Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Lucy and the Bomps

Buried on page 34 of Boxoffice magazine of April 29, 1950 was the news that a new company had been formed called Desilu Productions. It revealed the company was “developing a three-way program encompassing motion pictures, video and vaudeville.”

Of course, video was where it made its name. “I Love Lucy” is one of the top shows in the history of television and Desilu produced or housed many hits through the ‘50s. But the company’s first effort was in vaudeville. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz took to the road, opening in Chicago on June 2, 1950, then moving a week later to the Roxy in New York. CBS was anxious to have Lucy, star of the network’s “My Favorite Husband,” make the jump to television, but balked at the idea of Arnaz playing her husband, even though they were married in real life. CBS didn’t believe audiences would buy it. So Lucy and Desi decided to find out for themselves with a road show.

Broadway columnist Earl Wilson tagged along with them after one performance and came up with a story. One thing that’s neat is the little conservation about Desi’s accented English, which eventually found itself into dialogue on “I Love Lucy.” And so did the Bryam River Beagle Club.

The column appeared on August 19, 1950.

By Earl Wilson

Lucille Ball has been one of our most appreciated movie actresses for quite a while, but it was seeing her do a bump on the stage that made me really come to realize how talented she is.
It was after she’d done her clever act with husband Desi Arnaz at the Roxy that I talked to the flamin’ redhead about it.
“Wasn't that a bump?” I asked her, as we got into a cab and pulled away from the stagedoor.
I wanted to be sure, because some snooty actresses wouldn’t want it thought that they ever did a bump.
“that was a married woman’s refined version of a bump.”
Lucille was sitting back in the cab, exhausted from several shows that day, and clamoring to be taken somewhere to see a show. She said she had been entertaining all day and now she wanted to be entertained for a change.
“Did you say refined?” Desi looked across the cab at her. I was between them.
“Any harder you do it and you will knock my hot off,” he said in his charming accent.
At Desi’s urging, she told me a story showing that doing the bump is for her not new. It seems that once she made a picture for Eric Palmer called “Dance, Girl, Dance.”
“He was telling me, ‘Those bomps. Don’t do those bomps bad or the sansors will keep the picture.’
“So I was doing a very tame dance, not bumping at all.
“I had on a 27-pound dress, silver lame, with bugle beads, and it rolled from side to side when I shook.
“Durin’ a scene, Palmer jumped up and said, ‘Oh, oh, that was a bomp. I told you no bomps.’
“I went up to him and I said, ‘Mr. Palmer, that was not a bomp. THIS is a bomp.’
“And I bumped and I wrapped those 27 pounds of beads right around his neck!”
It’s a pleasure to talk to two such honest, earthy people after listening to some others who are always posing. A lot of people are astonished that they are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary because, as Desi points out, “Everyone said it wouldn’t last a month.” “And WE didn’t think it would last a week,” Lucille said.
Being romantically inclined, I asked for the details which most everybody must have forgotten by now but the participants themselves.
“Where did you get married?” I asked Desi.
“The Byram River Beagle Club, at Greenwich, Conn.,” Lucille said.
“Thank you, I can never say that,” said her Cuban husband.
“Yes, you can. Try it,” Lucille said.
“The By-ram River Bee-gul Club,” Desi said dutifully and slowly.
“Faster!” commanded Lucille.
“The Byver Regal Civer Club,” responded Desi.
“Oh, my,” said Lucille, “We were married by Judge John J. O’Brien. He’s the one who married Tommy Manville so many times.”
Although Desi missed a show at the Roxy, where he was then appearing, to get married, he remembers, just as vividly, how on his wedding night he woke up the bride about 5 A. M. and demanded that she get him a glass of water.
The funny thing is that she did.
“About 9 o’clock she woke me up,” Desi recalls, “and she said ‘Listen, you—, the next time you want a glass of water you get it yourself!’”
Desi explains that he’s never made such a request since.
Desi and Lucille have formed their own company which they call “Desilu Productions,” this being a combination, of course of their two first names.
“First time I ever got top billing,” Desi says.
They plan to do concerts, radio, television and movies together. Lucille comes from Butte, Mont., and, as everybody knows, has red hair.
Lucille made up a description of herself around which a movie will be made. The title which describes her so accurately is "Blazing Beulah From Butte," and we figure it ought to get the money.
Never underestimate that Desi.
When they were getting married it appeared that she might not be able to because of a commitment to Harold Lloyd.
Desi called Lloyd from New York and defiantly announced to him that Lucille couldn’t be available that week, as he was marrying her. “Y-yes, D-desi, c-can she be back next k-weeek?” stammered Lloyd, who never does.
Desi is pretty masterful; when he speaks, to Lucille he is her master’s voice.

It would have been a little rude of Wilson to point out why everyone in Hollywood thought the Ball-Arnaz marriage wouldn’t last. The world found out after it happened in 1960. At the time, Lucy charged “mental cruelty” and told the court of Desi’s temper tantrums. Some years later, she described the reason for the split as “the same old booze and broads.”

But the divorce certainly never hurt the lucrative reruns of their TV show, nor their reputations among fans. Deep down, despite the divorce, I suspect they believed that Desi really still loved Lucy. Because they did, too.

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