(My working title for this entry was “I Love Ethel,” but that was annoying even to me before the cyberink had begun to dry.)
Okay, so everyone knows that Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz in the "I Love Lucy" television series) got her theatrical start in the Duke City. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she lived in the Huning Highlands Neighborhood for the short time she was in the area. I wonder if you’ll discover anything surprising in the results of my archival research.
Born "Vivian Roberta Jones" in Cherryvale, Kansas on July 26, 1909, Vivian Vance was a founding member of the Albuquerque Little Theater after moving to the Rio Grande valley in 1928 and marrying Joseph Shearer Danneck on October 6th. According to historical documents, the Dannecks resided at 422 Coal Avenue East while Vivian performed at the KiMo Theater, portraying played a vamp in "This Thing Called Love" and a nun in "The Cradle Song."
Although the Dannecks weren’t divorced until April 20, 1931, it appears that Miss Jones was already living by herself at 409 South Arno as early as 1930. Having taken the name "Vance" as suggested by her dramatics teacher, Vivian was a fixture on the Albuquerque stage until she moved to New York in 1932. It seems that Vance also earned a little spending money by working as a saleslady at Rosenwald’s Department Store in 1931.
The Coal Street residence seems to have been demolished, yet the home at 409 Walter Street SE remains intact.
Obviously, Vivian Vance did very well for herself after leaving the region. Vance’s beloved “I Love Lucy” character “Ethel Mertz” did return to Albuquerque during season 4. “Ethel’s Home Town” (episode 113) originally aired on CBS on January 31, 1955. When the Mertzes and Ricardos visit the Duke City during that show, the locals are under the impression that Ethel is on HER way to Hollywood. Hilarity follows. One of the funniest lines is the episode is delivered by Fred Mertz (William Frawley) who declares “She’s big everywhere!”
Vivian died in Belvedere, California on August 17, 1979. As of this writing, there have been no confirmed reports of sightings of Vivian Vance’s ghost anywhere in Albuquerque.
Here’s a photo of an interesting item I discovered on the ground in front of Vance’s house on Arno. I’ll leave it up to you readers to decide if Vivian is trying to tell us anything.