Wednesday through Sunday of the coming week, television personalities and fans from around the world will be convening in Jamestown for the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.
Lucille Desiree Ball is probably the most famous person to have been born in Jamestown. Since her birth took place on Aug. 6, 1911, the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy has typically set aside the first weekend in August to celebrate her legacy of comedy and entertainment, as well as that of her first husband, Cuban-born musician Desi Arnaz.
This year, five days have been set aside in which activities such as tours of the places in town where Lucy made her special mark can be visited, and a number of organized activities and comedy performances. This week's column is dedicated to the late, great Miss Ball, and to reminding you of some of the activities which are available to local folks as readily as to those who have made the drive from New Hampshire or Nebraska.
Comic Paula Poundstone clearly wants the audience at the Reg Lenna Civic Center to notice her snazzy shoes. She returns to Jamestown on Thursday evening.
Once we've done that, we'll share with you what we've learned from a brief interview with comic and frequent television personality Paula Poundstone, who will be among the headliners to take the stage of the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
WEDNESDAY's calendar offers five events for Lucy fans:
At 11:30 a.m., enjoy lunch in the Tropicana Room. That is a replica of the set representing the Tropicana Nightclub, where Ricky Ricardo performed in the "I Love Lucy" series. It's located on the second floor of the museum, which is located at the intersection of Main and Third streets in downtown Jamestown. Lunch will be served at 11:30, and the show will begin at noon. Tickets are $20.
Shown with lunch will be the film "Seven Days' Leave," which starred Miss Ball and actor Victor Mature.
At 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., two, two-hour bus tours of the area, pointing out local places which were important in the life of Lucille Ball and ending at Lake View Cemetery, where the comedy star, her mother, and other members of her extended family are interred. Tickets are $20.
At 5:30 p.m., at the Lucy-Desi Museum, approved Fred Mertz impersonator Bill Chott will talk about "Being Fred Mertz." Appearing with him will be T. Faye Griffen. Admission is $25.
At 8 p.m., in Lake View Cemetery, Jamestown Paranormal Investigators will explain their activities, followed by a walking tour of the beautiful burial site. If Lucy's ghost is hanging around, you might just get to meet her. Admission is $25, and is limited to those who are age 18 or older.
THURSDAY: No fewer than 11 activities are scheduled for participants.
At 9:30 and 10:30 a.m., enjoy a horse-drawn tour of Lake View Cemetery, including a visit to the graves of Ms. Ball, and her mother, Desiree Ball. Tickets are $15.
Enjoy the comic performances of participants in Lucy's Comedy College, at the Reg Lenna Civic Center. Doors open at 11:30 a.m., and the show begins at noon. Tickets are $25.
Bus tours, as described in Wednesday's events, will be offered, loading at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and leaving 30 minutes after the doors open.
Gregg Oppenheimer, son of the creator of the pioneering television series "I Love Lucy" and co-author of a book with Jess Oppenheimer, his famous father, will sign copies of his book at 1 p.m. at the Lucy-Desi Museum.
A paranormal investigation similar to Wednesday evening's event, but this time at the Reg Lenna Civic Center, will take place at 2 p.m. Admission is $25 and is limited to those age 18 or older.
Tropicana Room Dinner, with accompanying show "Circus of the Stars," a broadcast of a television series in which Miss Ball appeared as a ringmaster, will be served in the Tropicana Room with doors opening at 4:30 p.m. and the show beginning at 5 p.m. Cost is $25.
At 5:30 p.m., at the Lucy-Desi Center, Andy Engel, who teaches stand-up comedy in New York City, will discuss his experiences, auditions he has conducted, etc. It's called "Intro to Stand-Up," and admission is $18.
Comic and television personality Paula Poundstone will perform at the Reg Lenna Civic Center at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range in price from $15 to $35, depending on the location of the seats.
At 10 p.m., the Paranormal Investigators will be back at work at Lake View Cemetery. Admission is $25 and is still limited to those 18 and over.
FRIDAY: No fewer than 19 invitations will be offered on Friday during the festival:
At 9 a.m. at the museum, those with $100 to spend can get their photo taken with impersonators of all four of the main characters from "I Love Lucy."
At 10 a.m., members of the museum only can get their photos taken with various personal and professional memorabilia of the famed Lucy-Desi couple, donated by their individual estates. There is no charge. If you aren't a member and wish to participate, you can join by going to the museum or to www.lucycomedyfest.com.
At 9:30 and 1:30, more bus tours of the area are offered, as described above.
At 11 a.m., you can sign up to participate in any or all of the Lucy World Games. Compete for the best reenactment of scenes such as the grape-stomping show and the candy-wrapping show. It's in Tracy Plaza, adjacent to City Hall, and it costs $20.
Also at 11 a.m., if you only wish to compete in one of the Tracy Plaza games, the cost is $5.
While the games are going on, enjoy the Party on the Plaza, which will be going on, all around the competitions. Enjoy live bands, live comics, and purchase food and beverages from vendors. There is no charge.
At 11:30 a.m., lunch will be served at the Tropicana Room. This time the entertainment is a presentation by Gregg Oppenheimer regarding his father's involvement in the creation of "I Love Lucy." Admission is $35.
Openheimer will also be signing books at 4 p.m. at the Museum.
