Kathleen Brady: Our earliest goal is to be in vaudeville. That is definitely what she wanted to do. And as she told me, vaudeville had already been dead for years. But she loved what she saw at the local theater in Jamestown. And that's what she wanted to do. She was very impressed by the way the performers would hold the audience in thrall and would affect them. The performers could make the audience laugh. The performers could make the audience cry. And she was just dumbstruck by that. So that's what she wanted to do. So what was her first step towards realizing that leaving Jamestown to go to New York City? At a very early age, she was 15 or 16, was the first step. Her mother enrolled her in a dramatic school and she was complete failure. She was too shy to be able to speak. She'd been one of the most visible young people in Jamestown and Celeron, New York and in New York, as happens to a lot of us who come to the big city. She just blended in. There was a great star at the school, a young lady who really stood out and her name was Betty Davis. And Lucy would sit in the back of the theater watching Betty Davis perform. But Lucy's diction wasn't what it should be. She'd say horses for horses. And so finally, I think not finally but after about six weeks or so, the man who ran the school told her mother it was a complete waste of time and she should just take Lucy back home.
Interviewer: And I'm gonna stop you. That's it. I'm gonna just keep interrupting you.
Kathleen Brady: Do. Do.
Interviewer: Because it'll help us edit too.
Kathleen Brady: Yes, please.
Interviewer: I want we're not going to focus a lot on the job, but I think Lucy Arnaz did a good story in her film. I think there are elements of her childhood. And I'll tell you what I think. I don't have no certainty that did influence who she would become. And one is that it was a childhood of deprivation. She did lose parents of fingers. You know, it was loss. And also it was the depression. There was poverty. There's hardship issues. And I think she was expected to grow up. You know, I'm not sure she ever had a true child.
Kathleen Brady: No, I don't. Yes.
Interviewer: So if you could just give me one or two statements to put her childhood in a context of who how it would inform the person she was going to grow up to be. In other words, don't tell me she was born in Celeron. You know, focus on the things that you think were important for psychological development.
Kathleen Brady: Well, they were always things that would catch Lucy's eye. They called her Lucille then, but there were always things that would catch Lucille's eye. There were particularly a hat that was.
Interviewer: Can i stop you one second.
Kathleen Brady: Yes.
Interviewer: When she was a little girl in Jamestown.
Kathleen Brady: Right. When she was a little girl in Jamestown, let me just say one thing. She was really from Celeron. She wasn't from Jamestown.
Interviewer: So upstate New York. Yes.
Kathleen Brady: When she was a little girl in upstate New York, she would see things as little girls do. One in particular was a hat that was black and white, and she wanted this hat desperately. Her mother worked in a dress shop where this hat was sold and by conniving and promising. She got her mother to buy her that hat. And Lucy was so thrilled with it that she wear the hat even when she was washing dishes. And one of her childhood friends told me that that years later, watching the I Love Lucy show about Lucy gets a fur coat where she actually slept in a fur coat. Somebody said who would wear a fur coat to bed and said, Lucille would. So there were elements. There were things that were constantly coming up in the show. I think I got off the point of the question.I might have lost the point of your question.
Interviewer: I'm again, I'm getting ahead of the audience here. I know she was a hard worker as well as a very dedicated. And so I'm wondering how much of that sort of passion for her work and the way she dealt with the hardships that she encountered in later life. How much of that was coming from hardships that she endured in her early years? And again, I don't want to put words in your mouth. All right. If you could just let me put it this way. Paint a picture of the kind of child that she had.
Kathleen Brady: Lucy had great self will and great determination and no interest in any self-knowledge whatsoever. And I firmly believe that although a lot of these terrible things had happened in her childhood bother her horribly. She didn't dwell on them. She just forged ahead. So I think she was very much like that as an adult as well. I mean, she threw everything into work. Work was where her passion was and everything else had to fall by the wayside.
Interviewer: What are some of the horrible things that happened to her.
Kathleen Brady: Her father died when she was three? They when when she was about three or four years later, her mother remarried and she didn't much care for her stepfather. And her mother and her stepfather went off to think Michigan leaving Lucy with her elderly step grandmother, her stepfather's mother. She wasn't allowed to stay with her own grandparents because her brother was with them and it hurt her child. It was almost Dickensian. I mean, there was a terrible accident on their premises. A little boy was shot and died of his injuries. They lost their home. Everything. Almost every problem that could befall a child befell Lucille Ball and she kept forging through.
Interviewer: All right, now we're going to go back to New York, sort of where we left off. Constant, dramatic school. She watches Betty Davis with the background. She doesn't succeed. What happens then? How does she stay in New York and survive even though she's not being successful as an actress?
Kathleen Brady: Well, Lucy went back and forth from New York to Jamestown because you'd get terribly homesick. But really, New York City was where the excitement was and that's where she wanted to be. She tried to get into a few shows and to be a showgirl, but she was always fired because she was basically too skinny and she was also too quiet. And finally, someone said that since she was so skinny, she should try to be a coat model. And this is, in fact, what she did. She modeled coats and she would model coats in August, which is when the shows began and would practically inspire the heat. And this is how she survived for a long time. She was also a model for photographers and artists who were doing advertising. And this led to her becoming a Chesterfield girl, which entitled her to become which gave her the credential that she needed to become a Goldwyn girl.
Interviewer: Okay. Now, I'm curious, after having watched Stagedoor, which is about young ladies who've come to New York who want to be actresses trying to survive. Could you paint a picture for me of that Depression era New York, just a few brush strokes on how difficult it was. People were literally starving, I guess. And we're standing in front lines. It was a very tough time for everyone. Do you think I mean, going out for dinner with a man was actually one way to feel. Fill your belly. Right. And that's what's in stage doors.
Kathleen Brady: Exactly.
Interviewer: How much of that do you think is reflective of her life at that time?
Kathleen Brady: Well, let's see. I think to me, the most interesting thing about Stagedoor is actually that it was based very much on the personalities and characters of the women who were in the performance in the in the movie. And Edward LaCava, who wrote it, chose Lucy to be the girl who gives up and goes home. And that's not, of course, what really happened. And I'm intrigued that he did not as many other people did not really. Enda's never saw the powerhouse that she would become. I am constantly struck by that. If if there's a fable, it's the ugly duckling where this incredible person is not recognized. I didn't answer your question the way I wanted you to because I don't know.
Interviewer: I'm asking you more. The picture that I saw on the stage door of these girls going out to avoid being hungry. You know, do you think that was her experience in New York during that time? And could you just not. No, I didn't mean to refer literally. No. Is I figured it out yet.
Kathleen Brady: No, it's good. Yeah.
Interviewer: Images in my mind. Is that something that you think was part of her experience at that time? How you know, this survival while everyone else is standing on bread? How is she getting by in those very basic ways? Right.
Kathleen Brady: Well, I'm sure that she. I mean, I know that I'm and I want to phrase this. Right. But not because. Because I want to phrase it right. Friends of hers from Jamestown would come with her to New York. And they were pretty girls and lively girls. And, of course, they'd get asked out. And so, yes, I think that, you know, they relied on their dates to feed them for the day. I mean, they're it's true. They'd put bread in their purses from, you know, and try to take home as much as they could to live on the next day.
