My Lucy ‘Mame’ story

A childhood anecdote

A friendly warning: The following childhood anecdote does not have a big payoff.

When “Mame” starring Lucille Ball came out in 1974, there wasn’t exactly a demand to see it among myself, my little sister Bobbi or my little brother Brian. I’m sure it was our mom’s idea. She loved “I Love Lucy.” Whenever the 1952 rerun about Lucy in the candy factory came on, with Lucy stuffing chocolates in her mouth, my mom would say that she could still hear her mom — my grandmother Molly, who died before I was born — laughing hysterically.

So in 1974, my family all got in the car to go see it. My father was livid. He did not want to go. I didn’t know why, but I guessed that he must have hated Lucille Ball. He used to hate certain entertainers; Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis and Rip Taylor spring to mind. You could see smoke pouring out of his ears when they would come on TV.

During the drive to the movie theater, he told my mom that he had no intention of seeing “Mame.” He said he would “drop us off.” It turned into an argument. We kids weren’t used to hearing our parents fight, and my little brother was getting a bit stressed out. I whispered to him, “Ya know what dad’s doing? He’s acting like the movie’s gonna stink, and then when it doesn’t, he’s gonna act all happy, and it’ll make it even better for all of us.”

My mom finally convinced my dad that he had to watch the movie with us — that this was, after all, a family outing. As we all filed in to take our seats, my dad didn’t say a word.

The movie began. The opening credits rolled. In my memory — I haven’t seen the Lucy “Mame” since, and don’t plan to — the first sequence was a raucous 1920s-era party. From across the room, you saw Lucy dancing on a piano. She was whooping it up, doing all this “hot-cha-cha,” jazz-hands kind of stuff.

My dad said, “That’s it!” He stood up, squeezed out into the aisle, leaned toward my mom and said, “I’ll be back to pick you up when this thing’s over,” and walked out of the theater.

The movie had been on for all of three or four minutes. End of anecdote.

Lucy dances on a piano in “Mame” (1974). This is the moment that drove my father to abandon his family.


The “Mame” trailer.

Lucy and the chocolate factory (1952).