Orange County Register: Pepito, Joanne and Nancy Drew (2010)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ex-Student Unlocks Mystery of Couple’s Past.

The old house fascinated the girl long after her dancing days there ended. The majestic Victorian – a mansion it seemed – stood on the corner of Ross and 15th streets in Santa Ana. It was there, in the 1970s, that young Melani Motzkus studied dance in the house’s mahogany-paneled studio.

For a girl who loved Nancy Drew, the house – and the couple who lived there, Pepito and Joanne Perez – were sources of mystery.

Who were all those pretty people in all those photos on the walls? What was that glamorous life hinted at by their silent presence?

Who were Pepito and Joanne?

“I was imagining that life, of being in showbiz in the 1920s and 1930s, but I was too shy to ask anything about it,” says a now grown-up Melani Carty.

Some 30 years later, in 2003, Carty, who had moved to Virginia, sat at her home computer and looked up her old teacher’s name on Google. As she searched, Carty could still hear Joanne’s gentle-but-firm soprano count out the dance steps: “… 5-6-7-8!”

Then, when an Orange County phone number popped up on her screen, Carty hesitated. “What if I did pick up the phone? And what if I did talk to her and … ask her about all those pictures?

“I thought ‘She’s probably 300 years old by now’.”

Still, Carty dialed. And Joanne, then 95 and still living in the house where the Pepito and Joanne Academy of Dance had held court for several decades – the house where an aging Joanne had been carried from a wheelchair to her piano bench to greet arriving students – answered.

Carty and Joanne talked for three hours that day, and they had two more phone calls later that summer.

All the while, Carty scribbled notes.


The story Carty learned went something like this:

Jose Escobar Perez and Margaret Janet Zettler – Pepito and Joanne’s real names – were both successful in their own right before they met in Hollywood.

Already a favorite in his native Spain, and a hit as he traveled through Cuba and Mexico, Pepito came to the United States in 1922 and found fame on vaudeville.

Joanne, born in Milwaukee, had hit the stage young. As a child, after her father died, she worked to support her mother and herself, using various stage names as a dancer, contortionist, singer and pianist. In 1926, “Joann Falcy, The Twisting Marvel” played the Yost Broadway Theater at Fourth Street and Broadway in Santa Ana. A Santa Ana Register article described her as “a clever and talented acrobatic dancer, whose reputation is national.”

In 1928, Pepito and Joanne were both hired for a pull-out-the-stops stage show performed at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the live-act opener for the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s silent film, “The Circus.”

Pepito and Joanne teamed up on Chaplin’s suggestion. Their act highlighted Joanne’s flexibility. He’d wheel a wooden box on stage and out would pop Joanne as a “mechanical” doll, who could bend in any direction before being stuffed back in the box.

“She was about 5 (feet), 1 (inch) and maybe 100 pounds. She had a mop of naturally curly blonde hair, alabaster skin and blue eyes,” Carty says. “She already looked like a doll.”

They married six months later and, as a couple, earned as much as $1,000 a week. As the movies killed vaudeville, Pepito and Joanne played nightclubs and other engagements, such as the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago. They vacationed at a cottage in Newport Beach.

They settled in Orange County in 1941, and bought the house in Santa Ana in the early 50s. Joanne taught ballet and Pepito ran a charter fishing business. Pepito’s fishing clients included many of his Hollywood friends – most especially Desi Arnaz.

Pepito and Joanne became close to both Arnaz and Lucille Ball. Pepito helped develop the routine that Desi and Lucy later performed on a tour they undertook to convince sponsors to back their idea for a TV show about a Cuban bandleader married to a zany redhead. Pepito also appeared, later, on “I Love Lucy.”

Pepito and Joanne could not have children of their own. But there were all those girls (and occasional boys) that Joanne taught to dance, and for whom Pepito created fantastic props and sets. They performed shows, with the children, at venues as diverse as the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles and the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

“She was a very warm and loving person, but firm about dance classes,” says Shirley Gardner of North Tustin who studied at Pepito and Joanne’s house in the 1950s. Students, Gardner explained, would “do what (Joanne) said” and “didn’t goof around.”

Gardner later befriended Joanne, who was left alone after Pepito died in 1975.

“There aren’t a lot of people as talented as Pepito and Joanne.”


Carty didn’t try to phone Joanne again until about a year after their initial conversations. When Carty tried to find the lost phone number, again using Google, she saw her old teacher’s name attached to an estate sale. Joanne had died in April, 2004.

But that didn’t end Carty’s curiosity.

Two years later, Carty successfully bid on eBay for boxes containing Pepito and Joanne’s old vaudeville contracts, reel-to-reel movies of dance recitals and shows, newspaper clippings, publicity photos and personal snapshots.

“Everything you would wish for if you want to make a documentary is here,” she says.

She set up a website, pepitoandjoanne.com, to chronicle what she’s learned, and to make contact with other former students.

The Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society contacted Carty when they decided to include Pepito as a character in this year’s Historical Cemetery Tour, to be held Oct. 23 at the place where Pepito and Joanne are buried, Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana.

On the tour, costumed actors from Orange County High School of the Arts will perform graveside scenes based on the theme “Strangers In a Strange Land: Immigrants Who Shaped Orange County.”

Pepito has been featured in an earlier Cemetery Tour. But this year’s scene will emphasize the couple’s life together, including their connection to Lucy and Desi.

“For the first time,” Carty says, “she’s the lead and he’s the foil.”

Roberta Reed, co-chair of the tour and treasurer for the Historical Society, adds:

“They were together for 50 years. Really, in a lot of ways, it was Joanne who kept his name alive.”

Now it’s Carty who is keeping alive the names of Pepito and Joanne, piecing together clues from her archive in true Nancy Drew fashion.

“I’m having a ball with this – ‘The Secret of the Old Mansion.'”


My Pepito & Joanne project was the subject of three features and two photo galleries in The Orange County Register and on their website in 2010, all of which are reproduced here at PepitoAndJoanne.com. The OC Register is based in my hometown, Santa Ana, California, the same city that Pepito and Joanne called home from 1950 onward.  It is my hope to reach many former students of the Pepito & Joanne Academy of Dance. — Melani Carty

Melani Carty invites you to find and reconnect with old friends from Pepito & Joanne days on Facebook. Learn more about the “I Love Lucy” lost pilot episode that includes Pepito Perez doing a clown act. Or read about the 1956 “I Love Lucy: Little Ricky’s School Pageant” episode that included students from the Pepito & Joanne Academy of Dance.

And here’s a Pepito & Joanne Academy of Dance recital at the Balboa Bay Club from 1957. This is a silent film that Melani Carty digitized from an 8 millimeter home movie reel that is part of her Pepito and Joanne collection.


The Orange County Register, October 18, 2010, page 1. http://www.ocregister.com/articles/-271727–.html


Monday, October 18, 2010

Melani Carty

I want to profusely thank staff writer Theresa Walker, her team leader Andre Mouchard, her deputy editor Rebecca Allen, photo editor Kari Hall, photographer Elizabeth Dodd, and The OC Register’s editor Ken Brusic, for publishing this piece about Pepito & Joanne. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – 12:08 PM

paloma mansfield

Years ago I went several tiems before the beautiful house and wondered about Pepito. Such a familiar diminutive in my country of origin, Spain. Somehow, in despite of being a faitful O C Register, I missed the articles about Pepito and Joanne. And, lo and behold, this morning, thanks to you, I am connected with such great people and to top it all friends also of my beloved Lucy and Ricky. What richness we have through the web and people like them and you.Now I am wondering about Fermin Valencia, restoring that house. Thanks to him too. I intend to visit often the web and go and look at the house since I live in Fullerton.

May you keep on dancing the beautiful steps that they taught you and sharing your writing and organizing talents with the rest of us.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – 02:47 PM

Jerry Manson

Dear Melani,

Really enjoyed your interview in the Orange County Register and also your web page.

In the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s I worked at Campbell’s Photo Center on North Main Street in Santa Ana.

Both Joanne and Pepito were are customers.  Whether alone or together I can still remember their stops at the store to have film developed or photos enlarged.

I was even invited to their studio/home.  A wonderful place.

I was A LOT younger back then and didn’t realize what treasurers these folks were.

Keep up the web site it’s like keeping a wonderful & colorful couple alive.

…Jerry Manson

(Using a Mac too!)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – 05:12 PM

Lyn Walker

I saw the great article on Pepito & Joanne in The Register newspaper today.  I was also one of those girls dancing at their studio in the late 60’s early 70’s.  Joanne was fabulous- – and an amazing dancer –of course I thought she was elderly then to me as a kid and she could still do the splits–just amazing!  Rosalind Chao and I were dance partners and Joanne make us work hard. Rosalind of course has gone on to have a very successful acting career.  Pepito and Joanne had a theatrical atmosphere, lots of pictures of Lucy and Desi and wonderful stories to share….truly a great couple!

Thank you so much for such a special website and tribute to them- – my experience with them gave me such wonderful memories … I appreciate all your hard work- — keep it up!  Thanks again.

Lyn Walker

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – 06:39 PM

Kimberly Kitashima

Hi Melani

I wanted to contact you regarding the website for Pepito and Joanne. I think it is awesome. It brings back a lot of great memories.  I was Miss Joanne’s ballet student for 13 years. I think I might have some more photos that I can send to you.  I already posted a comment on Pepito and Joanne’s Facebook page as well. I can’t tell you all the memories that are rushing back to me. It brings tears to my eyes, tears of joy.  I haven’t danced ballet since the late 80’s but like I said Miss Joanne had a huge impact on me.  You’ve done a great job on the website and your research.  Thank you!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – 08:29 PM

Lori Coss

I read the article today in The Register and had to smile at all the good memories I have of taking ballet lessons from Joanne in the 60’s.  I probably took lessons from her for five or more years and still remember the studio very well – all of the pictures of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball above the ballet mirrors.  I can also see Joanne sitting at the piano giving us instructions as we pirouetted across the room.  I also remember how she used to demonstrate her doing the splits!!!  I was very impressed!  I went to junior high across the street from her studio so I would occasionally see her in the yard – she never seemed to change.  And as a young girl, I always wondered what it looked like up those grand stairs inside her home.  She must have been in her mid fifties (my age) when I was there,  I also remember seeing Pepito puttering around the house every now and then – he was very nice.  He was Pepito the Clown in some of the I Love Lucy episodes and I do remember making that connection even back then.  I can’t wait to go through this website – it will be fun reminiscing!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010 – 01:47 AM

Dennis Halloran

I grew up in that neighborhood and knew the house. I probably delivered the Santa Ana Register or Santa Ana Globe to that house.

I don’t remember meeting them unless it was through St Joseph’s School where I graduated in 1952.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010 – 02:32 PM


Wow…what fun it was to see and hear about Pepito and Joanne. My mom just sent me the article from Oct. 10 in the Register about the project you are doing. I attended the dance studio for about 5 years. Aprox. 1985-1990. I have a lot of pictures and video footage from the different recitals. Let me know if you would like me to send them to you. I have such fond memories of singing and dancing there. It was such an important part of me growing up. Thanks for sharing.

Joanne’s Little Black Vaudeville Scrapbook (2022)

Today, February 16, 2022, marks the 126th birthday of “Pepito, the Spanish Clown,” Jose Escobar Perez. Today is also the birthday of his grand-niece, Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas of Barcelona, Spain. Feliz Cumplaños, Marivi! Besos!

Marivi graciously loaned to me for digitization, Joanne’s Little Black Vaudeville Scrapbook, a time capsule documenting Pepito & Joanne’s stage career, 1928 to 1942. To celebrate Marivi’s birthday today, I am posting Joanne’s scrapbook, with extensive annotations.

Side Note to Marivi: I was able to restore one missing page and one missing photograph back into the scrapbook. Both items must have come loose somehow after Joanne’s passing in 2004, and ended up in a box of items I bought on eBay in 2006. Thank you, Marivi, for trusting me to scan the scrapbook and return it to you. You are a kind, generous and patient lady.

Many decades ago, Joanne Perez created the photo collages in her Little Black Vaudeville Scrapbook from assorted small candid photographs, and tiny “proof” photos from sessions with studio photographers. I can imagine her relaxing with Pepito in their hotel room after a show in Peoria or Cucamonga, expertly trimming some of the pictures, carefully brushing the reverse sides of with smelly rubber cement to glue them, and doodling with her white pencil on the black pages. Her work with those tiny scissors from her sewing kit gave the scrapbook an adorably quaint “paper doll” mood.

Besides being an incredibly personal item to Joanne, her Little Black Vaudeville Scrapbook is also a cultural artifact. It encapsulates the declining economy of the 1930s and its negative effect on the entire field of vaudeville entertainment. These behind-the-scenes snapshots are from the perspective of two top vaudevillians, formerly affluent, struggling with the limited employment opportunities of the 1930s, working hard to make ends meet.

Spoiler alert: Pepito and Joanne, “The Wise Cracker and His Tough Cookie,” ultimately not only survived, but thrived in their “second act,” their so-called “retirement years.”

Read on ….


Summer of 1928, On Tour in Australia
Thanks to their new William Morris agent, Pepito and Joanne were booked on a prestigious six-month tour on the Tivoli Vaudeville Circuit in Australia. They packed up their crates of backdrops, stage props, their miniature automobile, and their menagerie of trained animals, and sailed by ship to The Down Under. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

At this time, Pepito and Joanne’s 34-minute act was the “family friendly” portion of the evening’s bill of entertainment. Their specialty was “wow”-ing children and their parents with trained animal tricks, unicycles, juggling, vocal imitations of animals, Joanne’s contortionist feats as a rubber doll and a mechanical doll, and their eye-popping backdrops and unusual props.

Summer of 1928, On Tour in Australia
Pepito and Joanne toured Australia for six months on the Tivoli vaudeville circuit, accompanied by their two assistants, Clifford Combes and Duffy, and then returned to California by steamship. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

During the 1928-1931 time period, Pepito and Joanne also performed at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the New York Hippodrome Theater (demolished 1951) and The Palace Theater in New York City, plus all of the biggest theater-houses in the Orpheum vaudeville chain from coast-to-coast. Pepito was hailed as the first “clown of the vaudeville stage, not of a circus.”

Pepito and Joanne were almost at the apex of vaudeville from 1930 to 1931, with second billing to huge talents such as vocalist and recording star Ruth Etting, and famous Broadway husband-and-wife song and dance team of Eva Puck and Sammy White. In this time period, they were earning the dizzying sum of $1,000.00 a week, which, adjusting for inflation, is equal to almost a million dollars per year today.

Pepito the Spanish Clown Buying Lion Kittens at Goebel’s Lion Farm, Thousand Oaks, California, 1930
Not realizing that the stock market crash of 1929 would lead to a long-term economic depression, Pepito decided in 1930 to add some excitement to his act by buying a kitten. A lion kitten. Actually, two lion kittens, purchased from Goebel’s Lion Farm in Thousand Oaks, California. The kittens in the miniature circus cage trailer were pulled by Pepito’s tiny 1926 Monroe Pezel “midget automobile,” and the driver is Pepito in his lion costume. Pepito was a master at self-promotion. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.
1931 – World-Famous Top-Selling Vocalist Ruth Etting, Bottle-Feeding One of Pepito and Joanne’s Lion Cubs, Backstage at The Palace Theater
in Times Square, New York. Pepito and Joanne were appearing on the same star-studded bill, along with famous tap dancer Bill Robinson and other top acts of the day. The Palace Theater was considered the career apex of vaudeville. Joanne said that once a performer “played the Palace,” they would never again need to audition for a booking. Unfortunately, the Great Depression was in its early stages, soon to change everything for Pepito and Joanne and vaudeville as a form of America entertainment. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

The Great Depression, caused by the U.S. stock market crash in 1929, spelled doom for vaudeville in the 1930s. Live vaudeville stage performances, often termed “Ballyhoos,” which preceded the featured motion picture, had been the typical programming of fine movie houses for years. But, as the economy worsened, theater owners began tightening their belts and reducing their budgets, bit by bit. The obvious place to start whittling the budget, was the Ballyhoo.

1932 – Costumes and Props from Pepito and Joanne New Act “The Parade of the Wooden Soldier.”
The “bull” is actually a dog in a bull costume, specially trained to perform a mock-bullfight with Pepito playing the toreador. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

First came the salary cuts for vaudeville performers, later followed by sporadic scheduling and sudden booking cancellations. Eventually, theater owners eliminated live performers altogether, switching to a more-affordable format of newsreels and two films. This was the beginning-of-the-end of the vaudeville era.

1932 – Costumes and Antics from “The Rag Doll Dance
Pepito the Spanish Clown would pretend to toss and roll Joanne around the stage, and she used her acrobatic skills to tie herself in knots to amuse the audience. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

Unfortunately, Pepito must have expected the economic downturn to be only temporary. He continued to spend money like an A-list celebrity. Expenses included new costumes; their audiences expected new comedy routines several times a year. The daily price was astronomical for fresh meat to feed their menagerie of performing lions. Extensive railroad shipping costs were incurred to move their numerous stage backdrops, props, and his tiny “theatrical automobile” from engagement to engagement.

America was experiencing increasing unemployment and food insecurity. Joanne was the “saver” and Pepito was the “spender.” Pepito continued to spend lavishly not only on their act, but on himself. In 1930 he bought a new top-of-the-line Packard phaeton-type touring car, so that they would no longer have to commute by railroad. And in 1931 he splurged on a Matthews 38 foot yacht, customized for his deep sea fishing hobby.


The harsh economic reality of the early 1930s, coupled with the rise of popularity of talking motion pictures, progressively led to the demise of vaudeville as an entertainment form. As belts everywhere tightened, Pepito and Joanne by necessity parted with most of their performing menagerie of animals, including their pet lions. They sold their beloved custom-built boat “The Phantom” to a Los Angeles area insurance agent. Eventually they had to sell the Packard too.

By 1933-1934, it was the deepest part of the Great Depression. Pepito and Joanne could no longer afford to pay their two assistants, Clifford Combes and Duffy. Living almost hand-to-mouth, they traveled as a pair, by train to Chicago, on the off-chance of being hired for the 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fair, also called A Century of Progress International Exposition. Joanne wrote a letter to her mother from their Chicago hotel, saying that if they didn’t score a booking, she and Pepito had no idea what to try next. They were deeply grateful when they landed a coveted multi-week booking as sidewalk entertainers in the “Italian Village” area of the Fair.

1934 at the Chicago World’s Fair
Souvenir snapshots of Pepito and Joanne performing a song and dance with maracas. To deal with the midwestern heat, Pepito swapped out his usual clown costume for summer attire and a sombrero. Joanne tried out a new look. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

Joanne sewed herself an eye-popping tight skirt, held up with a sexy belt that revealed the curves of her hips, and a bolero-style top made of see-through mesh, ruffles, and strategically-placed sequins. Joanne danced and sang all day with Pepito, outdoors in the Italian Village section of the Fair.

1934 at the Chicago World’s Fair
The top center snapshot shows a wall of Sally Rand publicity photos in the Italian Village. The curly-haired young dancer is Joanne. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.
1934 at the Chicago World’s Fair
Joanne probably was influenced to make herself some more-revealing costumes after seeing the financially successful and famous erotic dancer Sally Rand, who was also a performer at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. Sally Rand, still famous today, was credited with “Saving the Chicago World’s Fair” by becoming its scandalous main attraction, with her famously provocative and sometimes nude “fan dance.” Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

At night, Sally Rand took over the main stage of the nearby Streets of Paris exhibit and performed her fan dance, which drew record-breaking crowds from Chicago — and even out-of-state visitors. From time to time, Sally Rand would do her fan dance in the nude, which usually resulted in a publicity-generating arrest for public indecency. On nights that she didn’t wish to be arrested by the Chicago Police Department, Rand wore (according to Joanne) a flesh-toned body stocking, invisible under the bright spotlights, but just enough “clothing” to keep her out of jail.

Pepito, who like Joanne was looking for new inspiration, cleverly invented his own “travesty act” (comic impersonation) of Sally Rand. Both Rand and the Fair management loved it. Pepito’s job description was expanded to include entertaining the daytime crowds with “his version” of Sally Rand’s iconic fan dance. Pepito’s “parody dance” was performed with large feathered fans, clown makeup, hilarious tights covered in shaggy “leg hair” made of black yarn, his naked torso — and the finishing touch, a stogie cigar clenched between his teeth.

1934 at the Chicago World’s Fair
Pepito the Spanish Clown doing his “travesty” (comedic parody) of erotic fan dancer Sally Rand at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

After the 1934 World’s Fair concluded, Pepito and Joanne and hundreds of other employees were laid off. Forced to look for other ways to make a buck, they accepted any bookings they could get, including a (so far unexplained) appearance at the Hollywood High School auditorium in 1935 for some sort of event that included someone else’s elephant and zebra.

1935- Joanne at Hollywood High School
Joanne poses with someone’s else’s elephant and zebra on the staircase landing outside the Hollywood High School auditorium. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

As the 1930s crept along, the U.S economy was slowly improving. Pepito and Joanne accepted a one-week outdoor entertainment gig at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, and a “Circus Follies” show at the 1936 Vancouver Exposition in Canada, interspersed with other small engagements, earning a pittance compared to their salary in their glory days.

1936 – Pepito and Joanne in their “Circus Follies” Show at the Vancouver Exposition
Their unidentified assistant might be acrobat Clifford Combes. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.
1936 – Pepito and Joanne as the “Rubber Lady” and “Strong Man” in their “Circus Follies” Show at the Vancouver Exposition
One of the two unidentified assistants might be acrobat Clifford Combes. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

Despite the belt-tightening and downsizing, Pepito was unable to avoid bankruptcy in 1936. Pepito was forced by the bankruptcy court to liquidate all of his possessions. Cleverly, at the bankruptcy sale, Joanne used her savings to buy back all their props, costumes, and the miniature automobile that served as Pepito’s signature clown car. In an interesting turn of events, the act was now fully owned by Joanne, and Pepito was technically her employee.


In 1936 and 1937, Pepito and Joanne dipped their toes into something new: lavish stage revues or “road shows.” Was this the result of Joanne taking the reins? Joanne had previous experience in the early 1930s as a freelance choreographer for stage extravaganzas at The Roxy Theater in New York City (demolished in 1960). Similar to vaudeville, large stage revues were done in theaters, but the performers were hired to as a pre-packaged “block” of acts by an independent producer. In this case, Pepito and Joanne were “the producers” and were also performers in their own road show, which they named “Circus Follies.” Top billing went to “Babe Egan and Her Hollywood Redheads,” a talented all-female band, way ahead of their time in changing gender expectations about big band musicians. Pepito wisely gave himself second billing.

Producing their own “Circus Follies” road show with dozens of employees was, of course, a huge financial undertaking, and also a logistical and management headache. Whether Pepito and Joanne turned a profit is unknown, but at least they were providing employing to a number of their friends.

1935 – Pepito and Joanne in the alley behind a theater in Vancouver, B.C, Canada.
1936 – Special marquee boards outside the theater, handprinted by Pepito to advertise their road show “Circus Follies.”
1937 – Pepito in full clown costume and makeup; Joanne in showgirl-style dress, outside a venue in Salt Lake City.
1938 – Joanne dancing at a nightclub in San Francisco, probably Club 365.
Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

In perhaps her biggest pivot to date, for “Circus Follies” Joanne abandoned her Dancing Doll and Rubber Lady routines, savvily transforming herself into “Trini,” a tastefully acrobatic dancer. With her lovely short-skirted costumes, and impossible dance moves — including her signature vertical splits — Joanne’s fame as “Trini” began to precede her, leading to a new stage of their careers: nightclub bookings.


The economy did slowly improve in the later 1930s, but vaudeville never did bounce back. By 1937-1938, Pepito and Joanne were performing at intimate nightclubs. This required them to retool their acts yet again, for a different performance space and a different target audience. This time around, they focused on new, adult-oriented routines centered around just the two of them together doing comedy musical numbers and dancing. They literally reduced their baggage, eliminating background scrims and large props, putting the focus more tightly on their talents. Pepito scaled back his clown greasepaint in favor of more-subtle stage makeup and humorous putty noses. “Trini” was the grande finale of their act.

Late-1930s Publicity Photographs of Pepito and Joanne
Note that Joanne is wearing an upturned putty nose to give her the look of a “snooty” vocalist. Pepito is wearing a pared-down version of his famous clown makeup, with a long-tailed tuxedo. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.
Late-1930s Publicity Photograph of Joanne Perez
In costume as a perfectionist singer, but without the putty nose. Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

In 1938, Pepito’s second career began; he was cast in several small character roles in motion pictures. (See Pepito’s Filmography). The couple began limiting their nightclub bookings to the California/Nevada area to stay closer to Hollywood, just in case Pepito’s agent telegraphed him with a new role.

Circa-1938, Joanne Perez as “Trini” the Acrobatic Dancer
Performing in the Midnight Revue at Bimbo’s 365 Club, In San Francisco, California. Detail of above scrapbook page, courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

From 1938-1942 Pepito and Joanne primarily worked in nightclubs, in particular a stint at Bimbo’s 365 Club, a classy venue for dinner and a floor show in San Francisco, founded in 1931. It was at Bimbo’s 365 Club that Pepito and Joanne met and became close friends with Rita Cansino, a young Spanish dancer who later was discovered by a movie studio and renamed Rita Hayworth.

Circa 1939, Joanne Perez Dancing as “Trini”
Scrapbook page, courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.
Circa 1939, Joanne Perez Dancing as “Trini”
Detail of above scrapbook page, courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.
Circa 1939, Joanne Perez Dancing as “Trini”
Detail of above scrapbook page, courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.
Circa 1940 Newspaper advertisement for Pepito and Joanne at Papiano’s Cafe nightclub, Salt Lake City, Utah
Color xerox of a page in Pepito’s now-lost scrapbook. Image courtesy of Pocha Pena.
Circa 1940 – Joanne Perez’s Final Publicity Photograph, As “Trini” the Acrobatic Dancer
Photo courtesy of Melani Carty.
May 8, 1942 – Pepito Heads Bill at the Club Stevadora in Detroit.
The final page in the scrapbook. Could this have been Pepito and Joanne’s final engagement before retiring to their beach cottage? Scrapbook page courtesy of Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas.

After working in nightclub revues for a few years, the start of World War II in 1941 prompted Pepito and Joanne to take stock of their lives. In 1942 they officially retired from “the road,” and their Balboa Island vacation cottage became their year-round home. Pepito opened a successful charter fishing business, and Joanne began her (ultimately decades-spanning career) as a dance teacher out of a studio in their converted garage.

One day in the summer of 1942, Pepito’s actress friend from RKO Studios, and her Cuban bandleader husband, docked their boat in Pepito and Joanne’s slip, having been invited to drop by if they were ever in the area. And therein lies another story …

Now that you have seen all of the pages of Joanne’s Little Black Vaudeville Scrapbook, perhaps you can help solve the Mystery of Pepito’s Missing Scrapbook. It is heartbreaking that this huge scrapbook, the Rosetta Stone of every detail of their careers, is currently missing. I cling to my hopes that it is not lost forever, and that the present owner will find this website on a search engine. If you have any clues to its whereabouts, please contact Melani Carty, if only to reassure me that it is somewhere safe and dry.

The Mystery of Pepito’s Missing Scrapbook (2009)

Thursday, May 28, 2009 After the death of Joanne Perez, her entire estate was liquidated, and the proceeds benefitted Biola University in Southern California.  One of the items that was sold was Pepito’s scrapbook.  The current whereabouts of this fabulous scrapbook are unknown.  It is my hope that the current owner will contact me, and consider…

How Lucille Ball Went From B-Movie Queen to Comedy Superstar (2021)

The surprising true story of how TV’s funniest woman got that way — and why you won’t see it in “Being the Ricardos.”

By Mark Peikert,

December 20, 2021.

Lucille Ball wasn’t a natural comic genius. Her true brilliance lay in recognizing that fact, and surrounding herself with people who made her look like one.

“I’m not funny. What I am is brave,” she once said. In truth, Ball was funny—watch one of the comedies from her hit-or-miss film career and you’ll get a sense of her own dry sense of humor. But as Aaron Sorkin’s new film Being the Ricardos (streaming now on Amazon Prime) makes clear, Lucille Ball was not the Lucy Ricardo of I Love Lucy, a zany housewife getting into scrapes with best pal Ethel Mertz. At the initial table read for each episode of the CBS series, Ball couldn’t get a laugh. And over and over in the film, Nicole Kidman’s Ball says, “I’ll get it by Friday.”

Finish the article on Town And Country Magazine’s website:


The Cello Museum: Pepito and a Cello Helped Launch One of the Most Popular TV Shows of All Time (2020)

Without this “loaded” cello, the most popular TV show of all time might never have existed.

It was 1951 and due to prejudice in America at the time, it had taken 10 years for Lucille Ball to get a chance to co-star with her Cuban-American husband, Desi Arnaz. CBS gave them only one month to prepare a pilot to see if they could get a sponsor for their TV show. Since they were so short on time and Lucille was about four months pregnant, they decided to use an act they had put together for their vaudeville shows.

They turn to vaudeville – and a vaudeville cello – for inspiration…

Back in the spring of 1950, they decided to see how the public reacted to their acting together, so they put together a “Mr. and Mrs.” vaudeville act. Their friend Pepito Perez, a famous Spanish clown, taught Lucille his act using a cello. This wasn’t just any cello – Pepito had customized it to have special features …


The Cello Museum, https://cellomuseum.org/a-cello-helped-launch-one-of-the-most-popular-tv-shows-of-all-time/

With warm thanks to CelloMuseum.org for the opportunity to be interviewed for this article, and for linking back to PepitoAndJoanne.com.

VIDEO: Lucille Ball Biographer Kathleen Brady Explains Pepito’s Involvement In How “I Love Lucy” Came to Be (2019)

From the “Great Lives” lecture series at Mary Washington University, watch author Kathleen Brady recount the life and career of Lucille Ball, and how the television series “I Love Lucy” was created in 1951. For details on about Pepito’s involvement in the production of the audition (pilot) episode, scroll the video to minute 35:00.