Interviewer: And, you know, put that in the context of that Depression era. What was New York like? Let's hear it. What was the populous struggling with?
Kathleen Brady: Well, New York being the great metropolis. There were people hungry and on bread lines and there were some people doing exceptionally well. The rich weren't necessarily getting richer during the Depression, but there were still some very rich people and some of them were men who took Lucy out and. You know, as a model, she would meet photographers who I tried to. Hire her as often as possible, people, you know, people always wanted to help Lucy. I mean, I think that. There was a desire to work and and a general, a beauty and a general. Intensity and passion for life, the people responded to and. Throughout her career, there were people who wanted to help her until she was in a position to help other people and then she did the same thing.
Interviewer: You're doing great. I'm good. Thank you. Yeah. Have a nice way of speaking and you speak in complete thoughts.
Kathleen Brady: Good thing, because I'm thinking there is no. It's so good. Good. Okay. No, these are good questions. So that.
Interviewer: All right. So tell me then how she gets from not so much on that, you know, brush stroke it how she gets from New York, which is a Chesterfield girl. And briefly, how she gets discovered and sent out to Hollywood.
Kathleen Brady: Well, there was a break from being a model for modeling these codes, and I think she went out to buy a pair of stockings or something and she ran into an agent that she knew. And this agent said Goldwin is looking for young beauty, young models to go out and be. Young starlets in Hollywood, why don't you go test Lucy, it already had some sort of screen test, but she went anyway and she was the thirteenth girl chosen. She was the backup. And fortunately, some mother came along and would not let her daughter go to godless Hollywood. So Lucy did make it out to California. And her idea was great. This will get me out of the city for the summer. And of course, she stayed there for 50 years. She stayed there for the rest of her life. She was not going to repeat her mistakes that she made in New York. She was not going to be mousy or quiet or afraid. And so she was very vocal as a golden girl. She would do if somebody was supposed to get a pie in the face, a mud pie in the face on the set of any Kanter's movie, which was Roman scandals. Then she'd be the girl to take the mud pie and her friends. She told me that the other girls would say, nobody's gonna know you are under that mud pie. She's a nobody knows who I am anyway. She just wanted to perform. And it's great fun to try to figure out, as you look at all the beauties and Roman scandals, which one of them is Lucille Ball, you know, and sometimes I think I know.
Interviewer: Is it true that Barkley said that she would go far because she was the only girl willing to take a pie in the face?
Kathleen Brady: Eddie Cantor said that, you know, give that girl the word because she's willing to do it? He thought that she was going to. I don't know if Eddie Cantor was quite impressed that she was willing to jump in and do anything. Conceivably, there were a lot of pretty girls who were content to sit around and be pretty. Lucy wanted to get out there and and get into the action. You do know that Gloria Stuart starred in Roman scandals and Gloria Stuart is the one the old lady in Titanic. Good, because I think that's I mean.
Kathleen Brady: Yeah, I mean. For what it's worth. Yeah. Yes, exactly.
Interviewer: Well, let's let's just pause for a moment on that whole subject of glamour versus comedy. Mm hmm. You know. Is it fair to say that Hollywood typecast people and that really I think it was I can't remember which mogul said beautiful women sell tickets, not funny women. This notion that if you wanted to be successful, you had to be the next on a turnaround, that ultimately that's all that they could her and were grooming her for. And then they just missed. I mean, this sounds like Eddie Cantor was the exception.
Kathleen Brady: The people there were two people who really understood what Lucille Ball could do. The first almost from day one, was said Sedgwick, who had worked in the silence with Buster Keaton. And she saw her on the set of the Goldman Productions, and that's so much on the set that on on the lot. And she was telling the story with all her gestures and her expressions. And he saw her doing the things that Mabel Norman and Pearl White and the stars of the Silence used to work to do. And she was doing them naturally. And he came over to her and he said, young lady, if you play your cards right, you can be the greatest comedian in America. And he was the ripe old age of 40. He was overweight and she thought she didn't have any idea who she was. And she thought that he was just trying to pick her up. But, of course, he was absolutely correct. And through the years in Hollywood, when no one else knew what to do with her. Ed Sedgwick and Buster Keaton were always trying to get her roles and comedies and. Finally, they succeeded at Columbia when there was nothing else left for her to do. And it Sedgewick became the godfather to her children and. And a consultant in the early days on I Love Lucy.
Interviewer: But why was it so difficult? Why were they having to. Why were they running? Why were they not succeeding in convincing the movie moguls to make her well?
Kathleen Brady: Louis B at MGM said that people just want women to be glamorous. And he truly believed that. And then a movie star was to be glamorous. And there we were. Now. I don't think we can appreciate today that Lucy Lucy's beauty was not really recognized when she came to Hollywood because it was the thirties. There was a sculpted, sophisticated kind of beauty and she didn't have that at all. There was. She didn't have that kind of disdainful. She had a natural American Beauty. She did not have a sophisticated New York cocktail party drawing room kind of beauty. I asked Katharine Hepburn. I said, you know, Lucy didn't think she was pretty. And Katharine Hepburn said to me, well, why? She and I couldn't understand at all what she meant. I mean, she said she was so Katharine Hepburn said Lucille Ball was so charming and everybody liked her so much. But that she wasn't really so beautiful. But by the standards of the day, she really wasn't. She was too wholesome looking. So. You know, Lucille Ball was a great believer in being typed and she really wanted to be typed, but they could not find her type in films.
Interviewer: And do you think her voice was a liability as well? I think that for me, the movie that contrast the sort of heroine types is Dance Girl Dance, where Maureen O'Hara is the sort of classic beauty. I don't know if she's so haughty, but she's just kind of a classic beauty that Lucy was never gonna be. And she has this voice. That's a very sort of upper class kind of. Yes. She has this low, husky chorus girl voice, you know, so. And I think she even talked about how her voice was a bit of a liability for her. Maybe you could tell me again that same idea. And also tell me how the voice prevented her from truly being a big movie star.
Kathleen Brady: Well, Lucy's voice when she came to Hollywood was actually too high and she used to practice screaming to deepen it. In fact, when she and Desi Arnaz later on would go round in his convertible, he driving much too fast. She would scream. And also this was an opportunity to deepen her voice. There is a hardness, I think, to some of those are about Lucy to some of those early films. It's probably discomfort. Really, she came alive as a performer when she could be before an audience. She was bigger in radio than she was in films. So obviously bigger than in television than she was or anybody else was any place else. You know, Lucy, really, even at the Lucille Ball, always wanted to be really a movie star. And she didn't quite get that honor. We can see that she wasn't as big as Rosalind Russell or Carol Lombardo or certainly Katharine Hepburn or Ginger Rogers and in movies. But we can't lose sight of the fact that she was in movies and she did much, much better than most of the starlets who came to Hollywood. But the truth is television was her medium and really nothing else was. She was, you know, she was a phenomenon in television. It called on all her talents. She was she was really good in movies relative to a lot of other people.
Interviewer: Can I stop one second? I'm hearing the bracelets. Are you? Oh, yes, I hear them. I guess you don't see them at all. Right.
Kathleen Brady: Yes. Sorry, I forgot. I always forget that.
