There are virtually hundreds of special people that deserve to be showcased here. We continue to accept suggestions and information on people who were of influence to the lives and work of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Do you have a favorite “behind-the-scenes” person you’d like to see added to this page? If so, please assemble a mini biography of your favorite and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Emmy Award winner William Asher directed 110 episodes of “I Love Lucy” and produced and directed Bewitched, which ran for eight years (1964 to 1972). Both series still run in syndication today. He married Bewitched star Elizabeth Montgomery in 1963 (they divorced in 1973 after having 3 children together).
His other work includes directing Make Room for Daddy (1953), December Bride (1954), The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (1956), The Twilight Zone (1959), The Patty Duke Show (1963), Gidget (1965), The Dukes of Hazzard (1979), Private Benjamin (1981) and Alice (1976-85).
His films include writing and directing the popular beach movies starring Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon: Muscle Beach Party (1964), Bikini Beach (1964), and Beach Blanket Bingo (1965).
Lucille Ball called her cousin Cleo her “sister,” because they grew up together in a modest home in the village of Celoron, New York. Cleo was later the Producer for Lucille Ball’s third television series, Here’s Lucy, and the Executive in Charge of Production for the 1966 CBS Special Lucy in London.
Fred was Lucille’s brother who went on the road with Desi and his band. He also worked at Desilu Productions, Lucy and Desi’s studio that eventually produced Mission Impossible, Star Trek, and The Untouchables.
As film editor of “I Love Lucy,” Dann created a film editing system that revolutionized the television industry. He has had a long and successful career in television and has served as editorial supervisor for many classic TV series including Whirlybirds, The Real McCoys, Sheriff of Cochise, and The Texan.
He is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and a frequent guest at Jamestown’s annual festivals.
Bob Carroll, Jr.
While writing for Steve Allen’s early local radio program on CBS Radio station KNX in Los Angeles, Bob and Madelyn Pugh became interested in writing for Lucille Ball’s new radio series My Favorite Husband. In an effort to seize that opportunity, they paid Allen to write his own show one week so that they could focus their energies on creating a script submission for My Favorite Husband. Successful, the pair wrote for Ball’s popular program for its 2 1/2-year duration.
Carroll and Pugh helped develop and create a vaudeville act for Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, which became the basis for the pilot episode of the “I Love Lucy” series. Together the team tackled 39 episodes per season for the run of the show. Pugh and Carroll were nominated for three Emmys for their work. The pair also wrote episodes of Ball’s subsequent series, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and, in 1986, her final sitcom, Life With Lucy.
Lucille Ball’s long-time personal secretary, Wanda was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, Inc.
Prior to working for Lucy, Wanda was employed at LOOK Magazine. It was there that she became friends with co-worker Cleo Smith (Lucy’s cousin). When Lucy was in need of a secretary, Cleo recommended Wanda, lead to a very long and happy association for Wanda and Lucy that lasted more than 25 years.
Carole is an actress who was a close personal friend of Lucille Ball. In addition to appearing with the Queen of Comedy on The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy, Ms. Cook’s television appearances include guest-starring roles on major series and recurring roles on Dynasty and Cagney and Lacey. Among her films are Fast Money, Lost and Found, American Gigolo, The Incredible Mr. Limpet, and the classic for teenage girls, Sixteen Candles. Theater appearances have won her a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle nomination as Best Actress and a Helen Hayes Theatre Award for Outstanding Actress. For nearly two decades, Ms. Cook has been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS and has performed in S.T.A.G.E. benefits in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Mary Jane Croft
Late in the weekly run of the original “I Love Lucy” series, the major characters moved to Connecticut. There, Lucy Ricardo befriended a new neighbor, Betty Ramsey, who was portrayed by Croft. She was very socially conscious and tended to get Lucy involved in a different sort of series of adventures than did Vivian Vance (as Ethel Mertz). Previously she had guest starred as a wealthy schoolmate of Lucy’s, Cynthia Harcourt, in “Lucy is Envious,” then as Evelyn Bigsby, the airline passenger seated next to Lucy in “Return Home from Europe,” the episode in which Lucy disguises a hunk of cheese as a baby.
