Radio: Sassafrassa, the Queen

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Western Mirage. Lucille explains that the TV show is important because "I'm a real ham and so is Desi. We like to have an audience. We like being up on our toes." But the show also allows her some time with her ten-month-old daughter, Lucie Desirée, and for the first time in eleven years of trouping, gives her a home life with husband Desi. Says she: "I look like everybody's idea of an actress, but I feel like a housewife. I think that's what my trouble was in movies."

Actress Ball was a long time arriving at the calm waters of motherhood and housewifery. The daughter of Henry and Desirée Hunt Ball, she was born in Jamestown, N.Y. (near Buffalo) at what she calls "an early age." Pressed, she will concede that it was quite a while ago: she admits to being 40. Her father was an electrician whose job of stringing telephone wires carried him around the country. When Lucille was four, he died of typhoid in Wyandotte, Mich.

Lucille spent her childhood in Jamestown (1920 pop. 38,917), but managed to see very little of it. Mostly, she inhabited a dream world peopled by glamorous alter egos. Sometimes she imagined herself to be a young lady of great poise named Sassafrassa, who combined the best features of Pearl White, Mabel Normand and Pola Negri. Another make-believe identity was Madeline, a beauteous cowgirl who emerged from the pages of Zane Grey's melodramatic novel, The Light of Western Stars, To get authentic background for Madeline, young Lucille corresponded with the chambers of commerce of Butte and Anaconda, Mont. She read and reread their publicity handouts until she felt she knew more about Montana than the people who lived there. It was the powerful spirit of Madeline that caused her for many years to claim Butte, Mont, as her birthplace. Only in the most recent edition of Who's Who did she finally, grudgingly admit to being born in Jamestown, N.Y.

Horrses to Warter. While she lived there, Lucille did her best to rid Jamestown of dullness. Sometimes she gilded reality by imagining that the family chicken coop was her palace ("The chickens would become my armies"). She remembers that she was always unmanageable in the spring. "I'd leave the classroom for a drink of water and never come back. I'd start walking toward what I thought was New York City and keep going until someone brought me home."

By the time she left high school at 14, she had staged virtually a one-man performance of Charley's Aunt ("I played the lead, directed it, cast it, sold the tickets, printed the posters, and hauled furniture to the school for scenery and props"). In a Masonic musical revue, she put so much passion into an Apache dance that she threw one arm out of its socket. Jamestown citizens still remember her explosive personality with wonder: it took quite a while for the dust to settle in Jamestown when Lucille finally left-for Manhattan at the age of 15.

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