The fascinating story of how the kinescoped recording of the 1951 audition for “I Love Lucy” was “missing” for decades, and later presented to CBS in 1990 by Pepito’s widow Joanne Perez, is the subject of multiple posts on PepitoAndJoanne.com.

Available in paperback and Kindle versions.

About Kathleen Brady

Kathleen Brady is the author of the critically well-received “Lucille, The Life of Lucille Ball.” She also wrote “Ida Tarbell: Portrait of a Muckraker.” In recognition of this work she was named a Fellow of the Society of American Historians. Her website is http://www.kathleenbrady.net. She blogs at presentinthecity.com.
Photo Credit: Michelle Bergman

Pepito & Joanne Story Treatment Registration With the Writers Guild of America (2014)

Excited to say that I have registered my Pepito & Joanne story treatment with the Writer’s Guild.  It feels good to have finally reached that milestone after researching since 2003.  But of course I will rewrite and revise, so I am still seeking more info about the lives of these amazing vaudevillians.  Every little detail adds more depth to their story.  If you knew Pepito or Joanne, please email me.

–Melani Carty

Escobar Cousins Reunion (2013)

by Marivi Escobar Santo Tomas,

Grand-niece of Pepito, the Spanish Clown (Jose Escobar Perez)

What a pity Pepito and Joanne aren’t here anymore.  So long I have talked to Joanne for years and never could I comment anything of all this appearing in the newspapers. I had only her narratives from the past.  She was so fond of her family in Spain she had known at her 74!  She always phoned and greeted me for my birthday. I miss her card from abroad that day.  But she has brought me in knowledge to you!

Here in Spain, when somebody is speaking from anyone absent at that moment we say his or her years will whistle.  Didn’t yours whistle a fortnight ago (on Pepito and Joanne’s wedding anniversary)?

Raymond and Annie, his wife, came home at the beach for almost 6 days. My husband and I have just come back home in Terrassa last Wednesday.  I sent you an SMS from my phone when Raymond was with us, but maybe it didn’t arrive, because I’m sure “we” had got an answer.

We spent a really good time. We visited the roman Tarragona and the villages around. Not in a hurry. There was time for everything.Bathing, resting, walking… We have got an age!!

He took photos everywhere and when we sat relaxed at the restaurants our conversation was for Melani.

He said he would do a monument of you, for letting us be known each other.  As we didn’t get an answer to the phone message Raymond told me that on going back home, he would write to you.  So all that will be a good anniversary for Pepito and Joanne in heaven, since the day you found us, the family in Spain, and later my cousin Escobar.

I love you and expect to see you personally one day. Maybe when your book appears.

It was the week from the 16th September to the 20th, 2013.  We could still bathe at the beach and visited the roman walls of Tarragona and its Gothic cathedral.  One day I’ll show them to you. I’m sure.

Last year Raymond and wife came to Spain to visit the places he had discovered where our ancestros had lived. All that he has discovered in these four years.  He is always sending me more and more information about my grand grand grand parents, etc. Where they got married, who with. Where the graves from my grand-grandmother is … incredible !!

And driving back to France I told him we would join him on his way back home.  We met in Zaragoza, where I introduced three more cousins to him, who live there. Two brothers and one sister. Now in their 80s.  One is the highest degree from the army, (general) the other is second degree (coronel), and the sister is mezzo-soprano. She sang in Teatro del Liceo of Barcelona.  He was so proud to meet those important cousins. He spoke long about opera with our cousin Celia and they drove back home happy to know more family. They thanked me of going and introducing the cousins because, if they had gone alone, maybe they wouldn’t have had such reception.

So, this year, by chance, on Saturday 21st September 2013, my eldest cousin General Jaime Esain Escobar (you can see about him in the web), celebrated his 85th anniversary. My husband and I were invited to Zaragoza for the occasion, and knowing Raymond and his wife Annie were with us, they invited to them too.  So on Sunday 21st, we travelled together to Zaragoza and stayed at the hotel where my cousin celebrated the lunch. Raymond was on the clouds, because he met all the second and third generation below us. Most of them of the army too and studying the highest courses to get into the headquarters in Madrid.  So he joked on saying when somebody would annoy him when he was in Spain he would say he had some important authorities in the family.  My cousin Jaime offered them a CD of Spanish music and his sister, another one from herself singing opera. We offered them a lot of Spanish eating products.

We had still time to go around Zaragoza and take the tourist bus, and the next day they drove to San Sebastian and we, back home.  ALL THESE DAYS WERE FANTASTIC.

“Little Ricky’s School Pageant” 1956 Signed Cast Photo from Lucy and Desi to Pepito and Joanne (2013)

I Love Lucy” cast signed photograph of the “Enchanted Forest” school recital featured within “I Love Lucy” Episode 163 “Little Ricky’s School Pageant” (Season 6, Episode 10), Desilu, 1956. Sold by Heritage Auctions in 2013 for $6,600.00. This photo hung on the wall of Joanne’s dance studio from 1956 until her estate was liquidated after her death in 2004.

Inscriptions include “Our Love and Gratitude To Joanne and Pepito From Lucy and Desi,” “Love From the Fairy Princess Vivian Vance,” “Special Best From Bill Frawley,” and “Richard Keith.”

Auction description: This 13 x 10.75 in. photograph of the entire cast from the I Love Lucy episode “Little Ricky’s School Pageant” including Lucy being flown above the stage as a witch on a broom. In a rare gesture, the entire lead cast has signed the mat with inscription to Pepito and his wife Joanne by Vivian Vance, Bill Frawley, Lucy, Desi and there’s even the childish signature of a young Richard Keith who played “Little Ricky Ricardo”. Pepito was the clown that starred in the I Love Lucy original pilot episode. Light toning on edges. Overall, very good condition. 

Source: Heritage Auctions website at https://entertainment.ha.com/itm/movie-tv-memorabilia/i-love-lucy-cast-signed-photograph-to-pepito-the-clown/a/997009-1030.s#

Were you one of the children in this production of Pepito & Joanne’s “Enchanted Forest” on “I Love Lucy”? Please leave a comment below and contact me!

Related posts:

Pepito’s Filmography: “I Love Lucy: Little Ricky’s School Pageant” (1956)

Monday, December 17, 1956 I Love Lucy, Season 6, Episode 163, filmed October 25, 1956 at Ren-Mar Studio., aired December 17, 1956. The Ricardos and the Mertzes get more involved than they anticipated in Little Ricky’s school pageant, “The Enchanted Forest.”  The sets and costumes for the pageant were designed by Pepito Perez, and choreography…

Pocharte: Pepito the Clown & Joanne the Dancer (2012)

August 19, 2012

Sandra “Pocha” Pena blogged on her “Pocharte” WordPress blog about her 2004 personal interviews with Joanne Perez. “Joanne was a dancer who fell in love with a Spanish clown her mother was dating.  This was way back in the 1920’s so the clown, Pepito, called upon his pal Charlie Chaplin to have Joanne perform in his film premier “Ballyhoo” at the [Grauman’s] Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  The invite was such an honor, Joanne’s mother didn’t protest. The dancer played a wind-up doll alongside Pepito, and fell madly in love with him.  The two began a torrid love-affair that very day.  Needing some distance from her jilted mom, the teenage ballerina and her clown beau settled in Orange County, a charming town an hour south of LA. I interviewed Joanne about a year before she died, and still vividly remember all the stories she told of old Hollywood in Santa Ana, their hangout at the Santora Arts Building and the intoxicating scent of orange blossoms.”

Read Pocha’s blog entry at http://pocharte.wordpress.com/2012/08/19/pepito-the-clown-joanne-the-dancer/

Pepito, Joanne, and Daniger’s Tea Room at the Santora Building in Santa Ana, California (2012)

July 7, 2012

On Saturday, July 7th, the Santora Arts Building celebrated 84 years with a 1920’s-inspired themed celebration which kicked off a month-long celebration highlighting the history of the building from 1928 to the present.  Showcased was a dazzling array of fine art, music, cars, film, and fashions of a bygone era, as well as a tour of old-time “speakeasys” like Proof, that still stand today.  Two large (12 foot) showcase windows in the lobby of the Santora featured displays of the building’s history, its unique architectural design, and the artists/celebrities that were part of its legacy,including Pepito and Joanne Perez of the Pepito & Joanne Academy of Dance.

“Famous Spanish clown PEPITO met DESI and LUCY while at RKO Studios.  After quitting show business, Pepito and his wife, JOANNE, bought and restores an old Victorian mansion on Ross Street in Santa Ana, California, and built a dance school in the rear of the house.  Many students from Pepito and Joanne’s Academy of Dance appear in a segment of the “I Love Lucy” episode “Little Ricky’s School Pageant.”  Desi, Pepito, Lucy, and Joanne became close friends and started to hang around Santa Ana, and the Santora Building, going to DANIGER”S TEA ROOM.  During World War II, onlu military and commercial fishing vessels were allowed into the open ocean, so Pepito got a commercial fishing license.  Throughout the war, he was the only fisherman in Southern California who could take guests out for deep sea fishing.  Many Hollywood sportsmen came down to Santa Ana to meet up with Pepito at Danigers….because they wanted to go fishing!  Thanks to Melani Carty at www.PepitoAndJoanne.com; and Sandra “Pocha” Pena, interview with Joanne Perez, before her death April 1, 2004.”

Wide view of the window display at the Santora Building during the Santa Ana ArtWalk, July 7, 2012.  A formal photo of Pepito and Joanne sits on the pedestal.  Photo courtesy of Ellen Seefeldt.

More about the Santora Building

One of the most beautiful and historic commercial buildings in Orange County, the Santora Building, located at 207 N. Broadway, at the corner of Broadway and Second Street in downtown Santa Ana, California, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Groundbreaking took place July 7, 1928, and the grand opening was in 1929.  

The Santora’s architectural style is in the Churrigueresque variant of Spanish Colonial Revival design.  One of the most striking features of the Spanish-style structure is its second-story decoration, called Churrigueresque, made of elaborate ornamental cast concrete. The decoration also is accented by gargoyles on the top edge of the building.  The building was designed by Frank Lansdowne, one of the premier architects of the region.  The Santora cost $150,000 to build and originally was owned by the Santora Land Co. The building, which is listed with the National Register of Historic Places, was named Santora as a contraction of the cities “Santa Ana” and “Orange.”

The Santora Building once served as Santa Ana City Hall when City Hall was damaged in a 1933 earthquake. The city staff moved into the building until a new City Hall could be built two years later.  After a period of decline in Santa Ana’s downtown the Santora resurged as an arts complex where a number of different artists moved in including Joseph Musil and his Salon of the Art Deco Theaters. Musil was a set designer for the Walt Disney company and worked on the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.  The Santora now houses art galleries, retail stores and restaurants.  The Santora is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and its record number is 386426.

The Santora Building, corner of Broadway and Second Street, Santa Ana, California, circa 1930.

More about Daniger’s Tea Room

The Santora Building’s main claim to fame and most well known tenant was Danigers Tea Room, one of the most popular restaurants in Southern California from 1934 to 1944.  Daniger’s Tea Room was located on the second floor, southwest corner of the Santora Building.  Daniger’s Tea Room was famous for its home-cooked meals, delicious tea, cakes and pie, and pleasant atmosphere.  The Tearoom was known for the best home-cooked meals in Santa Ana , and received mention in the June 1938 issue of Westways Magazine in a feature article titled “Fine Food in California.”  Daniger’s Tea Room was an under-the-radar hot spot for Hollywood movie stars.  All the top celebrities of the time enjoyed the fine foods created by Joe and Irene Daniger, and their clientele included Hollywood celebrities Jack Benny, Milton Berle, Barbara Stanwyk, Andy Devine, Billie Burke, Charles Ruggles, Connie Haines, Lucille Ball, Gracie Allen, George Burns, Joan Davis, Rosalind Russell, Robert Young, William Holden and Alan Ladd, all of whom signed the guest book.  Local stargazers were known to keep a close eye on the Tearoom’s front door to catch glimpses of celebrities.








Irene Daniger: her recollections, as told to Elynore Barton and Maureen Rischard.,0,

Irene Daniger: her recollections, as told to Elynore Barton and Maureen Rischard.


Clifford Combes, Muriel Combes, and Pepito the Spanish Clown (2011)

January 1, 2011

To write the biography of Pepito and Joanne, I have organized their personal archive of photos and newspaper clippings; and researched all the available historical newspaper databases on the internet.  

One of the missing pieces is Pepito’s scrapbook of his entire vaudeville career, which sat in Pepito & Joanne’s Santa Ana parlor for decades, bulging with yellowing clippings and old photos.  The scrapbook was sold off when Joanne’s estate was liquidated in 2005.  If only I could find that scrapbook, so many questions could be answered, and it would be so much simpler to put the P&J archive into chronological order.  After much effort to trace what became of Pepito’s scrapbook, and lots of help from the estate liquidator, there is only one clue: it was sold to a paper collectibles vendor, who then sold it to an unidentified person in Las Vegas.  End of story.  

After the let-down of failing to find the scrapbook, I figured that if I couldn’t find Pepito’s scrapbook, then I would try my best to find people who had worked with Pepito, to see if they kept scrapbooks.

I knew that two of the people who had worked in his act were Margaret Shorey, Pepito’s first female partner/assistant/foil when he came to the United States; and Clifford Combes, whose name I found on a 1928 vaudeville contract for the six-month engagement on the Tivoli Circuit in Australia.

After a long people-search for Margaret Shorey on the internet, I finally found and spoke to Margaret Shorey’s nephew and his wife, which was a delightful experience.  But I was saddened to learn that if Margaret kept a scrapbook of her vaudeville days with Pepito the Spanish Clown, it no longer exists.


Next I turned to finding Clifford Combes or his descendants.  Using Ancestry.com, the Social Security Death Index, and an obituary of his brother Victor Combes, I was able to determine that Clifford had no children and his wife was deceased as well.  Having hit a dead end, I was frustrated, because I did not know the names of any other performers who had worked with Pepito and Joanne in their hey-day.  

When a newspaper article about my Pepito & Joanne research project was published in the Orange County Register in October of 2010, I had my fingers crossed that friends, acquaintences, former students, and maybe even former vaudeville associates might see it and contact me.  I was thrilled that over 20 individuals emailed me after reading the article.  In fact, I have not had the chance to interview everyone yet.

Muriel Combes, age 14, and her big brother Clifford, age 16.  Clifford became acquainted with Pepito as a young boy by pet-sitting his menagerie, and he soon joined Pepito’s act in 1928 as an acrobat and clown.  Muriel enjoyed seeing Pepito & Co. onstage whenever their Orpheum vaudeville circuit schedule brought them back to the Los Angeles area.


Imagine my shock and surprise when I received an email from Muriel Combes, Clifford Combes’s sister, who is a spry 99 years old!  Actually, the email was sent by her daughter, Marilyn, to let me know how much her mother had enjoyed the article and photo of Pepito and Joanne in The Orange County Register.

I have had the pleasure of speaking to Muriel and Marilyn on the phone, talking about those amazing years in the 1920s.  It is so amazing to hear the stories first-hand for a change, instead of hunting through old newspaper archives.  Muriel’s memories are crystal clear, making me feel like I am right there, watching everything happen on stage.  She the only person I have interviewed, and likely will ever interview, who was at the 1928 premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s film The Circus at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  She knew Pepito and Joanne well, because her big brother Clifford Combes, was a clown and acrobat in Pepito’s act.  

Muriel’s memories of Pepito and Joanne centered on three areas:  their pets, the Grauman’s Chinese Theater premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus” in 1928, and Pepito’s special midget clown car.

Muriel Combes prepared to blow out the candles on her cake at her 99th birthday party, 2010.  As a young girl, Muriel was at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1928 for the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s film, “The Circus” and proudly watched her brother Clifford Combes perform in the ballyhoo stage show which preceded the showing of the film.  Clifford Combes and Joann Falcy were the newest members of the act of Pepito the Spanish Clown.  Clifford was inside the lion suit in this surviving film clip from the Ballyhoo on opening night.

The Pets

Pepito’s home was a bungalow in the pleasant, middle-class Athens District of Los Angeles, (now gritty South-Central Los Angeles).  The Combes family lived nearby, and the young boy Clifford was entrusted with caring for and feeding Pepito’s menagerie of animals when Pepito was out of town on the vaudeville circuit.  Sometimes little sister Muriel tagged along and helped Clifford feed the pets.  The menagerie included trick dogs, and even a very mischievous monkey.  Pepito’s trained lion must have been on the road with him, because Muriel does not recall ever seeing the lion at the house.  

When Clifford demonstrated acrobatic talent at age 19 in his high school gymnastics class, Pepito brought him into the vaudeville act.  The eyar was 1927.  Clifford’s first public performance was in the Ballyhoo at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in January 1928.  After 16 weeks at Grauman’s, Clifford toured with Pepito and Joanne at the height of their vaudeville fame, parting ways with them sometime in the 1930s when vaudeville “went blooey.”  

The Premiere

Clifford’s first public appearance was the Grauman’s premiere on January 1928.  Pepito’s act at Grauman’s included a “lion tamer” routine, in keeping with the theme of the evening, and because there was a lion in the Chaplin film.  Clifford was the energetic fellow inside the lion suit.  

Sixteen-year-old Muriel Combes was at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1928 on the opening night of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus.”  Muriel spent a lot of time backstage watching everyone get into costume for The Ballyhoo and apply make-up.  She watched some of the acts from the wings.  She spent some time in the audience watching the ballyhoo.  She doesn’t recall seeing Charlie Chaplin in the audience that night, because she was too busy moving around so she wouldn’t miss any part of the show.  

Muriel recalls that the lion costume was kept in a special locked area backstage, and appeared to be made from an real lion pelt.  

The Clown Car

Muriel has a special memory of riding in Pepito’s special clown car, driven by Pepito, on a July day in 1928.  They drove together on the surface streets of Los Angeles, from the Athens district, all the way down to the docks in Wilmington.  On that momentous day in 1928, Pepito, Joanne and Clifford were departing for a six month tour of Australia with the Tivoli vaudeville circuit.  Upon arrival at the docks, the unusual little car was loaded onto the boat; it was part of Pepito’s stage act. 

Pepito the Spanish Clown, posing with a Charlie Chaplin impersonator in Pepito’s miniature Packard, in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, 1928.

Muriel told me in a recent phone interview that Pepito would actually drive the car onto the theater stage and do a routine with it.  Muriel recalls that at the conclusion of her amazing ride in the miniature roadster, her legs were numb from being cramped in the tiny passenger compartment, and she could barely get out of the car or stand up.  Muriel confirms that Pepito’s little car resembled a miniature Packard.

The Secrets of Pepito’s Lost Clown Car (2010)

November 8, 2010

In 1927, Pepito the Spanish Clown purchased a one-of-a-kind miniature car to use in his vaudeville act.  He also used this unique theatrical automobile on the city streets everywhere he traveled, as a rolling advertisement for his upcoming appearances.  In 1928, the California license plate number was 1-681-904, and would have been registered under one of these names: Jose Escobar Perez; Jose Escobar; Jose Escobar Pepito; Jose E. Perez; or Pepito Perez.  The whereabouts of this unique theatrical automobile remain a mystery …

Insurance papers in Pepito & Joanne’s archive state the car was a 1925 Monroe Pezel roadster.  Based on intensive research, I had originally thought that The Monroe Body Works in Michigan was the automaker, and Oliver Pezel was the Los Angeles-area auto dealer who miniaturized the body and frame to Pepito’s specifications.  

However, a 1948 newspaper interview with Pepito and Joanne reveals that “The car they shipped abroad on their European tours reposes in the garage, a memento of the past.  And we were not surprised to learn that it is ‘the smallest car in the world.’  Especially made by the Packard people in Detroit for Pepito, it is four feet long and two feet high  — and the veteran clown doesn’t have to be encouraged to show it.  He and Joanne used it for advance publicity, touring the cities they played outfitted for the act.”  This newspaper item proves that Pepito and Joanne owned the car up to 1948, but offers no clues as to its final fate.  It is possible that they sold the car when they moved from Corona Del Mar to Santa Ana in 1949.  But to whom???

After hours of research into old Monroes on the internet, and emailing the webmaster of the internet’s only Monroe website, I have had little hope of learning anything new about this fascinating little car. 

But then I received a special email from 99-year-old Muriel Combes and her daughter Marilyn, who read last month’s article about Pepito & Joanne in The Orange County Register.  Muriel has a special memory of riding in this very car with Pepito on a summer day in 1928.  They drove together on the surface streets of Los Angeles, from the Athens district, all the way down to the docks in Wilmington.  Muriel’s big brother, Clifford Combes, was a clown acrobat with Pepito & Co. from 1927 into the 1930s.  On that momentous day in 1928, Pepito, Joanne and Clifford were departing for a six month tour of Australia with the Tivoli vaudeville circuit.  Upon arrival at the docks, the unusual little car was loaded onto the boat; it was part of Pepito’s stage act.  Muriel told me in a recent phone interview that Pepito would actually drive the car onto the theater stage and do a routine with it.  Muriel recalls that at the conclusion of her amazing ride in the miniature roadster, her legs were numb from being cramped in the tiny passenger compartment, and she could barely get out of the car or stand up.  Muriel confirms that Pepito’s little car resembled a miniature Packard.

In 1927, Pepito the Spanish Clown purchased a one-of-a-kind miniature car to use in his vaudeville act.  He also used this unique theatrical automobile on the city streets everywhere he traveled, as a rolling advertisement for his upcoming appearances.  In 1928, the California license plate number was 1-681-904, and would have been registered under one of these names: Jose Escobar Perez; Jose Escobar; Jose Escobar Pepito; Jose E. Perez; or Pepito Perez.  The whereabouts of this unique theatrical automobile remain a mystery…

Insurance papers in Pepito & Joanne’s archive state the car was a 1925 Monroe Pezel roadster.  Based on intensive research, I had originally thought that The Monroe Body Works in Michigan was the automaker, and Oliver Pezel was the Los Angeles-area auto dealer who miniaturized the body and frame to Pepito’s specifications.  

However, a 1948 newspaper interview with Pepito and Joanne reveals that “The car they shipped abroad on their European tours reposes in the garage, a memento of the past.  And we were not surprised to learn that it is ‘the smallest car in the world.’  Especially made by the Packard people in Detroit for Pepito, it is four feet long and two feet high  — and the veteran clown doesn’t have to be encouraged to show it.  He and Joanne used it for advance publicity, touring the cities they played outfitted for the act.”  This newspaper item proves that Pepito and Joanne owned the car up to 1948, but offers no clues as to its final fate.  It is possible that they sold the car when they moved from Corona Del Mar to Santa Ana in 1949.  But to whom???

After hours of research into old Monroes on the internet, and emailing the webmaster of the internet’s only Monroe website, I have had little hope of learning anything new about this fascinating little car. 

But then I received a special email from 99-year-old Muriel Combes and her daughter Marilyn, who read last month’s article about Pepito & Joanne in The Orange County Register.  Muriel has a special memory of riding in this very car with Pepito on a summer day in 1928.  They drove together on the surface streets of Los Angeles, from the Athens district, all the way down to the docks in Wilmington.  Muriel’s big brother, Clifford Combes, was a clown acrobat with Pepito & Co. from 1927 into the 1930s.  On that momentous day in 1928, Pepito, Joanne and Clifford were departing for a six month tour of Australia with the Tivoli vaudeville circuit.  Upon arrival at the docks, the unusual little car was loaded onto the boat; it was part of Pepito’s stage act.  Muriel told me in a recent phone interview that Pepito would actually drive the car onto the theater stage and do a routine with it.  Muriel recalls that at the conclusion of her amazing ride in the miniature roadster, her legs were numb from being cramped in the tiny passenger compartment, and she could barely get out of the car or stand up.  Muriel confirms that Pepito’s little car resembled a miniature Packard.

And just this morning, I found a new clue!  With a magnifying glass, one can see on the front tire of Pepito’s car, imprinted directly into the rubber of the tire’s sidewall, “Landon’s Midget Balloon, 21 x 440, Made for Jack Landon, Los Angeles, California, Designer and Builder of America’s Smallest Car.” And on the rear tire it reads, “The Gates Rubber Company, Denver, Co., Aeroplane Type.”

Chaplin Film Clip Sparks Time Travel Controversy (2010)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

A short clip from the footage recorded of the 1928 premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s motion picture “The Circus” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Pepito and Joanne were inside the building, getting ready to perform in the Ballyhoo live show that preceded each showing of the film.

Pepito met Joanne in 1928 when they both were hired separately to perform in the live pre-show “Ballyhoo” before each showing of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus” at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. 

Pepito Meets Joanne:  Their Matchmaker Was Charlie Chaplin (1928)

VIDEO: “The Ballyhoo” of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus” (1928)

Pepito the Spanish Clown and His First Lion Act (1927)

Los Angeles Times: Looks to Be Difficult Feat (1928)

Los Angeles Daily News: Pretty Dancer to Wed Clown (1928)

Several years ago I purchased a 2004 reissue DVD of Charlie Chaplin’s “The Circus” specifically to see Pepito the Spanish Clown who appears in the the bonus footage of “The Hollywood Premiere 1928,” a short film showing people coming to Grauman’s Chinese Theater on opening night.  

I recently have been trying to track down the source of the footage to see if there might be more performance footage available for my documentary film on Pepito & Joanne.  Due to the fact that Pepito, his ZaZa the Dancing Horse, and Pepito’s costumed lion appear briefly in the Ballyhoo portion of the Chaplin premiere footage, I am hoping maybe the out-takes from that day might include Joanne doing her mechanical doll contortion act.  

Imagine my surprise when, last night, I stumbled across some big news about this very same Chaplin premiere footage.  A “time traveler” has been discovered in this same footage  by a man named George Clarke in Belfast, Ireland!  An older woman in black hat and dark shoes, walking into the forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1928 to buy a ticket to see Chaplin’s new film, is purportedly talking on a cellphone!  

News of this “discovery” is spreading rapidly on the internet, and the story has even been taken up by some TV news channels, and even Jay Leno!  Searching the phrase “chaplin time traveler,” here’s a handful of the hundreds of links this morning:

TIME Magazine   The Chaplin Time Traveler: What Does Science Say?

CNN   Cell phone ‘time traveler’ seen in silent film

ABC News   ‘Time Traveler’ in 1928 Charlie Chaplin Film?

Washington Post   Was a time traveler captured in footage of a Charlie Chaplin movie premiere?

The Telegraph   Charlie Chaplin time traveller spotted in old film

Huffington Post  ‘Time Traveler’ Caught In 1928 Charlie Chaplin Film? (VIDEO)

KSCW-TV Kansas City   Mysterious ‘Time Traveler’ Spotted in Charlie Chaplin Film

The footage is un-doctored; I have checked and it is identical on the 2003 “The Circus” bonus DVD disk.  The woman definitely is holding her hand to her cheek, but in my opinion there is no cellphone in her hand. 

I’ll bet these events will throw a kink in my plan to license the Chaplin Ballyhoo footage for my Pepito & Joanne documentary film … now that it’s the subject of an urban myth, the licensing fee will be astronomical, thanks to a woman who was probably shielding her eyes from the sun, or scratching an itch.

By the way, in 2006, Orange County local science fiction author Tim Powers published a best-selling novel titled “Three Days To Never” in which the plot revolves around Charlie Chaplin’s missing concrete footprints from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, a time machine, a lost Chaplin film found in a garden shed at an old house, and other clues.  Pepito and Joanne’s story involves Charlie Chaplin as their matchmaker who paired them up to work together in the Grauman’s Ballyhoo; and the sole canister of 16mm film containing the “Lost Pilot” for “I Love Lucy” tucked away for 39 years in their Santa Ana Victorian home.  Tim Powers’ book is fantasy/science fiction, while Pepito and Joanne were real people! Were they the inspiration?

–Melani Carty

P.S.  Two of the funniest comments I have read online about the Chaplin time traveler are, “Hey, it’s Marty McFly! (a reference to “Back to the Future” films), and “Can you hear me then?” (a clever spin on the cellphone commercials that ask “Can you hear me now?”).  And as my husband correctly points out, if that lady could get cellphone reception in 1928, she’s doing a whole lot better than most of us in 2010.  

Orange County Register: Were You A Dance Student of Joanne Perez? (2010)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Were you a dance student of Joanne Perez?     OCRegister.com

Joanne and Pepito Perez ran a dance studio in Orange County that they opened in 1941 when their days on the road as performers ended. Memorabilia collector Melani Carty attended the dance school in the 1970s (when she was Melani Motzkus.) Carty now runs the website pepitoandjoanne.com. She hopes to hear from other former students or anyone with knowledge of Pepito and Joanne’s careers and life together.

The photos in this slide show are from student dance performances throughout the years that Carty has in her collection. If you recognize someone in the photo and want to contact Carty, go to pepitoandjoanne.com and click “Contact” to reach her.


The Orange County (California) Register


Orange County Register: Can You Solve These 5 Mysteries About Pepito and Joanne Perez (2010)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Melani Carty is looking for the answer to these Nancy Drew-inspired research questions about Pepito and Joanne Perez, former vaudevillians who ran a dance studio …

1.  The Secret of the Missing Clown Car

In 1927, Pepito purchased a one-of-a-kind 1925 Monroe Pezel roadster.  The Monroe Body Works in Michigan was the original automaker; Oliver Pezel was the Los Angeles-area auto dealer who miniaturized the body and frame to Pepito’s specifications.  (Note: my further research has turned up evidence that Pepito’s car was a Jack Landon custom midget auto). Pepito and Joanne brought this “clown car” with them everywhere they traveled in the United States and Australia, as a rolling advertisement for their vaudeville act.  In 1928, the California license plate number was 1-681-904.  The whereabouts of this unique theatrical automobile is a mystery.

