Monday, February 15, 2016

HGB Podcast, Ep. 105 - The Life and Afterlife of Lucille Ball


Moment in Oddity - Mushroom Death Suit

We've featured green burials in our oddity segments before in the form of organic tree pods in which your putrefying body feeds a tree by the roots for a couple years. The latest in green burials is the Mushroom Death Suit. Jae Rhim Lee and Mike Ma are founders of the Coeio company, which has created created the Infinity Death Suit. This is considered to be another eco-friendly alternative to standard burial and one of its positive benefits is that it apparently has the ability to remove the 200+ toxins from your body as it decomposes. The suit is full body, including the head and comes in black and the fibers of the suit are woven with a strain of spores hand-picked for their voracious appetite for human flesh. The key to getting the suit to work effectively is to bury the body early, usually within 24 hours, which allows early decomposition and this activates the spores. The company advertises their suits in this way, "Unlike conventional burial and cremation, they do not use harsh/toxic chemicals, pollute the environment, or waste precious natural resources. The Infinity Burial products also go a step beyond other green burial options, by cleansing and purifying toxins that accumulate in the body. If left unabated, these toxins end up contaminating the surrounding environment." And here we thought that humans made good fertilizer. We guess that's only if mushrooms help with the process. Now that certainly is odd!

This Day in History - Socrates Sentenced to Death
By: Carbon Lilies

On this day, February 15th, in 399 BCE, Socrates (Father of Western Philosophy) is sentenced to death after being found guilty of  “...denying the gods recognized by the state and introducing new divinities, and, secondly, of corrupting the young.” During his life, Socrates was an artist, a soldier and finally, a philosopher. His methods in his search for happiness through wisdom led to him being loved by many, but vilified by others since high society was not always represented in the best light. Most Athenians at this time were fixated on physical beauty, past glories and the idea of wealth, while Socrates attacked these values in favour of putting more emphasis on the greater importance of the mind. Not everyone appreciated the humorous way that Socrates challenged conventional Greek thinking feeling it was a threat to their way of life. The charge of impiety was believed to have been politically and personally motivated. Trying to distance themselves from the Thirty Tyrants of Athens who had just been overthrown, the accusers used Socrates relationship with his former student Critias (considered one of the worst of the tyrants) as an example of how he corrupted young minds.
Refusing to hire a speechwriter as was customary (even though gifted speechwriter Lysias offered his services free of charge), Socrates defended himself. He would not plea for his life or give a self-justifying defense stating that he was instead a benefactor to the Athenian people. This did not go over well. The guilty at this time were allowed to suggest an alternative punishment to a death sentence. Most would beg for mercy and to be exiled but Socrates suggested that he be held in honour and to have free meals served in the Prytaneum (a place reserved for the heroes of the Olympic games). This was seen as an added insult to the Athenian courts. Socrates was convicted and sentenced to death by drinking a hemlock concoction...which he did without hesitation. Shortly before his final breath, Socrates described his death as a release of the soul from his body.

The Life and Afterlife of Lucille Ball

Lucille Ball was a glamorous actress, producer, film studio head and comedian who was not afraid to get a little messed up if it brought a laugh. Her legacy as one of the funniest women - if not THE funniest woman - on television stands to this day. Like nearly all stars in Hollywood, her life was one of successes and failures. Her greatest success was the television show "I Love Lucy" and it has never been out of syndication. She was the first female to head a major Hollywood studio. The spirit of her comedy endures to today and it would seem Lucy's actual spirit is still here with us in the afterlife. Join us as we explore the life and afterlife of Lucille Ball.

Lucille Desiree Ball was born on August 6, 1911 in Jamestown, New York. Her childhood was not one that would lend itself to success in life as a comedian. Poverty and tough circumstances plagued her early life. Her father Henry, who was nicknamed Had, was an electrician. He moved the family from New York to Montana looking for work. Later, he relocated the family to Michigan, so he could work for the Michigan Bell Company. When Lucy was just three-years-old, Had contracted Typhoid Fever and he died. She always claimed that this was her first real memory.

Her mother, Desiree, was pregnant with Lucy's brother Fred at the time and she moved everyone back to Jamestown, so she could find work in a factory. Desiree met a man named Ed Peterson and married him. Peterson didn't like kids and he wasn't about to raise another man's children. He moved himself and Desiree to Detroit without Fred or Lucy. Lucy was passed off to his parents. They were poverty stricken and her step-grandmother was ironically, a humorless woman. Desiree returned to her children when Lucy was eleven. Lucy got her first taste of performing when she was twelve. Her stepfather was a Shriner and he suggested she try out for the chorus line for their next show. She loved the feeling she got from performing and later decided at fifteen that she wanted to try acting. She begged her mother to allow her to attend John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City and her mother agreed. Not necessarily because she wanted Lucy to become an actress. She thought this route would get Lucy away from her boyfriend at the time, who was twenty-three.