When Vivian Vance left The Lucy Show after the 1964-65 season, Croft became Lucy’s new sidekick, Mary Jane Lewis. Croft had previously had a recurring role as Audrey Simmons during the show’s early, Danfield, N.Y.-based seasons. In fact, “Mary Jane Lewis” was Croft’s legal name at the time, as she was then married to actor/producer Elliott Lewis but continued to use her maiden name professionally. The Lewis character was maintained when The Lucy Show was transformed into Ball’s third sitcom, Here’s Lucy. The character remained until Here’s Lucy left the air in 1974.
Daniel created the “I Love Lucy” theme song in a single afternoon. “I wrote the first phrase of the music so that it matched ‘I love Lucy and she loves me…’ and it came pretty easily after I got that first phrase,” he said. (Later, in 1953, Harold Adamson wrote the lyrics to the song which Desi Arnaz sang in the episode, “Lucy’s Last Birthday”)
Among Daniel’s other “I Love Lucy” contributions include the music composition for “The Pleasant Peasant” (from “The Operetta”), “Nobody Loves The Ump” (from “Lucy Meets Bob Hope”), and music for the “Lucy Goes To Scotland” episode.
Gordon played Rudolph Atterbury on My Favorite Husband. He was actually the first pick to play Fred Mertz on “I Love Lucy,” but he was committed to Our Miss Brooks and had to decline the offer in favor of William Frawley. But he did make two guest appearances on the show as Ricky Ricardo’s boss, Alvin Littlefield, owner of the Tropicana Club where Ricky’s band played, and later played a judge on a Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour episode.
In 1962, Lucy created The Lucy Show and planned to hire Gordon to play Mr. Mooney, the banker who was first Lucy Carmichael’s executor and subsequently her employer, when she went to work in his bank. Gordon, however, was still under contract to play the second Mr. Wilson (after the death of Joseph Kearns) on Dennis the Menace. When that show ended in spring 1963, Gordon joined The Lucy Show as Mooney for the 1963-64 season. In the interim, Charles Lane played the similar Mr. Barnsdahl character for the 1962-63 season. The somewhat portly Gordon was not only adept at physical comedy, but could do a perfect cartwheel. He did this once on The Lucy Show, and again as a guest on The Dean Martin Show.
After the sale of Desilu studios, Lucy shut down The Lucy Show in 1968 and retooled it into Here’s Lucy. She used Gordon yet again–-this time as her irascible boss (and brother-in-law) Harry Carter, at an employment agency that specialized in unusual jobs.
Lucille Ball’s chauffeur for nearly 30 years, Frank started working for Lucille Ball in October of 1959 and was with her for the rest of her life. Among his responsibilities were not only transportation, but he also became the “major domo” who ran Lucy’s Beverly Hills home.
For more than 30 years, Irma Kusely was the hairstylist to the world’s most famous redhead. Irma was the first hairstylist credited on television (“I Love Lucy”) and stayed with Lucy for the rest of Lucy’s life.
Irma’s name can be seen on the credits of not only “I Love Lucy,” but also the Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, Life with Lucy and the films The Facts of Life, Critic’s Choice, and Forever, Darling.
Known affectionately to “I Love Lucy” fans as Lucy Ricardo’s cackling friend Marion Strong, Shirley appeared on numerous classic TV series including Dragnet, Perry Mason, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Green Acres, Three’s Company, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and even lent her voice for the Scooby Doo cartoon series. Her film credits include Desk Set, Big Business, and The War of the Roses. But “I Love Lucy” fans know her best as Marion Strong. Her character was named for The Queen of Comedy’s real life Jamestown friend, Marion Strong VanVlack. Born in Toledo, Ohio, Shirley Mitchell made four appearances on Lucille Ball’s popular radio program My Favorite Husband before taking on the role of Marion Strong in “I Love Lucy.” She appeared in “Lucy and Ethel Buy the Same Dress” (Episode #69), “Lucy’s Club Dance” (Episode #91), and “Lucy Tells the Truth” (Episode #72), in which her unforgettable laugh prompted Lucy to say, “Stop cackling, Marion, I’ve been waiting ten years for you to lay that egg!”
Forever remembered as the creator of “I Love Lucy.” Jess Oppenheimer also was head writer for Lucille Ball’s 1940’s radio series, My Favorite Husband. Oppenheimer even made a cameo appearance in an “I Love Lucy” episode entitled “The Audition” as a network representative.