2.  The Message in the Crumbling Scrapbook

After Joanne’s death in 2004, her estate was liquidated, including Pepito’s bulging scrapbook containing all the newspaper clippings from their lifetime in show business.  Pepito’s scrapbook is the Rosetta Stone that is needed to decode and organize their photo archive into proper chronological order, and to fill in the blanks in their life story.  The current owner of this priceless scrapbook is still being sought.

3.  The Clue in the Lost Movie Credits

Pepito first met Lucille Ball when they were both actors at RKO studios in the 1930s.  In a 2003 interview, Joanne stated that Pepito appeared in three films with Lucille Ball.  Only one of the three pictures is listed on the Internet Movie Database:  “Annabel Takes a Tour,” 1938.  What were the names of the other two motion pictures?  The answer to this impossible trivia question is not on the Internet, and may only be known by someone who was a personal friend of Pepito or Joanne.

4.  The Mystery of the 99 Dance Steps

In “I Love Lucy” season 6, episode 163, Little Ricky is cast in the lead in his school play, “The Enchanted Forest.”  Keith Thibodeaux portrayed Little Ricky.  Candy Rogers Schoenberger, who played Suzy Brown, and all the other children in this episode were students from the Pepito & Joanne Academy of Dance in Santa Ana.  What were the names of these uncredited children who played the little gnomes, skunk, bunnies, and three wise owls? See the episode on YouTube — part 1 here and part 2 here.

5.  The Case of the Disappearing Dance Instructors

Over the years, Joanne hired several supplemental dance instructors to teach tap, jazz, hula, and Polynesian dancing at her ballet school, which was located in her Victorian home at 15th and Ross Streets in Santa Ana.  The names of these teachers have been lost to time.  What were their names, and where are they today?

If you have any clues that can lead to solving any of these five mysteries, please email me using the link at the bottom of the page.

Source: First published by the Orange County (California) Register at  http://www.ocregister.com/articles/perez-271740-answer-joanne.html


Saturday, February 12, 2011 – 04:34 AM

Heather Emmons (now Heather Chambers)

I danced at Joanne’s school from the 70’s – ’87. I am so excited to find out all this info about my beloved dance teacher. How wonderful. Thank you. Please contact me. Much appreciated.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 – 09:38 AM

Roger Schutt

Hoping your research, and projects, and family, are all doing well. I’m always hoping to stumble across something useful for the Carty Chronicles team, but it’s pretty hard to find a fresh lead when working beside a cold case champion such as the great  Chief Inspector Melani Carty Clouseau!!!  But…..I’m not one to be out done. One day……I’ll find the missing piece of the puzzle that breaks the Pepito/Joanne egg investigation wide open!!!!  The only problem is….I don’t know if you can wait 50 years for me to find it!  Have a great day and keep at it. We are your greatest fans!!!!!!!!!

Huffington Post: Pepito the Clown Mentioned in Article About Van Zandt & Milman’s script for “I Love Lucy, The Very First Show” (2010)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

They’ll Take Manhattan: Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore’s cyber-comedy “You’ve Got Hate Mail” opens lengthy run at NYC’s Triad Theatre

(Scroll down to the pertinent paragraph in red).

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the 1979 movie, was ground breaking for many reasons. It was, for instance, the first movie created from the popular Star Trek television series (the first of too many, some might say) but that’s completely beside the point. It was during the filming of this movie that the immensely prolific and successful writing partnership of Billy Van Zandt and Jane Milmore came to be born. Van Zandt, a budding actor who had recently moved to Hollywood, was playing the role of a Rhaandarite ensign in the film. An extraordinarily large part of the gig involved sitting around the set in alien makeup waiting to be called.

“No one was allowed to see him,” Jane laughed, remembering. Said Billy, “I couldn’t go to lunch so Jane brought my Smith Corona typewriter in and we sat in my dressing room between takes and wrote.” They ended up with a draft of their first of well over twenty plays, Love, Sex and the I.R.S. and thank you, Gene Roddenberry. Of their entire catalogue, this play remains to this day their most produced and performed – all over the United States. It’s even seen the light of day in Guyana, where a commercial for it once surfaced on Youtube but now seems lost in the internet either. Billy: “It looked horrendous, but hilarious. For all the wrong reasons.”

The play is still so popular that it is performed not just timed to tax season in April throughout the country, but all year long. And this is incredible for many reasons, not the least of which is that Van Zandt Milmore plays are among the most produced in the country. “We had no idea we wrote a holiday show,” mused Billy. He and Jane met in high school during an acting competition as competitors from two different Central Jersey schools. Jane’s school won Best Comedy and Billy’s won Best Musical. Eventually they started dating, acted together in several shows, and moved to Los Angeles in the late 70’s.

Like everyone else in Hollywood, they were looking for acting jobs. They decided things would vastly improve if they wrote their own material and acted in it. “So we sat down and we wrote ourselves something,” said Billy. That turned out to be Love, Sex and the I.R.S., the first of many hilarious farces. Every year they returned to their home turf, Monmouth County, and mounted an original production which they wrote and starred in at the Dam Site Dinner Theatre, building up a fiercely loyal following. To this day, they continue to do a yearly spring production, now based at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft. They’ve become such a beloved fixture there that they now sponsor full and part-time theater scholarships at the College. Over thirty students have benefited from the program since it began in 1997.

In the late 80’s, the pair were offered staff jobs on the Bob Newhart Show, Newhart, as writers. “We weren’t sure if we should put our acting careers on hold for that year to go do it, it was a big decision,” Billy remembered. “They treated us nicer than actors and paid us a lot of money,” qualified Jane. “–So we never left,” Billy finished. Their stint with Newhart was followed by a writing and acting gig on the brilliant sitcom Anything But Love starring Richard Lewis, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Ann Magnuson.

Was there a particular moment when they decided comedy writing was for them – this is what I was put on earth to do? Jane: “The second I heard people laugh, I thought, oh, I love doing this.” Billy: “It never even entered my mind to do something straight. It was always comedy.” “Nobody taught us how to write, we sort of winged it as we went,” said Billy. “You can actually see our learning curve in print for the first six or seven plays.” Has there been any change to their work process over the years? “There really isn’t, it depends on the piece. Sometimes we’ll improv out a scene, sometimes we’ll structure out a show, sometimes Jane’ll write a different scene and we’ll put them together and see how they work.”

What about working in television vs. working live on stage in a theater? “I want the audience, I want the theater,” said Billy, “I don’t want to have to answer to the network people. Luckily, we’ve had a nice balance doing both.” Jane, on the other hand, said both were fine by her. “I like them all. As long as they’re laughing, I like them. Making people laugh is a pretty cool job.”

A career highlight for the pair was several years ago when they were handed the long lost pilot of I Love Lucy, which had been discovered in a box under the bed in the guest room of the widow of Pepito the Clown.  Pepito had guest starred in the pilot and also had helped put together Lucy and Desi’s vaudeville act that proved to CBS they could be successful as a husband and wife team. Though the network owned the copyright, no one else had a physical copy of the pilot. “CBS wanted to slice it down to 22 minutes and air it and we refused,” said Billy. “We said no, you can’t have the footage. It should be an hour special….we didn’t want them cutting anything out. So we sort of blackmailed them and said you can have the footage, but you have to give us an hour special and they in turn said fine but if you can’t finish it in two weeks so we can get it for sweeps, we get the right to chop it up and make it shorter.” What they didn’t count on was that Billy, who when he first saw Lucille Ball on television as a child was then certain about what he wanted to do with his life, also knew every interview ever given by Lucy and was therefore able to quickly cull enough of these clips to allow for Lucy and Desi to tell their own story and flesh out the hour. Billy and Jane got Lucie Arnaz to narrate and David Steinberg to direct, and it was the highest rated show of the year in 1989 and nominated for an Emmy.

Their newest Off Broadway production, You’ve Got Hate Mail, starts Thursday September 23rd at the Triad on W. 72nd St. and will go through December 30 and possibly beyond. The play is cleverly performed by five cast members sitting at desks reading and writing emails to each other. Friendships and marriages hang in the balance, are broken, rekindled, dashed and destroyed – all via email. Whatever possessed them to come up with such a relevant and hilarious idea in these days when emails bring down captains of industry with a few misbegotten keystrokes? “We saw Billy’s wife, Adrienne Barbeau, do Love Letters (by A.R. Gurney) and I said – wow – wouldn’t it be interesting to do the opposite,” said Jane. “We kicked the idea around for awhile, didn’t do it. By the time we did do it nobody wrote mail anymore so it became email.” Jane was actually in the throes of a difficult divorce and showed a friend some of the emails that resulted. Those very emails became the backbone of the plot.

“The fun part for me is watching the recognition that goes through the audience,” said Billy. “You can tell that every single person in the audience sent some email they didn’t mean to send, or they got in trouble at work for a joke they posted, or something.” Email creates a false sense of security. “There’s no boundaries,” Jane stated. “It’s not an in person connection so people will write and say things they wouldn’t if they were standing in front of you.”

Other Off-Broadway productions they’ve written and starred in include Silent Laughter (a slapstick silent delight accompanied by an organist), Drop Dead! (a potboiler murder mystery), and the Marx Brothers musical A Night at the Nutcracker (in which the Marx Brothers are re-imagined as the owners of a ballet company – the movie they never made). In addition to the many farces they’ve turned out, they have also been three other additional musicals: High School Reunion: The Musical (a side-splitting look at a 30th High School Reunion, set to music), The Pennies (a mockumentary about a band starring in a fictitious TV show on opposite The Monkees), and Merrily We Dance and Sing (Gilbert & Sullivan meets the Marx Brothers).

What’s percolating in the minds of these very prolific playwrights? “We’ve always done about three or four things at the same time,” said Billy. “Anytime we’re working on a TV project…we’ll be working on a play, we’ve got another story in mind to do after that one, and then we’ll have a TV idea we want to go sell, so if any time we’re suddenly out of work we’ll just shift gears and go do a new project.” They’re gearing up to pitch pilots to networks very soon, as it happens, and they’ve got a farce ready for next spring at Brookdale called A Dirty Farce.

With the current financial climate the way it is, making life difficult for everyone, most especially those trying to make their living in the arts, did Billy and Jane have advice for those who feel the calling? “I can’t tell you how many people told us not to do the stuff we do – that you can’t make a living,” Billy said. “I would push anybody to do it as long as that’s really what you want to do. And you have to realize that there are thousands and thousands who want to do the same thing. You just have to work harder at it than anybody else.” Jane added, “It’s the same thing you’d say to somebody who wanted to be a musician or an actor or anything like that. If you feel like you don’t have a choice, then you have to do it.”

After their work with Don Rickles, Richard Lewis, Olympia Dukakis, Ann Magnuson, Bob Newhart, Martin Lawrence to name a few, was there anyone they still hankered to work with? They named Steve Carell, Alec Baldwin, and, of course, Woody Allen. “He’s on the top of the list,” said Jane.


Huffington Post, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/holly-cara-price/theyll-take-manhattan-bil_b_736119.html

VIDEO: Pepito and Joanne Portrayed on Living History Tour at Santa Ana’s Fairhaven Cemetery (2010)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The annual guided historical tour of Fairhaven Memorial Park and Santa Ana Cemetery features costumed actors portraying historic figures who share stories from Orange County, California’s past.  This unique “living history tour” is the recipient of a prestigious California State Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation, and is a joint presentation of the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society and the Orange County High School of the Arts.

In 2003, Pepito was portrayed solo on the cemetery tour.  That year, Joanne provided the biographical information for the scriptwriter, and costume items for the actor. See  VIDEO: Pepito the Spanish Clown Reenactor at Fairhaven Cemetery (2003).  Joanne passed away less than six months later, in April of 2004.  

This year’s tour was the first time Pepito & Joanne were portrayed together, as a husband & wife vaudeville team and dance school owners.  For the first time, Joanne is the “lead” and Pepito is the “comic foil.”  Young actresses Annika Borg-Sundstrom as Joann Falcy, and Sophia Theofanos as Pepito the Spanish Clown, did a wonderful job.  Watch the video of their performance above.

The delightful script was written by Will Morton, using PepitoAndJoanne.com’s archives as his resource.  Mr. Morton has written plays for the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society’s annual Fairhaven Cemetery Tour every year since 2005.  For the 2010 tour, he also wrote “Richard Robinson”, and “Robert Henry English” in addition to “Pepito, the Spanish Clown”. Mr. Morton has had several science fiction short stories in anthologies published by Pill Hill Press.  He is currently at work on a book of children’s poetry for Toy Box Books.  Visit him at his website www.willmorton.com.

To add an extra touch of authenticity and historical context to the costumes, memorabilia collector Lisa Ortega generously opened her collection and loaned a red velvet cape, and a rhinestone-studded gold fringe collar, for the actresses to wear.  These are authentic, one-of-a-kind pieces from Pepito and Joanne’s vaudeville wardrobe. 

Says Mrs. Ortega, “I got excited when started looking on eBay at the estate items of Pepito and Joanne Perez that were selling.  One lot was a collection of costumes.  I saw his clown outfits and his shoes. I bid and I won.”  Mrs. Ortega, who mainly collects items related to “I Love Lucy,” says she took a chance purchasing memorabilia of Pepito and Joanne, who were good friends of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.  “But when I got the box, it was like opening up a package from Disneyland,” containing around 20 costume pieces from their vaudeville days. 

Says Ortega of Joanne, who made her own costumes: “She was quite a seamstress. It is all tediously hand stitched. I have these undergarments that have rhinestones sewed on them — we’re talking 500 rhinestones on a pair of underpants, and each rhinestone has its own thread.”  Regarding the red velvet cape with gold lining and the rhinestone collar, Ortega says, “I’m happy to lend them to the historical society, because that’s who should be having them in their hands, people who can enjoy them and appreciate them for what they are.  I don’t want them stuffed up in my attic for 20 years.”

For more about the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society tours of the famous interred at Fairhaven Cemetery, see http://www.santaanahistory.com.

Award-Winning Cemetery Tour Celebrates the History of Orange County Émigrés

“Strangers in a Strange Land: Immigrants Who Shaped Orange County” will be held on Saturday, October 23, 2010.  This guided historical tour of Fairhaven Memorial Park and Santa Ana Cemetery features costumed actors portraying historic figures who share stories from Orange County’s past.

Dating back to the 1800s, settlers came to the Santa Ana Valley from far and wide—including émigrés from dozens of countries.  English, Dutch, Canadian, Mexican, Japanese, German, Chinese, and more came to share in the prosperity of California.  Strangers in the unfamiliar melting pot of American society, these immigrants contributed to the success of the county. A Canadian braves shipwreck to travel around the Horn to California; an English Mormon mother lives in a covered wagon in Southern California; a Mexican laborer buys his first home in the Logan Barrio in 1906; a Dutch Holocaust survivor’s evangelist mission leads her to the US. These are the stories of people who shaped a truly “international” Orange County.

Docents will guide visitors through scenes that played important roles in the history of the county, culminating in a presentation in Fairhaven’s beautiful 1916 mausoleum. Comfortable shoes are recommended for the hour-and-a-half long walking tour.

The event is presented by the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society and will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Fairhaven Memorial Park, 1702 Fairhaven Ave., Santa Ana. Tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for seniors and Members, and $14 for students and children 10 and over. (Children 9 and under are free.) 

The unique “cemetery” tour has won a prestigious California State Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.  This is the Society’s 13th annual Living History tour, with proceeds benefiting the organization’s museum and educational programs. The event is produced in partnership with local writers, and actors from the Thespian Club at Orange County High School of the Arts.  The tour is co-sponsored by Fairhaven Memorial Park. 

Reservations are recommended. Discounted advance sale tickets are available. More information can be obtained on the Society’s website at www.SantaAnaHistory.com or by calling (714) 547-9645.  You can also email to tour@sahps.org.

Mailing address:

Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society
120 Civic Center Dr., W., Santa Ana, CA 92701-7505.

Note: If you would like to see photos of past history tours, you can view them 

at http://www.santaanahistory.com/CemeteryTour.html)   


Thursday, November 4, 2010 – 12:23 PM


delightful – thx – as i was unable to attend.  appreciate

Thursday, November 4, 2010 – 01:55 PM

Roger Schutt

How delightful!

Thursday, November 4, 2010 – 04:36 PM


Pepito & Joanne sure do have a devoted following. Too bad they can’t know this!

Friday, November 5, 2010 – 08:04 PM

John & Nancy

We really enjoyed the Historical Cemetery Tour of Fairhaven.  Obviously, the SAHPS and the actors from the Orange Co. High School of Arts gave their “all” for this day of entertainment.  Many thanks for your hard work.

Thanking the People Behind the Scenes at PepitoAndJoanne.com (2009)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The end of the year is time for reflection.  PepitoAndJoanne.com is now 15 months old.  Looking back, I have many new friends, and many people to thank, for providing me with the all the stories, anecdotes and clues that are coming together to form the timeline of  Pepito & Joanne’s fascinating lives.

Thank you to Gwen, for being the first person to recognize that Pepito & Joanne’s photos, newspaper clippings, vaudeville contracts and home movies are a historical treasure, a time capsule of vaudeville, a slice of entertainment history.  Without Gwen, it could all easily have ended up in a dumpster in Santa Ana after Joanne’s passing.

Next, the memorabilia passed to Marylee.  Even though it was her job to liquidate it, Marylee felt a strong connection to the fascinating people in the old photos, and did many things behind the scenes to ensure that the bulk of the memorabilia stayed together.  I will be forever grateful to her for for answering my numerous questions, and for going out of her way to make it possible for me to purchase most of the paper ephemera, and all of the home movies, of Pepito and Joanne’s lives.  

Thank you to all the other people who purchased Pepito The Spanish Clown estate items on Ebay or at auction.  Through you, the memory of Pepito & Joanne will be kept alive.

Thank you to Shirley Gardner, a true friend forever to Joanne and Pepito, for passing along tons of biographical information about them, scanning and sharing special photos, keeping me on the right track with my research, reminding me when I stray from the main storyline of their life, and supporting me every step of the way.

Thank you to Mary Rapaport, for sending me photos of Pepito’s showcase displays in the Lucy-Desi Museum, Jamestown, New York, and sharing the Profiles In History auction catalog with me.

Thank you to producer Gregg Oppenheimer for checking his father Jess Oppenheimer’s papers, and answering my question about Pepito and the Lost Pilot of “I Love Lucy.”

Thank you to film editor Dann Cahn for answering my questions about Pepito’s connection to “I Love Lucy.”

Thank you to Lucille Ball biographer Kathleen Brady, for answering my questions about Pepito’s connection to Lucy.

Thank you to film historian Leonard Maltin, for answering my question about “Our Gang.”

Thank you to Roger Schutt for the gift of Pepito’s violin, a huge stack of Pepito’s personal snapshots, and a vintage copy of LOOK Magazine containing a photo of Pepito with Clark Gable, fishing on Pepito’s boat; and many emails of support and encouragement.

Thank you to Shawnacy Perez for translating my first letter to Spain, which made first contact with the Escobar Family possible. 

Thank you to Marivi Escobar for being my liason with the Escobar family in Spain, for sharing biographical details about Pepito’s formative years in Barcelona, and for loaning me Joanne’s scrapbook of her vaudeville years and several old photos.

Thank you to Raymond Escobar for being my liason with the Escobar family in France, and for sending me the earliest known photo of Pepito, as the clown “Senor Hermhan,” 1915.

Thank you to Montserrat Galguera, for sharing her memories of her grandfather Pepito, and her mother, Conchita Galguera.

Thank you to Eduardo Picado Galguera, for sharing his memories of his great-grandfather Pepito, and his grandmother, Conchita Galguera.

Thank you to Helena Escobar, for continuing into the 21st century the tradition of an Escobar who is a Spanish clown, with a female twist.

Thank you to Marcelo Melison for translating old documents from Spanish to English, and for advising me in great detail about early 20th century clown history.

Thank you to Catherine Cate for permission to republish her 1994 article on Joanne.

Thank you to Frank Cullen of the Vaudeville Museum for checking his archives for me.

Thank you to Alma Heil and Paul Heil for combing their archives for photos of Pepito, his lion, and his special clown car, scanning them, and emailing them to me.

Thank you to Lee Shorey and Kathy Shorey for helping me with my research into the life of Pepito’s first American female stage foil, the multi-talented Margaret Shorey.

Thank you to David Maegraith for allowing me to publish an excerpt from his grandfather Kerwin Maegraith’s autobiography.

Thank you to Judy Page for a look into Joanne (Margaret Zettler)’s early years in Milwaukee.

Thank you to Chanda Parrett for biographical information about Joanne.

Thank you to Peter Mamonis Jr. for allowing me to purchase some special photos and documents.

Thank you to Cheryl Taylor for scanning the 1928 Grauman’s Chinese Theater “The Circus” Ballyhoo program.

Thank you to Ron Pesch for writing an article about PepitoAndJoanne.com on his Buster Keaton blog, actorscolony.blogspot.com.

Thank you to Guy Ball and Roberta Reed of the Santa Ana Historic Preservation Society, for allowing me to post the video of Aurelio Locsin reenacting Pepito, from a script by Sara Guerrero.

Thank you to Lisa Ortega for preserving Pepito & Joanne’s vaudeville and nightclub era costumes, and for loaning me a stack of old photos of Pepito and Joanne.

Thank you to Roberta “Robbie” Fox for sending me an audiotape recording of all her memories of Joanne & Pepito’s life story.

Thank you to Michael Brannan for sharing his portion of Pepito & Joanne photos, vaudeville contracts, and documents on his website, http://www.momentslikethese.com, for all to see.

Thank you to all the patient people who are still on my list to interview:  Randall, Janice, Tricia, Candy, Portia, Karina, Tim, JoDee, Todd, Cheryl, Rick, Chanda, Mae, David, Stacey, Laurie F, Laurie H, Laurie K, Nancy, Alison, Judy, and April.

Thank you to my sister, Heidi Motzkus, for her memories of being a student at Joanne’s dance school.  Her recall of details, dance routines, and annual recitals, is sharper than mine.

Thank you to my parents, Nancy Motzkus and John Motzkus, for enrolling me in the Pepito & Joanne Academy of Dance from 1970 to 1976.  If not for that experience, I would never have fallen under the spell of a fascinating retired vaudeville couple who for many years taught dance, voice and pantomime in the rear studios of their Victorian mansion in Santa Ana, California.

And most of all, thank you to my husband David Carty and our two children, for their infinite patience and support for my passions, putting up with my late nights at the computer, and forgiving me for my cluttered office.

— Melani Carty

Agradecer a la gente detrás de las escenas en PepitoAndJoanne.com

El fin de año es tiempo para la reflexión. PepitoAndJoanne.com es ahora de 15 meses de edad. Mirando hacia atrás, tengo muchos amigos nuevos, y muchas personas las gracias, por darme la de todas las historias, anécdotas y pistas que se están uniendo para formar la línea de tiempo de Pepito y Joanne vida fascinante. 

Gracias a Gwen, por ser el primero en reconocer que las fotos de Pepito y Joanne, recortes de periódicos, los contratos de vodevil y películas caseras son un tesoro histórico, una cápsula del tiempo del vodevil, un trozo de la historia del entretenimiento. Sin Gwen, todo podría fácilmente haber terminado en un contenedor de basura en Santa Ana, después de pasar de Joanne. 

A continuación, los recuerdos pasan a Marylee. A pesar de que era su trabajo a su liquidación, Marylee sintió una fuerte conexión con la gente fascinante en las viejas fotos, e hizo muchas cosas detrás de bambalinas para asegurar que la mayor parte de los recuerdos se mantenían unidas. Siempre estaré agradecido por mi para responder a numerosas preguntas, y para salir de su camino para hacer posible que me compra la mayoría de las efemérides de papel, y todas las películas caseras, de Pepito y la vida de Joanne. 

¡Gracias a todas las demás personas que han comprado Pepito Los elementos de bienes español Clown en Ebay o en una subasta. A través de usted, la memoria de Pepito y Joanne se mantendrá vivo. 

Gracias a Shirley Gardner, un amigo de verdad para siempre a Joanne y Pepito, para pasar a lo largo de toneladas de información biográfica acerca de ellos, la exploración y compartir fotos especiales, que me mantiene en el camino correcto con mi investigación, y me recuerda cuando se apartan de los principales historia de su vida. 

Gracias a María Rapaport, por enviarme las fotos de pantallas escaparate de Pepito en el Lucy-Desi Museum, Jamestown, Nueva York. 

Gracias a editor de cine Dann Cahn para responder a mis preguntas acerca de la conexión de Pepito a “I Love Lucy”. 

¡Gracias a Lucille Ball biógrafa Kathleen Brady, para responder a mis preguntas acerca de la conexión de Pepito a Lucy. 

Gracias al historiador de cine Leonard Maltin, por responder a mi pregunta acerca de “Our Gang”. 

Gracias a Roger Schutt por el don de violín de Pepito, una enorme pila de instantáneas personales de Pepito, y muchos correos electrónicos de apoyo y aliento. 

¡Gracias a Shawnacy Pérez de la traducción de mi primera carta a España, que hizo el primer contacto con la familia Escobar posible. 

Gracias a Mariví Escobar por ser mi enlace con la familia Escobar en España, para el intercambio de información biográfica sobre los años de formación de Pepito en Barcelona, y para el préstamo de mi bloc de notas de Joanne de sus años de vodevil. 

Gracias a Raymond Escobar por ser mi enlace con la familia Escobar en Francia, y por enviarme la foto antigua que se conoce de Pepito, como el payaso “Señor Hermhan”, 1915. 

Gracias a Montserrat Galguera, para compartir sus recuerdos de su abuelo Pepito, y su madre, Conchita Galguera. 

Gracias a Eduardo Picado Galguera, para compartir sus recuerdos de su bisabuelo, Pepito, y su abuela, Conchita Galguera. 

Gracias a Helena Escobar, para continuar en el siglo 21 la tradición de Escobar, que es un payaso español, con un toque femenino. 

Gracias a Marcelo Melison para la traducción de documentos antiguos del Español al Inglés, y de asesorar a mí en gran detalle acerca de siglo 20 la historia de payaso. 

Gracias a Catherine Cate permiso para publicar su artículo en 1994 Joanne. 

Gracias a Frank Cullen del Museo de Vaudeville para el control de sus archivos para mí. 

Gracias a Alma y Paul Heil Heil para combinar sus archivos de fotos de Pepito, su león, y su coche de payaso especial. 

Gracias a Lee Shorey y Kathy Shorey por ayudarme con mi investigación sobre la vida de papel de primera etapa de Pepito estadounidense femenina, el polifacético Margaret Shorey. 

Gracias a David Maegraith que me permite publicar un extracto de la autobiografía de su abuelo Kerwin Maegraith’s. 

¡Gracias a Judy página para una mirada a Joanne (Margaret Zettler) ‘s primeros años en Milwaukee. 

¡Gracias a Chanda Parrett de información biográfica acerca de Joanne. 

Gracias a Pedro Mamonis Jr. por lo que me permite comprar algunas fotos especiales y documentos. 

Gracias a Cheryl Taylor para la digitalización de China de 1928 Grauman Teatro “El programa” Circus Ballyhoo. 

Gracias a Ron Pesch para escribir un artículo sobre PepitoAndJoanne.com en el blog de su Buster Keaton, actorscolony.blogspot.com. 

Gracias a Guy Ball y Roberta Reed, de la de Santa Ana Sociedad de Preservación Histórica, por lo que me permite publicar el vídeo de Aurelio Locsin recreando Pepito, con un guión de Sara Guerrero. 

Gracias a Lisa Ortega para la preservación de Pepito y Joanne vodevil y el vestuario era de un club nocturno. 

¡Gracias a Roberta “Robbie” Fox por haberme enviado una cinta de audio de grabación de todos sus recuerdos de Joanne y Pepito historia de vida. 

¡Gracias a Michael Brannan para compartir su parte de Pepito & Joanne fotos, los contratos de vodevil, y los documentos en su página web para que todos puedan ver. 

¡Gracias a todos los pacientes que todavía están en mi lista para la entrevista: Randall, Janice, Tricia, Candy, Portia, Karina, Tim, JoDee, Todd, Cheryl, Rick, Chanda, Mae, David Stacey, Laurie M, Laurie H, K Laurie, Nancy, Alison, Judy y April. 

¡Gracias a mi hermana, Heidi Motzkus, por sus recuerdos de ser un estudiante en la escuela de danza de Joanne. Su recuerdo de los detalles, las rutinas de baile, y recitales anuales, es más aguda que la mía. 

¡Gracias a mis padres, Nancy Motzkus y John Motzkus, para inscribir a mí en el Pepito & Joanne Academia de Danza desde 1970 hasta 1976. Si no fuera por esa experiencia, nunca me han caído bajo el hechizo de una pareja fascinante vodevil retirado que durante muchos años enseñó danza, voz y pantomima en los estudios trasera de su mansión victoriana en Santa Ana, California.

Y, sobre todo, gracias a mi esposo David Carty y nuestros dos hijos, por su infinita paciencia y el apoyo a mis pasiones, y para perdonar a mi oficina desordenada.

— Melani Carty

1 Comment 

Monday, December 21, 2009 – 11:24 PM

atomicapril ( April Fried)

I was a student of Joanne and Pepito, 

She was my ballet and tap teacher in the 70s. i have film footage of our recitals, Jennifer Warren, was also a student  ( Love Lifts Us Up Where we Belong., fame)

She taught adult ballet, and can-can. I could give you endless stories, and about how Pepito would keep me occupied as a small child while Id wait for my sisters class to finish so mine could start!

So many good times!

