Tales from the Other Side of the Camera
By Jerry London
It was hot. Really hot. With record-breaking heat pushing the thermometer past 100°F in Hollywood, California, I found myself wondering if hell might just be a few degrees cooler than that first day of September in 1955.
After six weeks of apprentice training at Desilu Studios, I was on my way to my first day on a real job in the television industry, assisting the film editor on I Love Lucy. This was my big day. Between the nerves and the heat, I could feel the back of my shirt sticking to the seat of the 1955 Ford Victoria I had scrimped and saved for as I wheeled onto the lot at Cahuenga and Willoughby where some of Desilu’s shows were filmed.
My dad was a banker, and none too thrilled when I passed on a business scholarship to Yale for show business. Oh, yeah—that went over big. After a year of working fulltime at Bank of America, I wanted to follow in the family business, all right.
Just not his business.
Lucy may have been the star of the show, but she was quick to credit Desi as being the brains behind their groundbreaking show, I Love Lucy, and the wildly successful production company, Desilu, that created it.
Desi was very hands on, so much so that he kept editing and screening equipment in each of their three homes. Their primary residence was in Beverly Hills, but they had a place in Palm Springs for when they felt like catching some desert sun, and another in Del Mar, which was most often occupied during the horse racing season.
As Desi always wanted to see the previous week’s edits of the show, the routine was that every Saturday Bud and I packed up the film and hauled it out to whichever house Desi was currently staying at to screen them for him.
One Saturday, as Desi, Bud, and I were working away editing film on the old Moviola (dubbed “The Four-Headed Monster”) in Desi’s Del Mar garage, in strolled British-born Johnny Longden, the Triple Crown-winning jockey. Mr. Longden will forever be remembered by fans of I Love Lucy, having later made a guest appearance in one of the more memorable episodes called “Lucy and the Loving Cup,” where Lucy gets her head stuck inside a trophy cup.
“It’s your lucky day today, Desi,” Johnny confidently boasted. “Today is the day I’m going to bring your horse in.”
Desi gave him a long stare. Then, reaching over to the ashtray to crush out his cigarillo, he declared, “Okay boys, les wrap it up. We goin’ to de track.” Out the door we went.
Flying down the freeway with Desi behind the wheel of his shiny white Cadillac, listening to him chatting it up with his comrade Fernando Lamas in the front seat next to him, I sat in the back seat next to Bud, wondering how the heck “this new kid” had found himself here.