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Clash of the Titans
By April Winchell

Not everyone loved Lucy.

My mother, for example, couldn't stand her. And Lucy returned the favor.

In fact, they had a showdown on the set of The Lucy Show that remains the most artful display of bitchery I ever witnessed.

It all started when I was about six years old. I remember my dad getting off the phone and yelling for my mother. He had just been given a recurring role as Lucy's Grandfather, and he was as excited as I had ever seen him.

It was a demanding part. He had to dance quite a bit, and even learn to play the violin. And since he was only about 45 at the time, he had to do it all wearing heavy old age make-up and a full wig. He spent hours under the hot lights, sometimes getting lightheaded in his three-piece tweed suit. All things considered, it was probably one of the hardest jobs my father ever had.

And he loved every minute of it.

My dad, Paul Winchell, was a ventriloquist, and by this time, he was already a very successful man. He had been a radio star for years, segued into his own variety show on ABC in New York, and was currently the star of his own syndicated kids show.

What a lot of people don't know is that he absolutely hated his damned puppets. His success was bittersweet, because it was clear he would never get away from them. For an actor who worked on the stage with Peter Lorre and Angela Lansbury, being forever chained to a couple of fiberglass mascots was incredibly depressing.

Naturally, a puppet-free gig like this was important to him, and he took it very seriously. He rehearsed difficult dance routines in our garage at night, and worked long days on the set without complaint. And along the way, he and Lucy developed a lasting friendship based on mutual respect, a common work ethic and a shared affection for recreational drugs.

Yes, my father loved his drugs. He had a tackle box full of pills in his Cadillac, and his own prescription pad for unlimited refills. He smoked pot every day, and I often found small plastic baggies full of white powder hidden around the house. It drove my mother nuts.

Drugs aren't really a good idea for anyone, but an especially bad choice for an unpredictable bi-polar manic-depressive. They magnified and distorted every emotion, and made my father even more volatile. My mother, determined to save their marriage, began watching him vigilantly, and attempted to rid him of every acquaintance he used with.

Unfortunately, she couldn't broom Lucy from their lives. And so the three of them tried to find an uneasy peace, which was impossible.

It all came to a head during rehearsals for an episode called, "Lucy Puts Main Street on the Map". This was a big two-parter, with lots of guest stars.

On this particular day, my father was rehearsing a parade scene. This was a big, complicated musical number with close to a hundred people on the soundstage. There were majorettes, townspeople, a marching band, and of course, Gale Gordon, Vivian Vance and Lucy herself, wearing white go-go boots and a white patent leather vest.

My mother and I sat in the bleachers that would later hold the studio audience, watching my father work. And he was working very, very hard. Over and over again, he would run out into the middle of the street, do a jig, play a violin solo and disappear back into the crowd.

My father had polio as a kid, and one of his legs was shorter than the other. All the standing and dancing was taking a toll, so when Lucy stopped the action to look through the camera, he politely asked her if he could take a break.

She was very understanding, and told him to sit with us for a while. She asked if he was thirsty, and when he said yes, a glass of orange juice instantly appeared.

Dad made his way over to the bleachers, and we watched the scene for while. After drinking about half of the juice, he handed the glass to my mother, who took a sip.

Suddenly, Lucy stopped the rehearsal.

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