Michael Brannan’s SmugMug Site About Pepito The Spanish Clown (2009)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A wonderful photo website about Pepito the Spanish Clown (Pepito Perez, or Jose Escobar Perez), has been created by my online friend Michael Brannan.  Michael was one of the people fortunate to purchase Perez estate items on Ebay in 2008.  Michael is dedicated to preserving the history of early show business, and thanks to Michael’s generosity and hard work, he has made his collection of Pepito photos available to the world on the internet.  Visit Michael’s site at https://michaelbrannan.smugmug.com/GALLERIES/Pepito-The-Spanish-Clown/

The Mystery of Pepito’s Missing Scrapbook (2009)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

After the death of Joanne Perez, her entire estate was liquidated, and the proceeds benefitted Biola University in Southern California.  One of the items that was sold was Pepito’s scrapbook.  The current whereabouts of this fabulous scrapbook are unknown.  It is my hope that the current owner will contact me, and consider donating xerox copies of these priceless pages to this research project.  The contents of this scrapbook would bring to life Pepito the Spanish Clown’s formative years in Spain, Cuba and Mexico. 

One page fell out of the scrapbook and ended up in a box of photos and newspaper clippings and costumes.  A wonderful lady named Lisa purchased that box on Ebay, and she was ever so kind to loan me the page you see above for scanning.  Lisa knew that I would be intrigued by a piece of crumbling, yellow paper, and she was right.  Little did she realize that this scrapbook page, from 1922, contains fabulous clues and heretofore unknown information about Jose Escobar Perez BEFORE he became “Pepito the Spanish Clown.”

On this theater playbill, Pepito is listed as his previous clown persona, “Senor Mac Wills,” performing with his good friends, “Los Egochagas,” a husband-and-wife comedy team whose real names were Alfredo Egochaga and Emerita Egochaga.

Special thanks to Marcelo Melison for translating this playbill.



On Sunday, June 25, 1922

Follows the runaway success of the large variety shows



Attractions of the highest order.  Imitations of animals and sounds.  Parodies, jokes.

Great collection of trained dogs. Duets. Entries Ciws. Musical numbers.

Caricatures.  Rapid drawing.  Great bullfighting with trained dogs.

Major comic cycling acts, in which Mac Wills submits the smallest bicycle in the world.  

Large circus numbers. 




Hoy Domingo 25 de Junio de 1922

Sigue el exit loco de las grandes variedades



Atracciones de primer orden.  Imitaciones de animales y sonidos.  Pariodas, chistes.

Gran coleccion de Perros amaestrados.  Duetos.  Entradas de Ciws.  Numeros, musicaies.

Caricaturas. Pintura rapida.  Grandes corridas de toros con perros amaestrados.

Grandes actos de ciclismo comico, en los cuales Mac Wills presentara 

la cicicleta mas pequena del mudno.  

Grandes numeros de circo.


Dos tandas, a las 4 y a las Nueve.


Que tato exito obtuvieron en su debut, trabajaran con nuevos y escojidos numeros,

con grandes actos de circo, actos musicales, perros amestrados que tocan piezas de musica

No pierda Ud, es espectaculo.  No deje de admirarle pues quedara satisfecho.

Helena Escobar, Pepito’s Great-Grand-Niece, Is An Award-Winning Spanish Clown Named “La Bleda” (2009)

Monday, May 25, 2009

In honor of the Escobar families in Spain and France, this text is presented first in Spanish, then French, with the English translation below.

En honor de la familia Escobar en España y Francia, este texto se presenta primero en español y, a continuación, Francés, Inglés con la traducción a continuación.

En l’honneur de la famille Escobar en Espagne et en France, ce texte est présenté d’abord en espagnol puis en français, avec la traduction en anglais ci-dessous. 

Helena Escobar

Helena Escobar Gana el Premio Tespo a la Mejor Payasa

La Unio d’Actors i Actrius de Catalunya entrego el viernes por primera vez estos galardones

La actriz egarense es conocida sobre todo por el personaje de La Bleda, protagonista de various espectaculos

Escrito por Jordi Manzanares

Por primera vez,  la Unio d’Actors i Actrius de Catalunya (UAAC) entrego el pasado viernes los premios Tespo en una ceremonia celebrada en el Hotel Tryp Apolo, de Barcelona.  Hubo galardones para 38 categorias y tres menciones especiales, correspondientes a diferentes modalidades.  La actriz terrassense Helena Escobar, mas conocida por su personaje de La Bleda, se llevo el premio al mejor payaso o payasa, aunque no pudo acudir personalmente a recogerlo; lo hizo, en su nombre, Susana Lloret, de la compania Cascai Teatre.

Escobar figuraba entre los cinco finalistas en la categoria de mejor payaso o payasa junto a Joan Busquets, de la Companyia Infima La Puca; Atila Puig, de la compania Teatre Mobil, y Toti Toronell, de Cop de Clown.

Nacida en Terrassa, Espana, Helena Escobar estudio en el Institut del Teatre al tiempo que se licencio en Historia del Arte.  Inicio una larga carrera en el campo del teatro infantil que la ha llevado a formar parte de las companias Teatre de Paper, Catacrac y Tabata Teatre.  Se formo como clown con Virginia Imaz, Jango Edwards, Theatre Organic, Ollis Haunstentien, Manu Aizpuru y Pep Vila.

Ha participado en montajes con Ricard Salvat, Marta Carrasco, Txell Roda, Comediants y Theatre de l’Unite.  Protagonizo la pelicula de Jan Baca “Del costat de l’ombra” (1999) e intervino en los cortometrajes “Hijomoto II” (Manuel Romo, 1996) y “Refugiats i fugitius” (Herman Bonnin, 1994).  Presento el programa “Escena” de Canal 33 en el especial “Fira Trapezi de Reus 2003.”   Acudio a las dos ediciones del Festival de Pallasses Internacional d’Andorra.

INOCENCIA Y PICARDIA   Ha fundado su propia compania de teatro clown, La Bleda, que lleva el nombre de su personaje mas conocido.  En palabras de Helena Escobar, La Bleda es una payasa “que descubre las cosas por primera vez, llena de inocencia, pero no tanto como pueda parecer a primera vista.”

La primera aparicion de ese personaje se produjo en “Histories de la Bleda” (2001), a la que siguieron “Palplantada-Bleda” (2003) y “Una paradeta particular” (2007).  En todos ellos, La Bleda mantiene su preferencia por las ropas de color verde y lleva un piercing en su nariz roja, como simbolo de picardia.

Entre los galardonados en esta primera edicion de los premios Tespo figuran tambien Mag Lari (mejor mago ilusionista), Susana Villafane (mejor interpretacion en largometraje), Marcel Tomas (mejor interpretacion teatral de comedia y mejor interpretacion de teatro gestual), Alba Yanez (mejor interpretacion teatral de drama), Mariona Castillo (mejor interpretacion de teatro musical), Mario Manas (Mejor interpretacion de teatro infantil) o Pere Hosta (mejor interpretacion en teatro de pequeno formato).

Las menciones especiales a la trayectoria fueron para Llibert Albiol y Carme Calvet (cincuenta anos de Titelles Babil), Pauli Collado (amateur) y Carme Contreras (profesional), que se llevo tambien el premio a la actriz con mejor videobook.


Helena Escobar remporte le prix TESPO du meilleur clown

L’Union des Acteurs et des Actrices de Catalogne ont remis ces récompenses pour la première fois, vendredi

L’actrice est surtout connu par le caractère de son personnage La Bleda qui est le protagoniste de ses différents spectacles

Traduction d’un article de Jordi Manzanares

Pour la première fois, L’Union des Acteurs et des Actrices de Catalogne (UAAC) a remis vendredi dernier, les prix TESPO lors d’une cérémonie qui s’est tenue à l’hôtel Tryp Apolo de Barcelone. Il y a eu 38 prix et 3 mentions spéciales correspondants aux différentes disciplines. L’actrice Helena Escobar de Terrassa mieux connue pour son rôle de La Bleda a eu le prix du meilleur clown. Ne pouvant recevoir personnellement le prix, il a été remis en son nom à Susana Lloret de la compagnie du Théâtre Cascai. 

Helena Escobar a été parmi les cinq finalistes du meilleur clown avec Joan Busquets de la compagnie Infima La Puca; Atila Puig de la compagnie Théâtre Mobil et Toti Toronell de Cop de Clown. 

Née à Terrassa près de Barcelone, Helena Escobar a étudié à l’Institut du Théâtre tout en obtenant une licence d’histoire de l’art. Elle a débuté sa carrière au théâtre pour enfants, ce qui  l’a conduite à rejoindre le Théâtre Paper Company, et Tabata Catacrac Théâtre. Elle se forma au métier de clown avec Virginia Imaz, Jango Edwards, Organic Theater, Haunstentien OLLIS, Manu et Aizpuru Pep Vila. 

Elle a participé à des films avec Ricard Salvat, Marta Carrasco, Txell Roda et Comédiens et Théâtre de l’Unité. Elle a tenu un rôle  dans le film de Jan Baca “De côté de l’ombre” en 1999. Elle est intervenue dans le court métrage “Hijomoto II” de Manuel Romo en 1996) et dans ” Les réfugiés et les fugitifs” d’Herman Bonnin en 1994. Elle présenta le programme «Escena» sur la chaîne de télévision Canal 33 et la foire spéciale du cirque « Fira Trapezi de Reus 2003 ». Elle a participé à deux éditions du Festival International des clowns d’Andorre.                                            

INNOCENCE ET ESPIEGLERIE        Elle a créé sa propre compagnie de théâtre de clowns La Bleda qui porte le nom de son célèbre personnage. Selon  Helena Escobar. «  La Bleda est un clown qui découvre les choses pour la première fois, plein d’innocence mais pas autant qu’on pourrait le penser à première vue. 

La première  apparition de ce personnage s’est produite en 2001 dans « Histoires de La Bleda », suivi par “Palplantada-Bleda” (2003) et ” Un petit arrêt particulier” (2007). En tout, La Bleda maintient sa préférence pour des vêtements verts et porte un piercing dans le nez rouge comme un symbole d’espièglerie. 

Parmi les gagnants de cette première édition du prix TESPO figurent aussi Mag Lari (meilleur magicien illusionniste), Susana Villafañe (meilleure actrice de long métrage), Marcel Tomas (Meilleur acteur de théâtre de comédie et de théâtre gestuel ), Alba Yanez (meilleure actrice dramatique), Mariona Castillo (meilleure actrice de théâtre musical), Mario Manas (meilleur acteur du théâtre pour les enfants) ou Pere Hosta (meilleur acteur du théâtre de petit format). 

Les mentions spéciales pour le parcours de Llibert Albiol et Carme Calvet (cinquante années  pour la compagnie théâtrale  Titelles Babil), Pauli Collado (amateur) et Carmen Contreras (professionnel), qui a reçu le prix pour le meilleur Videobook. 


Helena Escobar Wins TESP Award for Best Clown

The Union of Actors and Actresses of Catalunya, Spain, presented the TESP awards for the first time on Friday

Actress is known mainly by the character of “La Bleda,” the protagonist of various shows 

Written by Jordi Manzanares 

For the first time, the Union of Actors and Actresses of Catalunya, Spain (UAAC) delivered last Friday its TESP awards at a ceremony held at the Hotel Tryp Apolo, Barcelona. There were awards for 38 categories and three special mentions, in different ways. Actress Helena Escobar of Terrassense, better known by her character’s name La Bleda, took the prize for the best male or female clown, but was unable to go personally to pick up the award.  Collecting the award on her behalf was Susana Lloret, of the company Cascai Teatre. 

Escobar was among the five finalists for the best male clown or female clown with: Joan Busquets, from the tiny La Companyia Puca; Atila Puig, of the company Teatre Mobil, and Toti Toronell of Cop de Clown. 

Born in Terrassa, Spain, Helena Escobar studied at the Institut del Teatre and graduated with a degree in Art History. She then started a career in the field of children’s theater that has led her to join the Theater Paper Company, and the Tabata Catacrac Teatre.  She trained as a clown with Virginia Imaz, Jango Edwards, Organic Theater, Haunstentien Ollis, Manu and Aizpuru Pep Vila. 

She has participated in productions with Ricard Salvat, Marta Carrasco, Txell Roda, Comediants and Theater de l’Unite. She starred in the film of Jan Baca “From Costata de L’Ombra” (1999) and took part in the shorts “Hijomoto II” (Manuel Romo, 1996) and “I Fugitius Refugees” (Herman Bonnin, 1994). She presented “Stage” in the Channel 33 special “Fira de Reus Trapezi 2003.” She went to do two seasons of the Festival International d’Andorra Pallasso. 

INNOCENCE AND PICARDY     She founded her own theater company.  Her clown character, La Bleda, was named after its most famous character. In the words of Helena Escobar, La Bleda is a clown “who discovers things first, full of innocence, but not as much as might appear at first sight.” 

The first occurrence of that character was in “History of Bleda” (2001), followed by “Palplantada-Bleda” (2003) and “A Paradeta Particular” (2007). In all, La Bleda maintains her preference for green clothes and carries a piercing in her nose, red as a symbol of Picardy. 

Among the winners in this first edition of the TESP awards are also Mag Lari (best illusionist magician), Susana Villafane (best in film), Marcel Tomas (best comedy and theatrical interpretation of theater), Alba Yanez (better interpretation of theatrical drama), Mariona Castillo (best musical theater), Mario Manas (best children’s theater) and Pere Hosta (best theater in small format). 

The special awards were for the lifetime achievement of Llibert Albiol and Carme Calvet (fifty years with Titelles Babil); Pauli Collado (amateur) and Carmen Contreras (professional), who also took the award for best actress in a videobook.


Helena Escobar


Helena Escobar estudia a l’Institut del teatre de Terrassa, paral.lelament cursa la llicenciatura d’Història de l’Art. Inicia una llarga carrera en el teatre infantil –Teatre de Paper, Catacrac, Tàbata Teatre- fins arribar a formar la seva pròpia companyia de teatre-clown per a tots públics: La Bleda. Amb produccions com: Històries de la Bleda, PalplantadaBleda, i Una Paradeta Particular. Cia.La Bleda, s’ha consolidat en el teatre familiar de Catalunya, després d’una llarga trajectoria. Ha treballat en muntatges amb Ricard Salvat, Marta Carrasco, Txell Roda, Comediants, Theatre de l’Unité, també participa en cinema i realitza treballs com actriu a televisió. Es forma com a clown amb Virginia Imaz, Jango Edwards, Theatre Organic, Ollis Haunstentein, Manu Aizpuru, Pep Vila. Participa en les dues edicions del Festival de Pallasses internacional d’Andorra.

Pere Hosta


Es forma com a clown amb Pep Vila, Berty Tovias, Virginia Imaz, Claret Clown, Peter Gadish, Merche Ochoa, Ollis Haustentein. Participa en televisió, animacions, teatre de carrer i presenta el seu primer espectacle com a clown al 2002 a la Fira de Tàrrega: On ets, noia? –producció de la Genial Teatre-. Actualment de gira amb l’espectacle TALCOMSÓC creat per Pere Hosta i Pep Vila el 2004. També membre de la cia.La Bleda co-dirigeix el darrer espectacle: Una paradeta particular. I anteriorment : PalplantadaBleda. Assolint la consolidació de la cia.La Bleda en el teatre familiar de Catalunya. Estudis teatrals a l’escola de teatre de Girona “El Galliner”, Estudis Teatre –Berty Tovias- i d’altres, a més d’autodidacta. Educador teatral de joves i infants a diferentes escoles gironines incloent el Galliner; amb el càrrec de cap de departament infantil i cap d’estudis de l’Escola de Teatre del Gironés.

Pere Hosta

Pere Hosta presenta OUT, un muntatge dirigit per Helena Escobar. Aquest nou espectacle de Pere Hosta “on la rutina es descontrola i es converteix en humor” ens narra la història d’un funcionari que segueix treballant dins un edifici a punt d’enderrocar-se. L’obra es va estrenar al Festival Escena Poblenou i s’ha pogut veure a la sala La Planeta de Girona.

Pere Hosta presents “OUT,” an assembly led by Helena Escobar. This new show of Pere Hosta own routine gets out and turns into humor.  He tells the story of a corporate employee who continues to work inside a building about to be demolished.  The work was premiered at the Festival Poblenou and was seen in the hall The Planeta de Girona.

Roger Schutt and Pepito’s Trick Violin (2008)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

by Melani Carty

This is the story of a magical Christmas present given to me by a very kind person I have never met:  Mr. Roger Schutt.  It all began last autumn, when a number of Pepito-related items were being sold on eBay.  One of the eBay lots contained a number of old photos of Pepito and an antique “trick violin” that I suspected may be the older sister to the famous “trick cello” that Pepito built for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s vaudeville act in 1950.

Roger Schutt was the person who won the auction for the trick violin and some accompanying photos.  Over the next few weeks, we became good penpals, writing back and forth about my research into the life and times of Pepito the Spanish Clown.  Roger Schutt did not know Pepito personally, but, being a professional clown himself (see photos below), Roger could see with his discerning eye for details, that Pepito was a talented clown indeed.  The photos showed that Pepito had a firm grasp of costuming, props, makeup, and facial expressions.  In the photo above, Pepito is wearing a prosthetic nose of his own design that, just by its shape and uptilt, gives you everything you need to know about his character, “The Maestro”:  he is snooty and untalented, but thinks quite highly of himself and his abilities as a musician.

The next part of the story is the real surprise.  After our enthusiastic correspondence, and perusing my PepitoAndJoanne.com website, Roger decided to ship the violin and photos to my house as a special Christmas gift!  

I must say that never, ever have I experienced so much kindness from someone I have never met.  The internet is a very magical place indeed, and a wonderful way to become friends with people who live far away but have identical interests.  

Below are two pictures of Roger Schutt in costume as Butterbean the Clown.  He has a weekday job, but loves his part time work making children happy.  He certainly made me happy too!  Thank you Roger, thank you for the kindness in your heart and your amazing generosity.

Oh, I almost forgot to say that, now that I have looked at it in my own hands, this violin must be Pepito’s precursor to the famous trick cello that he gave to Lucille Ball, because it too has a trap door on the back and a big rubber band for shooting the bow across the room. 

If you have forgotten Lucy’s cello routine which was devised by Pepito the Spanish Clown and used in the Lost Pilot and Episode 6 of “I Love Lucy,” then hurry on over to YouTube, or check your streaming channels.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009 – 02:25 PM

Shawn Sousa “Husband to Tricia/Dance Instructor”

Melani,  Thanks for sharing this information and journey you are on.  Our family was greatly saddened by the handling of their estate.  My wife Tricia told me of your call last night and of this website.  I am overjoyed by the work you are doing here.  I know Joanne would be tickled pink to know that people like you are making something good out of how the estate was sold off.  I know first hand from Joanne’s lips that she wanted their home and items to bless anyone who was interested in the arts (dancing, singing and acting) and not to be sold off to the highest bidder.  

Roger,  I was inspired by your gift and lifted up by this story.  My hope is that through gifts like yours and others, Melani will be equipped to tell the story of Pepito and Joanne so that people will be inspired to dance, sing and act to brighten the world around us as they did during their time with us.

Friday, October 8, 2010 – 07:09 AM

Roger Schutt

Thank you for the kind words, Melani. Part of being a clown is doing ones best to bring joy into the hearts of others. And if I’ve done that for you and others, then my day is brightened as well.

What you give of yourself is priceless, Melani. You share each and every tidbit of information that you come across, so freely, because there truly is a great story here to be told. We admire you greatly for that.

I was fascinated when I chatted with you on the phone.  You have a unique ability of putting the correct spin on so much of the data you’ve collected.  I suspect that part of this is from your first hand knowledge of Pepito and Joanne, but also through an innate gut feeling, and your forensic approach to research. We salute you!

I’m glad we could become friends through such a strange twist of events. An old violin and a few photo’s are a small price to pay for the honor and privilege to call you and your family my friends.

So glad that our paths crossed. Wishing you and your family the very best always, and God’s blessing every step of the way!

Your funny friend,

Roger Schutt

As they say in show business….”See you somewhere down the road!”

Raymond Escobar, Pepito’s Great-Nephew (2008)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

by Melani Carty

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, Pepito’s great-nephew, Raymond Escobar, has found this website and become a good penpal.   Raymond Escobar is the son of Ramon Escobar and the grandson of Rafael Escobar Perez (Pepito’s brother!)

Raymond emailed me the most wonderful treasure:  the earliest known photo of Pepito, from 1916, when he lived in Spain and his clown persona was “Mr. Hermhan.”  Follow this link to read a letter from Raymond Escobar and see the picture.

Raymond’s consuming passion is constructing the Escobar family tree, and he is working at a bit of a disadvantage.  You see, Raymond’s branch of the Escobars has been in France for many years, and before that they lived in Algeria, because Pepito’s brother (Raymond’s grandfather) left Spain and moved to Algiers in the early 1900s.  Over time, most of the Escobar relatives in France have died, and their memories have died with them.  Thus, the surviving French Escobars do not know the names or contact information of the Escobars in Spain.  

Raymond and I have reconstructed that Pepito (birth name Jose Escobar Perez) was from the area of Barcelona, Spain, particularly the city of Alcala, Espana.  Jose’s father was Segundo Escobar and his mother was Vicente Escobar.  So far, we know that two of Jose’s siblings were Maria Escobar Salud (born 1883), and Rafael Escobar (born 1884), but there may be more siblings.  (Look at that gap between 1884 and 1890).  Jose Escboar Perez was born in 1885, according to his naturalization application, although later he changed his birth year to 1896, probably for showbiz reasons.

To explain the Spanish naming system, Jose’s (Pepito’s) name is composed of his father’s last name Escobar, and his mother’s maiden name Perez.  When Jose came to America, and needed to make his name fit American naming conventions, he used Escobar as his middle name and Perez as his last name, thus Jose Escobar Perez became Jose E. Perez.  However, in Spain, Escobar would have been considered his true last name.  

The nickname Pepito derived from his first name Jose.  As can be seen from the link below, as early as 1916, Jose Escobar Perez referred to himself as “Pepe” when sending a postcard to his brother.  In Spanish, Pepito is the diminuitive of Pepe.  “Pepito” is analogous to “Little Johnny,” and “Pepito Perez” is analogous to “John Doe.”  It seems that Jose Escobar Perez looked to adapt his own given name into a clown name relatable to the Spanish-language culture when he became Pepito Perez.  This would make sense, since he spent years clowning in Spain, Cuba and Mexico before he came to America.

Interestingly, when Pepito married Joanne, she adapted her name to comply with the Americanization of Jose’s name.  Thus, Margaret Janet Zettler became Mrs. Jose E. Perez, or Mrs. Margaret E. Perez.  Joanne was a nickname, not her birth name, not a legal name.

In summary, Raymond Escobar is seeking any information about the history and family tree of the family Escobar in Spain, Algeria and France.  Please email Raymond Escobar at artbijou@wanadoo.fr if you can be of assistance.

1 Comment 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009 – 05:27 PM

Marivi Escobar

This is Marivi Escobar from Spain. Raymond has already met the Spanish family. I’m his cousin. Our great-grandparents were the same. He has also found the family in France. Fortunately all his cousins are alive. We are all in contact now. Thanks to Melani. We’ll contribute with this website in all your desires.

Television Obscurities Website: “I Love Lucy” Unaired Pilot Episode (2008)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In March of 1951, a 34-minute pilot episode for a proposed I Love Lucy series was filmed in an attempt to sell the series to CBS and potential sponsors. It worked, but the pilot itself was never broadcast. Instead, its storyline was worked into an episode that was shown on November 19th, 1951 during I Love Lucy’s first season [1]. Although I Love Lucy would air for six years and reign atop the Nielsen charts, the pilot episode was eventually forgotten.

In the early 1980s, the Museum of Broadcasting (now the Paley Center for Media, formerly the Museum of Television & Radio) began actively searching for the pilot episode. At the time, the curator of museum’s television collection, Ronald C. Simon, explained that during the 1970s all traces of the pilot had disappeared; not even Desi Arnaz or Lucille Ball owned or knew where to find a copy [2].

Then, in December of 1989, a film print was found under the bed of a the late Pepito Pérez, who had appeared in the pilot as a clown way back in 1951. Reportedly, Pepito’s widow, Joanne Pérez, had read about the long-lost pilot in TV Guide, recalled that her husband had been given a copy, and checked under their bed [3]. CBS aired an hour-long special built around the pilot on Monday, April 30th, 1990. It tied for first in the week’s ratings with a 21.2/37 rating. Over 30 million viewers tuned in [4].

Updated Friday, February 20th, 2009

S.A.K. has informed me in the comment section that portions of the above story are incorrect. A print of the unaired pilot was given to Pepito Pérez by Desi Arnez. It was never “lost” and certainly was never kept under anyone’s bed. It was even shown by Pepito and his wife, Joanne, to people taking their dance classes. Television historians and fans of I Love Lucy owe both Pepito and Joanne a debt of gratitude for hanging on to the print and later making it available.

1 Shales, Tom. “Love That ‘Lost’ Lucy.” Washington Post. 30 Apr. 1990: B1.
2 “Broadcasting Museum Seeks TV’s Self-History.” 43.
3 Richmond, Ray. “Long-Lost Lucy TV Pilot Airs Tonight.” Toronto Star. 30 Apr. 1990: B4.
4 “Nielsens: NBC Barely Sweeping by CBS.” USA Today. 9 May 1990: 3D.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 20th, 2008 at 10:18PM and is filed under I Love LucyTV’s Lost & Found




Wednesday, May 13, 2009 – 06:32 PM

Direct Family

This is Mariví Escobar from Spain. My aunt Joanne sent also a copy of this video to be shown it to the family in Spain. My niece Helena Escobar, who is a well-known clown too now in Catalonia, owns it now.

February 20, 2009 – 2:12 PM

S. A. K.

This article has incorrect facts. I originally read about the search for the pilot episide in the TV Guide and called Joanne (a long time dear friend and personal dance instructor). Joanne stated that Desi had said that he wanted Pepito to keep it, not ever give it to anyone. Desi GAVE it to Pepito after he was done with it. It was not under Pepito’s bed. It was on a shelf in Pepito’s closet. Joanne kept a very neat and clean house. She did not store anything under beds. When I first took dancing from Pepito and Joanne, Pepito showed the classes the “pilot” numerous times. It was a fun time. Pepito and Joanne were very special people. Everyone seems to get the “Pilot” story wrong.

VIDEO: Samaroff & Sonia, Pepito the Spanish Clown & Ron Pesch (2008)

Friday, December 5, 2008

by Melani Carty

This was a first for me:  the first time my blog has been blogged upon by another blogger!  “An e-mail arrived the other day from Melani Carty with a subject line that immediately caught my attention. It said, “Samaroff and Sonia & Pepito the Clown.”  I knew instantly the connection between the performers.  Within the body of the e-mail, Melani noted that she blogged on Pepito, and his wife, Joanne … “  Read the rest of Ron Pesch’s blog article.

Ron Pesch

Read more about Samaroff & Sonia, and Pepito the Spanish Clown, in my article The Ballyhoo’ of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Circus’ (1928).

16 millimeter footage from 1929, filmed backstage from stage-right, of vaudevillians Samaroff and Sonia (Donat and Ella Butowick) onstage, performing their Russian dancing and trained acrobatic dogs act on the Orpheum theater circuit. From the home movie collection of fellow vaudevillian, Pepito the Spanish Clown, and his wife Joanne Perez. Courtesy of http://www.PepitoAndJoanne.com. Visit http://www.actorscolony.com/butowicks… for more.

Be sure to visit Ron Pesch’s fabulous website, Actor’s Colony at Bluffton 1908-1938:  Buster Keaton and the Muskegon Connection and read his Actors Colony blog.

Ron Pesch’s detailed history of Samaroff and Sonia and his touching blog series, Samaroff and Sonia – A Love Story in Postcards are a great behind-the-scenes look at a vaudeville marriage.

Biola University Newsletter: New Cutting Edge Media Production Center Puts Biola on the Top (2008)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

After more than $2.2 million worth of renovation, Biola’s ambitious Media Production Center is ready for lights, cameras and plenty of action.

The center — a state-of-the-art home away from home for students in the University’s film and journalism programs — is currently in the process of being outfitted with cutting-edge equipment that will greatly enhance students’ preparation for 21st century careers in the media industry.

When completed, the center will be a place for filming and editing newscasts, teleconferencing with journalists across the nation, designing magazines and public-relations materials, and creating top-notch student films.

Doug Tarpley, dean of fine arts and communication, said the facility will play a vital role in helping Biola provide the next generation of Christian filmmakers and journalists with both a strong academic foundation and real-world professional training.

“This production center helps us fulfill the second part of that equation,” Tarpley said. “It is absolutely critical to provide students with an excellent experience with cutting-edge equipment in an environment that reflects the professional world.”

Over the summer, work crews completed an extensive remodeling of the existing facility, making room for a new television news studio, a convergent newsroom, a film equipment-storage room and a lobby.

With that skeleton in place, the focus shifted to filling the interior with equipment.

This fall, the University installed a professional news desk, cameras, teleprompters and lights — thanks to generous donations totaling more than $300,000.

Another $400,000 to $500,000 is still needed to purchase computers, computer monitors, software and additional equipment, Tarpley said. All the upgrades will total about $3 million.

Biola previously received more than $1 million for the center from the estate of Joanne and Pepito Perez.  

Earlier this year, an anonymous donor contributed an additional $1 million toward the project.

Already, Biola is the flagship school for film programs in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Tarpley said. He said he believes the production center will play a role in helping Biola become a leader in visual communication, broadcast and print journalism programs.

Unlike some programs, Biola doesn’t just give students the technical skills necessary to create films or produce news stories, but also offers the broad academic background, critical thinking skills and ethical foundation that Christian filmmakers and journalists need, he said.

“It’s not enough to know which buttons you push to do a newscast or what the perfect lighting is for a scene in a film,” he said. “At some point, you have to ask the question, ‘Why am I doing this? What is my contract with the culture? How am I trying to impact people?”

The need for more of these well-trained Christians to help influence culture through the entertainment media and information media is great, he said.

“The call to be a Christian filmmaker or journalist is a sacred calling,” Tarpley said. “It is every bit as sacred as a calling to be a minister or a missionary.”

Written by Jason Newell, Biola Magazine Editor.


