FRESH YARN presents:

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.

"Wait a minute, wait a minute, cut, cut, cut," she shouted. The playback music of the marching band stopped abruptly, and everyone fell silent. Lucy turned and looked at my mother.

"What are you drinking?" she yelled.

"Who, me?"

"Yes, you. What are you drinking?"

"Orange juice."

"Did I buy that orange juice for you?"

"I gave it to her, Lucy," my father said sheepishly.

"That's not the point, Paul. I bought that juice for you. If I knew she was going to drink it, I'd have made her pay for it."

This was bad. This was very bad.

My mother was not afraid of anyone, and I really expected this to get ugly in a hurry. She rose to her feet, and I braced myself. All the blood drained from my father's face. Time stood still.

Then she did something surprising. My mother turned to me, and held out her hand. I took it, and we began to leave.

I looked over my shoulder and saw the entire cast watching us, stock-still. My mother pushed through the heavy stage door into the sunlight, and we were on our way.

I looked at her as we walked out to my dad's banana yellow Caddy and climbed in. There had to be another shoe, but she wasn't dropping it. She tenderly fastened my seatbelt and started the car, and we drove away in silence.

An hour later, I found myself in Beverly Hills, in the hallowed halls of Saks Fifth Avenue. My mother, an ex-showgirl, possessed that rare combination of a perfect figure and a wallet full of credit cards. Normally, trips like this would yield many packages, but she was quite focused that day, and we left with only two.

By the time we got back to the studio, everyone had gone to lunch. My mother understood where my father was, and headed straight for Lucy's trailer. She led me up the steps to the door, and without knocking, went in.

Lucy and my father were sitting on the couch, eating lunch. When he saw my mother, he froze in terror, certain that the angel of death was passing over his career.

"Lucy," my mother said, "I have something to say to you."

Lucy eyed my mother cautiously. "Yes, Nina?"

"I want you to know how sorry I am about what happened this morning."

My father's shoulders sagged with relief.

Lucy was stunned. "Well, I . . . that's okay, Nina. Don't worry about it."

"No," my mother continued, "I feel badly to have taken advantage of you when you've been so kind to us."

"Forget it," she said.

"I will. But only after you've accepted this gift."

My mother held out a gaily-wrapped box from Saks.

Lucy genuinely did not know what to say. She looked at the box, then at my father, then at my mother, then me, then the box again. She took the box and carefully opened it.

Inside was a pullover sweater made of glittering gold yarn. Metallic knits were all the rage those days, and it was obvious that mom had spent a good deal of money on it. Lucy held it up against herself, delighted. It set off her red hair and blue eyes beautifully. She looked up at my mother, who was smiling beatifically.

"Thank you, Nina."

"You're welcome, Lucy."

My father was beaming.

The next day, Lucy showed up on the set wearing the gold sweater.

A few hours later, my mother arrived, wearing the exact same sweater in silver.

My mother didn't usually wear sweaters, as her small waist and 38DD bust line tended to draw attention. But I guess she was willing to make an exception.

I learned an important lesson that day. You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.

And once you catch them, pull their little fucking wings off.

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