Lucy, Desi, Dallas — 1956
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and their loaner ‘copter from Bell Aircraft
by Paula Bosse
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz came to Dallas and Fort Worth in 1956 to promote their new movie, “Forever Darling.” Their arrival times were heavily publicized, and throngs of fans showed up to welcome them — in Dallas at Love Field, and in Fort Worth at the Western Hills Hotel. For those who might have missed their arrivals, they still had a chance to see the couple at one of the personal appearances scheduled at the theaters showing their movie (in Dallas at the Majestic on February 10th, and in Fort Worth at the Hollywood on the 11th). Crowds were large and enthusiastic, and everyone appears to have had a genuinely fun time, possibly even Lucy and Desi, whose relationship in those days was frequently a bit shaky.
Best of all was the tidbit about how the famous couple traveled from Dallas to Fort Worth: by helicopter.
Two television stars will be sailing around above Dallas skyscrapers Saturday. …Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz will catch a helicopter ride from atop the Statler Hilton for a trip to Fort Worth. City Council officially sanctioned the ride at its Monday meeting. (Dallas Morning News, Feb. 7, 1956)
They left from the helipad atop the Statler Hilton and touched down at the helipad at the Western Hills Hotel in Fort Worth (hotels are nothing without helipads). There was some sort of cordial relationship between the Arnazes and the people at Bell Aircraft, because they availed themselves of this brand new deluxe chopper in New York as well as in DFW. When their promotional duties were finished, Lucy and Desi left Cowtown for California as guests of the president of the Santa Fe Railway — in his private car. Because that’s how you travel if you’re Hollywood royalty.
(Leon Craker, I bet you had a great story about this for years after this momentous meeting.)
In Fort Worth, Elston Brooks (whose amusing articles I’ve really enjoyed discovering these past few months), seemed underwhelmed and a little annoyed at the prospect of “lovable Lucy and spouse” invading the city (click articles to see larger images):
Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Feb. 5, 1956
Elson Brooks may not have been very excited, but when Lucy and Desi stepped out of that helicopter, the Fort Worth crowd went wild (click text for larger image):
And here they are back in Los Angeles, with Desi Jr., at the end of a busy promotional tour. Desi is proudly wearing the cowboy hat he’d been given in Fort Worth. And he looks damn good in it.
Sources & Notes
Top photo of Lucy and Desi standing next to the 1956 Bell 47H-1 (“one of the world’s first executive helicopters”) is from the August 2012 issue of Vintage Aircraft Magazine; photo from Bell Aircraft. The article concerning this helicopter model is contained in a PDF here.
The bottom photo is from a Pinterest page, here.
UPDATE: I had originally identified the photo of Lucy and Desi with the train as having probably been taken in Fort Worth as they were about to depart for Hollywood, mainly because they’re wearing similar clothing from the FW appearance, but a rail historian noted that this photo was actually taken in California at the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal — he could tell because he recognized the part of the platform structure over their heads! (“I can name that song in TWO notes!”) The photo he directed me which shows the LAUPT platform (and, in fact, the same engine, two years earlier!), is here. They probably took the final photo for the Santa Fe company as thanks for providing them with transportation back home in the president’s private car. (Thanks, Skip!)
And because today is Lucille Ball’s birthday (which I know only because she shares a birthday with my aunt — happy birthday, Bettye Jo!), it seems like a good time to wheel out this strikingly beautiful portrait of Lucy, along with a wonderful photograph of her from about the same time (probably between 1928 and 1930).
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.