Biola University, http://www.biola.edu/news/articles/2008/081113_media.cfm

Biola University Newsletter: Studio B [Where the Perez Estate Money Was Spent] (2008)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Full scale construction is underway on Biola University, Studio B, Cinema & Media Arts and Journalism, and will be complete for Fall ’08 classes. The rough shape of the exterior is clearly visible now, and drywall has been installed in the interior. The new Equipment Checkout Room will be ready for business on June 24, and the old equipment room is now being remodelled to serve as Studio B. Later this week (week of June 23) the building will be wrapped in black paper in preparation for stucco.  We are still awaiting final funding for the equipment needed to outfit the complex. Several potential donors have expressed interest, so please be in prayer for them.

April 16, 2008

Work is underway again on this vital expansion of Biola’s Cinema, Media Arts, and Journalism facilities. Between now and the end of May the work that we can do is limited by the fact that the facility is in use for the Spring ’08 semester, but we have lined up several important tasks that can be completed:

• The south end of the building will become the new Equipment Checkout room, where cameras, lights, and other equipment are dispensed to students who need them for projects. This area was previously an air conditioning enclosure with a simple patio roof, and all of the equipment resting on the floor. That enclosure has been replaced by a fully enclosed room, and all the air conditioning equipment, which previously sat on the floor, is now hanging from the ceiling, allowing the floor space to be used as the new Equipment Checkout Room. A new concrete floor for this area was poured on April 15. Additional electrical work and framing of walls and counters will come soon.

• Also at the south end of the building, an outdoor work area for prop construction has been created. This area is immediately outside of the large double doors that lead into Studio A. In the past, students have done work on sidewalks and parking lot surfaces. Now there is an area where this can be done without interfering with traffic flow and without looking messy.

• Asphalt was installed west of the area that will be the new lobby. This will allow for a much tidier and efficient work area this summer.

The full-blown construction will be turned loose immediately following Spring Commencement, so the first full day of work will be Tuesday, May 27. The goal is to have all construction finished by August 27, the first day of classes for the Fall ’08 term.

While the $1 million gift received at the end of February has gotten the project moving again, the fundraising continues, and so your prayers are still needed. We need just over $100,000 to complete construction, and we need another $800,000 to buy all of the new equipment to outfit the complex. Thanks for you continuing support and prayers.

March 19, 2008

Thanks to an anonymous gift of $1 million, we are moving ahead aggressively to complete construction on this project by August 27, 2008, the first day of classes for the fall semester. The best window of opportunity will open right after graduation, so the project will hit full speed on Tuesday, May 27. In the meantime, we are getting all our contracts in order and completing a number of smaller tasks that will place us in position to succeed this summer.

Fundraising efforts are still going on to raise the small amount needed to complete construction, and the much larger amount needed to fully outfit the Production Center with new equipment.

Join us in thanking the Lord for this gift, and in continuing to ask Him to supply the rest of the need.

December 13, 2007

We have reached the end of what current funds can accomplish, and are now planning to wait until June to do further work on the project. Studio A and the Edit Bays have been in full use for the Fall semester, and we have faculty occupying the new offices that were completed in September. The only other thing that will happen between now and June is the painting of some raw wood for the sake of preservation.

Please continue to pray with us that our fund raising team will be directed to the right contacts.

August 24, 2007

We are nearing the end of the current phase of construction. Almost all of the available funding has been spent, and we need to get the facility back on line for the fall semester. Last spring, the faculty of Journalism and Cinema/Media Arts agreed to set up their course schedules so that we could continue construction into September. Studio A and the Edit Bays will be ready for student use no later than October 1. The new photos are beginning to show the architectural feel of the remodel. At three places, the architect has introduced a soaring roof element that recalls the designs popular in the 1950s when the facility was originally built. The south end of the project has a new roof extension that will support relocated air conditioning equipment and free up space for a new Equipment Check-out Room. The side facing Biola Ave. has two new faculty offices, and the entrance to these offices is defined by a smaller version of that sloping roof concept. (Those offices will be ready for new faculty by the end of next week.) The new lobby–which will be completed in the next phase of the project–is now defined by a curved row of steel columns which will be enclosed in glass and topped by another “soaring roof.”

Fund raising efforts continue, and we hope to resume construction in mid-December as funds permit. Please pray that we will be directed to the right donors.

July 16, 2007

Construction continues, with the focus on structural improvments to the building and on the electrical, water, and sewer connections needed to meet the requirements of the expanded building.

June 19, 2007

The Studio B project is underway. Biola’s film and television program first moved into its present location nine years ago, when the former junior high “Cafetorium” was remodeled to respond to the growing demand for improved facilities. At the time, a single, large studio was completed, and a second one, designated “Studio B” was included in the plans, but funding was not available to complete its construction. Thanks to the estate of Pepito and Joanne Perez, that work is now becoming a reality. The second studio will be home to a permanent news and talk show set, and will free the large studio for a variety of film and video projects.

In addition to completing the original vision for a second studio, the project has been expanded and re-designed. Here are the major features of the project:

•A new “Convergent Newsroom” that creates a multi-disiplinary environment where students can learn to the techniques of video, print, and audio journalism in one synergistic space, and can learn how the various media can be used together.

•An expanded Equipment Checkout room to house more equipment such as lights, cameras, microphones, and all the other tools of modern media;

•A new lobby for the building to give it a fresh entrance and to handle the many tours and visitors that come to the building;

•A Green Room/Lounge combination space;

•A new set of expanded restrooms to meet County plumbing codes and add convenient, secure restroom space for students that are doing late night projects.

•Two new faculty offices for Mass Com;

•Expanded outdoor workspace at the doors to Studio A in an area that will be shielded from public view.

Our challenge now is to go as far as the Perez Estate dollars will take us, and have the building back in usable condition early in the Fall semester. At the same time, we are praying for additional donations that will allow us to add all of the new features listed above. —Ken Bascom Senior Director of Facilities Planning and Construction.

June 23, 2008 Photos

The South end of the building. The grey door to the right is the exterior door to the Equipment Checkout room.

Interior of the Equipment Checkout room. The relocated air conditioning equipment can be seen hanging from the ceiling.

Behind this curved brick wall is a work space for preparing sets and props for the Studios. See April update for a photo of the work area.

The dramatic new lobby is taking shape.

A closer look at the lobby.

Two new restrooms will be available for general daytime use, with secure access after hours for late-night users of the Production Center

The Convergent Newsroom (see June 19, 2007 update) takes shape.

The ceiling of the new Studio B space will be about 18′ high. News desk and talk show sets here will free Studio A for larger, more demanding projects.


Biola University, biola.edu/news/construction/studio_b/


Monday, June 8, 2009 – 01:58 PM

Iwa Iniki

So sad.  This is not all what Joanne wanted.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – 12:39 PM


I know. I agree. I spoke with her, and this is not what she wanted. And Biola tore her house APART (even removing stone from the fireplaces) to sell anything of value. It was like rape.

EverythingLucy: Pepito’s World’s Smallest Bicycle in Lucy-Desi Museum (2007)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Pepito’s World’s Smallest Bicycle, six inches wide by ten inches high, manufactured by Anderson, Melbourne, Australia, 1928, was at one time entered into “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”  Pepito and Joanne were in Australia in 1928 for an extended vaudeville tour, and he must have ordered this bicycle at that time.  This is the same bicycle that appears in his act in the I Love Lucy Lost Pilot (1951) and I Love Lucy Episode 52 (1952).  And where is the tiny bicycle today …. appropriately, in a display case at the Lucy-Desi Center in Jamestown, New York.

One of Pepito the Spanish Clown’s two famous tiny bicycles is on display at the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown, New York.
Closeup of the medallion located just below the handlebars. Pepito and Joanne toured Australia in 1928 on the Tivoli vaudeville circuit, where he purchased this tiny bicycle, his second. Pepito’s first tiny bicycle is in the possession of one of his descendants.

The EverythingLucy blog reported in 2007 that “The Rapaports have added another treasure to the Lucy-Desi Archives. The world’s smallest bicycle as seen on “I Love Lucy” is now on display at Desilu Playhouse in Lucy’s hometown. 

“In March of 1951, Pepito Perez rode the world’s smallest bicycle in the pilot of what was to become the most widely viewed series ever on television. As ‘Pepito the Spanish Clown’, he again rode this tiny two-wheeler in episode 52 of ‘I Love Lucy,’ ‘Lucy’s Showbiz Swan Song,’ that first aired on December 22, 1952.

“Thanks to the continuing generosity of Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center benefactors Bill and Mary Rapaport of East Amherst, New York, this historic prop is now one of the artifacts in the Lucy-Desi Museum’s collection. A special case has been constructed to exhibit it, and visitors to the Desilu Playhouse can now see it in all its tiny glory! The Desilu Playhouse is the ‘I Love Lucy’ museum in the Rapaport Center in Jamestown, New York, Lucille Ball’s hometown.

“A long-time friend of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Pepito Perez was responsible for helping develop Lucy and Desi’s 1950 vaudeville act that toured the country to prove to CBS Television that the American public would accept the redhead and the band leader as a comedy team. 

“This bicycle is the most recent gem from the estate of Pepito Perez that the Rapaports have contributed to the Lucy-Desi Center. Others are two costumes that Pepito wore in ‘I Love Lucy’ — a 13-piece clown outfit and a lion tamer ensemble complete with safari hat and bullwhip — and the frog costume William Frawley wore in ‘Little Ricky’s School Pageant’, episode 163, that aired for the first time on December 17, 1956. The Rapaports also donated Lucille Ball’s first Hollywood contract to the Center. 

“In expressing the Lucy-Desi Center’s appreciation, Executive Director Ric Wyman noted, ‘We were overwhelmed with Bill and Mary’s generosity in initially making the Desilu Playhouse possible. Their continuing support means that the thousands of fans who’ve already visited Jamestown’s two museums will be able to enjoy wonderful new treasures when they return. The Rapaports have more than earned the enormous gratitude of all of us at the Center and fans everywhere.’”


EverythingLucy, Bicycle from I Love Lucy Pilot Show on Display


City of Santa Ana: Restored Pepito & Joanne House Wins Preservation Award (2007)

Monday, January 1, 2007

Historic Preservation Award Winners

Congratulations to the 2007 Outstanding Historic Preservation Award Winners!  The first winner is Fermin Valencia for Restoration of the Pepito and Joanne’s Dance Studio. Pepito and Joanne were long-time friends of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and were in fact “co-conspirators” in getting the first episode of “I Love Lucy” on the air. Lucy and Desi were unable to pay their dear friend Pepito for his acting role in the pilot episode, and was given the original film as payment.  This “lost episode” was later found in this very house, and was made available for public view.  After Pepito and Joanne died, the home passed to a non-profit agency, who were unable to restore it or use it for their own purposes because of its decrepit condition.  Fermin has fully restored the home, both inside and out, along with the structure’s wonderfully intricate Queen Anne style details. It was a tremendous job, and he was up to it – all the while completing law school. 


City of Santa Ana, California


EverythingLucy: “I Love Lucy” Frog Costume Donated to The Lucy-Desi Center (2006)

Friday, December 15, 2006

As reported by the Lucille Ball – Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown, NY, the frog costume worn by William Frawley in the I Love Lucy episode,”Little Ricky’s School Pageant” has been donated to the center by Bill and Mary Rapaport of East Amherst, New York.

Fifty years ago this Sunday, on December 17, 1956, “Little Ricky’s School Pageant,” episode 163 of I Love Lucy, aired for the first time.

The script called for the four main characters to take on roles in Little Ricky’s kindergarten play, “The Enchanted Forest.” Desi Arnaz, in the role of Ricky Ricardo, played a talking tree, while Lucille Ball, as Lucy Ricardo, swung above the stage as the wicked old witch of the forest. Little Ricky’s godparents were also part of the ensemble: Ethel Mertz (Vivian Vance) played the fairy princess while Fred (William Frawley) took on the role of the friendly frog, Hippity-Hoppity.

Bill and Mary Rapaport of East Amherst, New York, recently donated the frog costume William Frawley wore in this classic episode to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown, New York. It includes an oversized frog “head,” “hands,” and “feet.”  The costume had been part of the Estate of Pepito Perez and was offered at a Hollywood memorabilia auction in Beverly Hills in December, 2005. 

Mary Rapaport kisses the Hippy Happily costume worn by Willam Frawley as Fred Mertz in I Love Lucy Episode 163, “Little Ricky’s School Pageant,” originally broadcast on CBS in 1956.

While the costume was missing the union suit that Bill Frawley wore, it fetched $17,000. The Rapaports subsequently purchased it from the auction’s high bidder and have made it available to be enjoyed by visitors to Lucy’s hometown.

This amazing costume is now on exhibit in the Desilu Playhouse, a museum devoted to the “I Love Lucy” television series. It was unveiled yesterday (Thursday, December 14, 2006) to members of the Lucy-Desi Center’s Acquisitions Society, a group that was created in the summer of 2005 to acquire and care for historically significant items related to the First Couple of Comedy. Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. are among the Society’s founding members.

Following the unveiling, a special luncheon was held in the Tropicana Room on the second floor of the Rapaport Center. The Desilu Playhouse occupies the ground floor of the Rapaport Center at 2 W. Third Street in downtown Jamestown, and was made possible primarily through private funding from the Rapaports.



EverythingLucy: Pepito’s “I Love Lucy” Episode 52 Costumes Donated to Lucy-Desi Center (2006)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Two costumes worn in the classic I Love Lucy television series have been donated to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Lucille Ball’s hometown, Jamestown, New York.

Pepito the Spanish Clown collage image, courtesy of papermoonloveslucy.tumblr.com.

Both costumes, a 13-piece clown outfit and a lion tamer ensemble complete with safari hat and bullwhip, were worn by Pepito Perez, a long-time friend of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Perez was responsible for helping develop Lucy and Desi’s 1950 vaudeville act which toured the country to prove to CBS Television that the American public would accept the redhead and the band leader as a comedy team.

The following year, Pepito appeared in the pilot episode for I Love Lucy, where he can be seen wearing his famous clown costume.

Later, Perez wore both costumes in “Lucy’s Show Biz Swan Song” known as Episode 52 to I Love Lucy aficionados worldwide. The storyline finds Pepito, the Spanish Clown auditioning for Ricky at the Tropicana Nightclub.

Pepito Perez and Desi Arnaz in Episode 52 of “I Love Lucy,” 1952.

In the scene, Pepito performs his world-famous baby crying act, does a lion tamer routine, and rides the world’s tiniest bicycle. The episode was filmed October 17, 1952 and aired later that year.

These original costumes were recently purchased by William and Mary Rapaport of East Amherst, New York. After the passing of Pepito’s widow, many of the personal effects from the Perez Estate appeared on the Hollywood auction block. The Rapaports, staunch supporters of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, participated in the auction and immediately donated the costumes to the organization in Lucille Ball’s hometown.

“We were happy to secure these rare costumes so that they can be shared with the thousands of folks who not only love Lucy, but who make the pilgrimage to her hometown each year,” Bill Rapaport said. “We’re glad that Jamestown celebrates the First Couple of Comedy in a first-class way and are happy to lend our support.” 

Mary Rapaport added, “One of the things that is especially touching to me is to see how the I Love Lucy show continues to be enjoyed by children and adults alike. It’s evident every time I visit the Lucy-Desi Museum and Desilu Playhouse in Jamestown. I hope these costumes will not only be enjoyed by all visitors, but will especially light up the faces of Lucy and Desi’s younger fans.”

Last year, the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center opened the Desilu Playhouse, a showplace devoted to the I Love Lucy television series. Jamestown’s newest attraction was made possible primarily through private funding from the Rapaports. The Desilu Playhouse occupies the ground floor of the Rapaport Center at 2 W. Third Street in downtown Jamestown.

Donor Mary Rapaport preparing Pepito, the Spanish Clown’s signature costume for the display case at the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown, New York. Photo courtesy of Bill Rapaport.


Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, www.lucy-desi.com


From the website “Still in Love With Lucy” by Thomas Watson at http://www.lucyfan.com/stillweek220.html

1 Comment 

Friday, November 28, 2008 – 10:11 PM


Hi Melani!  Love your website!  Thank you for putting it all together.  It’s a wonderful tribute to two very talented people!  Regarding the clown outfits used by Pepito on the I Love Lucy show, I believe he had duplicates, for I am the proud owner of the other set!  I purchased my Pepito wardrobe directly from Marylee, who as you know, attended the Perez estate auction.  The wardrobe pieces I now own are absolutely amazing!  The quality of the materials used is top-notch.  Such care and talent went in to creating these wardrobe pieces, from the satin linings, to the detailed stitching,  to the hundreds of rhinestones that adorn certain outfits!  Did I understand correctly that Joanne was also a seamstress?  Absolutely amazing!  Thanks again for creating this very special tribute to Joanne and Pepito!  ~Lisa

LucyFan: Lucy Cello in Jamestown, New York (2005)

Monday, November 7, 2005

The “loaded cello” used by Lucille Ball in the pilot episode of I Love Lucy, has found a new home — at the Lucy-Desi Museum in Jamestown, New York (see photo above). The instrument, originally owned and redesigned by performer “Pepito” (Jose Escobar Perez), was purchased on the Museum’s behalf by a group of Lucy-Desi fans last summer, when the cello, and other Lucy-related articles were offered in a Hollywood auction. The following news release, issued this past weekend by the Lucy-Desi Center in Jamestown, explains further:

Jamestown, NY – The possibility of acquiring a significant artifact in the history of the creation of “I Love Lucy” inspired supporters of The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center to step forward as founding members of the Center’s Acquisition Society.

The “Loaded Cello” built by Pepito for Lucille Ball was liquidated by Biola University from the Perez estate via the Profiles In History auction catalogue, 2005, page 136 (and page 137, below). The cello was expected to fetch $10,000-$12,000 at auction. The winning bid far surpassed the estimate: $30,000 (plus fees).

The cello credited with helping to found the most popular show ever on television was offered this summer as part of a Hollywood memorabilia auction in Beverly Hills. In response to the cello’s availability, friends of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center joined forces to launch an Acquisitions Society so that key artifacts could be secured for the Center.

Jamestown area residents who are founding members of the Acquisitions Society are the Bud and Deanna Black Family, Chuck and Pat Brininger, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, Mary Hunt, Mike Latone, Lucy-Desi Center board treasurer John Lloyd, and Ric Wyman. Other founding members include Joel Ashley, Bill Rapaport, and board members Desi Arnaz, Jr., Lucie Arnaz, Wanda Clark, Eric Cohler, Mary Rapaport, and Melody Thomas Scott.

In 1950, when Lucille Ball was asked to move her successful radio series to television, she agreed on one condition: her husband, Desi Arnaz, would be cast in the role of her TV husband.

The “Loaded Cello” built by Pepito for Lucille Ball was liquidated by Biola University from the Perez estate via the Profiles In History auction catalogue, 2005, page 137.

CBS executives balked, believing the American public wouldn’t accept an all-American redhead being married to a Latin bandleader. To prove the network wrong, Lucy and Desi launched a successful vaudeville tour. Their friend Jose Perez, known on the vaudeville circuit as Pepito, The Spanish Clown, developed several skits for the couple to take on the road. The most famous of these cast Lucy as “The Professor” who breaks into Desi’s performance and insists on auditioning for the band. The skit was so successful, Lucy and Desi worked it into the pilot episode of I Love Lucy (watch episode) and again in episode 6 of I Love Lucy from the show’s first season.

After the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Perez, their estate was left to Biola University in California. When University staff familiarized themselves with the contents of the Perez home, they made an amazing discovery: Pepito’s cello—complete with the plunger. Inside the cello Pepito had safely stored a 1950 Western Union telegram from Lucy and Desi, thanking him for his help. Providing ultimate authenticity, the telegram reads “… Prop cello the hit of my offering. We love you very much and appreciate you even more. Lucy & Desi.” Lucy-Desi Center staff are making plans to unveil the cello early next year at the Center’s new Desilu Playhouse.

The Acquisition Society’s winning bid for the cello was reportedly $30,000 — although a recent issue of “Antiques and Collecting Magazine” placed the total (including fees, etc.) closer to $35,400! Here are photos of the cello from the auction catalog.


Website “Still in Love with Lucy” by Thomas Watson,


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 www.profilesinhistory.com, 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

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Pepito’s Comedic Legacy, Clown’s “Lucy” Archive At Auction (2005)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

By Ben Baeder, Staff Writer, San Gabriel Valley Tribune

LA MIRADA — Tucked in a tiny back room in the basement of the Biola University library is a very strange collection.  It includes two bicycles, a tiny one and a huge one.  Sitting on a metal cabinet is a clown puppet so dusty that it turns a person’s hands black just to touch it.  Filed in a cardboard box are records from a Catholic private school in Spain. Piled on shelves are yellowing newspaper clippings announcing children’s theater productions.  The collection is the remnant of the estate of Jose “Pepito, the Spanish Clown” Perez and his wife, Joanne Perez, who helped write the pilot episode of I Love Lucy and were some of the closest confidants of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.  Old newspaper articles even claimed that Jose was once the official jester to King Alonso of Spain.

Now, everything the eccentric pair owned belongs to Biola University.  “It may not have been the biggest estate ever donated, but it was certainly the most unusual,’ said Adam Morris, the school’s senior director of development.  The college also benefited from the donation of the couple’s large Victorian-style house in Santa Ana, which will be sold.  But Biola officials hope they can also profit from the upcoming auction of Perez’s items associated with Lucy and Desi, including letters and photographs addressed to the couple and the trick cello Lucy used in the show’s pilot episode.  The items are scheduled to be sold at an auction called “Profiles in History” on Sept. 29, 2005 in Beverly Hills.  Other items will be kept at the school as part of the college’s mass-media collection.

It was Joanne who, through a friend, approached Biola officials about donating the couple’s collection to the school.  Jose, who was born in Spain and came to the United States in 1922, died in 1975. The couple had no children together. As Joanne’s health began to fail a few years ago, she asked a friend about estate planning.  The friend had planned to donate to Biola, and Joanne wanted to do the same.

Morris was assigned to her estate, and the two struck up a friendship.  Every time Morris went to the house, he said, Joanne wore an evening dress, even in the middle of the day.  The 5-foot-tall, 80-pound woman regaled him with stories about the early days of Hollywood.  Jose, who looked a lot like another Spaniard, Julio Iglesias, was a clown and vaudeville performer who was introduced to his wife at the old Grauman’s Chinese Theatre by Charlie Chaplin, so the story goes.  Jose was an actor, and Joanne was a contortionist and dancer who also played piano.  Through Jose’s vaudeville act as a pantomime and clown, he met Lucille Ball, and, later on, Desi Arnaz. The couples became fast friends.  It was Jose who helped write the pilot episode for I Love Lucy, according to old newspaper clippings stored with the collections. He worked with Lucy to hone her crazy expressions and bombastic gestures.  He also wrote a few skits Desi and Lucy used on a tour to convince television producers that Desi was a good enough actor to star in the show with his wife, according to Biola officials.  When the show became a hit, Pepito appeared on it several times, riding his tiny bike across the stage. 

He and Joanne owned a boat they kept near Newport Beach and used to take movie stars, including Clark Gable and Alan Ladd, on fishing trips. He had small  parts in at least five movies, according to the old newspaper articles.  As Jose got older, he got fewer acting gigs. The couple started putting on children’s plays, using students from Joanne’s dance school as actors.  Jose, a painter, would create elaborate stages and displays, and Joanne would handle the choreography.

Even after Jose died, Joanne kept teaching dance into her old age in studios she and Jose had built on their Santa Ana property.  “People said she could do the splits until she was 90,” Morris said. “She never had children, but she loved them so much, I think she kind of surrounded herself with them.”  Joanne Perez died in April 2004 at age 96, Morris said. Her house was left messy and disorganized. Things were piled everywhere.  Cataloging everything she left behind “was an overwhelming job,” said Gary Araujo, Biola’s manager of trusts, investments and estates.  “You have to go through all of it. There might be 90 sheets of scratch paper with stock certificates stuck in the middle of the pile,” he said.  One person who combed through the chaotic house opened a drawer to find a barely used box of cutlery with a letter inside signed by Lucille Ball.  “The house was packed with history,” Morris said.

While Biola is an evangelical Christian university, Joanne did not claim to be a “born again” Christian, or even to have any special interest in the Christian faith, Morris said.  “She was drawn to our school because of our morals,” Morris said. “She wanted the money from her estate to make ‘good kids,’ was the way she put it.”

But the donation came with a caveat: It had to be used by Biola’s radio, television, film and journalism department.  “She wanted the money to stay in performance,” Morris said. “We’re not sure exactly how we’re going to use it, but we know what she meant.”

— Ben Baeder can be reached at (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3024, or by e-mail at ben.baeder@sgvn.com .


San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Article Published: Saturday, July 23, 2005 – 8:29:12 PM PST


Article no longer on SGVT server.

This is G o o g l e’s cache of http://www.sgvtribune.com/Stories/0,1413,205%257E12220%257E2979203,00.html as retrieved on Aug 14, 2005 14:18:37 GMT.

“The New Book of Lists”: Joanne Perez Mentioned in List of 9 Valuable Artworks Found Unexpectedly (2005)

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Joanne is mentioned on page 117 of The New Book of Lists, published in 2005, under the category of “9 Valuable Artworks Found Unexpectedly.”  

4.  Under A Bed

Joanne Perez, the widow of vaudeville performer Pepito the Spanish Clown, discovered the only existing copy of the pilot for the TV series I Love Lucy when she cleaned out the area underneath her bed.  Pepito had coached Lucille Ball and had guest-starred in the pilot.  Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, had given the copy to Pepito as a gift in 1951, and it had remained under the bed for almost 40 years.


The New Book of Lists: The Original Compendium of Curious Information, By David Wallechinsky, Amy Wallace, Published by Canongate U.S., 2005, ISBN 1841957194, 9781841957197.


“Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain”: Joanne Perez Mentioned in Bestselling Book (2004)

Thursday, January 1, 2004

From page 204: “Joanne Perez, the wife of vaudeville performer Pepito the Spanish Clown, cleaned out underneath her bed and discovered the only existing copy of the pilot for the TV series I Love Lucy.  Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball had given it to Pepito as a gift.  He guest starred on that episode but put it under his bed, where it stayed for forty years.  Take the time to sort through your stuff to see what you have and organize as you go.”


Organizing from the Right Side of the Brain: A Creative Approach to Getting Organized, by Lee Silber, Published by Macmillan, 2004, ISBN 0312318162, 9780312318161, page 204.


VIDEO: Pepito the Spanish Clown Reenactor at Fairhaven Cemetery (2003)

Sunday, June 1, 2003

This is a wonderful video clip from the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society’s 2003 Fairhaven Cemetery historical tour.  Volunteer actors re-enacted the highlights of the lives of some of the famous people interred there, including Pepito Perez (real name Jose Escobar Perez), known in vaudeville and on I Love Lucy as “Pepito the Clown” or “Pepito the Spanish Clown.”    

The role of Pepito was played by Mr. Aurelio Locsin, a talented Filipino-American playwright, director, actor, and long-time company member of Rude Guerrilla Theater Company in Orange County, California.  To learn more about Mr. Locsin, visit his blog at http://rgasian.blogspot.com/

Pepito the Spanish Clown, portrayed by actor Aurelio Locsin, as part of the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society’s Fairhaven Cemetery historical tour, 2003.  Script written by Sara Guerrero.  Pepito and Joanne are interred side-by-side at Fairhaven, and, befitting their vaudeville/showbiz roots, their grave markers do not reveal their ages.

The wonderful, original script for this segment of the tour was written by Ms. Sara Guerrero. Pepito’s wife, Joanne Perez, was the source for the fascinating biographical details about their life together as a husband-and-wife team in show business.  Joanne passed away the following year and is now buried next to Pepito at Fairhaven Cemetery.  

Many thanks to the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society for allowing me to post this video.  Please visit www.SantaAnaHistory.com to learn about this wonderful organization and their work to preserve memories about, and places within, Santa Ana, California. More information on the 2003 Cemetery Tour is available at http://www.santaanahistory.com/events/ctour-2003/2003cemeterytour.html

Video Copyright © Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society.   Used with permission. Not to be reproduced without permission.

The Lost “I Love Lucy” Pilot Released On DVD (2002)

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

DVD Review of The Lost Pilot of I Love Lucy, from DigitallyObsessed.com

In one of those happy accidents that doesn’t happen often enough, the self-financed pilot that Lucy and Desi produced to sell CBS on the idea resurfaced after 40 years, thanks to Joanne Perez, wife of famed Spanish clown Pepito Perez, whom Arnaz recruited for co-star duties in the historic filming. As a way of saying thanks, Desi presented Pepito with what turned out to be the only surviving copy. Discovered amongst the entertainer’s treasured keepsakes following his death, Joanne got word to the Arnaz family, who put the wheels in motion to share this amazing piece of television history with the world. On the night of April 30, 1990, CBS premiered The Lost I Love Lucy Pilot in the program’s original 9 Eastern/8 Central time period, capturing a massive audience, great reviews and an Emmy nomination. Just like old times. 

Though the plotline of Lucy trying to worm her way into showbiz notoriety via Ricky’s nightclub act is familiar to long time fans who have seen dozens of variations on it throughout the program’s six-year residency, every nuance, from Lucy’s scream takes, to Desi’s fractured English, felt like new again under these circumstances. There’s something uniquely gratifying and sweet about watching these two soon-to-be legendary performers putting every ounce of emotion into a project they had so much faith in. Ironically, the two look much more comfortable in this presentation than some of their initial first season episodes, thanks to the utilization of material from their well-honed nightclub act (including Arnaz’s passionate take on the classic Babalu).

Other fascinating moments of note include the duo’s outward appearances (Arnaz’ untamed pompadour; Ball’s shoulder-length mane reminiscent of her cinema days) that contrast sharply when compared to their more polished look in months to come, the absence of supporting players (save for Pepito, whose baby talk act is hilarious, and short-lived cast member Jerry Hauser as Ricky’s agent) and the cost-cutting set designs (which makes you thank God the Arnaz’s held their ground and didn’t settle for second best in terms of quality, once the CBS deal was sealed). The granddaddy of all television comedy pilots merits a perfect five heart rating. 

