Biola University Newsletter: Perez House Sells (2005)

Saturday, October 1, 2005

The Perez House, home of the late Joanne and Pepito Perez, has been sold, along with a much of the memorabilia. In 2004, Joanne Perez left her entire estate to Biola University, specifically the Mass Comm department.  The Perez’s spent their lives in the entertainment industry and Joanne wanted her estate to benefit art, film, and television education. Pepito, a famous clown from Spain [known as “Pepito the Spanish Clown”], and Joanne, an accomplished dancer, pianist, and contortionist, performed together on the Vaudeville circuit. Pepito had a few small roles in the movies, and later trained Lucille Ball in the art of pantomime.  Pepito helped Lucy and Desi create the comedic act they would use on their pilot episode for the I Love Lucy show, and built the prop cello that Lucy used in both the pilot and episode six, “The Audition.”

The two couples remained good friends throughout their lives; Pepito and Desi shared a love for ocean fishing. In 1990, when Joanne realized she held the only film copy of the I Love Lucy pilot, she generously donated it to the Smithsonian.  (Desi had given it to Pepito.)  

The Perez’s also established a reputation for the dance studio they ran from their property in Santa Ana, presenting professional productions such as Hansel and Gretel and The Enchanted Forest to the community. In 1956, the elaborate sets and costumes designed and created by Pepito, as well as the dance studio students, were featured in episode #165,  “Little Ricky’s School Pageant” of the I Love Lucy show. After Pepito’s death in 1975, Joanne continued to run the dance studio until she was 92 in 2000.

The Perez home, built in the 1890’s, was relocated to Santa Ana in 1914. Due to the age, condition, and historical designation of the home, we were concerned we wouldn’t find a buyer, but the Lord provided. 

This estate was unique because it contained considerable Hollywood memorabilia, including the prop cello

and hundreds of photos, among the contents of the home. This required careful sorting because treasures were often hidden among the ordinary. Since Joanne had not been up to the two large attics in the house since Pepito’s death in 1975, it was like opening a time capsule. One side contained deteriorating costumes and props from the dance studio and the other side contained books, paperwork, celebrity photos, furniture, and lots of junk. Cats occupied one side and rats and opossums the other. It was a DIRTY job … but someone had to do it!  The overwhelming job of sorting and cleaning could not have been done without the help of parent volunteers: Robin Bjorkland, Laurie Fowler, and Bob and Pat Sikora; Biola staff: Gary Araujo, Martin Wixson, Rick Bee, and Peggy Rupple; and a few willing student workers. I started as a parent volunteer, but when the scope of the job became apparent, I was hired to archive, sort, clean, and market memorabilia for the estate. It has been an enriching and enlightening experience. I feel a little like a “History Detective”!

Recently we consigned much of the Lucy memorabilia to the Profiles In History Hollywood Auction. Again, the Lord provided and we sold our lots for an amount beyond our expectations. You can view our lots at, Hollywood from the early to mid 1900’s, and some household items. Please pray that God will lead us to the right sources. We praise God for Joanne’s generous gift to the University.

Put Your Assets to Work

by Rick Bee, Senior Director, Alumni and Friends

The legacy of giving an estate gift like that of Pepito and Joanne Perez can impact generations of Biola students to come, and ultimately have a significant kingdom impact.

We are excited about the potential the Perez Estate offers the Biola MCOM program. The University is indebted to the Parent Task Force members who helped to clean, catalog, and arrange the materials from the estate. So much work was done to make possible a smooth transfer of the estate to the department.

This gift brings into focus the need for each family to consider estate planning. The opportunity that we all have through planning to avoid estate taxes and ensure that our resources pass to those individuals or organizations that we desire, is often overlooked.

One of the services that Biola offers is a full estate-planning program. Whether you choose a simple will, a more detailed living trust, or a complete estate plan with numerous properties, businesses, or partnerships, Biola’s estate planning services can provide you with the professional counsel and legal assistance you will need. And, it’s Biola’s policy that if your intent is to gift at least 50% of your estate to the university, Biola will pay for the legal work to establish your trust or legal documents.

But the Perez Estate suggests an even greater and more immediate opportunity. You may think that your estate is too small, or that the lead-time is too long. Did you know that Biola became beneficiary of the Perez estate, not because of Joanne Perez’s relationship with Biola, but rather, because of her relationship with her friend, Marjory Fluor? Marjory knew that Joanne had no heirs and because of the Pepito and Joanne’s lifelong involvement with students and the arts, would want her estate to benefit others. Marjory suggested Biola’s MCOM program. We were able to provide Joanne with both the legal and spiritual support to confidently leave her estate to the school. Perhaps you know of someone who is in a similar situation, someone who would be blessed to leave all or part of their estate to Biola.

I hope you will consider how you might partner with Biola in impacting the future through Christian education at Biola. Feel free to call and discuss this with me at (562) 903-4737.


Biola University Newsletter, October, 2005

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