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Lucille Ball's Mean Side


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Last night, a friend of mine who is a former stewardess was telling her stories of serving upon some of the great stars of the past. She glowed when she told of how kind most stars were to her - including Lee Remick, Jacqueline Bisset, Shelley Winters (who refused to eas at her seat and then during the movie went to eat in the galley), Nanette Fabray, Lee Marvin, and so many others. However, in her twenty-five years of work, only two stars were rude and unfriednly to her: Bob Dylan and Lucille Ball.

 

In recent times, so many people have talked about how Ball either loved you or loathed you. I was told that on the plane she stuck up her chin and made her superiority well pronounced, and refused to even speak to the stewardesses save to give orders. What could have caused this women to have such a nasty side? She was a beloved star who will be eternally remembered, a great actress, and a great comedienne. And of course, quite well off. I think it was a shame she treated her fans, let alone the general public, with such low regard.

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I expect as much from Bob Dylan (can't stand the guy). Perhaps Lucy was having a bad hair day or expressing a scene from "The Big Street".

In any event there is no excuse for rudeness, no matter who you are.

 

Mongo

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Hi--

I read Ball of Fire a bio of Lucille Ball, recently and the author suggested her nastiness may have had a lot to do with (ok, here comes the pop psychology) insecurity. The author maintains that she spent too long just barely hanging on, doing supporting parts and bad movies and when she finally made a success in "I Love Lucy" she didn't want to take a chance on losing it. She was really stressed out in rehearsals and even drove a few of her guest stars to tears with her tyranny and perfectionism.

 

I know this doesn't explain why she was rude to the stewardess, just thought I'd offer it for consideration.

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Ball was a very controlling person. When Joan Blondell was to have made an appearance on The Lucy Show, Ball got on Blondell's nerves, telling how to act, among other things. Blondell got so **** off that she told Ball where to get off and walked.

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I was a little hesitant to post a response to this because I am such a huge fan of Lucy's. We do sometimes forget that they are people too and will have bad days...we also forget that they are in the spotlight. Not having simple manners are no excuse; treat people the way you want to be treated...but think of the times where you were not the super sweet person...there are going to be people in this world that we don't like, or even that clash because of our conflicting personalities...Lucy had a complex personality...no one really knew her, they thought of her as Lucy Ricardo...I look at Entertainers today and see them being rude 24/7 but that doesnt change some of their fans admiration, and it has changed for me with Lucille Ball. I agree, one should not be rude, but what were the circumstances; that was her to be a perfectionist...she worked so hard to get there...and she expected the same from you...

 

Regarding the flight stewardess...I dont know the circumstances of the time that she met lucy...had she been travelling all day...was she going through the divorce with Desi...had her show been cancelled...was she in bad health...or was she just having an awful day...I dont know but I still love lucy..

 

Just thought I would add my two cents

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I've heard of Ball's nasty side as well, and it's been documented that she was even distant from her children and grandchildren which I find a little odd. I tend to agree that she was a very complex woman, and I think that she definitely battled with some inner problems. I think a lot of it has to do with her success, as someone else said, she was probably trying to maintain it all. One thing I know, is that she did not care too much for the business side of things, she would rather focus on the actual production of her shows, however, she and Desi ran a studio besides performing in "I Love Lucy," and Lucy continued to perform in a weekly T.V. show for two decades afterward. And this was while she owned and basically ran a T.V. empire, before she sold it off to Gulf and Western. So I'm sure that doing a weekly T.V. show, running a studio, and being a world famous star had it's pressure, and probably made her a little tense from time to time.

