed in several episodes of The Lucy Show in between her regular co-starring stint on The Garry Moore Show (CBS, 1958-67), and then resurfaced in three segments of Here's Lucy while starring in The Carol Burnett Show (which originally aired on CBS from 1967-1978).

Burnett's activity on Here's Lucy included: "Lucy and Carol Burnett" (1-27-69), "Lucy Competes with Carol Burnett" (3-2-70), and yet another episode titled "Lucy and Carol Burnett" (2-8-71). Each time, her diverse skills were on full display, in tandem with Ball's pristine comedic and musical moments.

"Carol and Lucy were simpatico," said Michael Stern. "They worked together like coffee and cream."

Thomas Watson, publicist for Lucille Ball Productions from 1986 to 1989, was another of Ball's close confidants. He says Ball respected the fact that Burnett "had such a wide range of talent; that she could do heavy drama as well as wacky comedy. Lucy enjoyed and admired the way Carol grew and developed as a performer through the years."

"And during their friendship," Watson said, and as Burnett has shared many times, "Lucy would always send Carol flowers on her birthday, which was April 26th. And we had a standing order to do so every year, and of course, our orders would go out a few weeks early."

Consequently, on Burnett's birthday in 1989, she received flowers. But as Watson relays, "That also just so happened to be the day that Lucy died."

It was a poignant, ironic moment that bespoke the mutual admiration between the two stars, which Lucie Arnaz confirmed. "Mom loved Carol dearly," she said.

Lucie also acknowledges her mother's affection for Gale Gordon. "She just adored him. He was one of the sweetest men ever."

Beyond the special guest stars on Here's Lucy, Gordon's significant contribution to the series cannot go unmentioned. Desi, Jr. calls the veteran performer "the greatest person to work with. And I really felt like he was my uncle. He couldn't have been nicer, and he was incredibly funny.

"He was also very low-key and the exact opposite of his Uncle Harry character, who was very obstinate and who was always upset about something. But Gale Gordon was never upset about anything."

"He was extremely down to earth," Desi continued of Gordon, who lived in Borrego Springs, California. "Gale would commute back and forth to do the show in Los Angeles," adds Desi, who presently resides in Boulder, Colorado. "He was a very private and extraordinary human being.

"And he and Mom had worked together for so many years, even on the I Love Lucy show [in which Gordon played Mr. Littlefield, Ricky's boss, in two episodes]. They were very close and they worked extremely well together. And they handled the bulk of the show, except in the episodes that focused on Kim and Craig."

But then Desi, Jr. left Here's Lucy after 2 ½ years, which ultimately transpired due to the positive response to his performance in "Lucy and Ann-Margret."

Shortly after that episode aired, Desi was offered a role in the 1971 feature film Red Sky at Morning, starring Richard Thomas, pre-The Waltons, Catherine Burns, Richard Crenna (who had worked with Gale Gordon on Our Miss Brooks, CBS, 1952-1956), Clair Bloom, and Strother Martin, among others.

Desi had signed on with Here's Lucy for only three years, and "never planned to do the show for more than that," he said. "You do a show every year, and you get picked up or you don't. But the fact that I had signed for even just those three years, and not just 22 episodes, that was a pretty amazing deal."

Desi did return to the series for one more episode ("Lucy and Joe Namath," 10-9-60), but after Morning, his "entire life changed."

He traveled the world, and worked non-stop until he was approximately 20 years old, appearing in TV-movies like the acclaimed ABC's Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones (1972); Marco (1973), a musical about Marco Polo, co-starring Zero Mostel and Jack Westen, and filmed in Japan; Billy Two Hats (1974), directed by Norman Jewison, and which took Desi to Israel ("an incredible experience").

Other TV-movies followed, all for ABC: Having Babies, from 1976, and co-starring Linda Purl, who became Desi's first wife (and which was one of three pilots that led to the weekly series Julie Farr, M.D. starring Susan Sullivan); She Lives with Season Hubley and The Voyage of Yes, about a young man who sailed around the world.

"I kept working, getting offers, and auditioning for various parts," Desi said. "And it just wasn't comedy, but drama, action, and musicals."

All the while, he was attending the California Institute of the Arts, and "in relationships with people who were doing pretty amazing things, too," including Liza Minnelli.

