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"I Love Lucy" script writer was one fascinating lady

  • Blog Post by: Barry ZeVan
  • June 17, 2012 - 3:42 PM

As promised in the previous blog, amplified facts about Madelyn Pugh Davis (on early "Lucy" credits listed as Madelyn Pugh, prior to a second marriage, adding her husband's name) are, I think, interesting to those of us who are fans of classic television.

I always say the best things in life happen by accident, and it was by accident I became acquainted with Ms. Davis and her 50-year co-writing partner, Bob Carroll, Jr., in 1998. I was producing a documentary entitlled "Television: The First 50 Years", which aired on PBS stations for at least a couple years. At the time, I was living and working in North Hollywood as VP of Program Development and Production for a documentaries-only production company. Three weeks of each month were spent there for over two years, with monthly trips back to the Twin Cities.

My female barber (yes, I had enough hair to still have my hair cut) said one of her friends, and clients, at that Toluca Lake barbershop, was Ms. Davis. I told her about the documentary and, in a nutshell, she got me in touch with Ms. Davis. Ms. Davis invited me to her home to interview her and her writing partner, Bob Carroll. Jr. Both had been Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's co-writers from the beginning of the I LOVE LUCY series, and also co-wrote other popular radio and television sitcoms and variety shows for many years. The interview had no time limits, thus I pursued the story about which I wrote here previously, i.e., the iconic candy factory episode.

Then Ms. Davis volunteered a story about her early life. She was Indiana-born, but her family moved to Phoenix, then Los Angeles, after Madelyn gradutated from high school in Indianapolis and worked briefly as a commercial writer at an Indianapolis radio station. During her time in Phoenix, a young lad born in New York City, but raised in Chicago, named Steve Allen, was a radio personality on KOY in that city. She felt his dynamic talent was being wasted on a smaller market, thus she said she recommended him to some big-wigs at one of the local Los Angeles stations (KFAC). Steve's progression up the ladder from that point to national prominence was thanks to Ms. Davis's recommendation, and which Steve always acknowledged. Ms. Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr. were also chosen to be the principal writers for THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW. That was the show which featured the also-iconic man-in-the-street interviews with characters portrayed by Don Knotts, Bill Dana, Louis Nye and Tom Poston, the latter two who became decades-long friends to me, from 1967 onward until their deaths. I'm honored to say Steve also became a very close friend. My last time with Steve was only three months before he died and I was honored to have him tell me, "It's a pleasure to work with you, Barry". His widow, Jayne Meadows, and I, reminisced about Steve's greatness while attending memorial services for Louis Nye at Louis's Pacific Palisades home's back yard. I still have the photos from that sad day. Louis was like a second father to me. Louis's wife, Anita, co-wrote the music and lyrics to the song "A SUNDAY KIND OF LOVE", among many others. Tom Poston was there that afternoon, too. Little did anyone there know Tom would pass away only a few months later, followed very shortly therafter by his widow, Suzanne Pleshette.

I apologize for the rampant memories, but one triggers the other in this cursedly eidetic mind, and hopefully the memories are good for you, as well. Thanks, also, to "Strick" who commented on the previous blog regarding Desi Arnaz's prolific contributions to the way television shows are currently filmed or taped, i.e., forcing actors and actresses to do a scene without stopping to change camera angles, etc. Great information, thanks to reader "Strick", and all who comment, pro or con.

Thanks for taking the time to read and share in this blog. I hope you'll also take the time to join me on my STAR TRIBUNE webcasts, entitled A SENIOR MOMENT, at www.startribune.com/video. The subject matter changes every Monday, as does my choice of bubble gum to chew.

 

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