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URGENT Comedian Lucille Ball Suffers Heart Attack, Undergoes Surgery

April 19, 1989 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Comedian Lucille Ball suffered a heart attack and underwent more than seven hours of open-heart surgery Tuesday evening, a hospital spokesman said.

″She came out of surgery OK,″ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center spokesman Ron Wise said at 9:40 p.m., shortly after the operation was completed.

The 77-year-old comedian, who had been in ill health in recent years and suffered a mild heart attack May 11, arrived at the hospital around noon with husband Gary Morton.

Doctors said she had suffered a heart attack at the couple’s Beverly Hills home. Her physician summoned a private ambulance.

When she arrived at the hospital, Miss Ball was conscious. She complained of moderate chest pains and shortness of breath, ambulance attendants said.

Open-heart surgery began at 2 p.m. and took more than seven hours, Wise said.

Dr. Robert Kass, the surgeon who performed the operation, said Miss Ball’s aorta and part of her aortic valve were replaced. The aorta is the major artery leading from the heart.

Kass said the next 24 hours would determine how well Miss Ball’s recovery would go, but said she could achieve a full recovery.

The surgeon said the comedian’s condition was guarded but optimistic. He said the surgery was a ″high-risk procedure with a fairly substantial mortality rate. ″

Miss Ball’s last public appearance was introducing the Young Hollywood production number with Bob Hope at the 61st Academy Awards March 29, and received a standing ovation. Wearing a fashionable slit skirt, she appeared to be in good health and giggled freely throughout a brief routine with Hope.

″I’m shocked,″ Hope said Tuesday, who said Miss Ball was one of the ″most wonderful women I have ever known.″

″There’s only one Lucy,″ he said. ″Like the rest of the world, (my wife) Dolores and I are praying everything will be all right.″

Switchboards were jammed with calls from well-wishers and reporters from around the world, Wise said, and flowers were sent to Miss Ball. He said she would be in intensive care for several days at least.

The redheaded entertainer and her late former husband, Desi Arnaz, starred in ″I Love Lucy,″ one of the most popular TV shows of all time, from 1951 to 1957. The show is still seen around the world in syndicated reruns.


Miss Ball went solo in 1962 with ″The Lucy Show.″ The name was changed to ″Here’s Lucy″ in 1968. The show went off the air in 1974.

In 1950, Miss Ball and Arnaz started their own production company, Desilu, on a shoestring budget of $5,000. The Arnazes were divorced in 1960, and two years later Arnaz sold his share of the studio to Miss Ball for $3 million. In 1967, she sold the company to Gulf & Western for $18 million.

The Arnazes had two children, Lucie and Desi Jr.

Miss Ball married nightclub comedian Morton in 1961. He became her executive producer.

In 1985, tiring of retirement, she took on one of the most challenging roles of her career: a bag lady in the television movie ″Stone Pillow.″ She was hospitalized for dehyrdation when it was over, but it was a critical and ratings success.

Miss Ball had less luck with her 1986 series, ″Life with Lucy,″ in which she again teamed with longtime sidekick Gale Gordon. It pulled by the network because of abysmal ratings. Arnaz died the same year.

Miss Ball started her entertainment career in films, arriving in Hollywood in 1933 and appearing with the Marx Brothers in ″Room Service,″ with Fred Astaire in ″Follow the Fleet″ and with Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers in ″Stage Door.″ She appeared in dozens of other films.

Born a brunette in Celoron, N.Y., she was a blonde when she hit the movies and a redhead by 1940.