Lucille Ball: Better Redhead Than Dead
UCLA's digital photo archive is a wondrous online arcade lined with moments from L.A.'s past. I'm reminded of this whenever perusing images from the city's contentious past, whether it's a picture of the Sleepy Lagoon Murder suspects or of local Reds picketing City Hall. One
endearing image from our radical past is a photo of Lucille Ball's voter registration, which lists her address as 1344 North Ogden Drive, her occupation as Actress and her party affiliation as Communist.
(Lucille Ball voter registration from UCLA Library Digital Collection)
That's right, Lucy was a Red -- or at least, she claimed, her grandfather had talked her into registering as one back in the Great Depression. This all came out in 1953, when Ball was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee, whose urgent order of business was to learn why she had registered as a member of the CP. (Registering as a Communist voter didn't make one a card-carrying member of the party, a subtle distinction lost on the committee.)
Not many witnesses called to testify before HUAC left with both their careers and reputations intact, but Lucy, along with Judy Holliday and Lillian Hellman, did. In a rare moment of understanding, HUAC forgave Ball her youthful "indiscretion," despite the fact that gossip columnist Walter Winchell was calling for her red head on a platter.
(Lucille Ball photo from the Museum of Broadcast Communications)
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