Tough circumstances hit Lucy twice more in her childhood. On July 5th in 1927, Lucy's family was out in the backyard shooting a new .22 caliber rifle her grandfather had bought as a present for her brother.  They were aiming at tin cans. A neighbor boy named Warner Erickson came over uninvited. The girlfriend of Lucy's brother was taking aim at one of the cans when Warner's mother hollered for him to come home. The gun went off and Warner was shot. The bullet severed his spine and his family sued the Balls. It ruined her grandfather and they ended up losing the house and having to sell all their possessions. The next circumstance seems to be a case of Rheumatic Fever that hit Lucy in 1928. She was seventeen at the time and working as a Hattie Carnegie model. She ran a fever one day and got horrible leg pains. She ended up having to stay at home with her family and put her acting pursuits on the back burner for three years while she recovered.

Lucy returned to New York City in 1932 and pursued work on Broadway under the name Diane Belmont. She would be hired for a chorus and then quickly fired. She became frustrated and decided to head to Hollywood. Her first job was as a Goldwyn Girl promoting the movie "Roman Scandals" in 1933. It was at this time that Lucy changed the color of her locks. We asked Spooktacular Crew members about their thoughts on Lucy. Michelle DePriest had commented, "I Love her! She was ahead of her time! A great role model for women! I think it's funny, I read something (I think) about she was a blonde who became famous as a red head and Marilyn Monroe was a red head who became famous as a blonde?! If I'm not mixed up, I think it's a neat 'factoid'"! It would seem that Lucy's true hair color was chestnut color and she dyed it blonde at this time.

Lucy landed her first role as an extra in the movie, "The Three Musketeers." In 1937, she got her first big part in "Stage Door" with Ginger Rogers and Katherine Hepburn. She continued getting roles in films that were considered second-tier into the 1940s. She even earned the moniker "Queen of B Movies." It was in 1940 that she met Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz. She was filming the movie, "Dance, Girl, Dance." They starred together in her next film "Too Many Girls" and the couple fell in love. Many felt they were mismatched. Desi was young and considered a "ladies man." People thought it wouldn't last, but they ended up marrying. It was in 1942 that Lucy went from blonde to redhead and she would hold that trademark look for her entire life. MGM had asked her to do it. Things were rough in the marriage and by 1944, Lucy had filed for divorce. They reconciled and were married for twenty years.

Lucy became a mother for the first time in 1947, giving birth to a daughter named Madeline Dee. In 1948, she was cast in "My Favorite Husband" as Liz Cugat, a wacky wife. It was a radio program for CBS Radio. It was so successful that CBS decided to take it to television. They asked Lucy to develop it and she agreed to do it, but only if Desi could play her husband. CBS balked at the request because they thought the viewing public would reject the premise of a red-headed white woman being married to a Cuban. Even though it was actually reality. CBS finally agreed. The year was 1950 and Lucy and Desi founded Desilu Productions to produce the show. Desilu became the second largest independent television production company and in 1962 it become the number one independent production company. It would go on to produce The Untouchables and Star Trek. Lucy actually bought Desi out in 1962 and ran Desilu by herself until she sold it in 1967 making her the first woman to run a production company.

Back to CBS and this television program. Desilu Produced a pilot for the show and CBS didn't care for it and dropped the project. Lucy believed in it and she and Desi took it on the road as a vaudeville act. It was very successful and soon "I Love Lucy" was on CBS Television. CBS was met by another demand from Lucy. She wanted to film the show in Hollywood. Most television was done in New York. The other demand was that "film" part. Television was done as a live medium, but Lucy wanted to tape the show and broadcast it later. This was an expensive process and CBS said they would only agree to it if Lucy and Desi took a pay cut. Lucy got the better end of the deal in the end because she retianed the rights to the shows and CBS ended up paying $1,000,000 to get the shows back. Lucy used the money to purchase RKO Studios and Desilu Studios was founded.

There were other innovations with the show. It filmed before a live studio audience. Listener Jenni-lee Watt commented, "Did you know that the laughter from the audiences for I love Lucy were so genuine and intense that they recorded it for use on other sitcoms. Kinda creepy to think that when you watch shows with recorded laughter that you are literally listening to the laughter of the dead." Other innovations were using multiple cameras and different sets adjacent to each other. "I Love Lucy" dominated the ratings and people became very attached to the characters and story lines. One of those story lines was writing Lucy's real life pregnancy into the show, which was another innovation on television. Not only was pregnancy not suppose to be shown on TV, the word pregnant was banned from use. It was agreed to go forward with the story, but only if "expecting" was used instead of "pregnant." This was Lucy's third pregnancy. In 1951, daughter number two, Lucie Arnaz had been born. This next child would be their son, Desi Arnaz, Jr.