After Lucy, Oppenheimer continued to contribute to the television industry serving as Executive Producer to episodes of Angel and Glynis. He also produced the popular 1960’s comedy series, Get Smart.
Larry enjoyed multiple careers in several different creative disciplines. He played trumpet in bands for radio shows starring George Burns and Gracie Allen, Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Jimmy Durante, and Johnny Mercer. He recorded with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. With the advent of television Orenstein packed up his horn and wrote scripts, music and lyrics for Donald O’Connor’s Texaco TV series, Danny Kaye’s personal appearances and was a staff composer and lyricist on Disney Studios’ Mickey Mouse Club. Larry was the lyricist for “Nobody Loves the Ump,” an original song featured on the memorable Bob Hope episode of “I Love Lucy.” Larry also wrote lyrics for the songs featured in “Lucy Goes to Scotland,” episode 144 of “I Love Lucy.” In this particular show he also appeared as the mayor of Kildoonan.
Early in her career, as a staff writer for CBS Radio in Hollywood, Madelyn forged a partnership with fellow staffer Bob Carroll Jr. that would last for more than 50 years. Together they wrote some 400 television programs and roughly 500 radio shows. While the team was writing for The Steve Allen Show, they became interested in writing for Lucille Ball’s new radio show, My Favorite Husband. In an effort to seize that opportunity, they actually paid Allen to write his own show one week so that they could focus their energies on creating a script submission for My Favorite Husband. Under head writer Jess Oppenheimer, the pair wrote Ball’s radio program for the show’s entire run.
Pugh and Carroll helped create and develop a vaudeville act for Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, which became the basis for the pilot episode of the “I Love Lucy” series. Together, with Oppenheimer and/or Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf, the team tackled all episodes of the series.
Marco was Desi’s longtime pianist who appeared regularly on “I Love Lucy.” Rizo was a celebrity guest during Jamestown’s 1997 festival.
Bob was one of only five writers responsible for the entire “I Love Lucy” series. His prior career included writing radio scripts for such classics as Abbott and Costello, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Jimmy Durante Show, and December Bride. With his “I Love Lucy” co-writer Bob Weiskopf, Schiller later wrote for The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and the first episode of The Lucy Show, as well as Make Room for Daddy, The Bob Cummings Show, The Ann Sothern Show, The Red Skelton Show, The Phyllis Diller Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The Flip Wilson Show, Maude, All in the Family, and more. Together they were honored with two Emmy Awards, a pair of Peabody Awards, and a Golden Globe.
Doris appeared with Lucy on radio before the advent of television, had a long and successful career in television and motion pictures – but is recognized the world over as Lucy Ricardo’s friend (and arch rival!) Carolyn Appleby, a character named for Lucille Ball’s own Jamestown schoolteacher. Doris appeared in numerous “I Love Lucy” episodes including “Lucy and Harpo Marx” and “Lucy and Superman.” Later she appeared in episodes of other classic television shows including Perry Mason, Hazel, The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and two episodes of The Lucy Show.
Tom’s close association with Lucille Ball led to him being recognized today as a leading authority on the Queen of Comedy. Tom has authored several books including Loving Lucy (with Bart Andrews), “I Love Lucy”: Classic Moments, The Quotable “I Love Lucy” Book, and Color Me Lucy. Tom is the founding President of the We Love Lucy fan club and was the organizer of the West Coast Loving Lucy Conventions (1997-2001).
In 1953, Weiskopf joined forces with another comedy writer, Bob Schiller. Two years later, the twosome was hired by writer-producer Jess Oppenheimer to join Bob Carroll and Madelyn Pugh as writers of the most popular program on television – “I Love Lucy.” Their association with the redhead lasted nine seasons.
Weiskopf and Schiller wrote for such television classics as The Red Skelton Hour, The Carol Burnett Show, The Flip Wilson Show, Maude and All in the Family.
Lucy fans, of course, remember her as the bombastic Madame LeMonde dance instructor, who attempted to teach Lucy Ricardo the fundamentals of ballet in a first season episode of “I Love Lucy.” She subsequently appeared on The Lucy Show as Frances, one of the ladies of the Danfield Women’s Volunteer Fire Department, and later as Lucy’s visiting aunt on the same series.
Wickes performed in 50 feature films, 27 major Broadway productions, and 10 television series. Of her many co-stars, Lucille Ball was the one with which Mary maintained the closest relationship.