Lucille Ball: Unofficial English Language Ambassador!

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in I LOVE LUCY.

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in a classic episode of I LOVE LUCY.

It’s universal: everybody loves Lucy!

One of my favorite Lucille Ball stories happened when she was in the hospital in California.  Queen Elizabeth was visiting the hospital on a tour and asked how Lucy was.

The Queen of Comedy was floored.  She reportedly naively said, “Queen Elizabeth knows who I am?”

Of course she did!  The entire world loved her, including Her Majesty, the Queen.

The girls’ name Lucy topped the popularity charts in an African country right after I Love Lucy was first broadcast there.  An American store changed the night of the week when it closed in order to watch the show, explaining with a sign to customers, “We love Lucy, too!”

There’s another legend to add to the never-ending list.  So many of the friends I have who come from other countries watch I Love Lucy after they move to New York City – to learn English!  I’m not sure if the show is broadcast in China, but I know some Mandarin-speakers who absolutely adore it.  It’s a show that it’s impossible not to like.  That makes watching it for the additional benefit of becoming at ease with English even more fun.

It’s fantastic that this show from the 1950’s is still broadcast, still putting smiles on faces all over the world, and even has the added benefit of helping people to improve their English.

Brava, Lucy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

Hey, Hollywood: THE UPSTAIRS ROOM is Still a Hit Waiting to Happen!

Look out, world, here we come!  Author Johanna Reiss and Me.

Look out, world, here we come! Johanna Reiss, Author of “The Upstairs Room,” and Me on Governors Island.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the undiscovered Hollywood hit movie waiting to happen is the true story detailed in my friend Johanna Reiss’ book, The Upstairs Room.  I read it and loved it when I was a child and have always wondered just why it was never made into a movie – yet.

Johanna, called “Annie” as a child, and her older sister Sini had to be hidden as young girls in Holland because they were Jewish and it was World War II.  They were sheltered by a prosperous family named the Hanninks for a few months, but the Hanninks were helping a lot of Jews and grew nervous about keeping the sisters.  The girls were moved to the home of a local farmer, Johan Oosterveld.  Johan, his wife Dientje, and his mother, Opoe, kept the girls safely hidden.

Johan, Dientje and Opoe were true heroes in the way they rose to the occasion and sheltered Sini and Annie during the war.  They are also characters that are so unpretentious that they’re funny, on the one hand – and so ingenious in the ways they protected the girls that they’re absolutely brilliant on the other.  At one point, Nazis even took over another room in their house for a few weeks to use as an office, and…well, if you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book!  I can not imagine an actor or actress alive who would not want to grab the chance to play these fantastic real-life heroes.  Every Jewish person who survived the war has a story and this one, in particular, deserves to be told.

The two hidden girls, Sini and Annie, survived the war. That’s Annie, in the photo above, all grown up, with me, yesterday, pedaling a Surrey on Governor’s Island.  We’ve been best friends pretty much since the day we met about a year and a half ago.  She’s fun!  Getting that surrey moving was a bit of a challenge.  It got stuck in the cracks on a sidewalk when Annie was trying to drive it in a U-turn.  We had to bail out while I extricated the thing.  After that, I steered it.  I said, “This is like an I Love Lucy episode, say, ‘Lucy and Ethel Pedal a Surrey!'”  Annie taught me how to sing “Long Live the Queen” in Dutch and now I can’t stop bursting forth with it.  I recently gave her the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Mame so she could learn the song “Bosom Buddies,” since that’s what we are, sung by Angela Lansbury and Beatrice Arthur.

Speaking of Angela Lansbury…now there would be perfect casting for “Opoe!”

Anyone interested in making the book into a movie can contact the author through


Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball: Friends to the End and Maybe Beyond

Lombard & Lucy

Lombard & Lucy

There was a new story in the book FIREBALL: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen that I had never heard before.  Well, actually, there were several that I’d never heard before, all fascinating, but this one’s the gem.

I knew that Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball had been friends, and oh, what a pair they must have made!  I had heard that Lucy was devastated when Carole died.  But I’d never heard this:

Long after Carole had passed away, Lucy, whose film career was floundering, wondered if she should try acting in a television comedy show.  One night she had a dream about her old friend Carole Lombard, who had once reigned as the “Queen of Screwball Comedy.”  In the dream, Carole appeared, beautifully dressed in a suit.  She said to Lucille, “Take a chance, honey. Give it a whirl!”

Lucy did.  She probably figured her old friend wouldn’t ever have steered her wrong.

The result was the most beloved show in television history:  I LOVE LUCY.