You come to a fork in the road, and decide which way to go. Do you continue to bang your head against a wall, or simply give up the ghost??
I've chosen the latter.
Therefore, I've decided to discontinue the "True Media Stories" series here in FN Magazine. The last couple of them haven't met with the response I'd like (read: fewer comments), but that's not why I'm ending them.
Ever since my dad died last month, it's been harder for me to come up with a new "TMS" every Tuesday. That, plus the fact of the Olympics occupying everyone's time these past 2 weeks+, factored into this decision.
So, this final "TMS" ought to hold everyone over (I hope). And it is true, by the way.
We're all familiar with "I Love Lucy". But, had a Congressman from California had his way, television...and pop culture...history would have been forever altered. Because of one man, that didn't happen.
Yes, there's a backstory...
This much is known: during the 1936 election, Lucille Ball registered with the election officials in New York state...as a Communist. I'm not making that up, people. The card surfaced, 17 years later. (The reason why Lucy registered that way, was because of her grandfather--an avowed Socialist. The card expired after that election, as the law stated at that time.)
Anyway, back to the story...
As I said, the card surfaced in early '53. Most newspapers ran the story, showing "CANCELLED" written across the registration card. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, on the other hand, showed the card--without the word "CANCELLED". Since this was the height of the so-called "Red Scare", one could only imagine how this piece of news would've been received by the viewing public.
But, the truth had already been known the year before...by a Congressman named Donald Jackson from California. He had held a hearing of a sub-committee of HUAC (the House Committee on Un-American Activities) in Los Angeles, and garnered Lucille Ball's sworn testimony pertaining to this.
That didn't satisfy Lucy's better half...Desi Arnaz, aka "Ricky Ricardo". He decided to get at the truth. All it took was one phone call, to J. Edgar Hoover himself. "Don't sweat it", is what J. Edgar (more or less) told Desi.
But there was still the problem with the sponsors...especially Philip Morris, the makers of Chesterfield cigarettes (one of the sponsors of "I.L.L."). So Desi wrote a letter to Alfred Lyons, the CEO of Philip Morris, laying everything out for him and closing by saying if he (Lyons) wanted to pull out, he (Arnaz) would understand.
Then...nothing. Nada. Zilch. End of story, right?? Nope, not quite.
Fast forward 20 years. It's 1973, and Desi Arnaz found himself in NYC for some function. He decided to visit the Philip Morris corporate HQ to renew old acquintances, and stopped by Alfred Lyons' office. There he met Lyons' personal secretary, and asked why he never heard back concerning that letter in '53.
The secretary said that ordinarily she wasn't allowed to disclose that information, but she told Desi he had a right to know. That's when she pulled out a memo to the ad agency that held the PM account, signed by Alfred Lyons...with carbon copies to all PM employees. All it had, were 5 words:
"Don't eff with the Cuban."
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we still "love Lucy".
And with that, I bid adios to the "True Media Stories" series. Thank you for reading these, and for indulging my feeble attempt to enlighten the masses. I may have a new project for FN Magazine to replace this, but I'm not ready to disclose it right now.
In the meantime, I'm the Nut.