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The Queen of Tuesday: A Lucille Ball Story

Review

The Queen of Tuesday: A Lucille Ball Story

“I Love Lucy.” Fiery red hair, big blue eyes and an unparalleled comic sensibility. What’s not to love? America adored Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the housewife and the bandleader who came into our homes once a week and made us forget our troubles with their hilarious portrayal of familiar marital squabbles. Lucy embroiled herself in the impossible: commercials for the fictitious alcoholic Vitameatavegamin, grape-stomping for an Italian movie, and --- my personal favorite --- a job working a conveyor belt in a chocolate factory. And Desi was her straight man. A match made in heaven. Or Hollywood.

To the world, they were the idyllic screen couple who loved each other and embraced each other’s faults. However, history tells us that off the screen they had more than their share of troubles.

"Whether family lore passed down a fiction that Strauss latched onto or the story of what commences is an entire fabrication, a love affair in print begins that transcends time and bypasses marriage vows on both sides. It’s an unsolved mystery to be sure, but an engaging one."

In THE QUEEN OF TUESDAY, Darin Strauss has penned a story that highlights those troubles. From the struggles to truly make her mark in the fledgling television business to Desi’s legendary infidelities, little is kept under wraps in Strauss’ reimagining of Lucy’s rise to fame and her troubled union. “Reimagining” is the key word here because what he has done in this book is to take those realities and inject another story that may or may not be true.

Strauss’ grandfather, Isidore Strauss, was an actual real estate giant in Manhattan who hung with the likes of Fred Trump (yes, that Fred Trump). In THE QUEEN OF TUESDAY, Izzy --- or “Hold On,” as Lucy calls him --- meets the iconic redhead at a Coney Island demolition party for the Pavilion of Fun and is instantly smitten with the starlet. Whether family lore passed down a fiction that Strauss latched onto or the story of what commences is an entire fabrication, a love affair in print begins that transcends time and bypasses marriage vows on both sides. It’s an unsolved mystery to be sure, but an engaging one.

Lucy’s comic genius, uncanny quirks and business acumen play out as we witness her build the Desilu empire that would rival and then exceed the other Hollywood studios. She created history in many ways: first interracial marriage on television, first female executive to lead a studio, and more. Throughout all of this, running in the background is desire: Lucy for Isidore and Isidore for Lucy. Plagued with guilt (to the point that she wonders about the paternity of her unborn son, until she gives birth), Lucy keeps herself from calling Isidore. Even when her marriage to Desi finally unravels in the face of his constant cheating and substance abuse, she feels torn about Isidore. On the other side of the country, Isidore also longs for Lucy. His own marriage begins to fall apart.

If you liked the Netflix miniseries “Hollywood,” the story of would-be stars and starlets who are willing to do anything for fame and celebrity, you will enjoy this story of Lucy’s rise from struggling B-movie star to studio head. Both tales take large liberties with the facts around beloved performers and history, but both set their stories in the alluring world of screen stages, makeup chairs and dressing rooms. Both portray the sometimes unseemly side of cracking into the business (but more so in "Hollywood"). Both share the frailties and foibles of the glitterati, the humanity hidden behind the tabloid photos.

Told with reverence for Lucy and much admiration for the author's grandfather, THE QUEEN OF TUESDAY is comprised of multiple love stories: Lucy for Desi, Desi for Lucy, Isidore for Lucy, and finally Strauss for his grandfather.

Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on August 28, 2020

The Queen of Tuesday: A Lucille Ball Story
by Darin Strauss

  • Publication Date: August 18, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 0812992768
  • ISBN-13: 9780812992762