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Lucy's '50s Love Affair With the Valley

VALLEY 200: To commemorate the bicentennial of the San Fernando Mission and the San Fernando Valley, for 200 days we will feature people --some famous, some notorious-- who left their mark on the area.

March 28, 1997|HENRY CHU

All of America loved Lucy, and for several years at the height of her storied career, Lucy loved the San Fernando Valley.

In the 1950s, while their antics on "I Love Lucy" drew in television viewers by the millions, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz spent many of their off-hours relaxing at the ranch they owned in Chatsworth.

It was a retreat from the rigors of Hollywood, where the pair were fast becoming two of the most powerful people in the industry.

Their production company, Desilu, had started out modestly with a $5,000 pilot for a sitcom about a clownish housewife desperate to break into show biz through her bandleader husband. Despite misgivings from network honchos, "I Love Lucy" shot to No. 1 in the ratings soon after its 1951 premiere, and is still watched in syndication across the globe.

The couple's Chatsworth ranch, also called Desilu, stood just off Devonshire Street and was the site of countless arguments and reconciliations in the couple's rocky marriage.

Once, Arnaz surprised Ball by covering their swimming pool with gardenias. The two liked to throw parties for their celebrity friends--the Gables, the Holdens--who would sample the famous sauce Arnaz liked to cook.

Besides their two children, the creators of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo also shared the ranch with a batch of animals, including their cow, "The Duchess of Devonshire," some dogs and a flock of chickens.

Those chickens may well have been the luckiest in the Valley. In spite of her tough streak, which showed in her perfectionist acting and her business dealings, Ball was a softie at heart.

"At the ranch . . . she'd fall in love with the chickens and wouldn't kill them," said Madelyn Pugh Davis, one of the principal writers for "I Love Lucy" and a close friend. "She had the oldest chickens in the Valley."

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