Interviewer: How are we doing? She knew Buster Keaton. Is it really true that he worked with her and taught her technique? And if so, what? What did he teach her?
Kathleen Brady: Buster Keaton taught her to be to take comedy seriously. To let you know, Buster Keaton taught her to believe in whatever she was doing, even if it was baking an eight foot long loaf of bread to really that comedy you got laughs. But it wasn't done for laughs. And that the more serious you were about it, the more natural you were about it, the bigger the laugh was. Lucille Ball said that he taught her timing, but I could never find out exactly how that was. I guess they just got together and and got in sync, you know?
Interviewer: Well, what I guess I heard is that there was this notion of I guess, listen, react then. So I kind of like almost slow the.
Kathleen Brady: That's good. Buster Keaton taught her to listen. React and then act, so that one seemed not to know what was coming and really it was acting, that comedy is acting with hilarious results.
Interviewer: Good. And before we leave this Hollywood not understanding her. To me, one of the images in my mind that exemplifies this is the Gone With the Wind, still gone with the an audition. So I know it's this whole big story that can right in the rain and all that, which is not that important. Probably doing it right. But the notion that she would be tested for that or be considered eligible for that, I just find so amusing. Maybe you could put it in that. Tell us about the fact that she did audition for Scarlett O'Hara.
Kathleen Brady: Lucille Ball, audition for the part, Scarlett O'Hara. Now, everyone, in truth, who is being auditioned. And it was part of the hoopla to audition everybody in the search far and wide. I think they already knew they were going to do Vivien Leigh. But Lucy was driving to her audition, which she, incidentally, did not believe she was going to be successful at, but she got caught in a terrible rainstorm in California, of all places. It must have been January. But anyway, she arrived looking something like a drowned rat and possibly sneezing. And I don't remember where she ended up kneeling on the floor. Do you remember.
Interviewer: Oh, oh. One version I read is that Marcella Rodwin gave her some brandy.
Kathleen Brady: Oh yes.
Interviewer: To chill off . Who knows how much brandy she drank before.
Kathleen Brady: Exactly. Exactly. Well, so Lucy arrived wet and chilled and to help her get through this and to stave off a cold. Marcella Radwan, who was the secretary of I forgot I came by just what Jim do, so I should start over. Marcella Rodwin, who is David Selznick secretary, gave her brandy to sort of take the chill, often come back to herself. And Mr. Selznick kept Lucy waiting. And so I guess she kept drinking the brandy and was basically. On the floor for some kneeling on the floor when he came. Ended up doing her audition for Scarlett on the floor of his office. It was all but Lucy didn't get the part, actually.
Interviewer: And, you know, hurting other people. That's really a technique you have to learn.
Kathleen Brady: Well, there was also a clown named Paedo who was a friend of Desi Arnaz is, and he also taught Lucy a great deal and worked. And he worked with Lucy before they did the I Love Lucy pilot. He also worked with Lucy before she and Desi went on the road together in what was essentially their vaudeville act in 1950. They CBS wanted her to do a television show. She wouldn't do without Desi. She was told that the people would never accept a Cuban as the husband of a red blooded American girl. So they wanted to prove that the people would accept them together. And they went out on the road and were wildly successful. And in preparation for this, Lucy studied a bit with with Papito. I think that Keeton and his. Colleague Ed Sedgwick. And it was really, I think, Ed Sedgwick, who believed in Lucy even even more. Ed Sedgewick knew how to bring out the artistry and others. And, of course, Keating was himself a great artist. So I'm not I'm not sure that he was able to teach as well as perhaps Ed Sedrick was. I don't know. They constantly kept this comedy thing in mind and urged her to do it. They saw it a great physical comedian. She was she just wanted to be a star. She wasn't really particularly interested in doing this. It was only when she had very few other options, when the contract at Columbia was a lifeline for money and she ended up in the comedy unit and she liked it only then did she really say, you know, this might be for her? And.
Interviewer: So tell me. I mean, being a physical comedian, I think it was Mike Dan yesterday, CBS. I'm glad you talked to him about this. Mark, are you hearing her rings also?
Kathleen Brady: I'm sorry. But you asked me about. And I also had got I mean.
Interviewer: He was saying he was saying that you work that she saw her work so hard to keep her body in shape. That being a physical comedian, credibly demanding rigorous career and that it doesn't just happen naturally, that you you can't just take these pratfalls unless you're in excellent shape. You know how to do it and practice it a lot. So I just wonder if that is something she also learned from one of her mentors, how to be physical without killing herself or others.
Kathleen Brady: I'm not sure the extent to which she learned ever how to take care of herself. She certainly didn't train, as we would do now with weights and all of that. She practiced over and over and over again till she knew how to do whatever it was she had to do while on stilts or, you know, jump three feet off, you know, off what was supposed to be a high ledge down into the audience. So she practiced, practiced, practiced until she knew something well enough so that she could forget it and seemed to be doing it naturally in front of the camera. She wasn't a stunt person. She was just excellent with props.
Interviewer: Tell me a little bit about that. What is why is it, you know, I guess as a non actor, one might think, well, a prop, you know, no problem. Hold up one second while I guess I'll just talk about having the notion. I guess what I've read is that Keaton Talkers is always rehearsing with your props, not using substitutes, because the fake thing is not going to react the same way. The real thing is going to.
Kathleen Brady: Keaton did teach her the importance of props and that her props were her tools and that she really had to treat them as treasures and know them perfectly well and work with them. And I think that's the major thing he taught her so that she was so familiar with them that she could she could forget about them when she was working with them.
Interviewer: OK. Now, before we get I know we're dying to get to I Love Lucy, but the last thing before we go. Yes. Miss Grant takes Richmond. We put her now in the Columbia comedy unit. And here's this incredible vehicle for her where Lucy Ricardo starts speaking for in various scenes of that movie. I mean, the one I love, the silent bit at the beginning where she's playing with the typewriters and everything. She's in secretarial school and she totally screwed everything up. Like, exactly what was your Ricardo would do if she went to secretarial school? But give me a little bit about how you see the beginnings of that Lucy Ricardo character emerging in that film.
Kathleen Brady: Well, the mother of Lucy Ricardo was certainly the character she played in Miss Grant takes Richmond, who was Harum Scarum. Was a person of principle and home values, just as Lucy Ricardo was, and she was a Zainy, and she would get into all kinds of. Experiences, her single mindedness would get her into all kinds of experiences. It was like watching the Lucy Ricardo emerge. It was like watching a photograph of Lucy Ricardo emerge in the developing bath. It she did all these crazy physical things. Her expressions were. Incredible. She was a gypsy at one point, I she was losing her eyelashes and everything was going on. And it's wonderful to, you know.
Interviewer: Do you think she. Just the thing about that Hypers scene that's so amazing to me is there's no dialogue. It's all visual comedy. And it makes me wonder if she had been born earlier. Could she have been a silent movie comedian?
Kathleen Brady: Well, Ed Sedgwick certainly saw that she would have been a great star of the silence. She was born, you know, in a sense, she was born too late and she was born too soon because she. Miss the silence and her career began in films where she was, where she stayed alive and she was. It was fine, but. It took television, which required all her talents, her wonderful expressions, her physical gifts to really bring her to flower.
