‘Nobody in That Car Knows How to Feed Corn to Steaks’

Guest post by James Cupp

BlackHawk Steakhouse, Austin TX

“I Love Lucy” Ranked Best TV Comedy Show of All Time

Only Elvis Presley surpassed Lucy’s ratings.

Long before there was an Adele, Sting, Prince, Bono, Pink or an Oprah, there was a Cher and a Twiggy. But a decade earlier, the first two American entertainers to be known instantly worldwide by just their first names were Elvis Presley and Lucille Ball.

Elvis, the King of Rock n’ Roll is arguably the greatest entertainer in history. The Queen of Television was the bumbling and hilarious lady pioneer of her own record breaking program, “I Love Lucy.”

When a CBS executive first approached Lucy about turning her popular radio show, “My Favorite Husband” into a TV series, she balked. She’d had success in film and radio, but television was relatively new. One night she had a dream about her old friend Carole Lombard, who had once reigned as the “Queen of Screwball Comedy.” 

Lombard died tragically on a flight to Las Vegas when the plane crashed into a mountainside in 1942. In the dream, Lombard appeared, beautifully dressed in a suit.  She said to Lucille, “Take a chance, honey. Give it a whirl!”

Lucy contacted the CBS executive and said she would do a TV show under the condition that her real-life husband Desi Arnaz was given the role of her on-screen spouse. Executives said there was no way the average American would believe she was married to a “foreign” man with an accent they couldn’t understand. At that point Lucy and Desi had already been married for more than 10 years.

During negotiations, Lucy and Desi demanded the show be filmed on 35mm film, which is expensive, and in Hollywood instead of New York City. The couple even took a cut in pay to make it happen. Along the way they acquired ownership of the series. Desilu Productions, formed by them, made about $40 million from this move, which equal to about $260 million in today’s economy.

I Love Lucy aired from October 15, 1951, to May 6, 1957 and was so popular that some aspects of American life would simply shut down while it was on. Telephone and water usage would dip dramatically for the program’s half-hour duration, and even department stores would shut their doors early due to lack of customers.

When the series ended in 1957, it went out still ranked #1 on television. Later The Andy Griffith Show in 1968 and Seinfeld in 1998 were able to achieve that honor. In 2012, it was given the titles of Best TV Comedy and Best TV Show of All-Time.

The series has only become a bigger part of the pop culture consciousness since. It’s still shown in syndication all over the world, with episodes watched by 40 million Americans a year alone.  In addition, merchandise with Lucy’s iconic red hair continues to flourish.

Here are 12 things you may not know about I Love Lucy.

–It was the first scripted TV series filmed with 35 mm film in front of a live studio audience. It was also the first show to use the three-camera format.

–Richard Denning who was on Lucy’s “My Favorite Husband” radio program was originally slated to play her hubby on “I Love Lucy.” He starred in 1950s sci-fi films such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Target Earth, and Creature with the Atom Brain. Lucy had tried to get James Gleason to play the role of Fred Mertz, but his price was too high. Veteran character actors Gale Gordon and Bea Benaderet were first choices for the Mertz couple but had other obligations.

–Lucille Ball was featured on the very first ever cover of TV Guide and would go on to be featured on 39 covers throughout her career. That’s more TV Guide appearances than any other celebrity. No other sitcom has come close.

–Desi Arnaz was to be named Larry Lopez when the show was first being put together. The name was only changed to Ricky Ricardo because producers thought Larry and Lucy sounded too redundant.

–William Frawley and Vivian Vance, who played Fred and Ethel Mertz, were 22 years apart in age in real life and that disparity caused some real friction on set. Reportedly, they didn’t get along and would constantly call one another names. It wasn’t until years after the show went off the air that their costars realized the tension they were around every day.

–Lucy chose the names of the Mertz’s from her own family and friends. Fred was the name of her brother and grandfather. Ethel was named after Broadway star and Ball’s friend Ethel Merman. Coincidentally, Ethel actress Vivian Vance was an understudy for Merman years earlier.

–Frawley had a reputation for drunken binges and crazy antics, which caused much hesitation on behalf of the others to work with him. Arnaz wanted Frawley, but gave him one stipulation: never be late and be sober. Frawley, in all the time on the show, never missed a day. Frawley was such a huge New York Yankees baseball fan that his contract stipulated that he could miss work if the Yankees were playing in a World Series game.

–When Lucy first began acting, she thought a name that sounded famous would help her take on new Broadway roles. She chose the name Diana Belmont, after the famous Belmont Stakes racetrack on Long Island, New York.

–Lucy’s iconic red hair didn’t exist until 1942. She dyed her hair for the movie DuBarry was a Lady. Her original hair color was brown. She only dyed it blonde when she first came to Hollywood. She would become known for her bright red hair, but that wasn’t what she looked like naturally.

