Osborne enjoys and knows such a great deal about classic movies that he's become a treasure himself. The host was first an actor in New York. Later he switched coasts, famously working for the Desilu Workshop under the supervision of Lucille Ball. The young contract player became a confidante and escort for her now and then when her husband, Desi Arnaz, wasn't available.
In preparation for True Classic's Lucille Ball birthday blogathon last Saturday (I didn't have the blog post written in time!), I finally got around to reading Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. In it, Osborne is quoted alot, especially concerning Lucy. He often speaks of the ground-breaking comedienne not in terms of her humor, nor in terms of her power (he joined her at the height of the Desilu corporation's existence) but in terms of her persistence. Here are two examples.
Osborne on Lucille Ball's early days in show business:
" She had to go out pounding the pavements for work, doing modeling. She used to tell me about how, a lot of times, she used to go to these parties, where she'd go in and there'd be this huge, long table. She said the girls would sit at every other seat. 'The first thing you did,' she'd say 'is reach under your plate and get your hundred dollar bill.' I don't know if they had to end up going to bed with them, or were just there as dinner companions while these mobsters were having a meeting, but it was survival, just trying to survive."
Osborne on Lucille Ball's obsession to hide her age on camera:
"It's not vanity as much as it is survival. It's knowing the town so well and how Hollywood gets rid of you with age, and she wanted to work."
Of course, behind every successful clown is a profound solemnity. Jerry Lewis has it and so did Lucy. Says Osborne,
"I don't think [Lucille Ball] had any humor at all, strangely enough, for someone that funny. She could laugh, and she liked a good laugh, but she didn't think funny, although she knew what was funny and could make a situation funny. I don't think of her as a 'light' person at all. I think of Lucy as a 'heavy' - serious about comedy, serious about having fun."
Speaking of serious fun with classic film icons, after his vacation, TCM's silver fox will be raring to go for the TCM Classic Cruise in December. Our man of the (prime-time) hour will be joined by Norman Jewison, Tippi Hedren and Ernest Borgnine, among others. (Where have I been that I didn't know of this? )