Interviewer: All right. So let's go to my favorite husband, which I think does. Yes, sort of. Again, lead to the I Love Lucy show both literally and also she is where she met a lot of important players. She met Bob Carol Davis there and she met just Oppenheimer. Her great producer, I think, did see her potential. Maybe he was the second person that I don't know after, etc.. He saw what she could really do. So tell me a little bit about my favorite husband and the role that it played in her development.
Kathleen Brady: In my favorite husband, she met the people who are going to really help. Nobody knew. But she met the people who were going to launch I Love Lucy and the radio show, which was very successful. Was the was really the proving ground for the television show. I Love Lucy was, in fact, years in development. She her writers were the wonderful Bob Carroll and Madeleine Pugh. And her producer was Jess Oppenheim, who they all got. I Love Lucy started. She played a ditzy housewife who was the wife of a banker. And she was always trying to help his career with unfortunate results. Lucy was also responsible for doing the commercials for the show. And this was radio and no one could see her. But she did have a live audience and she came alive before a live audience. So there was little Miss Muffin was one of the characters in some commercial. And she would. Lucy would make a face like a spider, as she did just commercial, because the audience loved this. But Lucy developed the expressions that she used on I Love Lucy while doing her radio show.
Interviewer: All right. Yes, come along and say, here is this new thing. Television, and of course, it's kind of like when cable had its explosion on the front foot on it. So they're desperately looking around for material and they obviously are looking to their radio shows to feed this medium. But there's a hitch. They don't want Desi.So tell me a little bit about how CBS wanted to turn this into a TV show, she fought.
Kathleen Brady: Well, of course, CBS and the other networks were turning their successful radio comedies into television shows because they they needed material. They figured they would translate and they wanted to turn my favorite husband into a television show. And Lucy absolutely refused to do it without Desi. She wanted to give him work. She wanted him to share in her success. She wanted to keep him home. CBS finally said, I interviewed William Paley and William Paley said that what we all know, that Lucy insisted that Desi had to be in this. And he said, I told them, give him a little part. And if you have to make the husband, the husband won't be so important. And what they.You'll cut this and fix this. I'm going in three directions at once. Well, I think the executives at NBC, basically, I think the executives at CBS basically loathed Ricky Ricardo alone. I think the executives at CBS basically loathed Desi Arnaz based on what's been said about him at that time, I think based on what's been said, the executives at CBS saw this sort of Cuban person that they didn't much like and they really didn't want him around. Of course, he later became one of the most important producers and moving forces in in television. And then they liked him fine. But they did not want Desi Arnaz to be connected with this television show. Lucille Ball told me it's a combination of my demands and desis innovation, that that was the success, the beginning of I Love Lucy. They wanted. She wanted it filmed in Hollywood. They nothing was being done in Hollywood then. It was all being done in television and it was all being done in New York. Basically, Lucy and Desi made so many unrealistic demands that CBS finally said, well, then you do it. And I gather that they thought they'll they'll be so unhappy that they'll come running to us. But that never happened because they figured out how to do everything they wanted to how to film it before a live audience, how to film it in California. And so that was the start of I Love Lucy.
Interviewer: Now before we. That's OK. Go ahead.
Kathleen Brady: Yes. OK.
Interviewer: Initially, CBS said no. The guy nobody said that already. No one's gonna believe that a red blooded American girl like you is gonna be married to this spic.
Kathleen Brady: Right. Exactly. That's exactly right.
Interviewer: So they they went up and they said, oh, yeah. And they did create this show that they took on the road. That's right. So maybe you could tell us that and describe the vaudeville as you understand it.
Kathleen Brady: Well, they said so. The executive said that it was not believable that a red blooded American girl would be married to Cuban. And she said, well, I am a red blooded American girl and I am married to a Cuban. And they went out on the road appearing base. In those days, there were some hard times, had live performances at major movie theaters. And Luci and Desi were one of these performances. So people loved them. They were wildly successful. Lucy did the business where she she always looked black in her teeth. But she. She was a clown. She can't remember which she's basically, you know, what would happen is Desi would be leading his little combo band and they would be playing the music and Lucy would burst forth in a clown suit and interrupt the whole thing. And they were wildly successful. Everybody loved them. And so they took that to CBS and whether CBS was interested or not. They knew they were not going to get Lucy without Desi. And they were told that he would was never to be allowed to perform on the show unless it was absolutely integral to the plot. So the riders who loved Lucy and loved Desi made show business a major theme of the show so that everything, the music and the nightclub were integral to many of the shows and come to find out that Desi Arnaz was wildly popular, too, and that he added so much to the show.
Interviewer: We are getting a siren.
Kathleen Brady: People come at this with no perspective at all. And one girl said to me, well, did anybody ever protest because there was this Cuban on television? And in fact, no. And I was so I mean, I was so taken aback because I realized that. All this fear and prejudice really had no basis. You know, I'm not saying. You know, all this fear and prejudice about what they could put on television had no basis.
Interviewer: Now, it's an interesting lesson. All right. So Desi Arnaz, I guess maybe we ought to back up a little bit and talk about the romance first. What? You know, these two, I guess Lucy knows at one point said it was like Scarlett. Right. I mean, you were her parents and she was obviously getting a second there when they met. We asked Van Johnson yesterday and he said, tell me what he said that sparks firecrackers. You know, people who were there described it as pretty hot. Tell us a little bit about this union of these two different people.
Kathleen Brady: Well, they were different and they weren't different. They were both very intense. They both spoke first, thought second. Desi was certainly more diplomatic and probably in many ways softer. But it was an instant thunderbolt. Desi was engaged to someone else. And promptly broke that off.Lucy had been involved with a director named L. Hall for years. And and she broke that off immediately. Al Hall was in a position to help her in her career. And certainly Desi was not. And it didn't matter. So I think Desi. I mean, Lucy looked great. You know, this American red ad, blah, blah, blah, I think on a deeper level. He appreciated that this was a woman who could take care of her, of herself. His mother was a very dependent woman. And Lucy, who had never really gotten enough attention. Found herself with this man who was. jealous and passionate and very demanding, involving. So this made for lots and lots of excitement and lots of travel too.
Interviewer: I think that it's so astounding to watch these shows, obviously he showed upsets, there's one we watched last night where they're dancing and it's heaven and they're on the ballroom floor and they just look like they're so in love. I mean, can you tell me a little bit about just their love for women?
Kathleen Brady: Well, you know, talking about their love for one another is complex because they were certainly passionate about each other. I think they did love each other. I don't think they always knew how to express it in a way that either could understand. I think they each had so much vested in being strong, tough guys. That they might not have had the little holes you need to take anything in.
Interviewer: But certainly at their best, they were not indifferent lovers.
Kathleen Brady: No. I think I I have to tell you when I think based. You know, Lucille Ball said to me. I asked Lucille Ball. Do you think Desi ever loved you? And she said that she said, yes. I see. Knowing how much pain, sorrow, anger and hatefulness they put each other through. I find it hard to process this great love story business. I it was the story of a remarkable, passionate partnership. A lot depends on how you define love. I asked Lucille Ball, in fact, do you think Desi ever loved you? And she said, yes. He loved me when we were first married. He loved me when we bought our first house and we planted our garden. And I was very, very touched by that.