 

In a book on her life called "Lucy in the Afternoon," author Jim Brochu talks about how as a child he saw her in the Broadway musical "Wildcat," and that afterwards he approached her for an autograph, and all she did was put up her hand and say "NO AUTOGRAPHS." When he told her about this incident years later after they had become friends, she was surprised that she had acted that way. Perhaps she was just aggravated a little too much of the time. I know that she definitely had her strong points as a friend and person. She was lifelong friends with Barbara Pepper, who Lucy started out in showbiz with in the early 30's at RKO. They were both bit players there, and even after all of Lucy's success, she was still friends with Barbara, and gave her many supporting roles in her shows. She was also good friends with another girl from RKO throughout her life. I read about it in another book on Lucy's life, called "I Loved Lucy," where the author Lee Tannen talks about this lady coming over to Lucy's house to visit, and this was in the early 80's, decades after their RKO days. She and Vivian Vance also remained lifelong friends. And granted they got off to a shaky start, since Lucy wasn't too impressed with Vivian in the beginning (it was Desi and "I Love Lucy" producer Jess Oppenheimer who chose her to play Ethel), but once Lucy warmed up to her and realized how good Vivian was as an actress, they became great friends for life. In another story from Tannen's book, he talks about a time when they were on a plane together, and they were getting ready to land, and Lucy was looking out of the window at all of the houses below and said something like "If I knocked on any one of those doors, they would invite me in (since everyone knew her), yet when I was starting out, no one would've let me in." I think that remark says a lot. Perhaps she felt that the adoration she received was very artificial, and perhaps she just wanted to be liked as a person, and not "Lucille Ball" the star.

 

There was also another great story in Jim Brochu's book where he talks about how a child from the "Make a Wish Foundation" or some organization like that wanted to meet her. She had this boy and his parents come to her house and she sat and watched reruns of "I Love Lucy" with him and his family. Now that's a great gesture. I also remember either seeing or reading an interview with her once, and she mentioned that one of the hardest parts of running the studio was having to fire someone. She could barely bring herself to do it. Now if she was really a nasty person, I'm sure she would've had no problem firing someone. But she said it really ate away at her. And this goes back to her not wanting to be too involved in the business side of things, the pressure was a lot for her.

 

So, I guess Lucy had a temper, but she wasn't all bad.

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Hi Everyone,

 

About autographs -- can you imagine what it's like for a person to be badgered for their autograph constantly?

I don't know how many times I've been with someone (currently famous) and been interrupted by some dolt (some don't even have pen and paper) and asked for a signature.

Thankfully, most of the people I knew where currently out of the spotlight and their days in the limelight were over, so it didn't happen too often. But, I do know that Rex Harrison hated it and wondered what do they do with those things and Lana Turner often signed with a scribble, since she was worried about forgery.

So, I can understand Lucille Ball's NO AUTOGRAPHS statement quite well.

 

About Joan Blondell -- she was a star when Lucy wasn't and probably thought Lucy could teach her nothing about filming and scripts and comedy.

Also, Lucy may have been afraid that Joan would steal all the scenes -- watch a Joan Blondell movie and try to take your eyes off her!

I have always wondered how she ever allowed Ann Sothern to be in one of her shows let alone several!!

 

Larry

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I'm a huge fan of Lucy's and had the privilege of interviewing several people where her name came up. I don't know anything about what happened on the plane, but of course, I'm sorry to hear it. I, too, don't think there's ever a reason for anyone to be rude.

 

I'll tell you a great story from Barbara Eden. When she was on I Love Lucy, Lucy asked Barbara if she liked the dress she was given to wear, and Barbara said, it's fine. So Lucy and her secretary took the dress and spent the entire afternoon sewing sequins on it for the taping. Barbara said to me, "How many stars do you know who would sew a costume?" The thing is, for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, I Love Lucy was a mom and pop business and they put their hearts and souls into it. So that may be in part what was going on with Joan Blondell. They maintained a lot of control over that show for a reason, and it paid off.

 

I know the little boy who played Little Ricky, Keith Thibodeau, whom I also interviewed, had a very bad childhood and actually spent Christmas with Lucy and Desi and spoke so fondly of both of them.

 

I suspect the plane incident came a little bit later in Lucy's life when she may have been having some problems.

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the best story about autographs was from Norma Talmadge in the early 1930s after her talkie career collapsed. A hound came up to her and she said something like "Go away. I don't need you any more."

 

great line

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