My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 stars to Lee Tannen‘s I Loved Lucy: My Friendship with Lucille Ball. After reading mostly fiction for the last few months, I took a right turn towards memoirville and settled on reading about a star whose many TV series are among my favorites. Who hasn’t watched an episode that’s nearly 65 years old and not fallen in comedic love? It was power of Lucy that healed me when I stayed home sick from school as a child. Tannen helps give readers and fans alike insight into a woman who was known by all but perhaps really known by little.
Tannen’s memoir explains his interactions with Lucille Ball over a 30 year period. As a child, he met her a few times when post-Desi Arnaz, she married into Tannen’s extended family; however, it was when he was older, and Lucy was in her 60s, that they rekindled their relationship. Tannen describes how they spent time in LA, NY and Palm Springs over holidays and vacations. He provides good examples of how a star held her private life close while still staying popular in the headlines. And he reveals why Lucy stopped talking to him for a few years over what he thought was just a small little tiff.
Tannen digs deep and talks about many of the people (stars and regular folk!) who passed through his time with Lucy. Some of it makes you laugh, some of it makes you cry. I never realized how many other stars Lucy socialized with or acted with in her later years — ranging from Shirley Maclaine to Roseanne Barr to Sigourney Weaver! And when Lee talks about Lucy’s friendship with Tommy Tune, I couldn’t help but smile. Tommy Tune lives on my block in NYC and I often see him walking about!
While I wouldn’t call it a weakness (perhaps just a suggestion), I think the book could use a better timeline. From the start, you know Lee met Lucy when he was a young child where he became fascinated with her life and career. And you know he grew up while Lucy became a big star; however, the years when they weren’t friends are left too blank. It may have been helpful to add in a little background — even though it wouldn’t actually be a memoir during that chapter — as it would round out the experiences they each had throughout the 50 years of life they shared the planet together, especially while they were apart. It isn’t necessary but might give the reader a little more sense of Lucille Ball’s full life as opposed to just the later years.
For anyone who wants to see a different side of a star, discover a few bizarre habits or read about someone they admired on TV for years, this is a definite read. You’ll hear names of stars you never knew or hadn’t realized lived so closely to Lucy. It’ll make you smile and reach for the TV remote control to find an all-day I Love Lucy marathon.