Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Books · Ball of Fire Glows with Warmth
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Ball of Fire Glows with Warmth

Nancy Sundstrom - August 28th, 2003
It’s this simple: if you love Lucy, then you will love Stefan Kanfer’s “Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball.“
Kanfer is a respected author well-suited for the task of dissecting the life of the complex, multi-faceted, sublimely gifted Ball to life. A writer and editor at Time for more than 20 years, he has written eloquently on the subject on comedy and some of its most noted practitioners before, especially in the books “Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx“ and “The Essential Groucho: Writings by, for, and about Groucho Marx.“
He is known for his affection and respect for his subjects, and for a through, exuberant knowledge of early film and TV history, and “Ball of Fire“ is another testament to this. Balanced and objective yet warm, this is by no means a Hollywood tell-all, even though there are parts of Ball’s life (her relationship with husband Desi Arnaz, a pathological womanizer, for example) that could, and have been, treated in a far more sensational or lurid manner. Kanfer also doesn’t shy away from the more flawed parts of Ball’s personality, such as her coldness and rudeness, all of which results in this being the first truly comprehensive biography about the woman who made the world laugh while her own heart broke.
In the first chapter, “A Little World Out of Nothing,“ Kanfer details the Michigan-based family life that Ball knew as a youngster, until the tragic death of her father when she was just three-years-old. That event would have enormous impact on Ball, and effect nearly every decision she made, both personally and professionally:

“On August 6, Lucille Desiréé was born...The little family resettled in Wyandotte, outside Detroit, a town just far enough from the automobile industry to offer quiet tree-lined streets and clean air. Had regarded it as a fine place to raise a family, and pretty soon Desiréé was pregnant again. Everything went well: Had was making five dollars a week, a good salary in those days, and the doctor said that Desiréé was the ideal age and weight to bear a second child. As for little Lucille, she was an active, healthy youngster, fond of her mother and crazy about roughhousing with her father -- she would scream with delight when he tossed her into the air and caught her inches from the floor.
All this was to change in the awful winter of 1915. In January, cases of typhoid fever were reported in the Detroit area. Public health officials warned citizens to boil their water and to stay away from unpasteurized dairy products. Desiréée scrupulously followed their instructions. Had went along for a while, but in early January he treated himself to a dish of ice cream. A week later he began to suffer from sleeplessness, then intestinal problems, and finally he developed a fever of 104 degrees accompanied by delirium. Physicians made a grim diagnosis and nailed a sign to the Balls‘ front door: keep out-health authorities. Neighbors shut their windows and drew the curtains; there was no vaccine at the time. The family doctor could do little beyond making Had comfortable and preparing Desiréée for the end.

Distraught and overburdened, she kept Lucille out of the sickroom and in the fresh air for hours at a time. To ease her mind she tied one end of a rope around the child‘s waist, the other end to a steel runner on the backyard clothesline. As long as she heard the metal squeal, Desiréé knew that her little daughter was running like a trolley from the back of the yard to the front. Whenever the noise stopped for longer than a few minutes she ran outside to see if Lucille had slipped the knot. The three-and-a-half-year-old never did escape, but on at least one occasion she tried. After an ominous silence Desirée found her batting her eyes and negotiating with a milkman: “Mister, help me. I got caught up in this silly clothesline. Can you help me out?“
Had died on February 28, 1915. He was twenty-eight years old. Lucille retained only fleeting memories of that day, all of them traumatic. A picture fell from the wall; a bird flew in the window and became trapped inside the house. From that time forward she suffered from a bird phobia. Even as an adult, she refused to stay in any hotel room that displayed framed pictures of birds or had wallpaper with an avian theme...
Several days later Desiréé and Lucille accompanied Had‘s body on the long train ride to upstate New York. On the chill, iron-gray morning of March 5, Had was buried at Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown. Lucille looked on blankly, oblivious to the glances in her direction. At the last moment, as Had‘s casket was lowered into the grave, the loss suddenly hit home. The little girl was led away screaming to her grandparents‘ house on Buffalo Street in Jamestown. Mother and child had no other refuge.“

As a result of her father’s death, Ball’s early years were unstable ones, but she learned an important lesson - that by making other people laugh, she could block out most of the pain she felt herself. She grew up to become undeniably beautiful and found work as a model and then a film actress for RKO, working alongside the likes of Kate Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Her star began to rise as her comedic talent began to emerge, and by the time she met husband-to-be Arnaz, with whom she fell head-over-heels in love, she was poised to do just what she did in 1951 - take the world by storm through a little known invention called TV.
As most know, Lucy and Desi revolutionized TV and changed the face of pop culture forever. Their success came at a considerable price, though, and the casualties included their marriage and their relationship with their children. After their divorce and the end of the beloved “I Love Lucy“ show, the pair went on to other show business ventures and other romances, but they were again to capture the magic they had created together. At the end of their lives, that would be the one great regret that each one had, and neither one stopped loving the other.
Even those who feel they know Ball’s saga well will be surprised by some of the revelations in the book, which also benefits from being well-researched and quite riveting. Lucille Ball was a talent unlike any other and this fine biography does great justice to her, while imparting a quiet sense of sadness that as much as she made us all laugh, and continues to do so to this day, there was an empty place in her heart - largely caused by a father and husband she lost - that could never be filled. And that just makes us love her all the more.

 
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