As I said in a couple of posts back, I’m reading “I Loved Lucy,” by a great writer named Lee Tannen. He and his partner, Tom, knew Lucille Ball very well during the last decade of her life.
I’m at a section of the book where they were invited to her hotel suite for a game of backgammon with everyone’s favorite redhead.
Tom and Lee, through business, had had dealings with Leona Helmsley, and of course didn’t think much of her. Lucy, however, wasn’t even aware that the queen of mean shared her universe. When she did hear from her, she was less than impressed.
From the book:
” ‘All right, Lucy, you’re up,’ I said and Lucy sat down in Tom’s place. Now I was in the box, playing against Lucy and Tom. This time Lucy set up the board completely backward but Tom and I didn’t say anything, just quickly reset it when Lucy got up to answer the phone.
‘Yes,’ Lucy said in a bass octave dead-on unintentional imitation of Harvey Fierstein. ‘Thank you very much, yes, I am very glad to be back east,’ she continued, winking at us, who were conspicuously staring at her. ‘Everything is wonderful, just perfect, thank you.’ Lucy continued, impatiently wanting to get back to the game, ‘Tell me, dear, what’s your name?’ Pause. ‘Leona.’ Pause. ‘Leona what?’
I started wildly flailing in my seat. ‘Oh, Helmsley!’ Lucy deadpanned, making one of those contorted gestures with her mouth that Lucy Ricardo used to make when she was caught doing something naughty. Then Lucy saved the day by bursting out laughing and telling Leona that of course she knew it was she all the time. Lucy thanked Leona for calling and Tom and I applauded, while Lucy graciously took a bow.
‘Good God, what a bore,’ Lucy said. ‘Let’s play backgammon!’ ”
I Loved Lucy is a MUST read for all fans of Lucille Ball. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever read – filled with laughs and obvious love and respect.