Anyone who has ever followed the 1950's television show “I Love Lucy,” starring the late Lucille Ball and real-life husband Desi Arnaz, knows that shortly after the character of “Little Ricky” was introduced, the family moved from their Manhattan apartment to Westport, Connecticut.
It was here that Lucy, joined by her buddy Ethel, enjoyed many zany adventures, including a hilarious storyline centered around Compo Beach's historic Minuteman Statue.
From 5 to 7 p.m. today, Thursday, Aug. 4, (WHS) will introduce a book about the numerous television and radio personalities with ties to Westport. Author Thomas A. DeLong's final book, “TV Neighbors,” also recounts several shows, such as “I Love Lucy” and “Bewitched” that have contributed to Westport's notoriety.
Inspired by the 2003 WHS exhibit of the same name, "TV Neighbors" was conceived by DeLong about two and a half years ago, said Wally Woods. He and his wife, Denise, completed the book when DeLong unexpectedly passed away last July from a stroke. When the couple approached DeLong's widow, Kathie, about completing the manuscript, she was appreciative but concerned about where to find it among her husband's collection of files and memorabilia.
“The bulk of the manuscript had been completed,” DeLong said. “It was more about where to find it.”
DeLong plans on attending Thursday's program. Celebrities featured in the book who are also scheduled to appear are Westport's First Selectman Gordon F. Joseloff, Martin West, David Rodgers, Dianne Wildman and Eric Burns.
During its writing, DeLong assisted her husband with the book's index. However, Tom was responsible for collecting its information and his research consisting of collecting information for years on the topic.
“He had files coming out of his ears,” she said.
The author of ten books about the television, radio and music industries, as well as four biographies, Tom also penned "Stars in Our Eyes," which also offered insights about celebrities from all areas of the entertainment industry, not just television and radio, who have lived in Westport and Weston.
“TV Neighbors, the newest addition to our gift shop, promises to be another wonderful coffee table book to impress friends and family,” said WHS Executive Director Susan Gold. “Why not? With all the noted television personalities that graced our community and made it their home, it's also convenient to have one resource that has it all. I like to think that the Westport community thrives because of the people who give so generously of their time and talent. I see it all the time at the Westport Historical Society. We are blessed because of people like Thomas DeLong and Wally Woods who partnered initially on an exhibit in 2003 and created a beautiful legacy now that everyone can enjoy for many years."
Describing DeLong as “a very close friend,” Woods said he was shocked to receive a phone call from Kathie last July about Tom's unexpected passing.
The two families met in 1997 at the Westport Historical Society. As a member of its exhibits committee, Woods recalls DeLong approaching him with an idea for an exhibit in honor of Francesca Lodge's birthday. DeLong was familiar with Francesca because he wrote a biography about her husband, John Davis Lodge, who was Connecticut's governor the governor from 1951 to 1955. Before they married in 1929, Francesca was an Italian ballerina.
Though the DeLong family lived in Southport, Woods noted that Tom was “closely tied to the Westport Historical Society.” In 2000, the first printing of "Stars in Our Eyes" sold out. In 2009, Woods collaborated on its second edition. The duo appeared together at WHS for a book signing in December of 2009, seven months before DeLong died.
Woods said he was aware that DeLong had been working on a book based upon the "TV Neighbors" exhibit, which was also a huge success.
In completing the project, he and his wife, Denise, went through boxes and boxes of photographs.” Denise, who is “a technical whiz,” sized and formatted the images to fit the book's layout. “Somehow it all worked,” he said.
"TV Neighbors" will be on display and available for purchase for $20 (WHS members receive a special members' discount) Thursday night at the Westport Historical Society. DeLong, who is responsible for the cover art for both TV Neighbors and Stars in Our Eyes, will autograph copies. All proceeds are donated to the Westport organization.
is located at 25 Avery Place, Westport. For more information, call 203-222-1424.