"She was working," he said, "and I was traveling everywhere with her during her concerts and shows in Paris, London, Vegas, and all over the United States. When we were together Liza won the Academy Award for Cabaret [1972], and that was another extraordinary experience for me at that young an age."

Throughout it all, his mother was thrilled with his success, and his sister's presence on Here's Lucy was increasing. "Mom was happy for me that I was busy at such an early age," Desi says, "and she and Lucie were happy doing Here's Lucy."

The mother and daughter act was indeed becoming more of a winning on-screen sidekick combination, as Ball's original pairing had been with Vivian Vance on I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show.

"In any show, there always needs to be a sidekick," Lucie said. "Someone for the lead character to talk to, whether it's Ethel on I Love Lucy or [Valerie Harper's] Rhoda on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Every single show has sidekicks, and Here's Lucy was not any different."

Lucie consistently stepped up to the comedic plate and made frequent home runs, so much so that two episodes of Here's Lucy served as pilots for a potential spin-off series.

In "Kim Moves Out," from January 24, 1972, and featuring guest star Tim Matheson (who appeared with Ball in the 1968 feature, Yours, Mine, and Ours), Kim moves into her own place (a fashionable loft above the garage), but momma Lucy still does the cooking and the cleaning – and the snooping.

In "Kim Finally Cuts You-Know-Who's Apron Strings," from February 21, 1972, Kim moves again, this time into an actual apartment, managed by Lucy's brother Herb Hinkley, played by Alan Oppenheimer. Her friends include Sue Ann Ditbenner, portrayed by Susan Tolsky (formerly of TV's Here Come the Brides).

Neither pilot sold, but Lucie's honed talent continued to shine. And while Ball had never perceived herself as naturally funny, she always viewed her daughter as just the opposite.

"That's kind of true," Lucie agreed. "I'm more like my father in that way. He was very funny in person, in meetings, and with people. He was always saying something amusing and finding something funny in the structure of what you just said.

"For a man who was conquering a second language, he was amazingly savvy at making jokes and putting people at ease and telling funny stories. Whereas Mom was always good at relaying something that happened to her during the day and making you see the entire scenario."

For Ball, if it wasn't on the page, it wasn't on the stage, and "improvisation" and "improv" were dirty words.

"Oh, God," Lucie asserts, "Mom would run screaming if anyone used the word 'improv.' There was no improvisation on our show. Instead, it was like, 'Write it down for me. Tell me exactly how it's supposed to go. Then let me cook with it. It's a great recipe, now let me cook with it.'"

"Lots of people follow recipes and the food doesn't taste good," continues Lucie. "And then some people can read a recipe and say, I get it. I know how that's supposed to go. And I know how to serve it up. And Mom could read what they gave her to do in a script and turn it into gold."

Theresa Price was another secretary in the Desilu fold, employed from the time of The Lucy Show through Here's Lucy. Price was dedicated to her work, the show, producers including Oscar Katz and Gary Morton, and of course, Ball.

"Everything about the show was exciting," Price said. "Watching the rehearsals was exciting. Anything that was said or done on the show was exciting. And Lucy was fantastic; a perfectionist, who added to that excitement because she loved her work so much. And you can't beat that."

According to what Gale Gordon told Dina-Marie Kulzer (Di Mambro), Ball was indeed a fearless purest when it came to performing. "Lucille would never allow anyone to double for her," he said. "If she had to learn how to ice skate, she'd ice skate. If she had to go down a staircase on skis then that's what she'd do.

"She wouldn't allow a double to do it because the cameras were very close. She thought it would look ridiculous to use a double. None of us ever had doubles to do stunts for us. If I fell in the mud or got stuck in a hunk of cement or fell down a trap door then that's what I did."

"Lucille didn't care about messing herself up," he continued. "A lot of stars of her stature wouldn't do physical comedy because they were afraid they'd get their hair messed up or they'd look bad. I remember once she fell into a vat of green dye. She came out with not only her hair green but everything was green!

"It was tremendously funny to see [that], but it took hours to get her cleaned up and to put on her make-up to do the rest of the show. But things like that were important because they looked real. And this is very important when you're doing comedy. You've got to believe it happened and it has to be real."

"The secret of comedy," Gordon said, "if I may be so bold as to make a statement like this, is that for comedy to be good it has to be played straight. And again, the greatest example of this is Lucy Ball. No matter how wild the shows were that we did, no matter how bizarre the situations were, they were never played as if they were funny.