Interviewer: How about when they had their children?
Kathleen Brady: Yes, I'm sure. I mean, I think he loved her. But you see what? And you see what they were able to create. I think they loved each other in the remarkable thing that happened to each other about the show they created and the empire that really he created and that they shared. They wanted children desperately. They were thrilled when the children came along. By then, they had so much going on in so many directions that ultimately, I don't know how much that mattered. You know. It's hard for me to say. I just, you know, I know I'm just not able to engage in this clich. I you know, I'm not engaged, you know?
Interviewer: Tell me about his upbringing. My understanding is that he was very privileged before they lost everything. And then came to this country with nothing and built himself back up.
Speaker Exactly. Well, the family was wealthy in Cuba. So, I mean, does does his family was was wealthy. His father was the mayor of their town, Santiago de Cuba. And so they were very you know, he was the the richest, most handsome boy in this town. He was also an only child, which was extraordinary. I think in Cuba or in any Catholic family. And they lost everything in a revolution. And the father was had to go to Florida to save his life. Desi followed. They came here with nothing. And as his first job was cleaning birdcages and off through a fluke, he got a job as a musician. I mean, they say all Cubans are musicians and I'm inclined to believe it. And he never really studied music, but he certainly knew how to play the bongos. And and he was very good looking and charming and engaging. And he got a job in a nightclub with the bongos. And they were wildly successful. And the rest is history.
Interviewer: Good. Since. It sounds like you have a clearer picture of the unhappy side of the romance than the euphoric side. Maybe if you could just paint a picture for me of the state that their marriage was in right before. I Love Lucy started to come together. He was on the road. They were never together. He was clearly not faithful. He worked nights. She worked days. I hear they even sometimes crossed on the freeway driving home. You know, tell us about that period of their marriage.
Kathleen Brady: Well, in the late 40s, Desi could get no work in Hollywood. Really, his accent was too thick in the beginning. He had a niche because there weren't that many Latins around. And so there was I should say that Desi came to Hollywood because he was in a very successful Broadway show called Too Many Girls. And so there was a role for him there. But he the talkies had been invented. The fact that you had to be able to talk and articulate in the movies was very important. Does he couldn't do this. His accent was too thick. There was basically no work for him in Hollywood. So he went on the road with his band. He was never home when he was. He worked nights. She worked days in the movies. And they basically had no marriage. But Lucy. Lucy loved him desperately. And she wanted her marriage to work. He was Catholic. He wanted his marriage to work. And so they Lucy wanted to find some way to keep him at home. Desi, meanwhile, when he was home, was reading Variety and was reading the enormous sums that were being made in television. He was reading how people who didn't have very exciting careers in film like Milton Berle and Kate Smith were making. Astonishing sums of money in film and television. So Desie wanted Lucy to do television. Lucy never gave up on the idea of being a movie star. If there is anything about Lucille Ball, it is that she is persistent. And she was persistent. And so Lucy was about to be 40. And she was going to have a baby, finally. And what's.
Interviewer: Was her movie career over?
Kathleen Brady: Well, you know, it's hard. It's. Lucy's movie career probably wasn't over, but the possibilities of being a star were dimming by the day. I think Lucy held out hope, but more than that, she wanted her marriage to work. And so finally she agreed to do this television show and really to sort of Desi's insistence. But she did have some ideas. She Carl Freude had made her look fabulous. An MGM film she wanted. Carl frightened to be in charge of the lighting. She knew people that she'd worked with throughout her career and she wanted them to come work with. Them. She had worked happily with Gail Gordon. And with. This woman whose name I forget. Bea Arthur. Bea Arthur. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. She'd worked with Gail Gordon and be Bernadette on the radio show as she wanted them to work to be Fred and Ethel. And they weren't available. Lucy never liked working with the unknown. I mean, if she didn't want to work with an unknown prop, I assure you she did not want to work with an unknown person. But this was forced upon her and at that point, William Frawley was just about unemployable in movies and even on television because he was so unreliable. He had a drinking problem and I think he called Desi. Usually people call Lucy, but he asked, you know, to. I suspect that Bill Frawley called Lucy because all her old pals from star companies called her up to get jobs. And Fred. Bill Frawley persuaded Desi that he really would they could trust him. They wouldn't drink, blah, blah, blah. So they hired him for the part of Fred Barnes.
Interviewer: This sudden this kind of a life raft gets thrown in their direction that solves professional problems in person in one fell swoop.
Kathleen Brady: Yes. Their potentials and their possibilities had certainly peaked. I mean, it seemed like they were as far as they were going to get. And along came television and. There they went. I'm not.
Interviewer: That's OK. Is it true that in the beginning Lucy thought maybe one, maybe two years and I can show them as home movies to my kids when they're older?
Kathleen Brady: Yes. Lucy said that she thought, well, we'll have home movies for the kids. And I think she really I think that was true because nobody knew what television was really going to be. I mean. My sense is there were more fears about television, Hollywood than there were sort of hopes. Nobody and. I think she was caught up in the excitement of doing this and doing this with Desi and she loved beginning. She said she always loved new beginnings. And this was certainly a new beginning and the best kind of beginning for of all for Lucille Ball, because it was a new beginning with people that she'd been working with for years. Very few unknowns, unknown quantities. So she was. She was excited. And the schedule seemed to be manageable.
Interviewer: And so when they were first doing those early episodes in, the first one came out on TV and I gather the reviews were OK with the audience, really liked it. And I don't I think my dad told us that by week three, it had knocked the competition already out of the, you know, off the charts. But before they had any inkling, maybe if you could just give me a statement, they just really had no idea what they were creating.
Kathleen Brady: They had no idea what they were creating. They really. They were absolutely clueless about even about the potential. I think their greatest hope was just 13 weeks.
Interviewer: Now, once it did become successful, I think I understand from your book that in some way, success was hard for her, that she had a lot of anxiety, that this thing that she'd hoped for all her life success to be known wherever she went recognized that it would all be taken away.
Kathleen Brady: In the life of Lucille Ball success was always followed by disaster. That had been her history. So, yes, she became she was very nervous about it all. There was a poignant story about how at around I Love Lucy and even when Desi, Lou, they couldn't find pencils. Nobody really pencils. And it turned out that Lucy had a cabinet filled with these pencils. She would go around and get the pencils and lock them up. And one of her executives said, Lucy, you really own all the pencils. You know, it's OK. And she said, if you had a childhood like mine when you did where you didn't have a pencil to take to school, you would understand why I do this. So.
Interviewer: Now so we're at this point of incredible success and yet a fear that something would come along to take it all away and all of a sudden Walter Winchell goes on his Sunday night broadcast and insinuates that the top comedian in Hollywood is red. How did she respond?
