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By Dave Dahl (taken from The Sunday Post-Journal)

     Each year, the Lucy-Desi Days festival draws fans from places as far as Oregon, Texas and Virginia.  Fans flock to Jamestown to revel in the memory of the couple that starred in the sitcom I Love Lucy.

     This year, one of those fans lived a dream.  Not even aware of the festival or the Lucy-Desi Museum until this year, a Lucille Ball viewer who drove from the St. Louis area described her lifelong adoration of the comedic actress.

     “I am like the Lucy freak of the world,” said Sue Rola, an orchestra director at Lindbergh High School near St. Louis.  “I love her so much.  I can’t even believe I’m here.”

     With every episode of I Love Lucy on videotape, Ms. Rola said she watches a show at the end of each day to unwind.  She ranked “Chocolate Factory” and “Lucy Gets Into Pictures” among her favorites.

     “She makes me laugh.” She said while decked in an I Love Lucy T-shirt.  “It’s clean wholesome fun that never grows old.”  In addition to taping episodes from television, she has dressed as Lucille Ball for Halloween while conducting her orchestra, wearing the Lucy wig.  She also described her office, adorned with Lucille Ball memorabilia, as “solid Lucy.”

     She found out about the festival and museum one day when the school custodian showed her a program listing the festival’s attractions.

     “One of my lifetime goals was to get to Jamestown, New York, before I die.”  Ms. Rola said of the actress’ birthplace.

     Not only did she accomplish that goal Saturday, she joined the crowd at the Reg Lenna Civic Center at night to watch a performance by Jim Bailey, an impressionist who performed as Phyllis Diller and then as himself in a 1972 episode of Here’s Lucy.  Bailey also welcomed Lucie Arnaz, the famous couple’s daughter, on the stage for a session in which they answered written questions.

     The duo sang a rendition of “Fever,” repeating their routine on that 1972 episode.  “I learned from her comic timing,”  Bailey said of Ms. Ball, whom he watched at 9 p.m. every Monday while growing up.  Besides Ms. Diller, Bailey has impersonated Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, among other Hollywood women.

     One time, Bailey recalled, Ms. Ball asked him, “Why don’t you do me?”  Reacting to the crowd’s laughter, he joked that the Saturday night performance was the “X-rated version.”  He has never done a Lucy impression, he said, because he has only performed as singers and stand-up comics, not those who specialized in situational comedy.

     Replying to a fan in the audience who suggested he perform as Ms. Ball at next year’s festival, he promised to consider it.  Another highlight for fans came earlier, when Bailey accepted a telephone call on stage everyone could hear.  The voice on the other end spoke to him about his impersonation of her in the 1972 Here’s Lucy episode.  It was Ms. Diller.

     “It’s just amazing that you can sound just like all those people,” she said.  An employee later said the caller actually was Ms. Diller phoning live from California.  That call offered Ms. Rola and others like her, another memory of a trip to Jamestown to recapture years of watching Lucy and Desi.


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