Okay, well, it’s technically not sitcomboy.com (though I still own the domain; I couldn’t give it up). My WordPress username is Sitcomboydotcom. But this blog’s purpose is the same: to celebrate the Lucyverse, as I call it, the career and life of legendary comedian and American icon, Lucille Ball.
She has a face that’s been seen by more people, more times, than any other human face in history. I’ve loved Lucy since I started watching reruns of I Love Lucy in the early 1960s, and was captivated by the raucous, hilarious slapstick, and even more so by the heartwarming friendship between neighbors Lucy Ricardo (Ball) and Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance).
My love of all things Lucy continued into adulthood, and peaked in 2001, when, at the urging of my best friend, Craig, I wrote and self-published a book called Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia. Craig and I were working at a dot-com startup that hadn’t started up for six months. After complaining about being bored one too many times, he snatched a book from his cubicle and handed it to me. It was an encyclopedia about Marilyn Monroe.
“What do I want with this?” I asked.
“If you’re so bored,” he said crisply, “then why don’t you write a Lucille Ball encyclopedia? I know you can do it. God knows you talk about her all the time. Turn the obsession into something profitable!”
Fortunately for me, I took his words to heart. Craig was also a TV/movie fanatic, and his own obsession was the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. He’d been visiting the New York Library for the Performing Arts (at the edges of the theater district, before it moved to its current home in Lincoln Center) doing research for several books about Dark Shadows and the actors who starred in it. Many of them were his friends.
“Come along with me next time. You’ll see what they have about Lucy and company.” I did, and when I viewed the dozen or so files on Lucy, all spotlighting different decades of her career, I was hooked. Many of the newspaper clips contained information that was new to me. If, as a huge fan, I wasn’t aware of all this, it was likely a lot of other Lucy fans were unaware, too.
The result was a book, under 160 pages and with no pictures, but for which I created a cover, a portrait of Lucy (left), using Photoshop. I had done some research and chosen iUniverse to publish it. The cost was (then) around $300. Like many writers, I had hundreds of polite (and many Xeroxed) rejection slips for book proposals. This time, I was doing it by myself.
I sent a copy to Lucie Arnaz, Lucy’s daughter. She responded with a lovely letter saying it had been a “godsend,” as she and her brother, Desi Arnaz Jr., were preparing for the “I Love Lucy 50th Anniversary Special,” which would air in October 2001, and they had used the alphabetical entries to help organize the contents of the show. Needless to say I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled when my book cover showed up on the special itself, in a segment about the continuing popularity of Lucy literature and I Love Lucy collectibles.
And what thrilled me further was seeing the book rise on the Amazon sales charts to 1,000 (of all books on the site!) after the special aired. A month or so later, I was contacted by the executive director of The Lucy-Desi Museum in Ball’s hometown, Jamestown, NY. Would I like to appear at the upcoming Lucy Fest in May, and take part in an author’s panel? Would I??!!
The book was a great success, especially in the world of on-demand publishing. And because it was on-demand, I returned to the Performing Arts Library for more research, and republished the book in two more editions, each longer than the previous one. Finally, iUniverse designated it a STAR book (one of the company’s best sellers) and, as a result, in 2008, the company underwrote a fourth edition (left), with a gorgeous, rare cover photo by Harry Warnecke circa 1945, and including 50 little-seen photographs, many from my own collection. The fourth edition filled an exhaustive 450-plus pages, including a 12-page index.
Lucy A to Z returns to the top of several Amazon best-seller lists — Pop Culture Reference books, for example — for a month or two every holiday season. I published four more books about my favorite redhead (well, I am obsessed!); they’re pictured at the top, and you can find all of them on Amazon. I converted sitcomboy.com to a Facebook page, but found I missed my old website (though not the HTML coding!). I thought this blog would be a good way to share many of my website posts. Look for them here in the near future.
In the meantime, have a wonderful, happy and joyous New Year, and don’t forget to laugh; laughter is, after all, the best medicine for our ills. I can’t think of a better way to laugh than by watching Lucy, Ricky (Desi Arnaz), Ethel and Fred (William Frawley) do their thing. After all, we’ve been watching them without interruption for more than 64 years. Why stop now?