Before the dawn of I Love Lucy in 1951, most if not all non-variety comedy programs were one-camera affairs supplemented with canned laughter. Ball and Arnaz didn’t want artificial laughter; it had to be genuine, like the reactions of viewers at home. Filming in front of a live audience was just one of the stipulations the couple insisted upon when negotiations began with CBS to bring the series to television. In true Hollywood fashion, executives tried to meddle in every aspect from casting to where the show would be produced. Lucy wanted to parlay her real life marriage to Desi by having him play her husband on the show, but the network winced, feeling viewers (much less prospective sponsors) would not accept a Cuban leading man. So, the couple hit the road on a national nightclub tour, playing to packed houses and rave reviews, discrediting that theory. 

After a pilot episode tested well, a bi-coastal tug of war between the network and the Arnaz’s over where the show’s production should be based commenced. CBS voted for the Big Apple, where much of its live programming originated, but Lucy and Desi wanted to take advantage of better production facilities on the west coast. Sensing a potential monster on their hands, the twosome also insisted that their pet project be captured on film rather than live transmissions that could only be preserved via poor quality kinescopes for future use. Balking at the notion, CBS would agree to this move only if the couple picked up the tab and work for reduced fees. Risky though it was, Lucy and Desi decided the gamble would pay dividends in the long run for their fledging Desilu prodction company; little did they know how huge of a goldmine they had stumbled upon. 

In less than a year, I Love Lucy became one of the country’s top rated shows, moving to number one in its second season. Thanks to their savvy business sense and visionary foresight, the couple earned millions from selling the rights to their 179 episodes to CBS; in fact, the show’s staying power was such that classic episodes played in prime time for an additional three years, with weekday airings becoming a staple of their mid-morning lineup through the mid-1960s. Once network airings ran their course, local stations were offered the chance to purchase the series, setting a precedent for the even more profitable process of syndication, which helped introduce the series to new generations that have embraced it in equal measure for the last five decades. 

Beginning in the summer of 2002, the digital versatile disc faithful started getting in on the act with Paramount’s excellent re-issues of the show’s first season on the format, beginning with I Love Lucy: Season One, Volume One. Collecting the first three episodes from its freshman year with the legendary (and at one time feared lost) pilot episode, it offers evidence how one of the greatest ensembles in the history of comedy (including Vivian Vance and William Frawley as neighbors Fred and Ethel Mertz ) had chemistry from the onset.

Image Transfer Review: At the time of I Love Lucy, no market for syndication existed and since a large majority of prime time programming aired live, repeats during summertime as we know now were not an option (since videotape hadn’t been perfected at that stage). That makes the picture quality on this release even more stunning; Desilu took great care of their archives and it shows via the smooth, film-like sheen exhibited on the programs collected from their freshman year. Other than a stray speck of debris here and there, the quality of these black-and-white prints are nothing short of beautiful. Although some may feel cheated with only four installments per disc, the lack of overcrowding is the main reason why these shows look so good (sometimes, less is more). As for the pilot, we’re lucky to have it at all, so even though it’s littered with scratches and excessive grain, it’s worth the price of admission alone.


DVD review from http://www.digitallyobsessed.com/showreview.php3?ID=4659

City of Santa Ana Register of Historical Properties: Ford House / Pepito & Joanne’s Dance Studio (2001)

Monday, October 29, 2001

NAME:  Ford House/Pepito and Joanne’s Dance Studio

ADDRESS:  1502 North Ross Street, Santa Ana, CA 92706

YEAR BUILT:  1892/Moved 1924.






ARCHITECTURAL STYLE: Queen Anne (Late Victorian)


The Queen Anne (Late Victorian) (also known as the Queen Anne Revival) dominated residential architectural design during the last 20 years of the nineteenth century in the West, and was nearly as influential on early commercial buildings. Identifying features include the front-facing gable roof, ornate decoration of wood or metal along the eave and in the gable end, avoidance of flat wall surfaces through the use of applied ornamentation of wood or metal, and classical columns or pilasters. Multi-storied residential and commercial examples often incorporated bay windows, sometimes topped with towers. The style borrowed heavily from late Medieval models, with the addition of other regional interpretations. Some of the most well developed examples can be found in California and in the Southern states (McAlester, 263-268).

CONSTRUCTION HISTORY: (Construction data, alterations, and date of alterations)

July 30, 1930. Relocate.
September 15, 1930. Alterations.
May 27, 1933. Rebuild chimneys.
June 7, 1937. Alteration to residence.
March 24, 1941. Reroof.
September 1, 1955. Convert residence to dance studio for Pepito Perez. December 2, 1987. Reroof.

RELATED FEATURES: (Other important features such as barns, sheds, fences, prominent or unusual trees, or landscape):  


DESCRIPTION: (Describe resource and its major elements. Include design, materials, condition, alterations, size, settings, and boundaries.)

This unusual example of the Queen Anne (Late Victorian) style features a symmetrical composition consisting of a central, side- gabled volume flanked by two front-gabled wings. Two interior brick chimneys emerge from the ridge of the side gable and a dormer with a bowed and bracketed gable end is centered over the façade. Beneath the embellished bargeboards of the front gables, small, paired attic windows are set into decorative shingle facing beneath triangular sunburst panels. Narrow overlap siding sheathes the lower portion of the building. Each side of the front gable overhangs transitions into a cant bay in an arrangement suggestive of pendentives. Abutting the cant bays, the front porch, now enclosed by windows, projects forward in a shallow curve. Panels of patterned shingles are located beneath the windows. Centered beneath the dormer, the glazed front entry is framed by sidelights and topped by a transom. Highly ornate although not original statuary and light standards embellish the front stairs. The property enjoys a generous frontage along North Ross Street and is bordered by a wrought iron fence set atop a low concrete retaining wall. Modifications to the house include enclosure of the porch and replacement of the porch supports, removal of the original porch balustrade and a matching railing in front of the dormer, and re-glazing of some of the windows.


This house was built in 1892 for George Ford, a prominent nurseryman who specialized in English walnuts. Twenty acres of walnut groves surrounded the house at its original location at 1342 North Ross Street. Ford was an early city resident, whose first nursery was located at Sixth and Ross Streets. He shipped walnut trees throughout California and to Australia, and was instrumental in establishing the Santa Ana region as an important agricultural center. Ford is also remembered for the row of 19 camphor trees that he planted on the east boundary of his property on Ross Street. In 1924 George Ford died and his wife, Mary, inherited both the property bounded by Washington, Parton, Ross, and Fifteenth Streets on which the house was located and 400 acres between Santa Ana and Anaheim. A resident of Santa Ana since 1878 and a member of several community institutions, including the Ebell Society, the Santa Ana Woman’s Club, the Torosa Rebekah Lodge, and the First Christian Church, Mary Ford was remarried, to W. C. Watkins, the following year. The couple remained in the house until 1930, when Mrs. Watkins sold the property to the Board of Education for the construction of Willard Junior High School. The Ford House was moved to its present location a block and a half north of the original site.  

After W. C. Watkins died in 1947, followed by Mary Watkins’s death in 1951, the house was acquired by Pepito and Joanne Perez, who converted it into a dance studio in 1955. The Perezes had enjoyed success in vaudeville in New York and Pepito had several film credits, including Road to Rio (1947) with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) with Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. Pepito Perez, (birth name Jose E. Perez) was born in 1889 in Spain. He is credited with a guest role in the very first “I Love Lucy” episode. Pepito, Joanne (also known as Margaret), and fellow entertainers, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz, were close friends who often got together at this Ross Street house. They were lifelong friends, with Desi and Pepito sharing a love for ocean fishing. This first “I Love Lucy” episode was considered the “lost episode” until the original film was located by Joanne Perez in her own collection at the dance studio in 1990. Desi had given the film to Pepito. Pepito was also known for his elaborate set and costume design which was featured in the “I Love Lucy episode #165 entitled “Little Ricky’s School Pageant.” Pepito died in 1975, and Joanne continued to operate the dance studio until she was 92 in 2001. 

RESOURCE ATTRIBUTES: (List attributes and codes from Appendix 4 of Instructions for Recording Historical Resources, Office of Historic Preservation.)

HP2. Single-family Property




Yes.  Date: July 30, 1930.  Original Location: 1342 North Ross Street

STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: (Discuss importance in terms of historical or architectural context as defined by theme, period, geographic scope, and integrity.)

Santa Ana was founded by William Spurgeon in 1869 as a speculative townsite on part of the Spanish land grant known as Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana. Early growth and development was stimulated by the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1878 and the Santa Fe Railroad in 1886. Following its incorporation as a city in 1886, Santa Ana was recognized as one of the leading communities in the area in 1889 when it became the seat of the newly created County of Orange.

The economic underpinnings of the young community were agricultural, and many residents owned or worked on the ranches that encircled the incorporated area. The Ford House is a remnant from this era, associated with the second George Ford nursery that was originally located to the south on the property now occupied by Willard Junior High School. The house is significant for its association with Ford, who helped to establish the Santa Ana area as an agricultural center through his specialization in the cultivation of walnut trees. The house is also significant for its association with Mary Ford Watkins, a long-time resident who actively participated in community life. Additional significance is derived from the nearly fifty-year association with the Pepito and Joanne Dance Academy.  Moreover, despite its alterations, the house is a noteworthy example of the Queen Anne style, particularly in its incorporation of decorative shingling and woodwork and its treatment of the cant bays.

Character-defining exterior features of the Ford House, which should be preserved, include but may not be limited to: original materials and finishes, especially patterned shingles; roof configuration and elements; central porch; bays; and original fenestration where extant.


This resource is currently listed in the Santa Ana Register of Historical Property and has been categorized as “Key” because it “has a distinctive architectural style and quality” as an example of the Queen Anne (Late Victorian) style and because it is characteristic of a significant period in the history of Santa Ana, the agricultural era. Moreover, it is associated with several significant persons in the City, including George Ford, a prominent and influential nurseryman, Mary Ford Watkins, a long-time and active Santa Ana resident, and Pepito and Joanne Perez, entertainment personalities and operators of a long-lived local business (Municipal Code, Section 30- 2.2).


(Cite survey report and other sources)
City of Santa Ana. Santa Ana’s Historic Treasures.
Les, Kathleen. Historic Resources Inventory 1502 N. Ross, April 1980.

(List documents, date of publication, and page numbers. May also include oral interviews).

Harris, Cyril M. American Architecture: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York, WW Norton, 1998.

Marsh, Diann. Santa Ana, An Illustrated History. Encinitas, Heritage Publishing, 1994.

McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

National Register Bulletin 16A. “How to Complete the National Register Registration Form,” Washington DC: National Register Branch, National Park Service, US Dept. of the Interior, 1991.

Whiffen, Marcus. American Architecture Since 1780. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1969.

Historical Landmarks Inventory Form. January 21, 1985.

IMdb. (2005) Pepito Perez biography. Retrieved 12/07/2005, from www.imdb.com


October 29, 2001.

Amended 01/05/2006


“Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball” by Kathleen Brady, Mentions Pepito and the Cello (2001)

Monday, January 1, 2001

“… and Pepito, a celebrated Spanish clown who was a fishing buddy of Desi. Part of Pepito’s act involved a cello and a row of horns set up like a xylophone, and he taught Lucille his routine over the course of two weeks with the 


Orange County Register: Ballet Teacher Still Going Strong at 91 (1999)

Sunday, June 6, 1999

by Laura Bleiberg for The Orange County Register 

This is a birthday note for Joanne Perez, who turned 91 this week. Happy birthday, Joanne.  

Joanne owns, operates and yes still teaches ballet at Pepito and Joanne Academy of Ballet in Santa Ana. The school itself is 50 years old, which must qualify it as one of the oldest still-running dance schools in the county, if not in all of Southern California.  Joanne and her late husband, the Spanish-born clown Pepito Perez, moved to Newport Beach 50 years ago “to get out of the rat race of Hollywood,” as Joanne said. They had been popular performers on the vaudeville, and then nightclub circuits, touring throughout the world. Close friends with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Pepito helped the famous couple come up with the format for the “I Love Lucy” television show. Joanne owns the original pilot episode for the hit comedy.  Pepito loved deep-sea fishing, and the couple spent summers in Newport Beach. After they retired from the stage, they moved there year-round. Pepito had a 47-foot boat that he chartered for their show business friends.

Joanne swore, though, that she’d never open a dance school: “We dancers always used to say, ‘When we’re over the hill, we can always open a dancing school,’ and to me that signified you’re washed up,” Joanne said in a recent phone interview. But she loves children, and when her neighbors found out about her performing experience, they persuaded her to give lessons to their children.  

The school started in her garage in Newport Beach, but in 1950, Pepito bought a studio in Santa Ana at north Main and 17th streets.  Within four years, Joanne was so successful that she had 500 students at four studios in Santa Ana, Orange, Corona del Mar and Huntington Beach. The Santa Ana school is now on North Ross Avenue in an 1892 Victorian house.  

Originally from Milwaukee, Joanne (born Falcy)* was in her late teens when she met Pepito in 1928. She had a solo act (her mother traveled with her) in which she did ballet and gymnastics. She was auditioning for a part in the hour-long live act at Grauman’s (now Mann’s) Chinese Theater that ran in-between showings of Charlie Chaplin’s film “The Circus.” 

She got the job as the Human Rubber Doll and it was Chaplin himself who suggested to Pepito that the two work together. They were married for 47 years before Pepito died.  “Pepito, when he was brought over from Europe, had a tremendous name in Europe,” Joanne said. “One of the newspaper articles (about him says) he was the highest paid clown in the world. ” 

Today, Joanne and Pepito’s dance school offers lessons in different dance forms depending on the day of the week: Polynesian dance on Mondays, ballet on Tuesdays, tap and jazz on Thursdays and folklorico on weekends. Joanne is happy with the 75 or so students she has.  “I’ve got recognition. I’ve got all the recognition I ever wanted or needed. I love kids. “

* Joan Falcy was Joanne’s stage name, and Margaret Janet Zettler was her birth name.  Falcy was her mother’s maiden name.  Her legal name after marrying Pepito (Jose Escobar Perez) was Margaret E. Perez, but she called herself Joanne, always.


The Orange County Register, Sunday, June 6, 1999, Show section, page F26, article no longer on website, http://www.ocregister.com.

Laughs, Luck…and Lucy: How I Came To Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time, by Jess Oppenheimer and Gregg Oppenheimer (1999)

Friday, January 1, 1999

Excerpt: “Bob and Madelyn wrote some sketches for Lucy and Desi’s act, which was billed as “Desi Arnaz and Band with Lucille Ball.” Desi got his old fishing buddy, the internationally famous clown “Pepito,” to come up with some clown routines for Lucy to do.  Pepito also built a Rube Goldberg-type cello for Lucy, equipped with all sorts of hidden gags.”


Laughs, Luck, and Lucy, by Jess Oppenheimer and Gregg Oppenheimer, page 133.

Daily Gazette: CBS Video Issues Original Pilot For “I Love Lucy” On VHS (1994)

Sunday, June 26, 1994

Lovers of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz will not want to miss an outstanding new video: the historic, unnamed pilot show that loosely served as the basis for their legendary comedy series “I Love Lucy.”

The tape, a CBS Video release, features narration by Lucie Arnaz, Ball and Arnaz’ daughter, as well as candid interviews with Lucy, Desi and others involved in the production of the pilot and development of the show.

However, the pilot does not feature Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, the characters Ball and Arnaz played on “I Love Lucy.”

Prior to “I Love Lucy,” Ball was best known as the star of dozens of mostly unmemorable Hollywood features.  Arnaz had made a handful of films, but had earned his greatest fame as a bandleader.

“For some time, [Lucy] tried to find a way to incorporate her career with Desi’s, but the racial prejudice against him as a potential leading man was still strong, and this in itself was an irritation to her,” noted Charles Higham, in his Lucille Ball biography.  He added that William S. Paley, chairman of CBS, felt “that it would be difficult for the public to accept a Latin leading man.” 

Lucy was then starring in a radio show, “My Favorite Husband,” opposite Richard Denning.  Bart Andrews, author of “The Story of ‘I Love Lucy,’” observed, “CBS wanted to transfer [this show] to the new medium of television.  That’s when the Ball ultimatum was handed down:  No Desi, no TV show.”

In order to convince CBS of the viability of Lucy and Desi as a fictionalized married couple, the pair hit the road with a vaudeville-style act.  Billing themselves as Desi Arnaz & Band with Lucille Ball, they included various slap-tick routines involving a movie actress attempting to become a part of her bandleader husband’s act.

Assisting Lucy and Desi in devising the routines was Desi’s old friend, Pepito Perez, a veteran performer known as Pepito the Spanish Clown.

The act premiered on June 2, 1950, at the Paramount Theater in Chicago.  “Variety,” the show business trade publication, described it asa a “sock new act. Turn really gets hilarious when a Red Skelton-type character in oversized tails and crushed hat [played by Ball] comes inning down the aisle seeking an audition with the band. It breaks up the audience.”

How would this transfer into a weekly TV series?  Lucy and Desi put up $8,000 of their own money and borrowed an additional $8,000 to produce a pilot.  (Some reports state that the amount was $5,000.)  The result would, hopefully, convince the powers that be of the viability of Lucy and (especially) Desi as TV series co-stars.  As seen today, the pilot is at once crude and fascinating, a genuine piece of television history.

Ball and Arnaz play Ball and Arnaz, rather than Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.  William Frawley and Vivian Vance (who later were to be cast as the Ricardo’s neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz) are nowhere to be seen.  There is an emphasis on Ball’s ability as a slapstick comedienne (utilizing bits devised by Pepito), and especially on Arnaz’ charisma as a musical performer and leading man.

“[Lucy] was playing Lucille Ball, a successful movie actress, married to a Cuban orchestra leader who was also very successful,” recalled Desi Arnaz in his autobiography.  “… it was funny and well written, but I felt that the television audience would not identify themselves with this kind of couple … So we changed the format to a more down-to-earth situation.”

The characters became the Lucy and Ricky the world was to come to know:  a struggling orchestra leader and his scatterbrained wife, who yearns to make it in show business despite her singular lack of talent.  Added were Fred and Ethel Mertz, and the  battle-of-the-sexes scenarios featuring Lucy and Ethel pitted against Ricky and Fred.

The eventual result: the show earned a sponsor (Philip Morris cigarettes), and a slot in the CBS line-up. During its six-year run of original episodes, “I Love Lucy” was never once out of the top three in ratings.  

And what became of the pilot film? Arnaz presented it as a gift to Pepito, in appreciation for all of his input.  It was never broadcast on TV.  For four decades it was unseen outside of Pepito’s family gatherings, and was considered a missing artifact of television history.

After learning that it was considered lost, Pepito’s widow [Joanne Perez] made the pilot available. It was broadcast by CBS a while back [1990], and now it comes to home video.



Eye On Santa Ana: Pepito and Joanne, Dancing With the Hollywood Stars (1994)

Wednesday, June 1, 1994

by Catherine C. Cate 

(This article originally appeared in the Summer 1994 issue of “Eye on Santa Ana.”)

Behind the iron gates that surround the Victorian-style building at 1502 N. Ross in Santa Ana, California lies a world well known to thousands of aspiring performers:  “The Pepito and Joanne Academy of Dance.”  But it is a world protected and set apart not just to teach dance, modern singing and theatrical arts.

“The real secret is giving kids confidence in themselves,” says active 86-year-old Joanne Falcy, widow of Jose Escobar Perez (Pepito), whose own success in over 18,000 performances makes her exceptionally well qualified to inspire dreams and instill the value of hard work and self confidence in her dedicated pupils.

Her career has spanned the evolution of the modern entertainment industry.  Her colleagues were among the industry’s biggest names from the 1920’s through the 1950s:  Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bing Crosby, Milton Berle, Leo Carillo (The Cisco Kid), Preston Foster (My Friend Flicka), Ginger Rogers, Marlene Dietrich, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz.

This is a woman who has lived it all — from performing as an acrobatic dancer in one-hour live “prologues” that entertained audiences before the featured films of the 1920’s, through the era of silent films, vaudeville nightclubs, and finally, the transition to television.

Joanne begins her “first person” oral history when she was performing nationwide as a dancer and gymnast in 1928:  “I auditioned and was chosen by Sid Grauman to perform in [the Ballyhoo prologue pre-show for] “The Circus” at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.”  This simulated one-ring circus act was a creative collaboration between Grauman and silent movie star Charlie Chaplin, who suggested the “doll and clown” act that gave Joanne the honor of working with Jose Escobar Perez, the great European clown “Pepito,” who had emigrated from Spain to this country in 1922.

“Of course, I soon idolized him,” Joanne remembers, “but I was a perfect young lady under the watchful eye of my mother (who lived to celebrate her 100th birthday in 1983), and our association continued on a purely professional basis for the next five years.”  During this time, Joanne also performed with Pepito at the world-famous Palace Theater in New York City, which closed in 1934.  “I played the Palace before I was 20, and it was said that if you ever played The Palace, you never had to audition again!”

To her delight, Pepito finally realized that the accomplished performer also had matured into a lovely young woman.  They were married in 1934, when she was 26 and he was approaching 40.

Pepito and Joanne continued to perform together in a variety of venues across the country, including the most glamourous nightclubs of the time, and Pepito also moved into motion pictures, where his exotic looks and charming accent gave him a natural advantage in Italian, French, and Spanish roles. 

But when World War II broke out, Pepito decided to get a commercial fishing license in order to continue his favorite hobby:  deep sea fishing out of Newport Harbor in southern California, which during the war was open only to commercial and military vessels.

Before long, his ability to pursue this hobby during wartime led to “fishing friendships” with numerous stars, including Bing Crosby, Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and Desi Arnaz — friendships that are documented by black and white photos that line walls, and lie in loose piles and albums — while Joanne and Lucille Ball were becoming fast friends back on “terra firma.”

While Pepito was following the fish, however, Joanne decided to put up ballet bars in the guest house behind their home in Corona Del Mar “and teach a few neighborhood kids until the war was over.”  Within a short time, “a few neighborhood kids” had become over 100, and by the end of 1951 there were “Pepito and Joanne” academies of dance in Orange, Corona Del Mar, Huntington Beach, Hollywood, and Santa Ana.

In 1954, over 500 children participated in their first major revue, a three-hour production with spectacular sets and costumes which was held at Santa Ana High School, and repeated by popular request at Orange Coast College and in Garden Grove.  They also produced the handsome production Hansel and Gretel in conjunction with the Orange County Symphony, with sets designed and painted by Pepito, with choreography and dancing by Joanne.

In 1955 when the Irvine Company wanted to reclaim the building located at Main and 17th where their Santa Ana studio was located, a friend found the historic building the Academy occupies today on Santa Ana’s Ross Street.

This house was originally built on the site of the present-day Willard School in 1892 as the ranch house for the Ford Ranch, which extended from Washington to 17th, and from Flower to Broadway.  The house was moved to its present site in approximately 1924, and the ranch was subdivided following Mr. Ford’s death in 1924.  His widow occupied the home until her death in 1945, when it was sold to Santa Ana businessman George Markowitz (owner of the Marbro, a ladies’ clothing store on Fourth Street), who used it as a rental property. 

Although the property was in somewhat poor condition, it was perfect for their dance studio.  And Pepito, who also was a talented artist, proclaimed, “I could make this look like Disneyland!”  He soon set to work towards that end, remodeling the house and grounds to meet all their personal and professional needs, with an art studio, darkroom, and workshop for himself, as well as a dance studio with adequate storage for costumes and props.  When he and Joanne moved from their home on Memory Lane into the studio, each had separate wings to decorate to their personal taste — Pepito’s in a traditional masculine Spanish decor, Joanne’s in more delicate pastels, French Provincial, and European fashions.  The public area had been transformed with lovely molding, elegant wallpaper, accents of gilt and paint, and furnished with elaborate European lamps, other accessories, and fine furniture.  Today, little has changed, including Pepito’s bedroom, which Joanne has kept as it was when he died in 1975.

And throughout these years Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Pepito, and Joanne had remained the closest of friends, sharing all the love and support of extended family.  It was only natural, therefore, that in 1950, when Lucille Ball had the opportunity to produce a pilot film that would take Desi off the nightclub circuit and give them the ability to work together, she would turn to Pepito when she was dissatisfied with the script.  The result was the splendid “cello” skit which appeared in the pilot for what became the world-renowned “I Love Lucy” series.  And what became of that pilot film?

“Several years ago the series was celebrated on television,” says Joanne.  “At the end of the program the host asked anyone who knew the whereabouts of the pilot to please come forward.  I realized that person was me:  Lucy and Desi had given it to Pepito as a memento of their successful teamwork.”  In June of 1994 the pilot became available on videocassette.

And in 1956, 32 Orange County children were chosen from the Pepito and Joanne Academy of Dance to appear in the “I Love Lucy” episode, “Little Ricky’s School Pageant.”  

Today, Joanne still keeps in touch with “little Desi,” who is active in the “Just Say No to Drugs” program, and “little Lucie,” who lives and performs in New York and is raising children of her own.  Joanne continues to teach and to run the school according to Pepito’s philosophy that each teacher  should work for herself and be paid on commission, because “working for someone else is slavery.”

She also produces several performances of an annual revue (see video clips) before an audience of over 400 on the spacious premises of this extraordinary school, announcing each act and accompanying many of her students at the piano.  Ghosts of “performers past” seem to accompany those of “performers present” into the spotlight, many of whom are enjoying professional careers.

And their success is doubtless due not only to the professional training they received at the Pepito and Joanne Academy of Dance, but also to more than 50 years of guidance by the same voice of experience.  “You can have what you want if you work hard enough.”

“Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz” Mentions Pepito (1994)

Saturday, January 1, 1994

Page 56 … the renowned international Spanish clown Pepito, to devise some p…

Page 63: …The first story concerns a TV audition for Ricky, where Pepito, the …

Page 153: According to Marcella, Desi came for a visit with his friend Pepito


VIDEO: Pepito & Joanne Recital: “Hansel and Gretel” (1993)

Friday, June 18, 1993

1993 Pepito & Joanne Recital: Hansel and Gretel Friday, June 18, 1993 (first recital of two evening recitals). Fourteen minutes of beautiful angels, baby butterflies, and the grand finale, the Big Butterfly. Courtesy of The Laurie Hickman Collection.

1993 Pepito & Joanne Recital: Hansel and Gretel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wzxz94wT6k

Friday, June 18, 1993 (first recital of two evening recitals).

Fourteen minutes of beautiful angels, baby butterflies, and the grand finale, the Big Butterfly.

Link to all 1993 recital video clips.


Courtesy of The Laurie Hickman Collection of home movies.

Los Angeles Times: No Desi, No “Lucy” – An Author Pieces Together the Teaming that Made TV History (1991)

Sunday, February 10, 1991

by Bart Andrews

It was inevitable. A movie about Lucille Ball, the American icon, the Queen of Comedy, the First Lady of Television. A shoo-in, a sure-fire ratings-getter.

An earlier program, the Dec. 18, 1989, airing of the 1956 “I Love Lucy” Christmas episode garnered CBS a 18.5 rating, placing it No. 6 on the Nielsen list for the week. Then on April 30, 1990, when CBS trotted out the long-lost “Lucy” pilot and built a one-hour special around it hosted by Lucie Arnaz, it topped the Nielsen chart for the week.

Can “Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter,” airing Sunday on CBS fail? For more than 23 years, Lucille Ball reigned supreme at CBS, starring in three sitcoms (four if you count the three years of the hourlong “Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” 1957-60), while earning countless awards, mind-boggling ratings and setting standards for television comedy that 40 years later are hard to match. Her last venture into TV was a dismal failure, lasting only eight weeks on ABC in 1986; it is clear that Lucy-ites savor vintage “Lucy” — the work she did on the tube in the ’50s and early ’60s as Lucy Ricardo and Lucy Carmichael.

Recognizing this, CBS assigned a $3.2-million budget to filmmaker Larry Thompson, who made the two-hour TV movie after conducting an exhaustive, nationwide talent search last summer for the two actors who would play Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in a story set in the ’40s. (The roles went to Frances Fisher and Maurice Benard.)

“Lucy & Desi” is not the story of “I Love Lucy.” Thompson, who also produced a television biography on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (“The Woman He Loved”) chose to concentrate on Lucy and Desi’s stormy relationship before their television careers–how they met, married, loved and battled.

There was a lot of Angst over the project, most of it from the Lucille Ball camp. Daughter Lucie felt it was too soon to do a movie about her parents, saying recently: “I read an early draft of the script and I just thought it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see a deeper story. I wanted to see what made these people tick. But it’ll only be on for one night and it’ll be off. Their story will be told again, I’m sure, by somebody else and maybe better.”

“Lucy & Desi” takes place on the evening of Saturday, Sept. 8, 1951, the date of the filming of the first episode of “I Love Lucy,” titled “Lucy Thinks Ricky Is Trying to Murder Her.” The bulk of the movie is comprised of flashbacks of the 1940s, all leading up to the start of the most celebrated television series in history.

Experts agree that the better story is how “I Love Lucy” went on the air (perhaps that was Thompson’s ingenious plan all along, a sequel). In any case, that is the story we will tell here.

It all began when CBS nixed Lucy’s idea of having her husband co-star with her in a video version of her hit radio series “My Favorite Husband.”

“If Paley won’t accept us as a team,” 33-year-old Desi told Lucy in early 1950, “then let’s go on the road and test it. You go on tour with me and the band in June. We’ll work up an act and see what happens. If the public can accept us as a comedy team, then CBS can’t possibly ignore us.”

It sounded good to Lucy, 38, who wanted nothing more than to work with her husband of nine years in an effort to save their shaky marriage and, she hoped, start a family.

