LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Interview With Stefan Kanfer
Aired August 28, 2003 - 19:50 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCILLE BALL, ENTERTAINER: Yes, with Vitametavegimen, you can spoon your way to health. All you do is take a table spoonful after every meal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now you take some.
BALL: Oh. It's so tasty too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Remember that wonderful Vitametavegimen skit that Lucille Ball -- Lucy Ricardo -- did on "I Love Lucy." It's probably playing somewhere in the world tonight. Here was one of the most recognizable faces on television. She also had a ground-breaking -- she was also ground-breaking comic, leading the way for other women who also wanted to play comedy on TV.
With us now is the author Stefan Kanfer. He is just published a new book called "Ball of Fire" about the carrot top who made us out loud.
It's a remarkable work. I mean, just he amount of research that went into this is extraordinary. She was a tough lady.
STEFAN KANFER, AUTHOR: She was very tough. You to be in those days. This is the adolescence of television and they -- she and her husband, Desi Arnaz, really invented the sitcom as we know it.
COOPER: She said of herself -- and I quote -- she said, "I'm not funny. My writers were funny. My direction was funny. I am not funny. What I am is brave."
KANFER: Well, she was brave in the sense that she was a beautiful woman who didn't mind making a fool of herself. She would sit down in the mud if necessary, she would stomp grapes, she would allow -- she worked with the Three Stooges and she said, "I learned one thing working with the Three Stooges, that celery up the nose really hurts. "
That's the sort of thing -- but she did it anyway.
COOPER: She did anyway.
KANFER: Yes. COOPER: Let's show the clip, the -- she and Ethel working at the chocolate factory, the legendary clip. Let's show that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVIAN VANCE, ACTRESS: Here she comes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My, you're doing splendidly. Speed it up a little!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, it's remarkable how much this stuff holds up. And you compare her to Charlie Chaplin in this scene.
KANFER: Yes, I think, indeed, she had -- you don't remember lines of Lucy until you're a really fanatic but you do remember the physical comedy. And I don't think anybody did it as well since Chaplin. I think she -- she was called, you know, a Marx sister and she was like the Marx brothers in that she could get into a scene and she would do it fearlessly. That's the bravery part. And she also, I think, was one of the people who was lucky in that she had a great straight man.
COOPER: And one of the first days of filming, you recount in your book, she went up to Vivian Vance and ripped off her false eyelashes.
KANFER: She said, only one person wears false eyelashes on the set -- me. And Vivian Vance was pretty shocked by it. And the director said, you know, She's pretty hard on you. Do you want me to say something? And Vance said, No, because if this show goes I'm going to learn to love that bitch.
KANFER: And she did learn to love her. Yes, she did. To the point where Lucy in the end began to lean on her for script judgment. Because Vivian Vance was a very astute (ph) student of comedy. She helped a lot.
COOPER: We're also -- we're going to show, we'll just talk over it. But we're going to show the grape episode, which is also one of the great legendary episodes.
KANFER: All right. I can tell you about that.
This is an actual -- a true grape stomper, this lady, at a time when everything was going mechanical. They got a real Italian grape stomper. And she started stomping grapes with Lucy and suddenly they got into a fight, a real fight and Lucy, she fell down as you see and they start really fighting in there and Lucy had to call cut because she was getting grape juice her ears and down her throat and all that. Everything was fine. They got started, once again, and they went back to fighting because this fat lady, really didn't believe this was anything but grim fighting. COOPER: Just remarkable.
KANFER: And Lucy, again, was very brave. She went through it all because she wanted the laughs.
COOPER: And it's not an understatement at all to say -- I mean, just a remarkable influence not only on comedy but on female comedians. I mean, she -- she paved the way.
KANFER: I think Lily Tomlin said that. There wouldn't be a Lily Tomlin and I think you could say Carol Burnett the same way.
But the difference is that Lucy really was quite beautiful. She was like Carole Lombard. She was able to transcend the beauty when she thought it was necessary.
COOPER: Well, the book is "Ball of Fire." It is a great work. Stefan Kanfer, appreciate you joining us.
KANFER: I'm very pleased to be here.
COOPER: All right.
KANFER: Thank you.
COOPER: Lucille Ball, a legend.
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