–One tradition of the show that lasted until the very end was that every time an actor could get the audience to erupt into spontaneous applause, that person was given a silver dollar after the scene.

–Desi and Lucy’s children, Lucie and Desi, Jr. never appeared on an episode of I Love Lucy.

–The show was shot in front of a live audience that included 300 viewers. It was done from the first shoot until the last. Amazingly, there were a lot of “one take” scenes. Desi Arnaz later claimed that Lucy worked better if there were real people in front watching her performance. Lucy’s mother Dee Dee was an audience member of each show. She is often heard saying “Uh-Oh.”

EPISODE TRIVIA

 “Lucy’s Last Birthday”

It’s the only episode to reveal the lyrics of the show’s theme song: “I love Lucy and she loves me. We’re as happy as two can be. Sometimes we quarrel but then. How we love making up again. Lucy kisses like no one can. She’s my missus and I’m her man. And life is heaven you see. ‘Cause I love Lucy, Yes I love Lucy and Lucy loves me.”

Lucy actually choked while filming the grape stomp scene. (I Love Lucy)

“Lucy’s Italian Movie”

While Lucy was grape stomping she actually began choking on a grape, but continued the scene while the cameras rolled. Once they were off, the crew realized she was actually choking and came to help.

“Superman”

In order to keep up the magical illusion for young watchers of the show, famous actor George Reeves appeared as the world’s most famous superhero. But instead of giving the actor credit, Lucy wanted his guest star name to be displayed only as “Superman” in the credits. Reeves agreed.

“Lucy Goes to the Hospital”

During 1952 filming, Lucy became pregnant and the regulations were put in place to use the word “expecting, not “pregnant.” So a minister, priest and rabbi had to review each episode to ensure no viewers were offended by the pregnancy. Lucy was the first pregnant woman to ever play a pregnant woman on TV.

The episode of Lucy giving birth was viewed by 71.7 percent of all U.S. households on Monday, January 19, 1953 and had higher ratings than the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ironically, the storyline coincided with Lucy’s real-life pregnancy of Desi Arnaz, Jr.

The 71.7% reviewing audience is only surpassed by Elvis Presley’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, which aired September 9, 1956 with an 82.6% rating. The overall 67.3% rating for the 1952 season of the sitcom remains the highest average rating for any single season of a TV show.

After Lucille Ball gave birth to their son, Arnaz wanted to give his wife a chance to rest at home without having to film the next episode. So he somehow convinced the network to basically air previous episodes again. Henceforth, the TV rerun was born and has since been a staple in the industry.

“Lucy Does a Television Commercial”

Lucy gets a job in a TV commercial by telling the chosen actress that another girl’s been hired; at the studio, Lucy rehearses tasting spoonfuls of the product, “Vitameatavegamin,” but the contents of the product contains far too much alcohol. This is one of the most popular scenes of the series and perhaps in all TV history. As Lucille Ball pretended to become increasingly drunk on the special product, she was actually downing a bunch of Apple Pectin. Lucille Ball didn’t like filming the scene and it was only years later that she admitted it was actually a very funny moment on the series.

Proud and Grateful to Be a Baby Boomer

Born between 1946 and 1964, U.S. Baby Boomers are 73 million strong and by 2030 all will be at least 65 years old, according to the Census Bureau.

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BONUS: More Boomer memories.

Best of Disney’s Splash Mountain Pictures Exposed

Splash Mountain in Disneyland opened on July 17, 1989, but went back to the drawing board and reopened in 1992.

There are three drops but The Big Drop is 52.5 feet and slides down in 9.8 seconds. There are 103 total audio-animatronics on the ride.

Crossing the Delaware

Freedom of Expression Soars Into President’s Day Week 2021

Making the rounds in social media are these popular memes and comments. We’ve noticed even liberals sharing and liking some of them. Feel free to exercise your freedom of expression and share.

In 2021, we’ve already had over 45,000 moderate to severe injuries reported in just over 30 days.

Celebrating President Donald J. Trump’s Acquittal on Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day to President and First Lady Donald and Melania Trump.

Now let’s smile a bit. After what we have been through, we deserve it. Be sure to share the joy and laughter with others. Pass it on.

After Hunter visits Oval Office.

Is Cornbread the Solution for Saving Humanity?

Can cornbread save humanity?

Before you write me off for being a lunatic, think about it. Nobody can think negative thoughts while eating hot cornbread from a skillet. Cornbread is powerful stuff.

I don’t know if you know this, but cornbread has already saved the nation once. In fact, cornbread is one of the reasons you’re alive right now. I’m being absolutely serious. Allow me to explain:

One of the first foods Native Americans taught the pilgrims—our uptight fundamentalist ancestors—to prepare was cornbread. Thus, our puritian forefathers’ diets were heavy on the cornbread.

