About Gregg Oppenheimer

Gregg Oppenheimer, son of I Love Lucy creator-producer-head writer Jess Oppenheimer, told his first “one-liner” in 1955, when his dad introduced him to Lucille Ball on the set of I Love Lucy. Lucy knelt down and asked Gregg, then four years old, “Where did you get those big brown eyes?” Gregg’s deadpan reply: “They came with the face.” Lucy nearly fell over laughing.

After a brief stint as a rehearsal cameraman on The Debbie Reynolds Show, Gregg left Hollywood for M.I.T., where he received a degree in Art & Design. He then received his J.D. degree from The Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1986 Gregg became a partner in the international law firm O’Melveny & Myers (headed by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher). After his father’s death in 1988, Gregg spent several years completing his father’s unfinished memoirs. In the process he became one of the world’s foremost authorities on I Love Lucy, renewing old friendships with many who contributed to the show in front of and behind the cameras. Ultimately, Gregg decided to give up the practice of law to pursue a writing career. The resulting book, published by Syracuse University Press, is Laughs, Luck…and Lucy: How I Came to Create the Most Popular Sitcom of All Time, which went through seven printings in hardcover before its release in paperback.

In 1998, Gregg produced and directed Lucy’s First Sitcom: A 50th Anniversary Reunion, a live on-stage re-creation of Lucy’s 1948 radio sitcom, My Favorite Husband, as a benefit for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. The show reunited veterans of the I Love Lucy series, including such familiar faces as “Caroline Appleby” (Doris Singleton), “Marion Strong” (Shirley Mitchell), and “Teensy and Weensy” (the Borden Twins), raising close to $50,000 for the Foundation. Two years later, working with L.A. Theatre Works, Gregg produced another My Favorite Husband re-creation at the Museum of Television & Radio in Beverly Hills, featuring sitcom stars Marilu Henner and Jeff Conaway (Taxi), Harold Gould (Rhoda), and Alley Mills (The Wonder Years). Since then, Gregg has directed many classic radio show re-creations on both coasts, including The Maltese Falcon, The Fred Allen Show, The Jack Benny Program. 

From 2000 to 2007 Gregg produced the award-winning I Love Lucy DVD series for Paramount and CBS.

Since 2014, Gregg has directed the annual Palm Springs benefit show, On the Air! for the award-winning Dezart Performs theatre company, starring such performers as Gary Beach, Carole Cook, Joyce Bulifant, Mariette Hartley, Hal Linden, Gavin MacLeod, Millicent Martin, Lee Meriwether, Phil Proctor, Marion Ross, and Fred Willard.

Gregg’s new comedy play, I Love Lucy: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Sitcom, will have its world premiere July 12-15, 2018 at UCLA’s James Bridges Theatre, in a production by the award-winning L.A. Theatre Works.

Gregg has been interviewed on The CBS News, CNN, MSNBC, E! Entertainment Television, Entertainment Tonight, A&E’s Biography, Donnie & Marie, Granada Television (in the U.K.), NHK (in Japan), The History Channel, and The Learning Channel, among others.

He lives in Santa Monica, California with his wife, Debbie.


5 Responses to “About Gregg Oppenheimer”

  1. Kari Says:

    Hey there, Gregg!

    For what it’s worth, I just thought I’d drop you a line to let you know how unbelievably touched I was by your father’s (and your) book, “Laughs, Luck and Lucy…”

    Never in my life have I felt the following about a book:

    a. I wished that he was still with us, because I felt such a kindred spirit in his words. Almost like he was a guru meant just for me at this point in my life. (I guess in a sense he is…)

    b. I was actually frustrated/sad when I finished the book because I wanted so badly to know him, ask him all sorts of questions, kibitz with him, and hear more!

    c. Upon immediately finishing this book and starting another, I felt like in a weird way I was cheating on your book (because I had such an amazing experience reading it). Like it was a relationship I formed that I wasn’t ready to let go of yet. I was still attached. It won me over! 🙂

    All this over a book! You’re book!

    I am a strong believer in letting people know when they’ve affected me in a positive way. I just want to let you know that I will be forever changed by this book, and how grateful I am that you shared your Dad and his stories in this way for all to benefit.

