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SEARCH FOR NEXT LUCY AND DESI IS ON

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What appeared to be every redhead in Los Angeles descended on CBS Television City on Monday morning, all hoping to be the next Lucille Ball.

And almost everyone who wasn't a redhead was an aspiring Latin actor, hoping to step into Desi Arnaz's shoes.The Great Lucy and Desi Search was on as the producers of an upcoming CBS telemovie "Lucy and Desi: Before the Laughter" held open auditions for the lead roles.

There were women who appeared to be barely 20 and one lady with particularly bright red hair who couldn't have been a day under 60. There were several guys standing in line singing "Babaloo."

Some of the hopefuls looked a lot like Lucy or Desi. Some looked absolutely nothing like the pair. And the smell of henna was in the air.

Most of the women insisted they were natural redheads - even the ones with obvious dye jobs. Perhaps they weren't aware that Lucille Ball wasn't born with red hair, either.

Carlotta Laine, a 28-year-old stand-up comic from Los Angeles, bore a striking resemblence to the late comedian, particularly with a little help from makeup.

"People started calling me as soon as they heard about this," she said. "Everyone I know told me I should audition. I called my agent, but agents can't get you in. I've been standing here in line since 5 this morning."

Like the 400 or so other hopefuls, Laine professed that she was a longtime fan of the Lucy shows.

"I found out that in my own comedy there are so many things I do like her," she said. "Hey, she looks just like my mother."

Not everyone had grown up with Lucy, however. Desi-hopeful Ricardo Luna grew up in a small village in Mexico where the show just wasn't available.

"So I went out and rented about 50 videos (of `I Love Lucy') and watched them last week," he said.

Watching the auditions was an often painful experience. There were some horrible attempts at a Cuban accent, some feeble imitations and almost as many Vita-meata-vegemin routines as there were redheads.

Although the open auditions (sessions are also scheduled for Miami and New York) are an admitted publicity stunt, producer Larry Thompson said he genuinely hopes to find his stars through the process.

"We would like to cast unknown faces," he said. "It would be difficult to tell the story (with big-name stars) without movie star faces getting in the way."

Not everyone who showed up for the auditions held out much - or any - hope of actually getting a part in the movie. Randy Aguirre, an engineer/actor from Los Angeles, was skipping a staff meeting at his office to try out.

"I wanted to come and be part of it, because I grew up watching the show," he said. "I don't expect to win, but it was fun."

Aguirre sang about 20 seconds of "Cuban Pete" in front of both the producers and about 50 members of the press. He proudly displayed the slip of paper with his audition number on it - No. 13 - to reporters.

"This is my souvenir. I thought it would say something on it besides the number, but it doesn't," he said rather wistfully.

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UNHAPPY ARNAZ: Not everyone at CBS is thrilled about the fact that the network is going ahead with the Lucy-Desi project. The couple's daughter, Lucie Arnaz (who is starring in "Sons and Daughters" on the network this fall), doesn't want to have anything to do with it.

"I believe that the climate is wrong to try to tell my parents' story accurately at this time, no matter who tells it," Arnaz said. "It's a combination (of things). `The climate' is the best term I can come up with. It's a climate, which has to do with a lot of things.

"It's the who, the when, the why. CBS should be the network to do this when it's ready to be told and when they can do it absolutely accurately. And I don't think anybody can do that right now. Not even me, so I won't be involved with it."

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CBS PROPERTY: Network executives and the producers of the telemovie, while expressing sympathy for Arnaz and the rest of her family, said they believed the show could be done now and consistently repeated the refrain that any Lucy project belongs on CBS.

"It ought to be CBS," said Howard Stringer, president of the network broadcast group. "There are very few things that belong to CBS, and one of them is Lucy."

The movie opens in October 1951 as the comedy couple is about to tape the first episode of "I Love Lucy." It then flashes back to 1940, when they met, and follows their story back to that day in 1951 - but no further.

It will include their marital difficulties and Desi's infidelity.

"Somebody was going to do the movie, and I thought it ought to be us," said Jeff Sagansky, president of CBS Entertainment. "I have a personal commitment to make the best move that we can."

The fact that other groups were interested in a Lucy project had something to do with the rather hurried way the network is going about getting it on the air, admitted producer Thompson.

"I'm very hopeful and optimistic that we can do a movie that will please not only the network and a world audience but the family as well," he said. "We want to do a loving, truthful tribute. We don't want to do `Lucy and Desi Dearest.' "

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QUOTE OF THE DAY (PART 1): "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening defending the T-shirts emblazoned with "Bart Simpson: Underachiever and proud of it" (which have been banned in some elementary schools):

"That's a label other people put on Bart and he decided to turn it around and be proud of it. If you'll recall, last season Bart Simpson did save France."

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QUOTE OF THE DAY (PART 2): Margaret Loesch, president of the Fox Children's Network, responding to a question about violence in FBC's upcoming Saturday morning lineup:

"When successful, the wolves (on `Piggsburg Piggs') would like to eat the pigs for dinner. But that's just human nature, I think."

***

"DALLAS" NOT DONE FOR: Despite rumors that the long-running night time soap almost didn't make the cut this year, the show still has life in it, as far as Sagansky is concerned.

"We didn't come close to canceling `Dallas' at all," he said. "We have much bigger problems than (a show that gets) a 22 share.

"I'm looking for it to go up this year. We've got some great casting and it has a compatible leadin (the mystery-comedy-drama `Over My Dead Body') so I think it will do better."