Yes, that’s Lucille Ball in Halle’s toy department, shopping for gifts for her son, Desi Jr., and her daughter, Lucie. No, that’s not her husband, Desi Arnaz, behind her, though a Cleveland Press staffer’s cursive scribble on the picture’s back misidentifies the man as the zany Cuban bandleader.
Still, Desi was in the building. The nation’s most popular comic couple, thanks to their sitcom I Love Lucy, swung into Cleveland on Jan. 31, 1956. They parked their private train car, filled with 39 pieces of luggage, MGM publicity staff, and Lucy’s maid and hairdresser, under the Terminal Tower. To promote their new film Forever Darling, about to debut at the State Theatre, Lucy and Desi attended a Halle’s fashion show featuring the bridal gown Lucy wore in the movie. Desi signed copies of his new single, the movie’s title track, in the store’s record shop.
Forever Darling bombed at the box office, but Ball’s comic genius has endured. This April, 55 years later, An Evening with Lucille Ball, a one-woman show performed by Suzanne LaRusch and co-written by Ball’s daughter, Lucie, played 14 shows at PlayhouseSquare’s 14th Street Theatre.