The Arnazes sought the help of an old fishing buddy of Desi’s, Pepito Perez. The internationally known performer, who was billed as “The Spanish Clown” when he headlined the Hippodrome, agreed to help fashion an act for the couple.

Lucy and Desi spent nearly a week in March 1950 holed up in a hotel suite learning some original comic routines devised by Pepito and film legend Buster Keaton, Lucy’s mentor from MGM. These comedy bits would serve them well: They would become the focal point of the pilot a year later and be used in several episodes of “I Love Lucy.”

Pepito and Keaton worked their charges furiously. Lucy rehearsed endless hours impersonating a baggy-pants “professor” bent on joining the Arnaz band with his prop cello and a seal honking out the notes to “How Dry I Am” on a strange-looking homemade contraption dubbed a “saxa-fifa-trona-phono-vich.” Some songs and husband-and-wife sketches written by two of Lucy’s radio writers, Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh, were added to the 20-minute act.

The vaudeville bits, which would play between sets of Desi’s rhumba band, opened at the Chicago Paramount Theatre on June 2, 1950. “After the first show, Desi and I looked at each other in wild surprise,” Lucille Ball recounted in “The ‘I Love Lucy’ Book.” “Well, I guess we can work together after all. We’re on our way!”

Variety called it a “sock new act . . . top fare,” but after record-breaking stints in New York, Buffalo and Milwaukee the Arnazes decided to call off the tour. Lucy was pregnant and because she already had suffered one miscarriage in the ’40s, she didn’t want to take any unnecessary chances on the road with an act as strenuous as this one. But it was not to be. Two weeks later, back at the Arnazes’ ranch in Northridge, Lucy lost the baby. It was a devastating blow both personally and professionally.

Nothing seemed to be going right for Lucy. Her movie career was all but at a standstill. Her only outlet was the radio show of which she was about to start the third season. In “My Favorite Husband,” Lucy played the proverbial scatterbrained wife opposite Richard Denning as her Midwestern banker husband. The suggestion by CBS chairman Bill Paley that Lucy try her hand at a TV version of the radio show encouraged her to consider a career in television, but Paley’s no-Desi dictum was unacceptable to Mrs. Arnaz.

She wanted Mr. Arnaz to play her TV husband, but CBS was unrelenting. “Lucy’s an all-American redhead. Desi’s a Latin with a thick accent. Nobody will believe it,” was the official network stonewall.

Lucy’s determination to do it her way was borne of sheer desperation–she knew that her marriage would only survive if she and Desi could spend their lives together–not with him on the road 50 weeks a year and her in Hollywood.  

In fact, by the fall of 1950, Lucy had made a momentous decision: If she and Desi could not do a TV show together, then she would quit acting and travel with him. CBS did not budge. The network was willing to lose its promising comedian rather than give in to her unconventional demand. Harry Ackerman, who ran CBS on the West Coast, was one of Lucy’s greatest supporters–in fact, it was he who persuaded her to try radio–but he couldn’t convince the big brass in New York.

As a last-ditch effort, the Arnazes and their agent Don Sharpe offered the couple’s service to rival NBC, then the No. 1 network (it had 14 of the top 20 shows). Armed with a pilot script that featured Lucy and Desi playing themselves–a movie star and orchestra leader — Sharpe came close to making a deal, although Lucy wasn’t sold on the concept.

Some have characterized the ploy as the classic “squeeze play”: When CBS heard through the grapevine what was about to transpire at NBC, Ackerman went to work in his own brilliant way. To keep Desi happy, he revamped a CBS Radio game show, “Earn Your Vacation,” into one with a Latin theme, renamed “Your Tropical Trip,” and put it on the air in January 1951 starring Desi and his orchestra. That would keep Mr. Arnaz geographically close to Mrs. Arnaz while CBS opened a dialogue with Don Sharpe about a possible TV series for Lucy and (maybe) Desi.

Lucy’s spirits were bolstered considerably around the Christmas holidays. She discovered that she was pregnant again, with the baby due in early July; Don Sharpe called with the news that CBS finally had given the green light for a TV pilot to star her and Desi; and that Jess Oppenheimer, her radio producer-writer-director, had concocted the perfect premise for the TV outing.

“I didn’t want to play a typical Hollywood couple,” Lucy confirmed in “The ‘I Love Lucy’ Book.” “It would have been a stereotype. Everybody thinks if you’re a Hollywood couple, you have no problems. We know it isn’t so–just because you have a pool and a couple of cars, it’s ridiculous for people to assume you don’t have problems. I didn’t want my character to be glamorous. I didn’t want her to have beautiful clothes. And I didn’t want her to be a wisecracking girl who drops a line and walks out of the room. I’d done that in pictures and I certainly didn’t want to do that over again.”

Oppenheimer recalled before his death in 1988: “I hit upon the idea of a middle-class working stiff who works very hard at his job and who likes nothing better than coming home at night and relaxing with his wife, who doesn’t like staying home and wants a career of her own.”

Lucy trusted Oppenheimer implicitly. He had made a hit out of her faltering summer (1948) radio series. “Of all the 30 or 40 films I had made up to that time,” Lucy stated, “I could find only three or four scenes in those pictures that I cared anything about. When I put them all together, I discovered they were domestic scenes, where I portrayed a housewife.”

Five months pregnant, Lucy stepped before the live TV cameras at Studio A at CBS headquarters on Sunset Boulevard and Gower Street on March 2, 1951, to do the “audition film.” A 16mm print of the proceedings (known as a kinescope) was made to show to advertising agencies in New York in hopes of finding a sponsor willing to underwrite the cost of producing “I Love Lucy.” (At the last minute, Lucy and Desi’s character names were changed from Lucy and Larry Lopez to Lucy and Ricky Ricardo when somebody pointed out that there may be some confusion over real-life orchestra leader Vincent Lopez.)

Although the 34-minute test film did not include the characters Fred and Ethel Mertz (they were added to the format several months later), it proved to have enough potential to interest giant Phillip Morris in picking up the production tab.

While Lucy herself spent the spring preparing for the birth of Lucie (who arrived two weeks late on July 17), Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll Jr. and Madelyn Pugh started churning out scripts, lifting most of their basic storylines from their own “My Favorite Husband” scripts.

The last-minute decision to do the series on film–allowing us to enjoy the reruns 40 years later–was made when the ad agency made a routine phone call to producer Oppenheimer, asking when he and the Arnazes were going to move to New York. Because nobody intended leaving Southern California for New York, everything came to a grinding halt until Lucy pleaded with Desi to “do something.”

What Arnaz did was literally create a new way of doing TV shows–the so-called three-camera method still in existence today. With able contributions from Al Simon and Oscar-winning cinematographer Karl Freund, inexperienced Arnaz came up with the wild notion to do “Lucy” on film with a live studio audience so that the quality of the prints for the various affiliates (62 in those days) could be upheld. CBS’ Harry Ackerman knew from his experience with Lucy on the radio that she was “dead without an audience.”

With only two weeks left before the first episode needed to be filmed, a motion-picture studio had to be located that would allow Desilu to build the sort of stage the production required. At the very last moment, on Aug. 30, 1951, a lease was signed for Stage 2 at General Service Studio at 1040 North Las Palmas Avenue in Hollywood for $1,000 a week. Nine days later, on Sept. 8, 300 eager people waited single file along Romaine Street. Above them hung a sign that read “Desilu Playhouse.” When the doors opened at 7 p.m. and they found seats in massive bleachers that had just been erected 24 hours before, audience members had no idea that they were about to see television history in the making.

Who would think that nearly 40 years later somebody would make a movie of it.

“Lucy & Desi: Before the Laughter” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS.

“I Love Lucy” reruns airs on KTTV Monday-Friday 9-10 a.m. and 11-11:30 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday 4-6 p.m., and on TBS Monday-Friday 1:30-2 a.m.

The writer is the author of “The ‘I Love Lucy’ Book” (Doubleday) and co-author of “Loving Lucy” (St. Martin’s Press).


Los Angeles Times, February 10, 1991.


People Magazine: Lucie Arnaz on Seeing the Lost Pilot: “I Just Laughed” (1990)

Even Lucy and Desi’s Daughter Saw Something Newly Hilarious in the I Love Lucy Pilot Airing This Week

Monday, May 7, 1990

Call it “I Found Lucy.” When Joanne Perez, 84, peered under a bed in her Orange County, Calif., home last December, she saw a canister of film labeled Lucy-Desi-Pepito audition. She took it to her friend, producer B. Donald “Bud” Grant, who had put her up to looking for it. Eureka! The film turned out to be the 39-year-old pilot for “I Love Lucy,” in which Mrs. Perez’s husband, the “Spanish clown” Pepito, makes an appearance. (Pepito died in 1975.)  The episode had been considered irretrievably lost for nearly 40 years. 

Now, thanks to the fortunate discovery (and with Grant as executive producer), CBS is airing the show, never before seen on television, this Monday (April 30, 1990) at 10 P.M. (ET). 

When Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz taped the 34-minute pilot of “I Love Lucy” in March 1951, they were just like their soon-to-be immortal characters, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo: two up-and-coming performers eager to expand their audience. In the pilot, many of the elements that made the show a classic are evident: her double takes, his malapropisms, her timing, his musical interludes. And as it would so many times, the plot concerns Lucy’s attempt to crash Ricky’s act. 

At the time the pilot was filmed (before a live audience), Lucy was five months pregnant with her daughter, Lucie Arnaz—host of the pilot special. In one of her first interviews since her mother’s death last April, Arnaz, 38, an actress married to actor Laurence Luckinbill and the mother of three children, spoke with Los Angeles bureau chief Scot Haller about the pilot and the chemistry between her parents that made America love “I Love Lucy.” 

“I thought maybe the pilot would make me cry or something, but I just laughed. It was delightful. I thought after a few minutes, I would say, “Oh, yeah, I remember seeing this as a kid….” But truly, I had never seen it. My mother looks so completely different than she ended up looking as Lucy Ricardo. Her hair was longer, and of course, she was much heavier because she was so pregnant. Watching the pilot, I was struck by how unsure she seemed. There are comic possibilities that she let go that I think the Lucy we knew later would have caught and played out and made even funnier. 

“Actually, I think the pilot was much more my father’s show. I think he’s spectacular in it. What was incredible is that you watch him being tentative at the beginning, but by the time you get to the material they had been doing in their live act on the road, it takes off like gangbusters—because they were comfortable with it. I think that’s why my mother always stuck with the vicious rehearsal cycle we had. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Because the more you rehearsed, the more unrehearsed it looks, the more natural it looks. 

“My father was a natural wit. He understood comedy better than people gave him credit for, I think. He loved letting the other guy get the joke line. He loved being the one who reacts to someone else’s humor, setting it up and then doing the double take. Even in real life, he would do that. And he wasn’t afraid to laugh at himself. Of course, my mother never was either. 

“There’s a moment in the pilot when they’re doing their act and my father seems to break character to laugh at my mother. It was a bit they did in their act forever and ever, in which he asks, “Are you making fun of my English?” When I saw that moment in the pilot, I thought, you know what, it just hit them. It just hit them that they are now doing this act as a pilot for a TV show. It’s the one point in the show where they lock eyes and realize it: Look what we’re doing, look where we are. It just cracks them both up. It comes from each having enormous respect for the other’s talents, which was true all the way through their lives together. 

“I think the reason the pilot sold is that the network saw there could be both broad comedy and a sexy love story between two people who were very attracted to one another. At the beginning of the pilot, they start with Lucy and Ricky waking up in the morning in their apartment. It’s so simple and so clever. Right away, they started with something that every wife and husband can identify with—watching your husband shave, making those faces in the mirror. They did things that everybody does. So right away, you think, “Oh, she’s like me, he’s like my husband.” 

“My mother’s sense of comedy was definitely intuitive. I don’t think you can teach how to do what she did. She tried to. She held these seminars and classes all over the place, and I haven’t seen any other Lucille Balls come popping up. She instinctively had a clock inside of her that could time a laugh better than anyone else in the world. Like the famous routine about [putting] eggs in the pants and the shirt, from the show where they were out in the country raising chickens. Remember? Ricky wanted to tango, and she got caught with all the eggs when the door opened. It’s the longest laugh ever recorded on “I Love Lucy.”  And to watch her take the hit and absorb what was going on after she got crunched with the eggs—that’s a lesson in comedy in itself. And I’ll bet you that even after somebody studied that scene, nobody else could do it. 

“My mother loved television. She hardly ever had it off. I don’t know what her favorite sitcoms were. I don’t think she liked sitcoms very much in general after a while. But she did like to watch Wheel of Fortune. Every night. Whenever we were eating dinner, it was always on. I guess that’s a sitcom in itself.”


People Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 18, May 7, 1990.


1951 “Lucy” Pilot Beats 1990 Shows (1990)

Wednesday, May 2, 1990

NEW YORK (Associated Press)

America still loves Lucy — particularly the pilot for what became CBS’s classic “I Love Lucy” series.  No matter that the show was made during the Korean war, when Harry S. Truman was president.

By a CBS estimate, 40 million viewers saw “I Love Lucy: The Very First Show,” a Monday special featuring the 34-minute pilot, which Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz filmed in black and white at their own expense on March 10, 1951.  Despite the years, it was the first time the show had been broadcast.

The one hour CBS special easily trounced its modern network rivals in the ratings, according to national Nielsen estimates Tuesday.  It had a 21.2 rating and got 37 percent of the audience in its time period.  

Monday’s CBS special was the premiere of the “I Love Lucy” pilot, made on kinescope when Ball, who died last year, was five months pregnant with her daughter. 

Produced by Ball and her husband for $5,000, the show was never broadcast.  CBS preferred a different version, which it used as the basis for its first 26-show order for the series.

The “I Love Lucy” pilot, once thought to have been lost, was rediscovered last year by former CBS Entertainment president Bud Grant.  He found that a copy of it was in the possession of Joanne Perez, the widow of a vaudeville performer, Pepito the Spanish Clown, who appears in the show.

“I Love Lucy” ran on CBS from 1951 to 1961.  Arnaz and Ball were divorced in 1960.


The Victoria Advocate


Associated Press News Archive


VIDEO CLIP: “I Love Lucy, The Very First Show” (1990)

Monday, April 30, 1990

“If you are wondering how we got tonight’s film [the Lost Pilot of “I Love Lucy”], my father (Desi Arnaz) gave it to Pepito the Clown as a thank you for guest-starring in the Pilot … but more importantly, for creating my parents’ vaudeville act.  Only after hearing it was missing, did Pepito’s widow [Joanne] realize what she had been showing at family gatherings all these years.”    — Lucie Arnaz 

Unlike most film classics, throughout the years, much of classic television has either been lost or destroyed. Before the advent of VHS and DVD, television was a disposable medium much like newspapers. As a result, significant chunks of television history have vanished, such as the pilot episode of “I Love Lucy”, and the local Detroit years of Soupy Sales’ masterpiece children’s show. In Soupy’s case, as in others, the tapes were erased and reused as a matter of economics. This process was known as “wiping.”

The pilot for “I Love Lucy” was assumed to be lost until Joanne Perez, widow of the entertainer known as “Pepito the Spanish Clown,” contacted CBS thirty-nine years later to tell them that she possessed a canister of 16 mm movie film labeled “Lucy-Desi-Pepito Audition.”  Her husband Pepito had appeared in the 34-minute production, and Desi Arnaz had given the only copy of the pilot to Pepito as a thank-you for being a guest star. Because Desi and Lucy had owned and financed the pilot itself, Desi was able to give it away. In 1990, the pilot, which had never made it to air, was broadcast for the first time on April 30, 1990 as a television special on CBS, titled “I Love Lucy, The Very First Show,” hosted by Lucie Arnaz.


  1. Suite101: Lost TV Pilots and Episodes: I Love Lucy, All in the Family, and Morehttp://www.suite101.com/content/lost-tv-pilots-and-episodes-a33502#ixzz18efnxmXi
  2. “MIC Remembrance Wall”, Library of Congress Moving Image Collection
  3. •Museum of Television and Radio “Lost” Programs List
  4. “You’ll love the lost “I Love Lucy” pilot”, Craig Shapiro, The Virginian-Pilot
  5. “Wiping”, Wikipedia

CBS Unveils A Long-Lost Episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ (1990)

Monday, April 30, 1990

by Hal Boedeker, Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Tonight, CBS will take us back to March 2, 1951, a night television history was made — then lost for almost 40 years.

On that day, two characters named Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were born — they were to have been Lucy and Larry Lopez.  They lived in a world of hazy images, flimsy sets and vaudeville routines.  Fred and Ethel Mertz did not exist.  

This was the day Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz shot the pilot for “I Love Lucy.”  

It never aired.  Philip Morris, the tobacco company, and the show’s sponsor, thought it needed some fine tuning.  So Lucy’s creators tinkered with the format.  

They added the Mertzes and followed the advice of Broadway lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, who was among a group of show biz notables invited to a screening.  “Make them a warm, dizzy, lovable couple, and you’l have a hit,” he urged.  “Don’t dwell on his show biz career.”

These were the humble beginnings of the most enduring show in television history.  Its six seasons’ supply of 179 episodes, repeated throughout the years, has won a worldwide audience.

But those beginnings were lost.  Lucy and Desi, unbeknownst to others, had given the 34-minute pilot reel to an associate as a gift.  

For years, the Museum of Broadcasting in new York ran ads inquiring about the show.  “We’d Love Lucy,” the ads pleaded.  Where was it?  

It turned out it was in a can marked “Lucy-Desi-Pepito Audition.”

The widow of Pepito Perez — who played Pepito the Spanish Clown in the pilot — found it in her attic.  The hoopla over CBS’ showing of the long-unseen “I Love Lucy” Christmas special last uyear spurred Joanne Perez’s search.  Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had given the pilot to her husband, who was a guest in the show and helped create the routines.  

CBS will share this latest Lucy lore Monday night.  “I Love Lucy: The Very First Show” will air at 10-11 p.m.

The material will be familiar; it was later used in the sixth “I Love Lucy” episode, titled “The Audition.”  Ricky’s agent comes over to the apartment to tell him about an audition that night.  Lucy plots to get involved.  

Don’t expect the familiar world of Lucy, says Lucy historian Bart Andrews after he saw the pilot last week for the first time.  Andrews describes himself as a “hard-core Lucyite.”  

The kinescope images have poor quality, the apartment is totally different and the cheap sets shake.  Lucy looks different, too; her hair is flowing, and she’s heavier: she was pregnant with Lucie Arnaz.

Monday night’s hourlong special consists of the 34-minute pilot, interviews with series writers Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll Jr., and old interviews with Lucy and Desi.  Lucie Arnaz serves as host.

Article retrieved from: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=ghdUAAAAIBAJ&sjid=JY0DAAAAIBAJ&dq=pepito%20clown&pg=6765%2C5749189

TV Time Capsule: I Love Lucy, The Very First Show (1990)

Monday, April 30, 1990

by Chris Baker

Think you’ve seen every episode of “I Love Lucy” dozens of times? You probably have.

But maybe you’ve never seen the sitcom’s “lost” pilot, which CBS aired for the first time on this night in 1990 under the banner “I Love Lucy: The Very First Show.”

On March 10, 1951, Desi Arnaz and wife Lucille Ball, who was five months pregnant, filmed the pilot, which they financed with $5,000 out of their own pockets. The 34-minute film was never intended for broadcast; the couple made it to sell “I Love Lucy” to a sponsor. (Eventually, Phillip Morris signed on.)

The pilot’s plot finds Cuban bandleader Ricky Ricardo landing a TV gig and wacky wife Lucy scheming to get in on his act.

USA Today described the film as “clumsy,” noting that a tissue paper wall collapses in one scene and in another, Arnaz breaks up when Lucy makes fun of Ricky’s English.

For almost 40 years, the only kinescope or motion picture record of the pilot was lost.

Then, in 1989, the magnificently named B. Donald “Bud” Grant, formerly CBS’s top entertainment executive, attended a Christmas dinner where Joanne Perez, the 80-something widow of the Spanish clown Pepito, who appears in the pilot, mentioned she had a copy.

Grant brokered a deal with Perez, producing the one-hour “Very First Show” special around the lost episode.

Lucie Arnaz, with whom Ball was pregnant when she filmed the pilot, hosted the special on a replica of the Ricardos’ living room.

(“It was kind of wonderful and spooky to be sitting there,” Arnaz told USA Today. “Everything looks the same except that big armchair with those funny circles on it isn’t there.”)

In his review, the Washington Post’s Tom Shales noted the absence of William Frawley and Vivian Vance – a.k.a. Fred and Ethel Mertz – who weren’t added to the cast until “I Love Lucy” became a series.

“They aren’t in the pilot. And they are missed,” Shales wrote.

“The Very First Show” was seen in 19.5 million homes, becoming the week’s top-rated show and giving the network – then in third place – a much-needed ratings boost.

Thanks to “Lucy,” CBS missed first place by one tenth of a ratings point – its strongest finish since its broadcast of “Lonesome Dove” in February 1989.

Retrieved from:  http://chrisbaker.typepad.com/tvtimecapsule/2010/04/index.html

Washington Post: “Love That ‘Lost’ Lucy” (1990)

Monday, April 30, 1990

by Tom Shales

The Washington Post

On Dec. 18, 1989, 33 years after its first and only previous broadcast, CBS aired “The I Love Lucy Christmas Show” in prime time. Result: A very healthy 18.6 rating and 28 share, good enough to put the special in sixth place for the week, one of the few CBS entertainment shows to rank that high all year.

At last-a way for the once-proud network to crawl out of the ratings sub-cellar where it has languished for two whole seasons: All CBS has to do is keep finding lost episodes of “I Love Lucy”! Lucille Ball had helped build the network in life; maybe she could help rebuild it in death.

The plan, besides being a little morbid, has its limitations, since all the other “I Love Lucy” episodes have been in perpetual syndication for decades. Even so, archaeologists have managed to turn up another one. Tonight at 10 on Channel 9, CBS presents a one-hour special built around the newly rediscovered 34-minute pilot for “I Love Lucy,” shot on March 2, 1951, and never aired until now.

All this time, the pilot was believed lost. It was used to sell “I Love Lucy” to a sponsor, and since the actual series differed radically from the pilot, it was never shown on TV. Rumor had it that Desi Arnaz, who co-produced the show with Ball, his wife, had a copy under his bed.

But that’s not the bed it turned up under. Arnaz apparently had given a print of the episode to Pepito, a clown who’s featured in the show. Pepito’s widow discovered it, and gave it to B. Donald (Bud) Grant, the former CBS Entertainment president who now runs Grant/Tribune Productions, and is producing the special that includes it.

The special was not available for advance screening but the episode was. Its value is mainly historical. While the essential premise of the show remained the same-a Cuban-born band leader working in New York tries to keep his wacky red-headed wife from breaking into show business-many of the details changed.

Among these was the addition of two neighbors to act as foils for Lucy: William Frawley and Vivian Vance as Fred and Ethel Mertz. They aren’t in the pilot. And they are missed.

And wait till you get a load of the Ricardos’ crazy, cramped, apparently one-room, seventh-floor apartment. It’s nothing like the cozy third-floor flat where Lucy and Ricky later dwelled.

Otherwise, the pilot largely resembles “The Audition,” an “I Love Lucy” episode that did air on Nov. 19, 1951 (according to Bart Andrews’s invaluable guide, “The I Love Lucy Book”).

As in that episode, the pilot involves a clown taking a spill during a rehearsal at Ricky’s nightclub, and Lucy showing up in baggy pants to take his place. She plays the “saxa-fifa-trona-phono-vich,” a row of horns usually honked by a trained seal.

The bagginess of the pants was convenient because Ball was four months pregnant with daughter Lucie, who will appear on tonight’s special.

Jerry Hausner, who plays Ricky Ricardo’s agent, Jerry, in the pilot-and who appeared in many episodes of the series over its prosperous run-is believed to be the last surviving member of the pilot’s cast. Hausner, who turns 81 on May 20, lives in Encino, Calif.

“In the series, I was going to be Desi’s best friend and manager and all that stuff,” Hausner recalls-his voice nearly as sharp and punchy as it was 40 years ago. “When we made the pilot, the Mertzes were not even thought of. Somebody came up with the idea that the Ricardos ought to have friends other than me.” So Hausner did not become the weekly regular he thought he would.

However, in addition to the occasional Jerry-the-agent spots, Hausner contributed another characterization to the series. Since he’d been the voice of Baby Snooks’s little brother on Fannie Brice’s radio show, he was accomplished at making baby gurgles. He became the voice of Little Ricky as an infant.

Hausner’s memories of the show, and of Ball and Arnaz, are not particularly fond.

“You don’t think in terms of whether you’re happy or not when you’re doing it. You’re making a living,” Hausner says. “Lucy was always wrapped up in whatever she was doing and as many times as I was on the show, if anybody had asked her my name, she wouldn’t have known it. A lot of stars are like that.

“But I have great respect for her talent. She was hard-working and tireless; she never got tired, and she worked 16, 18 hours a day. Even when she was pregnant, she was like a locomotive. And she expected everyone else to be.”

Arnaz was the boss as well as the co-star. Hausner remembers him as a heavy drinker with a bad temper. One night, during shooting, an onstage telephone hookup between the two men failed, just as Hausner had warned Arnaz it would, and Desi blew up.

“He screamed at me and called me names in front of the audience,” Hausner remembers. “He was drunk a lot of the time. He could be an ornery bastard. I went to the producer and said, `Write me out of this thing.’ “

Before leaving, he returned some of Arnaz’s insults. “I said to him, `All your talent is in your wife’s name! I’ll be on this show when you’re off it!’ And a funny thing-six years later, after the divorce, Lucy was doing a different series and had me on. And she said to me, `Well you were right. You’re here, and he’s not.’ “

Hausner, whose last appearance in a sitcom was in the short-lived “Coming of Age” on CBS in 1988, says he saw “I Love Lucy” for the first time only a few years ago, having caught some of the reruns that air twice a day on a Los Angeles station.

“I never watched it back then, no. We were so busy working, we never watched TV. And I lived in Europe for several years. I’ve been living my life and not worrying about television. But recently, I have seen some of the shows. Since my wife passed away, I’ve been making my own breakfast, and I watch it in the mornings in the kitchen. And I’ve been very excited about how good I was.”

Those tuning in the “Lucy” pilot tonight expecting a laugh riot will be disappointed. While it was indeed written by Madelyn Pugh, Bob Carroll Jr. and Jess Oppenheimer-the team that did most of the writing on the series, joined in the fifth season by Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf-the format hadn’t been perfected.

Instead of a domestic sitcom with vaudeville elements, the pilot is mostly vaudeville stuff, including material Arnaz and Ball had done in a nightclub act. Their home life isn’t grounded in reality as it would be later. The pilot appears to be a kinescope, which means it was shot with TV cameras and filmed off monitors, perhaps because it still wasn’t certain at that point whether “Lucy” would be a live or filmed show. There was no tape then.

By the time it went on the air, “I Love Lucy” was shot via a three-camera film process still common on sitcoms today. Arnaz helped perfect it.

Among the jarring notes in the pilot is a speech Ricky delivers to Lucy about the proper role of a wife. It’s a little worse than anything that appeared in the series itself, but not dissimilar to sentiments expressed commonly in ’50s sitcoms.

“I want a wife who’s just a wife,” Ricky tells Lucy. “Now look, all you gotta do: clean the house for me, hand me my pipe when I come home at night, cook for me and be the mama for my children.” The speech is especially ironic considering that without powerhouse Lucy, there would have been no show.

For better and for worse, the “I Love Lucy” pilot is a Hubble telescope to another time; its historical value to television is indisputable. Indeed, until it turned up, the Museum of Broadcasting in New York regularly ran ads asking for information as to its whereabouts.

“We’ve been looking for it for three or four years, at least,” says Robert M. Batscha, director of the museum. “We searched all over the place.” Batscha says Grant/Tribune Productions has agreed to donate the print to the museum’s permanent collection.

The discovery of the pilot would seem to end the search for missing “Lucy’s.” Wellll-yes and no. Batscha says that among the lost treasures the museum would love to get its hands on is an early appearance by Ball and Arnaz, in character as Lucy and Ricky, on the old “Ed Wynn Show.” He’d be very excited to locate it.

So, it hardly needs to be said, would CBS.


Tom Shales

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USA Today: Decades Later, Lost “Lucy” Pilot Finally Gets On the Air (1990)

Monday, April 30, 1990

USA TODAY, by Tom Green

HOLLYWOOD – Here’s “I Love Lucy,” the home video. Sort of. On March 10, 1951, a five-months-pregnant Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz, with $5,000 out of their own pockets, filmed the pilot for the CBS series that would eventually invent the live audience, three-camera TV sitcom.

“You can see why they got the job,” says daughter Lucie Arnaz, who first saw the pilot just a few weeks before its public debut tonight on CBS (10 EDT/PDT).

For almost 40 years, the only kinescope or motion picture record of the 34-minute pilot was lost, surfacing last Christmas.

Tonight the network offers a one-hour special that includes the first airing of the pilot. Arnaz is host and the show is taped on a replica set of the Ricardos’ living room.

“It was kind of wonderful and spooky to be sitting there,” says Arnaz, with whom Lucy was pregnant in 1951. “Everything looks the same except that big armchair with those funny circles on it isn’t there.”

The pilot is clumsy, obviously low-budget — watch for the collapse of a tissue paper wall and for Desi to break up when Lucy makes fun of his English. The slight story line is very familiar to Lucy fans: she wants in the act when bandleader Ricky gets a TV audition.

CBS nixed the pilot because it didn’t want Desi, but agreed to sell Lucy and Desi the airtime if they could get a client. They found cigarette-maker Philip Morris and added neighbors Fred and Ethel Mertz.

The pilot surfaced when former CBS Entertainment chief Bud Grant was having Christmas dinner at his fiancee’s brother’s house. Joanne Perez, the widow of Spanish clown Pepito, who is in the pilot, mentioned it.

“Joanne didn’t know she had the only copy,” says Grant, now head of Grant/Tribune Productions. CBS owned the rights to the pilot, but Perez, now in her 80s, had the film. Grant made a deal for her.