Opening doors at 4:30 p.m. and beginning the show at 5 p.m., travel down Third Street, to the Crown Theatre to enjoy "Dinner with the Ricardos and the Mertzes." The professional impersonators will be doing their "I Love Lucy" thing. Admission is $45.
The Reg Lenna Civic Center will open its doors at 8 p.m. for an 8:30 p.m. performance by Comedy Central's Stand Up Showdown, Tammy Pescatelli and other stand-up comics, plus a musical appearance by Lucie Arnaz. Tickets are $20 and $25.
At 9 p.m., films of either or both Lucy and Desi will be shown on outdoor screens in downtown Jamestown.
At 10:30 p.m., get a chance to meet Lucie Arnaz in person at a cocktail reception at the Lucy-Desi Center. Tickets are $100.
At 10 p.m., in the Tropicana Room, with the show beginning at 10:30, enjoy the more adult version of some of the comics from the other shows. Tickets are $15 for Late Night Comedy.
SATURDAY: In just a week from today, the festival will hit its full stride, with 25 events for your viewing and participating pleasure.
At 9:30 and 10:30 there are horse-drawn trolley tours of Lake View Cemetery. Tickets are $15, but at the time of this writing the earlier tour is sold out.
At 9:30 a.m., the Crown Theatre offers brunch with the Ricardos and Mertzes, as written above. Tickets are $45.
Bus tours will be loading at 9:30, noon and 3:30 p.m.
The Party on the Plaza will be gearing up again at 11 a.m.
A 1.5-mile walk/run, which is part of the Lucy World Games, will be heading out at 11 a.m. from Tracy Plaza. If you haven't purchased the overall games pass, the cost is $5. Those who participate in costume as one of the four stars of "I Love Lucy" will get bonus points.
Doors open at the Reg Lenna Civic Center at 3:30 p.m. for a live radio broadcast, featuring material once performed by the famed Jamestown red head. Admission is $15.
The Crown Theatre offers "Dinner with the Ricardos and Mertzes" at 6 p.m. Cost is $45.
Billy Gardell, star of top-rated CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly" will perform at the Reg Lenna Civic Center at 8 p.m. Tickets range in price between $30 and $80, depending on where you sit. Audiences are cautioned that Gardell's material contains some adult-oriented elements.
At 9 p.m., the outdoor showing of free films featuring Lucy will take place downtown.
At 10:30, the late night comics warm up their more colorful material in the Tropicana Room.
SUNDAY: The festival sails to its conclusion on Aug. 5 with events:
Loading at 9 a.m., the cruise boat Summer Wind will offer a two-hour tour of Chautauqua Lake. It leaves from Lucille Ball Memorial Park, on the site of the former Celoron Amusement Park. A light brunch and refreshments are included for a cost of $30.
At 11 a.m., the Mayor of Celoron will present "Celoron Amusement Park Through Lucy's Eyes," at Lucille Ball Memorial Park. It begins at 11:30 a.m. and costs $5.
At 1 p.m., chow down on a picnic at the park. Cost is $20.
At 3 p.m., treat yourself to an elegant formal tea at Chautauqua Institution's 1881 Hotel Athenaeum. Feast on tea sandwiches and pastries and enjoy more comedy, as the festival concludes. There is no admission charge to Chautauqua on Sundays, although there is a parking charge. Admission to the tea is $30.
Comic Paula Poundstone is well known by comedy-loving fans of television, and she has made several appearances over the years at Lucy celebrations in Jamestown. Among the many awards she has won for her performing, she was named Best Female Stand-Up Comic by the American Comedy Awards. Comedy Central includes her on their list of the top 100 comics of all time.
She has published a memoir, titled "There is Nothing in This Book That I Meant to Say."
Reached by telephone, she told us, "I love coming to Jamestown, because I feel I'm walking in the footsteps of many great comedy personalities, and especially Lucille Ball."
She said that one of her earliest memories was being allowed to watch "I Love Lucy" re-runs on television, when her older siblings went off to school, but she wasn't old enough to go.
"There's no question that Lucy played a big role in my decision to become a comic. I originally wanted to be a comic actress, which she was, although somehow I found my way to stand-up," she added. "When I was a child, I often had dreams about having fun with her, and I read her biography. She seemed so real; it was like I knew her."
Comedy came into her life early, as she can still quote a comment on her final report card from her kindergarten teacher, saying that she would long remember Paula's witty and observant comments on everything the class had done that year.
Ms. Poundstone usually performs in a suit jacket and tie, with black-and-white spectator shoes. She does material, largely about her children and observations of human behavior, and she says her favorite part of her show is near the end, when she interacts with members of her audience.
Fans of the YouTube website can watch her doing her thing with members of the board of directors of the Lucy-Desi Museum.
"My favorite memory of my appearance last year was the locally organized band which played before and after my show," she said. "They played the 'I Love Lucy' theme song and made it a special occasion. I felt really special."
I noted that her name appears only on Thursday of the comedy festival, and I pointed out that sometimes performers will do additional material in other performers' presentations. She said that much as she would enjoy that, she must be in Rochester on Friday evening, and in Albany on Saturday. "I do about 90 performances per year, and I try to do them in tours, rather than going out, and coming home, and going out again," she said.
We'll look forward to what she has to say on Thursday at the Reg Lenna Civic Center. It's sure to be funny.
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