It is a fact that cornbread kept our fledgling infant country alive during hard winters and prevented colonists from starving in dire circumstances. Cornbread was life.

So in light of this simple information, this means that, in a manner of speaking, without cornbread, there would be no America. Simply put, cornbread is more American than Chevys, Coke floats, baseball, and pugs dressed in bow ties.

And I’m talking about the real cornbread here, not the fare from a box. I wouldn’t feed box-cornbread to a Labrador. No, I’m speaking of corn pone cooked in a greasy iron skillet, smeared with so much butter your cardiologist disowns you.

Long ago, I used to work as a drywall man. One day my coworker, Bill, asked if I’d help drywall his basement. Males are always roping their friends into huge projects like this, often promising to pay them with beer.

The thing is, no amount of beer would have convinced me to help Bill. Because Bill and I weren’t friends. Actually, we were enemies. It’s a long story, and I don’t have room to tell it, but we had a falling out over a girl. So I responded by telling Bill to get lost.

Bill started begging. “Please? Nobody else wants to help sheetrock my basement. If you help me, I’ll get my mom to cook for us.”

“Nope,” I said. “Sorry. I’m busy.”

“She’ll make fried chicken.”

“You can’t bribe me, Bill.”

“And zipper peas.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“And cornbread.”

“What day were you thinking?”

I freely admit, I am a noted admirer of cornbread. Men like me appreciate cornbread the same way wine enthusiasts appreciate a Lafite Rothschild rebouchée au château 1874. And I don’t care what kind of cornbread you feed me: cracklin’ bread, johnnycakes, hoecakes, jalapeño cornbread, or hot water cornbread. Just put it on my plate, and pass the Lipitor.

I grew up with this food, and I have held the blessed hands which prepared it. These hands were steadfast, gentle, and belonged to elderly women who spoke in tongues and occasionally handled legless reptiles during the clapping songs.

These were women whose hair was piled atop their heads in 19-foot beehives, who wore cat-eye glasses, and made you pick out your own hickory switch when you used the word “Farrah Fawcett.”

Oh, what these souls could do with flour and lard. They were our virtuosos. Composers. These females were to cornmeal what Michelangelo was to marble.

They had names like Nadine, Rayline, Earline, Maurine, Jolene, Arlene, Bobbie Jean, Irma Jean, Norma Jean, Wilma Jean, and lest I forget, Sister Arenetta Sue Ann MacDonnough III, may she rest in her eternal joy.

So I agreed to help drywall Bill’s basement.

And I was in for a surprise. Because Bill’s mother was not the only person cooking that day.

Apparently there was a big function going on at her church that night, so his mother invited the entire Civic League to prepare food in Bill’s kitchen.

No sooner had I parked in Bill’s driveway than four Buicks pulled beside me, all crammed full of gray-haired women clad in polyester, wielding spatulas, and smelling like bath powder.

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Click HERE for our Great Balls of Fire Cornbread Recipe Article.

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The women labored in Bill’s kitchen for hours while we hung drywall and the aroma of food wafted through the house like ghosts from my childhood. And I was a 4-year-old again.

Basic smells like this remind me how fortunate I was that my youth was spent among simple people.

I experienced the tail end of a computer-less era that has vanished. But I am grateful to have known rotary phones, stovetop percolators, TVs that received only two channels, encyclopaedia sets, and comic books.

Ours was a slow existence, when kids lived outdoors, and a boy’s primary means of communication with the outside world was a Schwinn. But those days are gone.

Anyway, that night at Bill’s supper table, I was covered in drywall dust. The meal was perhaps the best I’ve ever had. The cornbread came in a skillet. There were two additional varieties of cornbread present, including lace cornbread, and “cheesy cornbread sticks,” which are illegal in 19 states (California, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Oregon, New Jersey and 13 others I think).

I ate so much that I fell asleep on my friend’s sofa in a glycemic coma. When I awoke, it was past midnight, and I was draped in a quilt. There was an old woman sitting beside me, knitting by lamplight. It was Bill’s mother.

Bill’s mother accompanied me to the door when I was leaving, half asleep. She gave me a cooler filled with leftovers wrapped in foil. She hugged me, kissed me, and left a coral-colored smudge on my cheek. Then she whispered something in my ear about forgiveness.

Before I left, I gave Bill a firm handshake and told him I was sorry we’d ever let a quarrel come between us. Then we embraced.

He said, “Does this mean we’re friends again?” Which, of course, is exactly what it meant. In fact, we remain pals to this day. Bill sat on the front pew at my wedding and cried like a newborn. And I did the same thing at his saintly mother’s funeral.

