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I am the first person to silence anyone who thinks my chosen career as a costume designer is somehow full of non-stop glamour. I pick up people's dirty socks for a living, and I usually get screamed at once per day. But right now, I am sort of living the dream at work.
My costume office on the lot at Paramount Pictures (on Melrose Avenue, natch!) is none other than Lucille Ball’s personal bungalow/office/dressing room, which she used throughout the 1950's and 1960's, and which is attached to "lucky" Stage 25.
Owners Desi Arnaz and Ball sold Desilu in 1967, and it quickly became Paramount Television. (Little known fact: Lucy bought Desi out after their 1960 divorce, and ran the studio by herself for the next 7 years! Lucy really was the original BOSS LADY.)
Some other shows filmed on Stage 25 at Paramount? Maybe you’ve heard of them. Cheers?Frasier? Stage 25 is often called “lucky” due to the incredible success of these shows. (There is also a special super powerful A/C system on stage 25, and I have it on good authority that it was installed due to a particular Cheers/Frasier actor who would sweat under the stage lights like a whore in church.)
The tour guides at Paramount are totally thrilled that I have the Lucy Bungalow right now, because I love fresh air and have the doors wide open all the time. (A great perk of living in Southern California is open windows in January!)
What’s the use in having this amazing piece of history and keeping the doors and windows closed from prying eyes all the time? I love it when I'm busy working on my mood boards for an episode and suddenly hear the click of a tourist's camera. I'm glad it's getting seen, used and loved! I'm not so pleased about how many people probably have taken unflattering photos of me with my "concentrating face," but whatevs.
I’m not really sure how much of the space I’m even allowed to show you, but here’s a quick little mini-tour I actually made for my mom to show her that I HAVE IN FACT ARRIVED IN HOLLYWOOD, MAN! I’ve never had such an amazing workspace before, and I doubt I will again. Behold:
Amazing, right? What's even more amazing is that this dressing room previously belonged to a star as big as Lucy herself. Katherine Hepburn was signed to a long-term contract at RKO Pictures, and was the star in residence in our little bungalow before Desilu took over the property. That is a little known fact that you won't hear on the sanctioned studio tour.
Now that you've seen my office, you know my secret: I may dress like a total 80's hair metal rocker, but my interior decorating style is pure grandma-ish "Shabby Chic."
The bungalow has 3 separate rooms which are connected by a mini-kitchen. Paramount's resident historian, Gary DeVaughn, tells me that the main room (where I sit and where I hold all our fittings) was actually the receiving/living room, where Lucy would entertain visitors and give interviews to the press. The kitchen still has its original Westinghouse appliances, as Westinghouse was a sponsor of Desilu at the time! The original gas oven still works beautifully, and I sometimes bake cookies in it and let them cool on the windowsill as I imagine Lucy herself doing.
My assistant costume designer and our production assistant sit in the room that was once Lucy's bedroom and dressing room. There is also a door that leads directly onto the stage so Lucy never had to walk outside if she didn't want to.
The sad, sad, saddest part of the Lucy Bungalow is that previous to my moving in, it had the original pastel pink late 1950's bathroom fixtures which were almost certainly installed to Lucy's exact specifications. Alas, the entire bathroom has since been re-modeled to be more "modern." I never even got to pee in Lucy's toilet. PROGRESS, GROSS.
We also have a buddy who shares the office with us, a beautiful black kitty whom we feed and who we named, DUH, Lucy.
All sorts of crazy junk goes on in our suite of offices. We are currently working on making an inflatable tuxedo, because well WHY NOT?
I put the girl actresses on our show in lots of skirts and dresses. Sometimes they balk and say that they can't perform the comedy bits written for them in a skirt. I always remind them, "We are standing in Lucille Ball's private dressing room. This is hallowed ground. She did EVERYTHING in a skirt so women could be taken seriously as comedic actresses!" They always cave in and wear what I want them to. Manipulation, kids, it's a valuable life skill.
The strangest thing happened right before I started working in the Lucy Bungalow. I was perusing a back issue of The Costume Designer's Guild magazine, cleverly called "The Costume Designer," and on the very last page was a flashback photo of legendary costume designer Edward Stevenson, who was Lucy's costume designer for 18 years.
He made many of her clothes on the show, most memorably the burlap dresses in the "Lucy Gets a Gown" episode. I promptly ripped the page out, framed it, and now it hangs happily in Lucy's little bungalow, where it all started.
Here's one last fab photo for you guys:
Sometimes, just for a little while, life is so very grand.
I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison.