Once again, whether a curse or blessing, my memory bank has recently been triggered regarding very special people I've been blessed to know and with whom I was blessed to share personal times, thus motivating me to want to share those times with you, once again. Hopefully, those memories will continue to activate a pleasant reaction or two during these very unpleasant times.
I LOVE LUCY's CANDY FACTORY SCENE - Among those I was blessed to get to know during my more active documentary production years were I LOVE LUCY's co-writers, Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll, Jr. They had written several sitcoms before and after their long tenure with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Madelyn and Bob agreed to have me interview them for a documentary I wrote and produced in 1998-99, entitled TELEVISION: THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS. One of the questions I asked was how they conceived the idea to have Lucy and Ethel (the latter portrayed by actress Vivian Vance, of course) work at a candy factory. They told me Desi decided Lucy and Ethel should have a job for the following week's episode, so whatever Madelyn and Bob decided it would be would be the job Lucy and Ethel would have. Madelyn and Bob told me they had to come up with an idea rapidly, thus decided they'd look in the Yellow Pages and whatever category appeared on the page to which they first turned would be the determining factor for the "job" Lucy and Ethel would have. They said the first page to which they turned showed CANDY MANUFACTURING and that's how Lucy and Ethel personed that assembly line, later voted television's all-time most memorable scene. Bob and Madelyn also told me they contacted a well-known candy factory based near LAX to advise how to manufacture and stage the conveyor belt's movement. Knowing what they'd told me about the birth of that classic scene always makes watching it even more special. As many of you may know, WCCO-TV aired it again last night as part of CBS-TV's annual Christmas tribute to LUCY.
A CHRISTMAS STORY", BEFORE IT WAS COMPLETED: One of the more memorable breakfasts of my life involved re-connecting with writer, raconteur, radio personality and all 'round genius Jean Shepherd, writer and narrator of the classic holiday film, A CHRISTMAS STORY (now adapted as a stage play entitled A CHRISTMAS STORY, THE MUSICAL, as Twin Cities theatre-goers are currently aware). The re-connection took place in the dining room of Cleveland's Bond Court Hotel in the summer of 1981. I was there as a delegate to one of our broadcast union's annual national conventions, as First Vice President of the Detroit Local of AFTRA, a year before I moved back to the Twin Cities. When I entered the dining room, I recognized Jean Shepherd sitting alone at a table near the entrance. I had the privilege to meet and get to know Jean during one of my teenage years, i.e., 1956, when I was honing some broadcasting skills at WOR in New York, thanks to one of that station's great radio personalities named Phil Tonken, a mentor and friend to me for many years hence. Regardless, I re-introduced myself to Jean and he invited me to sit with him for breakfast. He asked me how the broadcast career was going and I told him. Then I asked what he was doing. He said he was writing a screenplay about his youth in that part of the country, and was thinking of entitling it A CHRISTMAS STORY or CHRISTMAS MEMORIES. I said it sounded like a great premise, and that was that. I'm glad he chose to entitle it A CHRISTMAS STORY. When it hit the theaters in 1983, it was fun to remember being with him during its creation. (Jean was born in Chicago, but spent most of his youth in nearby Hammond, Indiana. Hammond was home to more than one well-known broadcaster, another whose friendship I was blessed to have during my D.C. television days, named Frank Reynolds. Frank's wife's name was Henrietta, and at social events, even as serious-minded as Frank was, he always enjoyed identifying themselves as Frank and "Hank" Reynolds.)
Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read these geezer memories, with best thoughts to you and yours, always.