LucyFan: Lucy Cello in Jamestown, New York (2005)

Monday, November 7, 2005

The “loaded cello” used by Lucille Ball in the pilot episode of I Love Lucy, has found a new home — at the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown, New York (see photo above). The instrument, originally owned and redesigned by performer “Pepito” (Jose Escobar Perez), was purchased on the Museum’s behalf by a group of Lucy-Desi fans last summer, when the cello, and other Lucy-related articles were offered in a Hollywood auction. The following news release, issued this past weekend by the Lucy-Desi Center in Jamestown, explains further:

Jamestown, NY – The possibility of acquiring a significant artifact in the history of the creation of “I Love Lucy” inspired supporters of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center to step forward as founding members of the Center’s Acquisition Society.

The “Loaded Cello” built by Pepito for Lucille Ball was liquidated by Biola University from the Perez estate via the Profiles In History auction catalogue, 2005, page 136 (and page 137, below). The cello was expected to fetch $10,000-$12,000 at auction. The winning bid far surpassed the estimate: $30,000 (plus fees).

The cello credited with helping to found the most popular show ever on television was offered this summer as part of a Hollywood memorabilia auction in Beverly Hills. In response to the cello’s availability, friends of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center joined forces to launch an Acquisitions Society so that key artifacts could be secured for the Center.

Jamestown area residents who are founding members of the Acquisitions Society are the Bud and Deanna Black Family, Chuck and Pat Brininger, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Mary Hunt, Mike Latone, Lucy-Desi Center board treasurer John Lloyd, and Ric Wyman. Other founding members include Joel Ashley, Bill Rapaport, and board members Desi Arnaz, Jr., Lucie Arnaz, Wanda Clark, Eric Cohler, Mary Rapaport, and Melody Thomas Scott.

In 1950, when Lucille Ball was asked to move her successful radio series to television, she agreed on one condition: her husband, Desi Arnaz, would be cast in the role of her TV husband.

The “Loaded Cello” built by Pepito for Lucille Ball was liquidated by Biola University from the Perez estate via the Profiles In History auction catalogue, 2005, page 137.

CBS executives balked, believing the American public wouldn’t accept an all-American redhead being married to a Latin bandleader. To prove the network wrong, Lucy and Desi launched a successful vaudeville tour. Their friend Jose Perez, known on the vaudeville circuit as Pepito, The Spanish Clown, developed several skits for the couple to take on the road. The most famous of these cast Lucy as “The Professor” who breaks into Desi’s performance and insists on auditioning for the band. The skit was so successful, Lucy and Desi worked it into the pilot episode of I Love Lucy (watch episode) and again in episode 6 of I Love Lucy from the show’s first season.

After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Perez, their estate was left to Biola University in California. When University staff familiarized themselves with the contents of the Perez home, they made an amazing discovery: Pepito’s cello—complete with the plunger. Inside the cello Pepito had safely stored a 1950 Western Union telegram from Lucy and Desi, thanking him for his help. Providing ultimate authenticity, the telegram reads “… Prop cello the hit of my offering. We love you very much and appreciate you even more. Lucy & Desi.” Lucy-Desi Center staff are making plans to unveil the cello early next year at the Center’s new Desilu Playhouse.

The Acquisition Society’s winning bid for the cello was reportedly $30,000 — although a recent issue of “Antiques and Collecting Magazine” placed the total (including fees, etc.) closer to $35,400! Here are photos of the cello from the auction catalog.

Source:

Website “Still in Love with Lucy” by Thomas Watson,

http://www.lucyfan.com/stillweek202.html

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