I HAD A BALL: MY FRIENDSHIP WITH Lucille Ball by Michael Z. Stern
published by iUniverse Inc., Bloomington IN
copyright 2011 by Michael Z. Stern
219 pages, photos throughout
ISBN: 978-1-4502-8730-2

When I was a couch potato kid in the 70's I couldn't imagine anything more fun than being part of Lucy Ricardo's crazy schemes. During "I Love Lucy"'s twice a day airings, I dreamed of stomping grapes in Italy, stuffing chocolates down my shirt, selling Vitameatavegamin, or disguising myself in crazy costumes to break into show business. I wanted to be friends with Lucy. Little did I know that on the other side of the country, Michael Stern was doing just that. Not Lucy Ricardo the TV character, but the real Lucy: Lucille Ball, the queen of comedy. In his book I HAD A BALL: MY FRIENDSHIP WITH Lucille Ball, Stern recounts how he went from fan to friend of the world famous redhead. In 1971, 10 year-old Stern attended a taping of "Here's Lucy", Ball's third television series. By chance he was sitting next to Lucy's mother DeDe, who attended every one of her daughter's shows. That casual encounter led to Stern's first backstage introduction to the star. Stern eventually became known on the lot as Lucy's 'number one fan' - a fact recognized by Ball herself. As time goes by Ball accepts this young fan into her personal life as well, until he becomes a welcome visitor in her Beverly Hills home.

Stern has a journalistic memory for detail. He remembers with amazing clarity the circumstances of his time spent with the star. For a biographical memoire, he unexpectedly avoids delving into his personal life except where it intersects with Ball's. Like husband Desi Arnaz six decades earlier with "I Love Lucy", Stern realizes that despite being the "I" in I HAD A BALL, it is Lucy who is the focus. He also skillfully skirts the trap of painting his icon with an overly sentimental brush. Stern's place in Ball's life was truly unique: neither business associate nor family. Despite the great difference in age, the two eventually managed a relationship that is the true definition of friend. Stern sees firsthand the great star experience the accolades and disappointments that came late in her career. Little has been written about Ball's final foray into television, "Life With Lucy". It's cancellation was hard to accept by Ball, thinking that the world had stopped loving Lucy. By then Stern had intimate access to his idol and he manages to show her vulnerability as well as her reluctant acceptance of aging.

Most of all, Michael Stern never lets us forget how lucky he is to have known this great lady. Although there have been many books about Lucille Ball, Stern's is unique as it's only agenda is to share with us his unlikely friendship with one of the world's most recognized women. As a fan myself, I truly appreciate this rare inside account of my favorite funny lady. Okay, I'm also a little jealous, too! But mostly the book made me feel content to know that a megastar like Lucy - often depicted as a 'tough cookie' - had the comfort that comes with such friendship. I HAD A BALL is a book for anyone who truly loved Lucy.

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Michael T. Mooney Michael T. Mooney has devoted his life to the performing arts, having been involved as performer, writer, director, and administrator. Coming to Paper Mill Playhouse in 1994 from The Growing Stage Theatre in Netcong, New Jersey, he first served in the fundraising department and then became involved in the theatre's accessibility programming, eventually assuming full responsibility for the theatre's nationally recognized Access programs and services. In 2001, he was appointed Manager of Outreach and Access Programs, a position he designed himself. Mr. Mooney has led community drives for the Victims of 9-11, Jersey Cares, New Eyes for the Needy, The Make-A-Wish Foundation, Lainie's Angels, First Book NJ, Tsunami Relief, The American Red Cross, and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. In addition to his Access responsibilities, he also directed Paper Mill's Senior Players Workshop, managed the award-winning Adopt-a-School Project and has been both instructor and adjudicator for their STAR program. He is a founding member of LEAD and served on the board of directors for The Fund for the New Jersey Blind, The Audio-Description Coalition of America (ADC), The New Jersey Cultural Access Network, and The New Jersey Theatre Alliance. For five years, he studied directing and writing for theatre-in-the-round with England's Sir Alan Ayckbourn and has staged more than 60 productions of plays and musicals in Northern New Jersey, including the American premieres of four of Sir Alan's plays. Michael is the proud recipient of the 2008 New Jersey Governor's Award for Arts Education and the 2003 Ann Klein Advocate Award for his work with senior citizens and people with disabilities. Easter Seals New Jersey named him one of their "Miracle Workers" of 2008. He lives in Neptune, New Jersey, having also lived in Central Florida and London, England.
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