“Pepito was the caretaker of all the memorabilia,” Arnaz says. “After he retired, he became my father’s boat captain. He had everything filed and stored, but when he died, she left everything as it was. They used to show the pilot after dinner.”

Because it was “too early” after her mother’s death, Arnaz twice balked at hosting the special, Grant says. When the producers wanted to use a clip that she owned, he says, she saw the script and loved it.

“I cried,” says Arnaz, who last Thursday, to mark the first anniversary of her mother’s death, bought a page in the Hollywood trades to run a photo she had taken of Lucy in her ever-present sunglasses. (“I look at that picture as the way I remember my mom, our Nana.”)

Arnaz hesitated on the special, she says, because she has a pilot herself for CBS, an ensemble hour drama with comedy, Sons and Daughters.

There also is a TV movie about Ball’s life being developed for CBS by producer Larry Thompson that Arnaz is not involved in but would like to be. The project is sensitive, she says.

“But once I read this script,” she says, “I told them that if anybody else does it, I’ll picket your studio.”

Orange County Register: “And In the Beginning Was ‘Lucy:’” Joanne and the Lost Pilot (1990)

Sunday, April 29, 1990

Byline: Ray Richmond, The Orange County Register 

On March 2, 1951, a pilot episode was shot for a televised version of a comedy radio show that Lucille Ball had done called “My Favorite Husband.”  By October of that year, “I Love Lucy” was on the air and starting a six-season, 179-episode television run that would make it the most successful television series of its time — and quite possibly in TV history.  The show’s popularity endures in reruns all over the globe, unwavering more than three decades after its original run.  But there was always something missing: the pilot.  CBS never aired that first 34-minute segment that had convinced the network to go ahead with the show, and it was never included in any syndication rerun packages for the simple reason that no one seemed to have a copy.

This was long before the days of videotaping. That first episode was shot on 16-millimeter film, called a kinescope. Only a few copies of it were ever made. It was gone, and it was largely forgotten.  Then a concerted search began for the pilot in the 1980s, mostly at the behest of the New York City-based Museum of Broadcasting. It regularly ran ads in entertainment publications that were headlined, “We’d Love Lucy” and explain that it would pay good money for a pilot.

In February 1990, it suddenly surfaced. It’s going to appear on TV for the first time as part of an hour-long CBS special Monday night called, “I Love Lucy: The Very First Show” (10 p.m., KCBS/2). Lucie Arnaz hosts.

First there were the lost “Honeymooners” episodes, now the lost “I Love Lucy” pilot.  Author Bart Andrews, considered the world’s foremost “I Love Lucy” authority after seeing each of the 179 episodes some 100 times and writing books such as “The`I Love Lucy’ Book” and “Loving Lucy,” has a difficult time concealing his excitement at the pilot discovery. “To me, this pilot is the biggest find in terms of archival material in the history of the medium,” said Andrews, who is working on his third “Lucy” book (The “‘I Love Lucy’ Companion”).  “There is no other single TV show that has been coveted as long as this pilot. People have really been talking about trying to find it since 1975.”

In the pilot episode, Desi Arnaz plays the role of Cuban bandleader Larry Lopez (later changed to Ricky Ricardo), whose dingy American wife Lucy (Lucille Ball, of course) drives him crazy by doing an impromptu band audition to attract the attention of talent scouts in the audience.  Much of the material from the pilot later found its way into the series’ sixth episode of the first season. But that hardly matters. For all intents and purposes, it’s 34 minutes of vintage Lucy that the audience has never seen.  

The story of how the pilot was found is oddly simple, considering all the effort that went into unearthing it.  It was presumed for years that the only hope for finding the pilot rested with Desi Arnaz. After Arnaz died in December of 1986, his daughter Lucie was asked to look under his bed, since some claimed that he had stored a copy there.  “There was nothing there,” Andrews says.  

Then last December, a woman named Joanne Perez was reading an article in TV Guide about the discovery of the “I Love Lucy Christmas Show,” an episode that had run only once on CBS and never in syndication and which the network broadcast at Christmastime.  The last paragraph of the TV Guide story detailed how CBS, while saying the Christmas episode was nice, was “really looking for the `I Love Lucy’ pilot.”  Perez read the line and was immediately struck that she might have a copy. She remembered that her late husband, the famed vaudeville clown named Pepito, appeared in the pilot and was given a copy of the film as a gift.  A check under her bed confirmed what Perez had suspected: the pilot was there.  “It had been there all along, all these years, and no one had thought to ask her about it,” Andrews says.

Perez, now 84, declined all interview requests this week. But as Andrews relays the story, Perez has a daughter who was an acquaintance of Bud Grant, former CBS programming chief and now a successful independent producer. Grant got hold of it, molded it into a special, and here it is on Monday.  “I hope Mrs. Perez really held CBS up for the tape,” Andrews says. “I mean, this is the only copy in existence. It’s very valuable. She could have just about named her price.”  No one, certainly not CBS, is saying what that price was.  

Lucy is again back in prime time, and that comes a great delight to Bob Carroll Jr.  Carroll, now 71 and living in Hollywood with his second wife, and his longtime writing partner, Madelyn Pugh Davis, cowrote every one of the 179 “I Love Lucy” half-hour episodes as well as the 13 hour-long segments.  The pair later collaborated for several years on “The Lucy Show” and “Here’s Lucy,” writing for Ball’s shows 21 years.  Carroll and Davis also penned the pilot with the help of “I Love Lucy” creator and producer Jess Oppenheimer, who died two years ago.  At the time the pilot was produced, no one had an inkling of what they were working on — certainly not Carroll.  “Never in our wildest dreams could we have predicted what would happen,” Carroll admits. “At the time, it was just another job for us. We’d done the radio show, so it just seemed natural that we’d do the TV show, too.”  The radio show, “My Favorite Husband,” starred Lucy, Bea Benaderet, Gale Gordon (who later starred on “The Lucy Show” and “Here’s Lucy”) and Richard Denning. It ran from 1948 to ’50.  

CBS had long wanted to turn “My Favorite Husband” into a TV series starring Lucy and her radio hubby, Denning. But Lucy insisted that her real-life husband, Arnaz, work as her co-star — or there would be no deal.  “She wanted Desi there kind of to save her marriage, really,” Carroll recalls. “That wasn’t news to anyone back then.”  Indeed, Arnaz’s womanizing was legendary, and — as Andrews confirms — Lucy wanted Desi close by so he would have less time to stray.  “CBS was dead set against it,” Carroll adds. “They asked who was going to believe that this redheaded American woman was married to this Cuban bandleader, even though they really were married. It made no sense.”  Carroll notes that CBS eventually compromised and allowed Lucy and Desi to create a touring vaudeville act in 1950. If the country thought they were funny, they could do the TV show together, too.  The vaudeville-inspired pilot followed. The rest is history.

“I Love Lucy” 40 years later stills hauls in audiences and is even creating a prime-time stir.  The show airs in reruns in more than 80 countries, and it’s said that “I Love Lucy” runs every minute of every day somewhere on the globe. Stations nationwide regularly run marathons of the series.  Locally, KTTV/11 runs “I Love Lucy” 19 times a week. It’s on twice weekday mornings (9 and 9:30 a.m.), once each weeknight (11 p.m.) and twice each on Saturday and Sunday (4 and 4:30 p.m.).  It even manages to find its way up into the sky. When Carroll flew on TWA to Boston, Paris and Vienna on a trip last year, he recalls that an “I Love Lucy” episode was shown before the main movie on every flight.  When the ” `I Love Lucy’ Christmas Special” aired on CBS in December, it emerged as the sixth most-watched show in the ratings that week. An even bigger audience is expected Monday for ” `I Love Lucy’: The Very First Show.”  Will this show never die?  “I sure hope not,” Carroll replies. “It’s given me a great life.”


The Orange County Register

April 29, 1990

SHOW section

on page M18

ID: OCR255638





TV Guide: A Long Lost Gem, the Pilot That Launched Lucy (1990)

April 29, 1990

In March of 1951, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz filmed an “audition” for a TV sitcom that premiered as a series on CBS the following October. Since then, the 179 half-hour episodes of I Love Lucy have been seen by millions around the world, but until tonight the March pilot, once believed lost, has never been telecast.

The format is essentially the same as the series, minus the characters of Fred and Ethel Mertz, who were added later. Desi plays a Cuban bandleader named Larry Lopez, and Lucy is his effervescent wife, whose shenanigans trying to break into show business with Larry’s band reflect the pilot’s roots in the Arnazes’ own vaudeville-style stage act.

The cast also features “The Spanish Clown” Pepito, whose widow [Joanne Perez] found this copy of the pilot film. To round out the hour, the Arnazes’ daughter Lucie is slated to chat with I Love Lucy writers Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll Jr. (60 min.)


TV Guide, week of April 29, 1990.

Tribune Media Services: “I Love Lucy” Pilot Airs (1990)

Saturday, April 28, 1990

by Jay Bobbin, Tribune Media Services

Just when you thought you’d seen every episode of “I Love Lucy” in existence, here comes one more.  

In 1951, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz did a portion of their nightclub act as a pilot for CBS executives, in the hope that a series would be commissioned from it.

One certainly was, and it has been on the air someplace virtually every day since it premiered.  The original episode, however, was thought to be gone forever, until the network’s airing of a little-seen “Lucy” holiday episode last Christmas had an unexpected outcome.

Former CBS programming executive Bud Grant was contacted by [Joanne Perez] the widow of the vaudeville clown Pepito, who said that she still had a copy of the 34-minute pilot that Lucy and Desi had given her husband as a gift.

CBS presents “I Love Lucy: The Very First Show” as an hourlong special on Monday, the night of the week on which the progran enjoyed huge success for six years.  The couple’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, hosts.

Though the two stars appear in their familiar roles as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, some differences are evident.  Since the roles of Ethel and Fred Mertz hadn’t yet been developed, there are no traces of Vivian Vance and William Frawley, but the aforementioned Pepito is on hand.

Also, there’s more emphasis on music in the pilot than the actual show eventually had, though Arnaz certainly had ample chances to sing on the series.

[Madelyn Pugh] Davis and [Bob] Carroll. who also worked for Desi Arnaz when he produced the late-1960s series “The Mothers-In-Law,” will be featured in Monday’s special in interview segments.

“I thought it was probably somewhere,” Davis says of the long-missing pilot.  “I couldn’t believe (the various copies) had all been destroyed, but I never had it.  In those days, they did throw away everything without even rerunning it, so I was kind of tickled that they found this.”

Legend has it that Pepito’s widow kept the film stored under her bed for the past 39 years, but Davis spoke with her recently and reports, “It really was under the bed for a while, but she then put it in the attic, along with other big boxes.”

The special commemorates the anniversary of Ball’s death on April 26, 1989.

“I Love Lucy, The Very First Show’ airs at 9 p.m. Monday, April 30, 1990 on CBS.


“’I Love Lucy’ Pilot Airs,” Tribune Media Services, 1990.

All That’s Left: A Lasting Impression (1990)

Wednesday, April 11, 1990

For those who still love Lucy, there’s more to love. An audition film (these days known as a pilot) for “I Love Lucy,” which runs 34 minutes and has never been seen on television, will be shown in May as part of a CBS special devoted to Lucille Ball.

The film — actually a kinescope, a film shot off a TV monitor — was uncovered by given to Bud Grant, CEO of the Grant/Tribune Co. According to Grant, a former longtime programming boss at CBS, the film was labeled “Lucy-Desi-Pepito Audition.” It was given in 1951 to the famous clown Pepito Perez by Lucy and Desi Arnaz in appreciation for his support of their act during their vaudeville careers and earliest days in television. Pepito appears as a guest on the audition show. His widow, Joanne Perez, who has had the only copy of the audition film since then, gave the print to Grant.



Deseret News: Long Lost ‘I Love Lucy’ Pilot Is Found (1990)

Tuesday, April 10, 1990

By Scott D. Pierce, Television Editor, Deseret News

If you still love Lucy, you’re in for a treat.  The “I Love Lucy” pilot has been found, and will be broadcast by CBS next month.

For TV buffs, this find ranks up there with discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Most experts believed no copies existed.  But it was discovered in the possession of a clown’s widow.

Bud Grant, head of the Grant/Tribune Co. and former programming chief of CBS, was given the tape by Joanne Perez, Pepito the clown’s widow. Pepito appears in the show with Lucy and Desi, and was apparently given the only copy in 1951.

Back in 1950, CBS was anxious for Ball to take the character she’d created on radio’s “My Favorite Wife” to television. But the network wasn’t so sure about casting Cuban-born Desi Arnaz as the all-American husband.

So Ball and Arnaz took to the road, performing their act before live audiences. And in early 1951, they took $5,000 of their own money and produced the pilot — which so impressed CBS executives that “I Love Lucy” was scheduled to premiere that fall.

It’s unknown how good the quality of the tape is. It’s actually a kinescope, a film shot from a TV monitor.

The show runs 34 minutes, but fear not — the network won’t cut it to fit a half-hour time slot. An hour-long special is planned, which will include a tribute to Ball and deal with the origins of “I Love Lucy.”

The “audition tape” includes Desi and Lucy doing their famous cello routine, seal act and “Cuban Pete-Sally Sweet” duet and clown bits from Pepito.


Deseret News: “Long Lost ‘I Love Lucy’ Pilot Is Found,” Tuesday, April 10, 1990.  


Los Angeles Times: “I Love Lucy” Pilot Discovered (1990)

Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation’s press, by Greg Braxton

Monday, April 9, 1990

“I Love Lucy” Pilot Discovered. The original pilot for “I Love Lucy,” which has been missing for 40 years, has been found under a bed where it had been forgotten for 39 years.

Joanne Perez, the widow of vaudeville performer Pepito the Spanish Clown, discovered a copy of the pilot — a gift to her husband from Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Pepito had coached Ball in some of her stage routines, and guest-starred on the pilot.

Although Perez knew she had one of the show’s episodes in her possession, she didn’t realize which one or the value of it until a recent conversation with B. Donald (Bud) Grant, who will coordinate an hour-long special to air in May on CBS which will include the 34-minute pilot as well as tributes to the show and cast.

The 34-minute print is apparently the only one in existence.


Los Angeles Times, Morning Report, April 09, 1990.


New York Times: Broadcasting Museum Seeks TV’s Self-History (1987)

Sunday, January 25, 1987

(Scroll down to paragraph in red).

Thousands of people will videotape Super Bowl XXI today. But fans looking for a copy of the first Super Bowl broadcast — in which the Green Bay Packers trounced the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 and Max McGee grabbed two touchdown passes — are out of luck.

Two networks carried the game. Both later erased their tapes. In an attempt to save money, television’s pioneers may have shortchanged their own legacy. Networks and production companies routinely threw away tapes and film to save shelf space, gutted old kinescopes for their silver content and erased videotapes so they could be reused.

Among the missing: President Truman’s first televised speech, broadcast in 1947; Johnny Carson’s debut as host of ”The Tonight Show” in 1962 (he was introduced by Groucho Marx); the first time (on ”Cavalcade of Stars”) that Jackie Gleason threatened to send his wife skyward with a ”bang-zoom!”

But officials of the Museum of Broadcasting in Manhattan hope that these and other lost programs may have survived in the hands of individual collectors. To help the museum find them, Fuji Film Photo U.S.A. last week promised the museum at least $75,000 to begin an advertising and public relations campaign. 

Jets’ Triumph Survives

”The real problem is that a lot of people have collections or copies of programs, but they assume that everybody has them,” said Robert M. Batscha, the museum’s executive director. ”They assume that networks keep copies or that production houses keep copies.”

”For example, they would assume that we would have all the Super Bowls; they’re among the best-rated programs ever,” he said, adding that Super Bowl II, also, was missing.

Mr. Batscha said the network broadcast of Super Bowl III, in which Joe Namath led the New York Jets to a startling upset of the Baltimore Colts in 1969, was discovered only last year through the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Engineers at Ascap, which often monitors television programs to insure compliance with music royalty agreements, had recorded the game. Last year, Ascap officials found the tapes in their archives and offered them to the museum.

”It is very expensive to store film or two-inch tape or one-inch tape or whatever,” Mr. Batscha said. ”There is a real cost. And who would have thought 20 years ago that there might be a market for this material? You look at your bottom line and you see this very big figure – storage costs. And you ask yourself, what do you do about it? It’s still a problem.”

Samuel T. Suratt, the CBS News archivist, said that because laws limited the number of programs networks could own – the production companies retained control – there was little incentive to keep entertainment programs. ”If you don’t own it, can’t do anything with, why store it?”

The profusion of cable channels and independent stations has created a market for old programs and an economic incentive to keep them. Production companies make more money syndicating programs than they do selling shows to the networks. For example, ”The Cosby Show” is expected to net Viacom International Inc., its syndicator, more than half a billion dollars. Shows such as ”Leave It to Beaver,” ”The Honeymooners” and ”I Love Lucy,” if less lucrative, continue to yield hefty profits.

Most programs from before 1947 are lost because there was no effective recording device. A few early examples survive, among them a sound recording of a 1938 drama starring Gertude Lawrence and newsreel footage of a television broadcast at the 1939 World’s Fair. By 1950 the kinescope recorder, a device that synchronized the scan frequency of a television picture and the frame interval of a 16-millimeter movie camera, had become fairly standard.

Kinescope recordings were kept ”to have a record in case there was a legal problem,” Mr. Batscha said. ”In the early days the country was not connected by coaxial cable, so you had to bicycle around the kinescopes to different time zones.”

The museum, which is at 1 East 53rd Street, has contracts that entitle it to select up to 300 hours of programs a year from each of the networks and as many as 50 hours from most major production houses, Mr. Batscha said. About half of the museum’s collection is from those sources; the rest is from private collectors and from producers, directors, technicians and others connected with shows. 

Looking for ‘I Love Lucy’

Ronald C. Simon, curator of the museum’s television collection, said the detective work could take years. For example, he said, he has been looking for the unbroadcast pilot of ”I Love Lucy” for four years.

”There are photos of it,” he said. ”We’ve been able to trace it through the 1970’s. At different times people who worked at Desilu said they had a copy. Desi Arnaz thought at one point that he had a copy, but he didn’t. Lucille Ball checked her personal film vault, but it wasn’t there, either.”

Mr. Simon said the pilot depicted the Ricardos as ”very much a Hollywood couple.” Their neighbors, Fred and Ethel, do not appear.

Some of the museum’s searches have a happy ending. For months curators scoured archives and made inquiries about ”The Petrified Forest,” a 1955 production that was Humphrey Bogart’s only television acting appearance. One night, Mr. Batscha met Lauren Bacall, the ”Forest” co-star, at a dinner party, and he told her about the project. Miss Bacall said she would look in her personal collection; she found it last October.

”She had no idea that she had the only copy,” Mr. Batscha said.


New York Times, “Broadcasting Museum Seeks TV’s Self-History,” January 25, 1987. 


Orange County Register: Glamorous Lifestyle More Than A Memory For Former Star Joanne Perez (1984)

Wednesday, September 5, 1984

By Jim O’Connell, The Register

For skeptics who believe there is no glamour left in the world, a trip to 1502 N. Ross Street in Santa Ana, California could change their minds.  

There, at the Pepito and Joanne Ballet Academy, Joanne Perez is continuing a tradition that was lost when the sun set on the era of pillbox hats and Packards.

The ornate, hand-lettered sign perched on the front gable of the green building recalls a time when a shingle over the doorway was the full extent of marketing efforts.

The strangely quiet estate, surrounded by a wrought-iron gate and dotted with pock-marked statues, is carefully tended.  The construction that is occurring just two doors down dares not spread its dust on this remnant — yet still functioning part — of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Joanne Perez offers dance lessons from her glamorous Santa Ana home, which was built in 1892. Photography by Al Gamboa/The Register

Inside, sitting lightly on an antique pink sofa is Joanne Perez, a former vaudeville star.  She seems to be in a glamorous world of her own.

Perez founded the academy in 1950 with her husband, Pepito Perez, a former vaudeville clown, painter and movie star.  Today, nine years after Pepito’s death, his wife and co-star continues to teach aspiring dancers and singes the fine points of show business.  

Joanne Perez, although aging gracefully, still occasionally dons a tutu to teach ballet, one of the many performing arts taught at the academy.

Perez won’t reveal her age — it wouldn’t be glamorous.  Her carefully curled blonde hair does not belie the years she spent touring the country with Pepito in a vaudeville variety show.

Photography by Al Gamboa/The Register

But the walls of her expansive home are decorated with photographic memories of years and shows past.  

The home, built in 1892 and remodeled by Pepito during the early years of the academy, also is a museum.  Pepito’s original paintings and sculptures are there, against walls covered with velvet embossed wallpaper and a houseful of antique, Victorian-era furniture.  

Pepito’s bedroom remains exactly as it was the day he died, Perez said.  Small, dark, and decorated with paintings on black velvet, the room reflects Pepito’s Spanish heritage, his wife said.

His suits still hang in the closet; his socks still sit in the dresser.

“I’ll never accept that he’s gone,” Perez said.  “I keep waiting for him to come through the door.

“It’s a comfort knowing that his clothes are still the way he left them,” she said.  “I guess I’m living in a world of my own.”

While the front rooms of the home are a memorial to the past, the back, which houses a dance studio and singing room, is dedicated to the future.  Students, from 3 to 40 years old who range in talent as much as they do in age, take lessons in ballet, jazz and Polynesian dance and song styling.

Joanne Perez shows dance student Amy Johnson the proper form to use during a performance. Photography by Al Gamboa/The Register

The school boasts several former students who have gone on to entertainment fame, including two Miss Californias and one former Miss U.S.A. as well as actress Rosalind Chao, who stars in the television series “AfterM.A.S.H.”

While many parents and adult students invest in lessons as a first step toward show business — and fame and fortune — others use the lessons to overcome natural shyness, Perez said.

Lisa Cesario keeps a close watch on her teacher while Virgina Mielke, behind her, and the rest of the students follow suit.  The girls are working on their barre exercises. Photography by Al Gamboa/The Register

Currently, about 200 students are enrolled in classes, but the school is not as active as it once was, she said.

“People just don’t seem as interested in this kind of thing as they once were,” Perez said.  “It used to be that all the parents would get involved, building sets and making costumes.  Now they just drop the kids off at the door.”

The academy has four instructors.

Perez said up to 400 people used to attend recitals presented on the raised concrete platform on the side of the main house.  Older students now are usually more interested in making money than in the glamour of show business, she said.

“But the glamour is starting to come back,” she said.  “I’m trying to preserve a little bit of it.  Maybe I’m living in a fantasy world all by myself, but I’m going to keep it that way.”

Photography by  Al Gamboa/The Register


This article originally appeared in the Santa Ana Community Edition section of The Register (now the Orange County Register), pages 1 and 3, on September 5, 1984.


Thursday, October 7, 2010 – 07:23 AM


Melani, that’s just fascinating!  Did you sense the greatness of Joanne and Pepito when you were a child?  All your research just really blows me away!  Truly, you have a special gift.  Thanks for sharing your good work with all who enjoy these great artists of days gone by.  Little did Joanne know, that her finest student would be a journalist rather than a dancer! We are so proud of you, Melani…..and I think Joanne and Pepito would be too!  Thanks for keeping us posted.  We are always taking extra steps to screen for Pepito/Joanne information. We don’t have a nose like you Melani, but always hope we can just trip across something important for you. Thanks for keeping us updated. Hope you know how special we think you are!  Send our best to your family as well. I’m sure the children are growing like weeds!

Best wishes always, Roger

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – 02:53 AM

Lisann Martinez

Melani I posted pictures of my daughter and Ms Joanne with the same girls in this article. Facebook Lisann Martinez photo album Pepito & Joanne. I will be adding more pics soon.

Letter From Lucille Ball to Joanne Perez (1983)

Thursday, August 18, 1983

A one-page handwritten letter from the Lucille Ball to long-time friend, Joanne Perez, written on Lucy’s personal stationery. In blue ink, she writes, 

“Joanne dear—Thank you for remembering my birthday—hope you had a chance to see some of that marathon on TV. Pepito had a lot to do with our initial success—Stay well—you looked beautiful last time I saw you.  — Love, Lucy.” 

Joanne was married for 50 years to Pepito Perez, the Spanish Clown, who assisted Lucy and Desi in the development of their 1950 vaudeville tour. Later, Pepito would appear in the pilot of I Love Lucyas well as a second season episode, “Lucy’s Show Biz Swan Song.” Lucy makes reference to Pepito’s contributions in her letter to Joanne. 

Letter is accompanied by the original envelope which Lucy hand addressed. An August 18, 1983, postmark cancellation is displayed on the envelope. Envelope flap on backside features Lucy’s Beverly Hills home address. 

Accompanied by an original photograph, taken 30 years earlier, of Lucy and Desi with Pepito and Joanne. The picture shows the foursome at the Desilu ranch in Chatsworth, California standing behind a bassinette which cradles Lucy and Desi’s infant son, Desi, Jr.  Auction item originally obtained from the Estate of Pepito & Joanne Perez.

Note 8 by 6 inches; Photo 5 by 4 inches

From: https://www.julienslive.com/view-auctions/catalog/id/23/lot/5667/

“A Book” by Desi Arnaz: Pepito’s Contributions to the Lost Pilot for “I Love Lucy” Explained (1976)

An Excerpt From “The Outspoken Memoirs of ‘Ricky Ricardo’ — The Man Who Loved Lucy”

I had a very dear friend named Pepito, who used to go fishing with me. He’s retired now but he was one of the world’s greatest clowns. His billing was “Pepito, the Spanish Clown.” He headlined at the Hippodrome for years during the time that theater was the place in New York. He also had done command performances for the Queen of England and the King of Spain. A brilliant clown.

While we were fishing one day I told him what Lucy and I were planning [a potential foray into the new medium of television], and he said “Yeas, that’s a good idea. I’ve got a few clown bits which might help you with your act, and I’m sure Lucy would be great doing them.”

“Thanks, Pepito, we would sure appreciate it.”

We got a suite at the Coronado Hotel in San Diego and Pepito spent two weeks working eight to ten hours a day with Lucy and me. He also converted a cello and a xylophone into great comic props — exactly like the ones he had used as part of his clown act. We used them both in our theater tour and later in the pilot film, of I Love Lucy. They were two of the best routines Lucy ever did.

Bob Carroll, Jr., and Madelyn Pugh, who were writing her radio show with Jess Oppenheimer, wrote a short sketch for us. As it turned out, this was not the only thing they were going to write for us. By 1959 they had written 180 I Love Lucy half-hours, plus twelve hours of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, and after that they wrote a number of The Lucy Show episodes, then many of the Here’s Lucy shows. I tell them the next one they’ll write for her will be There Goes Lucy, and the, I’m sure, Here Comes Lucy Back.

I wrote some lyrics for her to do with me on the second chorus of “Cuban Pete” and staged a wild rhumba with which to finish that number. She was now ready to join our show.

The tour was arranged so that a true cross section of the country would see us. We appeared at the Roxy Theatre in New York, followed by theaters in Minneapolis, Omaha, San Francisco and others.

Desi Arnaz in a white blazer, standing on the street corner under the Roxy Theater marquee bearing his name and Lucille’s, on their vaudeville tour around the United States, 1950.

Of course she was sensational.

In the cello bit, I would be on the stage doing a number and she, dressed in ill-fitting, broken-down white tie and tails and an old felt hat, would come through the audience’s carrying this cello down the center aisle. As the audience recognized her it created quite a commotion. I would pretend I didn’t know what this commotion was all about and who was interrupting my show.

“What’s going on out there? Please put the lights on.”

She would then be spotted in the audience, asking “Where is Dizzy Arnazy?” in a husky man’s voice.

Then she would come onstage, look me up and down and say, “Are you Dizzy Arnazy?”

“Desi Arnaz,” I would correct.

“That’s what I said, Dizzy Arnazy.”

Giving up, I would say, “Look, mister, what is it you want?”

“I want a job with your orchestra.”

“Oh, are you a musician?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

Then she would go into the band, starting to take the cello out of its case, climbing over music stands, hitting some of the guys in the head with the case as she was turning around and looking for a place to sit, until I had to go to her, saying “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Come back here!” And I would take her back up front again.

“She’d say, “What’s the matter?”

“I have to see your credentials,” I’d say.

She would then do a big take, look shocked and cross her arms over her bosom.

She is one of the greatest pantomimists in the world and a clown at heart. She had the routines Pepito had given her down pat. Every move she made, everything she did with the prop cello, while giving me an audition, got nothing but big yaks.

After the cello she played the xylophone, not as Lucy but as a seal, a seal playing the xylophone. Later in the show, during the second chorus of “Cuban Pete,” she would come out with a “Frankie and Johnny” outfit, swinging a purse and singing, “They call me Sally Sweet/I’m the Queen of Delancey Street/When I start to dance, everything goes/Chick, chicky boom/Chick, chicky boom,” and with the last “boom,” she would do a big [hip] bump and knock the straw hat off my head. Then we would do the wild rhumba dance to exit with.

After the cello she played the xylophone, not as Lucy but as a seal, a seal playing the xylophone. Later in the show, during the second chorus of “Cuban Pete,” she would come out with a “Frankie and Johnny” outfit, swinging a purse and singing, “They call me Sally Sweet/I’m the Queen of Delancey Street/When I start to dance, everything goes/Chick, chicky boom/Chick, chicky boom,” and with the last “boom,” she would do a big [hip] bump and knock the straw hat off my head. Then we would do the wild rhumba dance to exit with.

This whole act, plus the short sketch that was written for us, and Pepito himself, eventually became the pilot show of I Love Lucy.

The tour was a tremendous success and convinced Lucy and me that the people liked us as a team, which meant more to us than whatever the executives of one network or another thought.

Source: “A Book,” by Desi Arnaz, William Morrow And Company, Inc., New York, 1976, pp. 194-195.

Photo: http://www.lucyfan.com/photoweek138.html