    Take such good care, Gregg! Thanks for documenting your Dad’s legacy. And please realize that although we don’t always know it, just by being you, speaking your truth, living your passion, and letting your light shine, you really reflect the human condition (something your Dad did through his vehicle of “I love Lucy”). That’s why people loved it so much…cause it was truthful and real. You’re book hit on that as well. It’s a beautiful thing indeed!

    With the warmest of regards,

  2. max nathans Says:

    Dear Gregg, what an invention this internet.
    I just want you to know that i had the pleasure of meeting your dad in our kibbutz a few times. he send me afterwards some “end of the year” copies of” Variety”, and also send me lots of pictures from film stars which we used for advertising the weekly movie which we showed once a week in the kibbutz’s dining room.
    At the time your sister lived here, and I would appreciate it if you could forward my e-mail address to her .
    By the way I used to watch”I love Lucy” in Australia at the time.
    Take care,
    Max N.

  3. Gwenn Says:

    nice! i’ve made my own journal

  4. Jake Gerber Says:

    I’m sure you won’t remember this, but many years ago you visited San Francisco, for a book signing at the JCC here in SF. A couple of anecdotes. I can’t recall in context, but you mentioned something about the stage at the JCC, something to do with Lucy I think.
    The reason I went to the book signing was my daughter Emilie . She was I believe five years old at the time, she loved watching I LOVE LUCY on TV. They obviously showed reruns, as this must have been around 1995 ? When I took Emile up to meet you, she told you how much she loved the show. She even knew much of Lucys dialog . This little girl was precocious. ( it’s my daughter, what am I supposed to say ? ) Everyone else at the signing were in their fifties and sixties. You were impressed by this little girl. You inscribed the book. ” To the youngest Lucy fan I’ve ever met. Best Wishes Gregg Oppenheimer ”
    I’ll never forget how happy she was. Please fill in my memory about the stage …
    Thank You
    Best Wishes
    Jake Gerber
    S.F. CA.

    • greggoppenheimer Says:

      Hi Jake.
      I remember it well. Is Emilie still a Lucy fan? The JCC Stage was where my father had his first onstage experiences (as a member of the “Community Center Players”), one of which he wrote into an I Love Lucy years later. Here’s the excerpt from my dad’s book:

      One of my most notable performances was in a play called The Bat, in which I played the hero. In the last act I was revealed as a detective, and I was supposed to pull out a pair of handcuffs, snap them on the villain’s wrists, turn him over to a policeman to lead away, and proceed to carry on a torrid love scene with the leading lady, during which there were two full stage crosses. To add to the realism, we had borrowed a pair of real police handcuffs from the cop on the beat. I had them tucked into my trousers. When the fateful moment arrived, I revealed who I was, informed the other fellow that he was under arrest, snapped one of the cuffs on his wrist, and went to put the other on him. Some strange force was holding it back. The handcuff had somehow gotten locked around one of the belt loops on my trousers. The two of us, captive and captor, stood there vainly trying to get it off, pulling, tugging, trying to break the loop, but to no avail. After several minutes of this, Ralph stuck his head in through what was supposed to be a third-story attic window and growled, “Get on with the play!”

      What followed was probably one of the strangest love scenes ever played. The only way that the leading lady and I knew to play the scene was the way that we had rehearsed it, but now here was this third party with his left hand attached to my trousers. If I crossed the stage, he crossed the stage. He did everything in his power to appear natural—ignoring us, looking around as though he were at a museum or about to measure the room for curtains. But when I took the leading lady in my arms, he was virtually between us. At the same time, the actor who played the policeman didn’t know what to do, because he had always made his exit early in the scene, with the criminal in tow. He couldn’t figure out a way to get offstage gracefully, so he stayed onstage, hoping he wouldn’t interfere with the action. Unfortunately, because he had always exited with the prisoner, he had never watched the rest of the scene being played. He inevitably managed to be standing just where we wanted to go. He spent the entire scene leaping out of our way.
      The scene was unbearably funny to the audience, particularly because we rose to the occasion, remembering all the good schooling and discipline Ralph had instilled in us, and played the scene exactly as rehearsed, ignoring with intense seriousness this human appendage we dragged through the love scene with us, to say nothing of the uniformed jumping jack. Our discipline under fire, Ralph told us later, had made him proud of us.

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