Kathleen Brady: Well, of course, this was a time when some of their dear friends, notably Larry Parks, their careers are being destroyed by this witch hunt against pseudo communists and. Lucy, who had never been Lucy's politics and her religion show business. So. People at that time, their lives and careers were being destroyed because they were accused of being communists. No evidence was ever brought against them. But one day, I guess, one Sunday night. Lucy was listening, as everyone did to the Winchell program, and some redhead was being accused of being a communist. And I think Lucy thought it might be Maureen O'Hara. I mean, it didn't even occur to her that this was her. And in subsequent days, she realized that it was. And I think Desi knew Desi, who was someplace else, knew that this was serious. And the thing about it was that Lucy actually had registered as a communist because her grandfather in 1936 had insisted that she go out to vote and instructed her to vote as communist. So things were looking mighty grim. And they didn't. The week that all this broke, they were doing a an episode where the girls opened a dress shop and the dress shop fails. I suppose only serious intellectuals would realize this was about the failure of the communist system. There was only serious intellectuals who'd realize it's about the failure of the capitalist system. But nobody ever pity any attention to that at the time. But nonetheless, Lucille Ball had to go out and she didn't know what was going to happen when she appeared this accused communist before people.
Interviewer: What did she think? You think people are going to boo?
Kathleen Brady: She it was possible. You see, all so much was going on and it was so also murky. She didn't know with what she did know is the CBS executives would not return their calls. Now, Desi Arnaz here is where Desi Arnaz really stepped out because whereas most people joined this vicious secret. That was Joe McCarthy. Desi stood up and say, my wife is accused of being a communist and she's not. And but he tried to find out if CBS was going to support them and he couldn't get anybody to answer to return his calls. So they were flying blind as far as CBS was concerned, and they did not know what the audience was going to do. It was possible she was going to get booed. She didn't know. She was terrified to go out. They had a doctor. They are just ready to take care of her emotionally, if nothing else. Did they consider canceling the show? I don't think Desi ever considered canceling the show. He never considered canceling the taping. I mean, maybe that idea was floated, but I don't he wouldn't have stood for that. And so she went out each before the show. They would all know the audience. He would warm up the audience. Still, if few jokes get everybody in a good mood. And of course, Lucy's audiences were always so excited to begin with. And then he would introduce the players and he said, I mean, it's funny because it really sort of chokes me up. Anyway, he said, let me introduce to everybody. And he said, and here is my wife, Lucille Ball. And they only red thing about her is her hair. And we're not sure of that. And she bounded out and people cheered. And I mean, it cracks me it chokes me up. Well, I'm not so moved by his defense of her. I admire that enormously. I am very touched. You know, I think I mean, this is personal. I think that McCarthyism was such a vicious period. And television joined in, the government joined in. It was everything that was truly not American. And I love it that this comedian very much against her will. Stopped that particular madness. Everybody was caught up in this bill of goods that an egomaniac and a bunch of other political predators were pulling on the country. And they went too far. You know, I mean, it's it's it's kind of an exciting.
Interviewer: Well, tell us the end. So how did the audience respond and what happened in the press. The next day and how she goes on?
Kathleen Brady: Well, the next day they had a news conference at their house and in Chatsworth. And they told the story of the grandfather. And this went out over all the wires. So the people people were reading about this in the newspapers. The American public. But what really? And so the people were behind them. And CBS saw that the people were behind them. So by gun, they were behind their multicam, you know, their cash cow. I love Lucy. True. But what happened is also Lucy. Prior to that, prior to this episode had been had to go before this committee in Hollywood. Some Republican congressmen, representative whose name escapes me. Ronald. Yes. Thank you very much. Donald Jackson, Republican representative from wherever was on the on House un-American activities. And he interviewed Lucy and to investigate her communist past. And she said, you know, he came out in a blue shirt. Now, the only people the only time a man ever wore a blue shirt was when he was expecting to go on television. I don't think most American men owned blue shirts at that point, but this guy had one. He knew he was going to be on television. And so he asked her why she had registered as a communist. And she said, my grandfather told me to. And she said in those days of the Depression, it was worse to be a Republican than a communist. And so didn't she want to please her grandmother? And she adored her grandfather. He was really the only father that she'd known as he as she said, her grandfather was the only father that she'd known. And. You know, I think sometimes Lucy did a better job of taking care of everybody else than other people did of taking care of her. But. You know, she did what her grandfather told her and Reges register vote communist, voting, communist or whatever. However, she voted in 1936 and went off to film whatever she was filming that day. And it was only by, oh, you know, let me see. There's one important point that she her card said that she had registered but did not vote. And when this card was reproduced, the card was altered. So then in the newspapers, it would indicate that she had registered and voted. So as part of this conspiracy to terrify the American public, this evidence was doctored.
Interviewer: Let me just ask you, because when I heard the story that the card registered and then it said cancel at the bottom and the typical yellow journalism of the time, they just got rid of.
Kathleen Brady: Yes. That maybe that was it. Maybe. Yeah. You were going to say that because I don't know this. Yes. OK. The card said that she'd registered to vote and. Either she didn't really vote or whatever happened, the bottom of the card said cancelled. So this registration had been canceled. But when it was reproduced, canceled was deleted. And so with this piece of evidence went out to all the newspapers in the country and it was false. Now, possibly I mean, the fact that Lucille Ball was loved was one of her aces in the hole, but also the fact that Lucy Ricardo was such an income poop possibly helped her because it was just the sort of thing Lucy Ricardo would get herself involved with. You know, Lucy Ricardo runs afoul of Joe McCarthy, sort of sounded right. So I think that that might have helped a little bit. But it also showed these institutions are political institutions, our media institutions. What a paper tiger all this was. And I I do think that it certainly, along with the broadcast of Edward R. Murrow of CBS about Joe McCarthy, I think that helped to bring that whole horrible period to an end.
Interviewer: You're not the only person we've spoken with who felt that she really did contribute to bringing the whole thing, winding it down.
Kathleen Brady: Because I think it just showed that there wasn't. I mean, you know. It made it all ludicrous. She brought. A derisive laughter to this. Joe McCarthy and I think that was that was helpful.
Interviewer: I'm hearing pages in the background also. That's OK. OK. OK. Just jumping ahead. I don't know. This isn't something that I picked up from your book. So I guess it's something that I feel in watching the show. Yeah. I don't understand why I like it so well after all these years. And I think for me, one of the delightful aspects of it is the friendship between Ethel and Lucy. They just you know, everyone would want to have a best friend like that in their adult lives, which most of us don't. We don't have the same time. We don't live next door to people in that same way. I have the proximity, yes, the access to our neighbors. But also, they were just so well-matched. They were so perfectly suited for one another. Can you talk a little bit about the character's friendships?
Kathleen Brady: There was a lot of love in the heart in that show. And for all that, it was the boys against the girls and couples against couples. They all loved each other so much. And that showed I mean, I think that meant a great deal. You know, Lucy and Ethel, we're like best friends in grade school. They were like they had that kind of incredible bond and partnership. And Fred and Ricky were the long suffering males doing going along and doing what they could in the face of all this unreasoned ability. And so besides the fact that it's a fabulous show and everything makes us laugh, I think the fact the love in the heart is a very great joy and consolation.
Interviewer: We're gonna have to send somebody upstairs. All right. So the show is incredibly successful and they begin to build a part of their empire building involves the purchase of a studio.
