“In 1977, every Tuesday at 7 pm for eight weeks, Lucille Ball was my comedy teacher…”
In 1977, every Tuesday at 7 pm for eight weeks, Lucille Ball was my comedy teacher.
To this day I still remember things she said, or how she reacted to things, but more importantly I remember what she “felt” about things. She was a woman who wore her heart on her sleeve.
Lucy taught us how to play drunk: “Say every word slowly and clearly. Drunks don’t want people to think they are slurring.” She told us, “Everything you see me do on I Love Lucy was practiced and rehearsed for days! Know you props!” Her tone was serious.
Lucille Ball taught me how to be happy, because she was so damned sad.
The first time I saw her she was crying. But let me digress back to 1977 when I was 19 years old, and a slimmer, more bell-bottomed me. I was lean, I was mean, and I had a shag. The year that Saturday Night Fever came out, before AIDS and cell phones, when there were only 13 channels on TV and afternoons were meant for love making and hitchhiking. Hollywood Boulevard was still an old fashioned street then. Japanese gift shops were tucked in between musty bookshops, and old ladies in ancient silk dresses walked down the street with Andrews Sisters’ hairdos. Male hustlers clogged the front of the ice cream store on the corner of Las Palmas Avenue that sold peppermint candy ice cream in those sweet waffle cones.
I worked at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental Film School on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar Street, upstairs from a Tom McCann shoe store that sold only platform shoes that summer. I would bike there from the apartment on Van Ness Street that I shared with a dwarf actor named Corky, who I had met in my improv group. He traveled around with a rough crowd that included Herve Villechaize. I recall people mentioning that, “Herve carries a pistol.”
I needed help paying the rent so I asked Corky to be my roommate. When he moved in he had nothing more than a box of porn magazines and a large bottle of Vicks Vapor Rub. My only complaint about my new roommate was that he left footprints on the toaster. When you live with a little person, everything becomes a step.
Working at the film school was a big step for me. It was my second job (my first was being a cartoon model at Hanna-Barbera, which required no thinking, just arduous posing). I was paid to run errands for the director of the school, a man named Gary. I helped him track down celebrities to come and lecture for a nominal fee.
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