Thursday, January 10, 2013

How the Three Stooges saved Star Trek with J. Edgar Hoover's favorite Communist

Everyone loved Lucy. She was adored on a scale that few celebrities will ever know. Hollywood loved her, Famous actors loved her, charities, Mr. Spock, even J. Edgar Hoover! The status she held as a comedian and sit-com icon was so over reaching, that many people don't know the even more fascinating story behind her life.

Few would argue that Lucille Ball stands as an 
American comedy icon. Her success and influence was unique for its time; opening doors for other female comedians for decades to come. Would it surprise you to know that comedy was not Lucy's intended career path? She began as blond headed Mrs. Diane Belmont, eager to establish herself as leading lady material. Early in her career, her mind was firmly set on breaking into the industry as a serious actress and Broadway player.

A blonde Lucille Ball, 1930s'
In the 30s', she left her New York home and moved to Burbank. Initially, her career consisted of the typical grunt work and filler roles that would ingratiate herself with the studios. Where I submit that her career got interesting was when she signed a contract with the venerable RKO Studios as a role actress.

During the depression era, RKO was a dominant and influential studio. Their diverse portfolio offered many entertainers opportunities for work. RKO also happened to be the home of the Three Stooges.

Needless to say, slap-stick comedy and serious film making were miles apart from each other. Yet one day in 1933, Lucy had a notable speaking role on one of the Stooges episodes. How did this happen? The details are sparse. Keep in mind, Lucy was NOT interested in comedy. Rumors detail that Lucy's propensity for humor was quite well known. She always avoided pursuing comedy in fear of being type-cast. However, she had mentioned that Curley was one of the few comedians who could always make her laugh. Thanks to Curley, she was open to this brief role.

In 1933, she appeared on the Three Stooges short "Three Little Pigskins." On the set, she was able to let her natural sense of humor play out and ham it up. While she kept this role quiet for most of her career, other sources within the Stooges Trivia world mention how much she enjoyed this experience. Perhaps one could speculate that it softened her up to performing in comedy. There is only one quote that I could find from Lucy regarding her part, "The only thing I learned from The Stooges was how to duck... and I still got wet."

Blond Lucille ball with Larry Fine
Lucy apparently resumed with her efforts to become that serious actress and Broadway player. However, she never quite broke through to the mainstream, and again comedy opened up to her. She later wound up with a role in the Marx Brothers film "Room Service."


Now in regards to the seemingly nonsensical title of this blog, as of 1936, Lucy was a registered member of the Communist party. This was nothing more than an appeasement of her grandfather's wishes as he was an adherent believer. During the era of the RED SCARE, Lucy and her husband Dezi Arnez were called to testify before the House Committee. However, J. Edgar Hoover considered "Luci and Dezi among his favorite entertainers in the world." 

She would not have survived the investigations were it not for her successful career in comedy (and her denial that she ever intended to act in accordance with the communist principals of the party). Dezi Arnez said in his testimony, "The only thing RED about Lucy is her hair, and even that is not legitimate."

For historical accuracy's sake, let it be known that Hollywood itself initiated the infamous 'Blacklist." This blacklist began long before the McCarthy hearings. The belief that McCarthy created this is a historical myth.


This now leads us to the big pay-off of my seemingly ridiculous premise. Lucy was a driven, vigorous, and shrewd business woman. Her negotiation skills were legendary in the industry. She and Dezi went on to establish the formidable production company, 'Desilu Productions.'

Gene Rodenberry
One of Desilu's most notable programs was Star Trek. Many at Desilu felt it was a childish Buck Rogers show and balked at giving Gene Rodenberry and his vision a chance. Lucy, however, felt that is was smart television and represented genuine science fiction. Her support for the Star Trek concept was so strong, that it was given a second pilot episode. At the time, a second pilot was unheard of.

Star Trek hit the airwaves in 1966, and Rodenberry often stated that the first season was a nightmare due to the industry's constant meddling. Gene said that his experiences were so Hellish that he was always ready to walk away. Lucy intervened and convinced him to hang in there for two more seasons. However, as most of us know, the studio dropped the show after only three seasons (before discovering that the 18-49 demographic was a goldmine).

So, were it not for Curley's unique humor, Lucille Ball would have surely missed her true calling. Thanks to her exposure to comedy, she built a career so successful that she not only made a fortune, changed the entertainment industry, but even charmed one of the creepiest leaders in the FBI into giving her a pass.

I often think that Mr. Spock's resemblance to our dear friend Moe Howard was no accident. Just imagine where Science Fiction might be today were it not for three abusive Jewish comedians.

Thanks Guys! Live long and prosper!
This random information brought to you by Jeremie Lederman of Lederman Studio!

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