"They were played like serious incidents of ordinary everyday life. And that's why they are funny and are still considered classic comedies."

"What's wrong with most of the comedies nowadays," he explained, "is that the actors know they're funny or think they are. That takes away from the comedy right away. The ones who play comedy straight are the great ones – the ones people love to watch."

And viewers certainly loved to watch Here's Lucy, in which Ball relied on what Lucie Arnaz describes today as "those wonderful things that her writers wrote for her to do. The scripts were so brilliantly conceived and specifically written, right down to where the fly was going to land and on whose shoulder.

"I have those scripts, and I can tell you that they were just genius, and Mom never received an award [at any time] where she didn't acknowledge that."

And there were many opportunities to do so. Ball was nominated several times for an Emmy, winning four in total: two for her work on I Love Lucy and two for The Lucy Show. Then, in 1989, shortly after her passing, Ball was posthumously voted the Governor's Award by the Television Academy.

In 2007, and on their mother's behalf, Lucie and Desi, Jr. accepted the Legacy of Laughter award posthumously presented to Ball at the TV Land Awards.

In the time since Here's Lucy, Ball's children have certainly accomplished a great deal in their own lives and careers.

Desi, Jr. owns and operates the Boulder Theatre, which houses the heralded Boulder City Ballet Company that he founded with his late wife, Amy Laura Bargiel (who died of cancer in 2015). Besides his long list of classic TV-movies, Desi, Jr. went on to star in the sci-fi/TV cult classic Automan (ABC, 1983-1984), and in feature films like The Mambo Kings (1992), in which he had the opportunity to play his father.

Although the two potential Kim Carter spin-offs did not pan out, Lucie starred in The Lucie Arnaz Show in the mid-1980s, and the acclaimed drama Sons & Daughters of the early 1990s, both shows on CBS.

Lucie's TV-movies include: Who Killed The Black Dahlia? (1975), Washington Mistress (1982); Who Gets The Friends? (1988), and The Mating Season (1980), in which she performed opposite Laurence Luckinbill.

Lucie fell in love and wed Luckinbill while performing in the stage edition of They're Playing Our Song (for which she received the Los Angeles Drama Critics' Circle, Theatre World, and Outer Critic Circle Awards).

Countless other live theatre productions followed, as did big-screen musical hits such as The Jazz Singer (1980) with Neil Diamond.

Happily married to Luckinbill for nearly 40 years, Lucie continues to sing and dance in well-received live stage shows that tour the country, as music remains a constant driving force in her life and career as it was before and during Here's Lucy.


"Here's Lucy was unique because of all the musical episodes we did," said Lucie. "That was very unusual for a TV sitcom in those days. We were the first Glee."

She said it presented the "100% professionalism" that defined each of her mother's shows. "And I'd also like to think it may have been interesting for people to see Mom [performing] with her own children, too."

Michael Stern can vouch for that. "In watching Here's Lucy, which was from my generation," he said, "I always felt like Kim and Craig were my brother and sister, and Uncle Harry was my uncle, and Lucy was my mother. I could see myself as being part of that family…a musical family."

"Music was one of the main reasons why Here's Lucy worked," added Desi, Jr. "It was a show with a lot of music and a great deal of extraordinary dancing and singing."

Expanding on that note, and Gale Gordon's theory of television comedy, Robert S. Ray concluded: "Here's Lucy was a bright, colorful half-hour of old-fashioned timeless comedy and music done on 35mm film, at a time when TV comedy was turning into cheaper videotape and also turning more controversial, more topical and hence, more dated today.

"In the 21st century, shows such as All in the Family and Maude, though of an undeniably high quality, seem like time capsules of the 1970s."

Suffice it to say, Here's Lucy, with little evocation of its era, remains ageless.

Desi, Jr. and Lucie Arnaz in 2007, accepting the Legacy of Laughter of Award, in honor of their beloved MomPhoto bythe Classic TV Preservation Society

[Note: A version of this article was originally published on Emmys.com, while certain facts and information in this article were culled from IMDb.com, and the books, Retro Active Television, Glamour, Gidgets and the Girl Next Door, and Dashing, Daring, and Debonair. All commentary in this article was gathered from the author's exclusive interviews with those quoted.]

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including the newly-published CONNERY, SEAN CONNERY biography, the revised BIONIC BOOK, RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, and more. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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