I’m telling you. Cornbread is powerful stuff.

Police, Patrol Officers, Troopers and How Elvis Helped Me Get Out of Getting a Ticket

Not too long ago, when I was driving on my way to work at Fair Oaks Ranch Golf and Resort, I was pulled over by the local police for driving a bit too fast in a 30 mph zone. For anyone familiar with Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, it’s something you absolutely know not to do.

I had both my drivers license and proof of insurance ready for the officer by the time he reached my window.

“Sir, I’m so very sorry,” I handed them to him as I bluttered out before he could even say anything.

“Thank you,” he said. “I clocked you at 36 and this is a 30.”

“I know, Sir,” I replied respectfully. “Totally, my bad. I had my radio cranked up listening and singing along to Elvis and I guess I just got into it a bit too much.”

He laughed and handed me back my papers.

“You know, Elvis Presley was my mother’s favorite, so I completely understand. What song was it?”

A Big Hunk of Love,” I replied.

“Well no wonder, Mr. Dennis,” he motioned me on. “Just remember the speed limit is 30 and next time sing something slower like Love Me Tender or Can’t Help Falling In Love or something like that.”

He grinned, with his lip curled up Elvis style, winked and pointed at me.

“Yes Sir, I will,” I smiled. “Thank you. Thank you very much. You know, my father was a police officer in San Antonio, so maybe our parents are smiling down at us both right now.”

My father, Walter Dennis, San Antonio, 1960.

That quick encounter was likely unique for both of us and it reminded me of police and driver banter/quotes I have collected throughout the years. Some of them go back to the 1960s and 1970s from fellow police officers. I hope you enjoy them:

“Warning! You want a warning? O.K, I’m warning you not to do that again or I’ll give you another ticket.”

“Relax, the handcuffs are tight because they’re new. They’ll stretch after you wear them a while.”

“If you take your hands off the car, I’ll make your birth certificate a worthless document.”

“You know, stop lights don’t come any redder than the one you just went through.”

“If you run, you’ll only go to jail tired.”

“Can you run faster than 1200 feet per second? Because that’s the speed of the bullet that’ll be chasing you.”

“You don’t know how fast you were going? I guess that means I can write anything I want to on the ticket, huh?”

“Yes, sir, you can talk to the shift sergeant, but I don’t think it will help. Oh, did I mention that I’m the shift sergeant?”

“The answer to this last question will determine whether you are drunk or not. Was Mickey Mouse a cat or a dog?”

“Fair? You want me to be fair? Listen, fair is a place where you go to ride on rides, eat cotton candy and corn dogs and step in monkey poop.”

“Yeah, we have a quota. Two more tickets and my wife gets a toaster oven.”

“In God we trust; all others we run through NCIC.” ( National Crime Information Center )

“Just how big were those ‘two beers’ you say you had?”

“No sir, we don’t have quotas anymore. We used to, but now we’re allowed to write as many tickets as we can.”

“I’m glad to hear that the Chief (of Police) is a personal friend of yours. So you know someone who can post your bail.”

“You didn’t think we give pretty women tickets? You’re right, we don’t. Sign here.”

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LET’S TEXAS

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Catturd + Gab = Hilariously Serious Truth

After being banned by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for posting CLEVERJOURNEYS articles they didn’t like, I immediately joined Parler, Gab and MeWe. No regrets.

I had over 5,700 FB and Twitter friends/followers, but quickly gained over 12,500 with my three new apps. Although Parler seems to be on temporary hiatus (Big Tech is pressuring to keep them off Internet), CLEVERJOURNEYS continues to gain more readers each day (over 542,000 today).

We thank you!

One of the most pleasant surprises, besides so many FB friends joining us on these apps, is seeing the hilarious Catturd on Gab. If you don’t know Catturd, here’s a sampling of why this Cat has over 237,000 Gab followers:

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Recent bans and censorship have caused CLEVERJOURNEYS to abandon Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We can now be seen on Parler ( @Jackdennistexas ), Gab ( Jackdennistexas ) and MeWe ( Jackdennistexas ).

To receive email notification of new posts, click “NOTIFY ME…” box below most articles or send an email to jackdennistexas@yahoo.com with “Subscribe” in Reference Title.

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President Trump’s Letter Left to Biden in Oval Office

Real or not, this is so true.

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Recent bans and censorship have caused CLEVERJOURNEYS to abandon Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We can now be seen on Parler ( @Jackdennistexas ), Gab ( Jackdennistexas ) and MeWe ( Jackdennistexas ).

To receive email notification of new posts, click NOTIFY ME… box below most articles or send an email to jackdennistexas@yahoo.com with “Subscribe” in Reference Title.