The country was riveted by Lucy's pregnancy. Lucy was going to have to give birth by Cesarean, so the story line was written to coincide with the real delivery, so both Lucy and her character gave birth on the same day. Audiences waited with baited breath. They called CBS for information. The 1952 presidential election had to battle with ratings against "I Love Lucy." Dwight Eisenhower's swearing in had 29 million viewers while the birth episode got 44 million. The show ran for six seasons and was ranked No. 1 for four of those years and won five Emmys. The run ended in 1957 and Lucy and Desi moved forward with a new show called "The Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour." After the last episode of the Lucy and Desi Comedy Hour was filmed in 1960, Lucy filed for divorce from Desi claiming that their real marriage was nothing like what people watched on TV and that living with Desi was a nightmare. He was a philanderer and alcoholic.

In 1960, she married comedian Gary Morton. He was thirteen years younger than her and she got him involved in the production company. In 1967, she sold Desilu to Gulf Western and it became a part of Paramount Pictures. Through the 60s and 70s Lucy made a handful of films and she launched two other sitcoms: "The Lucy Show" and "Here's Lucy." They did alright, but nothing would be like her original genius show. She tried to revive her television career in the 1980s, but nothing really stuck. She made her last public appearance on the 61st Academy Awards on which she and Bob Hope received standing ovations.

On April 26, 1989, Lucille Ball died after having a surgical procedure at the age of 77. She had an acute aortic aneurysm that caused her to have emergency surgery in which she received an aortic transplant from a young man who had died in a motorcycle accident. She started to recover quickly, but by the end of the week, she was complaining of pains in her abdomen and she died shortly after lapsing into a coma. It was discovered that she had another aortic aneurysm, but this one was in her abdomen. She is buried at Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown, New York. Phil and Monica Childers have visited the grave and shared her tombstone with us:

Photo by: Phil & Monica Childers
Before we jump into the hauntings, we should touch briefly on the elephant in the room. This is very timely for Diane as she listens to the "You Must Remember This" podcast and Karina Longworth has just started a series on The Hollywood Blacklist. The House Un-American Activities Committee brought Lucille Ball in to testify before the committee. She was indeed a registered member of the Communist Party in America for a brief time. The Los Angeles Times interviewed her about her secret testimony and if she thought that this revelation would hurt her career. She answered, "Hurt me? I have more faith in the American people than that. I think any time you give the American people the truth they’re with you." Lucy explained that she originally registered to vote and claimed the Communist Party for her grandfather's benefit because he was a zealous socialist. She did host a meeting at her home in the 1930s for new members of the party. She was a member in 1936 and in 1938, but after that Lucy votes for Democrats and Republicans. Desi addressed the issue before one of their episodes when he said, "The only thing red about Lucy is her hair, and even that is not legitimate."

Lucille Ball lived at 1000 North Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills at the time of her death. Lucy's second husband Gary sold the house and the new owners had it torn down. Lucy lived in the house for so many years that perhaps it was hard for her to leave it in the afterlife. Or maybe she has remained here because she is upset that her home was destroyed. Many witnesses claim that Lucy is the spirit behind supernatural activity in the home that was built in the spot where her house used to stand. While Lucy's home was in the demolition stage, a friend of her's decided to drive past the place one last time. Perhaps to say goodbye. Several walls were already missing. The friend could see into Lucy's bedroom. Something caught his eye and he noticed a tall redhead looking through the fence that was around the property. He thought to himself that she resembled Lucy and then she turned and looked at him and he had no doubt that it was Lucy. She appeared to be sad and confused. She looked back at the house and then turned and walked away. Once she got to the south corner, she disappeared.

Windows break without reason. Loud disembodied voices originate in the attic as does the sound of furniture and boxes moving around as if someone is rearranging things. Even more eerie is the claim that the tune from "I Love Lucy" is heard playing softly in the attic. The owners come home some days to hear what sounds like a party going on upstairs, but there is no one else in the house.

Lucy's ghost is thought to haunt more than just her former home. She quite possibly might be at one of her home away from home locations, which would be the Desilu Studios. Today, the building is known as the Hart Building and it sits on the property of Paramount Studios. Her disembodied spirit has been seen on the upper floors by night watchmen. After her spirit is seen, the scent of flowers is detected. This is how people know that Lucy has paid a visit to the studios.

Is it possible to get to meet Lucille Ball in the afterlife? Has her legend carried on after death for more than just her personal legacy? Does Lucy still walk among the living? Is Lucille Ball a ghost? That is for you to decide!

Listeners comments on Lucy:

Steven Pappas:  I grew up watching old reruns of I Love Lucy. I still think it is one of the most genuinely funny things to come out of Hollywood! Talented lady.

Phil Childers: A picture of her grave. Monica and I got our marriage certificate in her hometown. The museum is awesome. Highly recommended!

Rhonda Kay Mayfield:  Love love love Lucy!!

Phil Childers

Monica Childers

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