Kathleen Brady: Yes. Well, there was a need for television space, for physical space in which to make television shows. And RKO was up for sale. And RKO was the very studio that had almost expelled Desi Arnaz from show business when they were finished with him and where Lucy's contract was actually dropped. So they they had been these contract players and not treated very well. And lo and behold, they owned the studio. And when when Lucille Ball was a struggling contract player at RKO, there was the most wonderful dressing room was reserved for Ginger Rogers, who was their big star. And time passed, Lucy and Desi were both their careers ended. Not very gloriously at RKO. And lo and behold, they return as the owners of the studio. The first thing that Lucille Ball did was to take Ginger Rogers dressing room as her own. What a triumph.
Interviewer: How do you think people perceived it in that town at that time, I guess, particularly the Hollywood aristocracy? Here are these contract players, as you pointed out. You know, Cuban bongo drummer in this chorus girl. And now all of a sudden they're taking the place of the Samuel Goldman's.
Kathleen Brady: Well, of course. I'm sure the Hollywood executives were in despair when this happened, when when this bongo player ended up owning a major studio. But I can tell you, I've talked to a lot of people who were contract players. They were thrilled. It was the revenge of the contract players that that Lucy ended up owning the studio was a genuine thrill. There seems not to have been a lot of jealousy among the performers. They were just so thrilled that it was a great show business story that I think everybody enjoyed that. The thing that's interesting, many things are interesting about this. But then at this point, Lucy got a particular wish because when they would be honored at industry dinners. Everybody would sort of defer, particularly to Desi Arnaz, who was now, of course, in a position of being able to give everybody work. And, you know, Milton Berle said something to me that I think was very telling and was also very generous. He said, you know, we were all crazy young people together. But Desi did something that the rest of us didn't. He listened and he learned. And meanwhile. He'd been paying attention to the business side, to how people were putting together the sets and. The arrangements for putting together a show when he was sitting around doing nothing. He was actually observing how people were putting things together. And this stood him in good stead when he became head of Desilu.
Interviewer: Right now, I'm going to jump you forward to when she became president. It's, I guess, 1962. And they're no longer married. Right. He has remained in charge. But I gather that his personal habits, his drinking and carousing are beginning to interfere with the success and the running of the studio. Does she come?Does she come in because she's concerned about her major assets and she's concerned that she's going to destroy it?
Kathleen Brady: Well, she was told by her business advisers that he was destroying the studio and that they had to get rid of him. And so she. They did. They did. She had remarried and she was filming a new show of her own on the law. And basically she bought Desie out. And she became president. Lucy was not comfortable with being perceived as a woman with real power. She didn't like that at all. She wasn't comfortable with that at all. If she was interviewed as the president of Desi, Lou. She would dust the tables while she was being interviewed to show that she was a real gal, too. I mean, it's one of you know, it's one of the feminist story tragedies, really, because she had no appetite and no training for that. What she really was was an actress. She was not a talented executive. She was a talented picker of superior people to help her. And Desi was too and she inherited those executives.
Interviewer: Even if she wasn't necessarily comfortable upstairs, there's necessity. Forced her to take on the role, madam. Right. Nonetheless, she broke through the glass ceiling. She set a precedent. Is it not true? She was the first woman to ever be president of a major motion picture studio.
Kathleen Brady: I think Mary Pickford was president of United Artists. I mean, in truth.
Interviewer: But in the modern era.
Kathleen Brady: The modern era. I mean, I don't want to destroy others. Oh, yeah. In the modern era. Lucille Ball was the first executive female executive head of a studio. And I will tell you, she did. She made two very brave decisions in the face of the objections of the executives that she was closest to. The period of the half hour comedies had pretty much ended at that point in that cycle. And new hourlong action adventure shows were coming along. And Desilu is known for comedies and not for being able to do anything in this new era. So she hired one talented man named Herb Solo, who was a producer and really was doing what Desi had done but never got the office anyway. Desi and Robert Herb and writers that he worked with, like Gene Roddenberry, had come up with a couple of exciting ideas. One was Mission Impossible and the other was Star Trek. And one day Lucy said, Herb, tell me about that show, about the USO and said, what are you talking about? And she said, you know, the USO. And Herb said, Lucy, it's you f oh, it's unidentified flying object. It's not about a canteen. And it's called Star Trek. And there was concern that these two shows were so expensive to make that they would break the studio. And Lucy said, all right, go ahead and make them. And they did make Mission Impossible. And they did make Star Trek. Which, of course, have made millions and millions and millions for the for Paramount, which ultimately bought what had been Lucy studio.
Interviewer: Let's do. Let's go to that now. Do you think it's fair to walk out?
Kathleen Brady: No, it's all right. No, I'm just saying it, you know. Yes. I mean, you know, I don't know what this is.
Interviewer: Is it fair to say that she took a studio that was in trouble. Her husband had brought a certain amount of problems.
Kathleen Brady: Yes.
Interviewer: To the studio. She took the studio and Nardini up to help me on the dates, I guess seven years later, she bought it in 62, she bought him out at 62 and she sold the Paramount sixty eight.
Kathleen Brady: She sold it to Gulf and West.
Interviewer: Sorry. Yeah, in sixty eight. Was it 67? It was not that important. But in a short number of years essentially she turned around a studio and sold it for more. Certainly more. I believe it was worth six when she bought took over and she sold it for 17, you know, 60, 70, 70 million.
Kathleen Brady: Yes. Lucy presided over the revival. Lucy got it back in to shape Lucy. Lucy made it live. What had gotten Desilu in trouble was a combination of desis personal problems. He was probably close to a breakdown, most because of too much drinking and too much everything and just general stress. But also the cycle was going against what they had done before. So that's how it got in trouble. But Lucy. Lucy presided over. Yes, I mean, definitely Lucy presided over the resuscitation of Desilu. And it went from I mean, she bought it for six million and she sold it for 17. And which doesn't seem like she. She sold it for almost triple what she paid for it.
Interviewer: And did it make her the richest woman?
Kathleen Brady: She was the richest woman in Hollywood. Lucille Ball was the written after she saw after she sold Desi Louis. She was the richest woman in Hollywood. Not bad.
Interviewer: All right. So she goes on now and she has two more incarnations of her Lucy character, essentially. In what way do you think she was trapped by the Lucy persona that she created in that the audience on some level just didn't want to accept her?
Kathleen Brady: And the public didn't accept her as an actress. They accepted her as Lucy Ricardo and she was trapped. She was trapped personally. And she was trapped professionally. But Lucy always wanted to be typecast. I mean, she really did because she knew that was the way you got work and stardom. So I I don't think as an artist, she was terribly disappointed. But as she got older and she had to go out, you know, she was seventy six and she everybody wanted her to look like she was 40. I think that was a was a sorrow and a disappointment. You know, I mean, I think that great female stars do have that problem. But for Lucy, it was particularly acute.
Interviewer: So how would you sort of describe those later shows? You know, by the time she was doing. Here's Lucy. It's my sense she was relying increasingly on guest stars who were happy to come and be on her show. How would you personally describe.
