In Hollywood four months ago, Desi Arnaz sat down in solemn conference with a battery of pressagents, including a man from the sponsor, Philip Morris. Their problem: how to squeeze the maximum of publicity out of the fact that Desi's wife, Lucille Ball, was going to have two babies one in real life, the other in their filmed TV show, I Love Lucy (Mon. 9 p.m., CBS). Suddenly inspiration struck one of the experts. Lucille would have to have her real baby by Caesarean section, wouldn't she? Then the date on which the Arnaz baby was to be born could be predicted, couldn't it? Then why not let TV art copy Hollywood life by having both infantsthe real Arnaz baby and the fictitious Ricardo babyborn on the same day?
Delicate Matter. Inspired, the press-agents drew up a five-part memo titled "Various Aspects of the Ricardo Baby in the I Love Lucy Publicity and Promotional Campaign." In the protocol, all present swore "that there must be absolutely no word about the baby released out of any office before Dec. 8." Only then were 40 million televiewers to be let in on the secret of Lucy's pregnancy. Plans were laid to tie in the show with the Columbia record of There's a Brand New Baby at Our House and I Love Lucy, both sung by Desi and played by his orchestra. All the pressagents promised to bombard newspapers, magazines and wire services with feature stories. CBS was given a special assignment: "The matter of filming the pregnancy story was so delicate that three clergymen were present to see that everything was in good taste and would offend no one: Rabbi Wolf for the Jewish faith, Monsignor Devlin for the Catholic Church, and the Rev. Clifton Moore for the Protestant faith . . . CBS will handle the story."
Secret Gimmick. Almost everything in radio & TV needs a gimmick, and the memo had one. It was called "The Secret Gimmick about the Baby's Sex." This, too, required an inviolate pledge of secrecy until the release date this week: "The Ricardo baby will be a boy regardless of the sex of the actual Arnaz baby. Of course, if the Arnaz baby does happen to be a boy, then all writers and editors can assume that the producers of I Love Lucy are clairvoyant and possessed of sheer genius. If it happens to be a girl, the story (and the truth) is that Desi was so set on having a boy . . . that he went ahead and filmed the Ricardo baby as if it were, regardless."
Finally, the pressagents edged up to the portentous problem of what to do about notifying the gossip columnists: "Walter Winchell should be alerted to be given the first news of the Arnaz baby. We will phone the news to him, since he will be expecting the phone call. When he is alerted, he is to be told nothing of the gimmick but, when he receives the phone call, and not before, he will be given the story of Desi's thinking concerning the Ricardo baby. Of course, the news of the Arnaz baby will be given out simultaneously to Louella, Hedda, Johnson, Graham, all the wire services and all the local dailies. But the story of the gimmick as released to the other outlets will be a follow-up . . . to give Walter an edge."