A Television Mogul is Born (Diet for Dreamers)

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We recently began our discussion of Talent, Tenacity and Timing — and the importance of working on these qualities if we hope to succeed. We can learn, we can practice, and we can develop talent. We can also decide to be tenacious in the pursuit of our dreams. Timing isn’t always up to us, however. But we can try to spot trends and anticipate needs.

Thursday we mentioned the talented couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They were tenacious, and it paid off BIG. Desi apparently also knew something about timing. He saw an opportunity as yet unrealized by just about everyone else.

Remember that Desi wanted to FILM I Love Lucy in Hollywood, rather than broadcast the show live from New York. The end product would be a higher quality show on FILM, a durable medium. But recording the show on film would be more expensive, and the executives at CBS were none too eager to shell out the extra funds needed to make the idea work. So Desi agreed to pay the difference with his own money. He asked that in return CBS grant him all the rights to a then unknown commodity. (What was this commodity? Be patient, we’ll get to that.) At the time, Desi didn’t seem to be asking for much, so the execs quickly agreed and probably left the deal rubbing their greedy little hands in glee. They’d tricked that “crazy” Cuban into footing the bill for a show that was destined to make mucho bucks for the network in sponsor’s fees!

I Love Lucy premiered in 1951 to rave reviews. It was a Top 10 show, and before the first season ended the show had rocketed to the number one spot. By 1957, Desi had produced 200 episodes — on FILM. 200 hilarious, highly watchable … and re-watchable little gems sitting on the shelves at CBS. Eureka! The CBS execs got a brilliant idea! Why not rent these old episodes out to local television stations. After all, audiences loved the show sooo much that they’d want to catch the ones they’d missed the first time around, or just enjoy the whole show again … and again … and again. Remember, this was decades before affordable VCRs were available. And unlike today, there were no DVRs, no ON DEMAND, no $5 DVDs at Walmart. CBS was going to make a killing!!!! Heeheehee!!!!!!

No MISSION is IMPOSSIBLE for this crack team.

But wait a minute¡Ay, caramba! — they’d given all the rerun rights to Desi in exchange for his footing the expense of filming the show. Lucy’s Latin Lover had landed them in the Laundry … er, taken them to the cleaners! But being both a talented actor AND businessman, Desi agreed to sell the rights back to CBS. For a cool million dollars! That’s a lot of scratch for 1957! Desi used it as a down payment on the purchase of the old RKO studios, where such classics as Citizen Kane and Gone with the Wind had been produced. Desi now had at his disposal over two dozen soundstages, several back lots, and tons of camera equipment, costumes and props. (He even got Scarlett O’Hara’s mansion Tara!) Everything he needed to become a television film mogul.

Lucy and Desi’s dream, Desilu Studios, became a big time operation, producing such durable hits as The Untouchables and Mission Impossible … and another show that was destined to become a legend. We’ll tell you about it on Friday … along with the story of a talented and tenacious creator who happened to come along at just the right time!

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Two Tenacious Talents with Terrific Timing! (Encouragement for Creators)

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Timing, Talent, and Tenacity. We discussed on Tuesday just how important these traits are for anyone pursuing a dream or a goal. Today we want to show you. Here’s the story of two tenacious talents who understood good timing: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Here’s to success!

Lucille Ball found success as the leading actress in several B-movies of the 1940s. In one of these movies, she worked with a contract actor who’d soon become her husband, the Cuban-born American bandleader Desi Arnaz. Desi and Lucy married and set up housekeeping at a California ranchito they called Desilu, but they weren’t able to spend much time together. By 1950, Lucy was spending most of her time in a sound booth, starring in the hit radio comedy My Favorite Husband. Desi was always on the road, performing at the best nightclubs. But Lucy had a plan, and she was tenacious enough to get her way.

CBS wanted to turn her popular radio show into a TV series. Television was still a relatively new medium, and Lucy doubted a weekly series could boost her career — but it could allow her more time with Desi! She agreed to do the show but with one stipulation: she demanded that Desi play her TV husband. This was anything but an easy sell: America’s favorite waspy redhead married to a hot-blooded Cuban?! On a national network show?! What would the peeps out in the wheat belt have to say?! Such a thing just wasn’t done! Period! But Lucy had talent AND tenacity enough to get her way. The CBS bosses relented, the peeps loved it, and the I Love Lucy show made television history — in more ways than one.

Turns out Desi was also a man of many talents, and just as tenacious. He wanted to film the show in Hollywood, so he and Lucy would be close to home. But again, it just wasn’t done! Comedies were produced in New York, where they were broadcast live. For the West Coast audience, a video recording was made by filming the “live feed” on a program monitor, and this slightly fuzzy video, known as a kinescope, was delayed broadcast. Definitely not the best quality, but this production method was cheaper than film, and that’s the way it had to be done. Period!

Lucy: Oh, Ricky! What are we going to do with all this money we’re about to make? Ricky: I will tell you, Lucy … but not today. Let’s make readers tune in tomorrow.

But Desi realized the timing was right. CBS really wanted the show. So Desi dug in his heels. He wanted the show FILMED in Hollywood using three cameras set up to capture different angles of the show as the cast performed before a live audience. The end result was more expensive, but the show looked gorgeous, and for once, the West Coast didn’t have to settle for poor kinescopes. Desi’s idea caught on, and soon all comedies were filmed in this manner. His talent, tenacity and ability to recognize the right timing, helped write television history.

Tune in Friday, when that talented Cuban impresario realizes the timing is right for yet another innovation, one that will net him a cool million dollars in 1957! And he won’t even have to work for it! We are now signing off the air!

“A man’s gift makes room for him And brings him before great men.” (Proverbs 18:16 NASB)

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