Kathleen Brady: Lucy at that point was totally into work for work's sake and not for creating something wonderful. They had the formula down her. Her biggest concern was, was the timing of the show in terms of its being 27 minutes or whatever. She was going by road. She did things they never would have allowed, and I Love Lucy. They did things just because they might get a laugh, not because they were in any way consistent with what was going on in the show in the early days of I Love Lucy. The director, Marc Daniels, at one point wanted Desi to walk on top of the bed and Desi said, why? And Marc Daniel said, Because it's funny. And as you say, well, it has nothing to do with anything in the script. Well, in her later shows, people were walking on beds. They were doing things that had nothing to do with anything. And I don't think anybody cared because everybody loved Lucy.
Interviewer: You've met her in her twilight years.
Kathleen Brady: Yes.
Interviewer: You visited her home. Describe that visit for us. Describe describe the home and then you saw whether it was different than what you expected and describe the woman.
Kathleen Brady: Well, the home was like a larger.
Interviewer: Just tell me, when I visited her and her older, I visited.
Kathleen Brady: When I met Lucy I visited Lucille Ball in her home when she was 75 years old, which was a concept for me. The home was like an average American home, except it was much bigger and it was done in Citrus, California colors like oranges and yellows. And I was there to interview her for a magazine article, although I knew I was going and once I wanted to write a book. And I must say, being in her presence and feeling her energy was essential to me to understanding all the incongruities of her life. But I always when I begin an interview, I try to ask throwaway question just to get people used to everybody and I'm making sure there's zinc in my pan and all this. So I asked a very standard question that that all successful women were being asked. Still, people say you're tough. Why is that? And women always say, oh, that's what they say about a woman. They'd never say that about a man. Lucille Ball jumped up. Who says I'm tough? I want their name. I was dumbstruck. And on the one hand, she never wanted to be seen as a strong, powerful woman. That was true. What was also true is I think she liked to get everybody off guard and scared, and she did that to Vivian Vance when she met her and it was far less important. But she also did that to me. So we both sort of calm down. I mean, I, I, I didn't expect I mean, Lucille Ball was much taller than I and I remember just cringing in my chair. But I perhaps him off the point.
Interviewer: I wanted to know about your personal experience of her.
Kathleen Brady: And what we were talking and at one point is she was quite she was a little annoyed that I'd done some research. But at one point I asked her about it, Sedgewick, and she said, Oh, thank you for mentioning the name of my great mentor. She she said no one knows who he is now. And she really she really appreciated that. But at one point you said, now turn that thing off, turn that thing off about my tape recorder. She said, I want to talk about you. Are you married? And I was. And she said, when I don't wait too long and meaning I think it's too late, my dear. But she said now it's the women who woman who decides these things. And just about like that, I mean it. And she gave me tips on how to lighten my hair. And she said that she she recommended a product called Sun Up, which I could do at home, and also lemon juice. I was she's the only person who ever explained to me how this lemon juice was supposed to work. You know, you squeeze the juice out and then you strain the pulp. And she said, just put it on your hair. And while you're sitting round the pool at the sun, do it. Well, of course, I didn't want to tell her that I lived in New York and we don't sit around the pool there. But but never mind. I mean, she while I was there, she wanted to get me on track. And I think that that's what she did with everybody. She. I call it science. I am myself an older sister. I call it her older sister persona. I think probably other people might have less happy descriptions, but she really wanted to help me and give me the benefit of sort of get me on track and be living the way she thought I should.
Interviewer: Well, I'm frankly surprised you didn't, like, take you into the back room and start doing your hair. I mean, tell me about this notion that a movie star is when everyone says she loved playing with people's hair, that a movie star would be so down to earth.
Kathleen Brady: In her younger days Lucy would actually cut reporters hair. So I am very fortunate that I just got theory on what to do about my hair. Lucy's and whom she loved very much. Had had been a hairdresser. And Lucy used to play around in the you in her parlor, her salon when she was a little girl. And if Lucy had not become an actress, you definitely would have become a hairdresser. There's no question. The thing that was. So amazing to me was really how ordinary she was that she was interested in ordinary things. I have interviewed a lot of people I admired in a lot of stars. But Lucy, you know, Lucy would have told you how to dust a table, and she did know she loved to clean. That was her great release and life was cleaning. And I think that's why she was so brilliant. As in the role of a housewife doing ordinary things because she really loved that. That's really where her energy was. Now, she wanted to be a big star, but she did. And she was. But she never wanted to lose touch with Earth, and she didn't.
Interviewer: All right. I just have two more questions that are personal to you. You said in your book. That as a child, you wanted to be with your mom?
Kathleen Brady: Well, she was, you know. Oh, I think when I was a child, I wanted to be Lucy Ricardo. And she she gave one permission to be as mischievous as one could. She had said, you know, I know I said that I'm trying to get myself back to that. She she was just, you know, so I mean. Lucy Ricardo was such a child herself. There was no governor on her. She she was mischievous. She was always undermining authority. And I guess Lucy Ricardo was a blueprint for how to be a child.
Interviewer: Well, I guess the thing I watch oour daughter who's seven watching your shows with us. She does the things that other people only think about during this actually goes through it. I don't know if that's part of what attracted you as a child.
Kathleen Brady: Well, you know, it's hard for me to separate out because everybody did Love Lucy. One of the things that was impressive to me as a child in the 50s was that they were doing what we were doing. They were buying their first washing machine. They were buying their first television, the barbecue pit. They really followed everything that America was doing. You know, Lucy and Ricky were doing, too. But with they seem to be have their disasters seem like a lot more fun than the rest of ours, you know?
Interviewer: All right. Here's the last question. As a teenager, you said that you wanted to be Lucille Ball.
Kathleen Brady: God, I wish I'd read my book, but I.
Interviewer: Well. In other words, I think one of the things our show is getting at is this whole Lucy versus Lucille. Oh. Two characters, the woman and the character were quite different. And that the things that you admire about the professional woman are actually quite different than the others.
Kathleen Brady: Yes. By the time I was a teenager, you know, Lucille Ball was also an executive and. What I admired was really that she was such a success. That she not that she was seen to be a success, which she was, but that everything that she did, she did to perfection, whether it was being a zany actress, Lucy Ricardo, or presiding over a studio. She seemed not to put a foot wrong. I decided to write my book. I really wanted to write about her because when I reach a point in my life when I knew it wasn't as easy as she made it look. And in fact, it wasn't.
Interviewer: Is that sort of what you discovered in writing the book that you discovered?
Kathleen Brady: Yes, I discovered some other things. I'm so glad you can just cut this out. Larry King, you'll never get me on your show. Let's see now. What did I discover, I discovered so many things. I discovered two things. I discovered two things, really, about Lucille Ball. How very vulnerable. She was how she covered her vulnerability with a brittleness and how Desi Arnaz was really her Achilles heel. I discovered. You know, it's so I mean, maybe I should. I discovered also that she discovered that her strength was that she was not the least bit introspective. She was I discovered that her strength was that she was a complete extrovert. She paid no attention to the bad things that befell her. And that was also her greatest weakness because it undermined mind her in the end. I think it made her brittle where she would have. Done. Better to be kinder to herself. You know, it's that's a good question and it's hard to, you know. There were so many things I, I admire this person and her journey through life enormously. I really, really do forget that she's Lucille Ball. Phenomenal star. And will be for always. Because I think that show will always live. However, this is and it's a it's an incredible story of a human being. It really, really is.