Lucille Ball: A Few Things You Didn't Know!
It’s Lucille Ball’s birthday today!!!!! In true Lucy fashion, Lucy begins her autobiography (it’s an awesome book and you should read it here!) by stating,
“I’m a Leo. I was born on a Sunday, August 6, 1911. Unfortunately, everybody knows my birth date because I told the truth when I first came to Hollywood.”
Soooo Lucy! LOVE it.
To begin my birthday tribute to Ms Ball, I want to share a quick Lucy experience we had last year.
Mary Jeanne Loves Lucy
I should preface this story by telling you that my sweet little girl loves Lucy. As I mentioned in my post on Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) last week, Mary Jeanne has been belly laughing at Lucy and her physical comedy genius since she was barely two years old. When I want to watch The Doris Day Show, MJ usually wants to watch I Love Lucy or Here’s Lucy. Mary Jeanne has been a Lucy fan for most of her life!
Ok, now that you’ve got that background, I’ll get to my story. It was last December, and our family was lucky enough to have the chance to see the LA Ballet perform The Nutcracker at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles. (Thanks to my amazing friend who made it all possible! Thank you thank you thank you!!!)
Taking a Look Around
At intermission, we walked around this beautiful theater, which, as you probably know, is where the Academy Awards are currently held each year. The Dolby has huge photos of Oscar Winners through the years on just about every wall of each floor of the theater. We were having a fabulous time walking about, studying these gorgeous pictures, when all of the sudden Mar got really excited:
“MOM!!!! Look! It’s Lucy Ball!!”
I looked to the picture my three year old had been pointing at, and was now charging towards.
I chased her to the picture, and my sweetie declared once again.
“It’s Lucy Ball!!”
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a picture of Lucille Ball.
It was a picture of Shelley Winters, wining her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Diary of Anne Frank (1960). As I tried to think of a way to break the news to my daughter that this was actually not her beloved Lucy Ball, two usherettes came up to me and asked,
“Did she just say that was Lucille Ball????!!”
Defending my Daughter
I immediately got slightly defensive in my head over my daughter’s ability to recognize Lucy, and was about to tell these usherettes that my daughter was fully capable of correctly identifying Lucille Ball, but this picture of Shelley Winters was obviously quite confusing, as the photo was black and white, Shelley had very light hair in it and her hair was styled in the classic Lucy cut from I Love Lucy. Furthermore, Shelley’s dress was not unlike many of the outfits Lucy wore in her show.
But just as I was about to make these evidentiary points, I realized: these usherettes were not amazed that my three year old thought Shelley Winters was Lucille Ball—they were amazed that my three year old knew who Lucille Ball was! By her full name no less!
These sweet usherettes continued to just go crazy over little Miss Mary, and her rare knowledge and love of Lucy at such a young age. It was such a fun interaction for Mar and me, and really made me proud of my little girl. It’s an experience I won’t forget.
Ten Lucy Facts on Her Birthday!
I don’t want this post to get too long, but I also want to share a few fun Lucy facts. So here we go! Here are ten quick Lucy facts that I’m sure I’ll expound upon in later posts:
1. She’s Not from New York City!
Most people think this, but Lucy actually grew up around Lake Chautauqua, in the western park of New York state.
2. A Moral Backbone
Lucy always prided herself on having a strong moral backbone. In her own words,
“I’ve always known right from wrong and I’d like to know how I learned this, to make sure my kids do.”
3. She Was a "B" Actress
Lucy was a “B” movie star before getting her big break with I Love Lucy. She was a rare combination of beauty, glamour, intelligence, and humor, and the studios of Lucy’s day didn’t really know what to do with her as a result! Despite a few really standout performances, Lucy never hit her stride in her film career of the 1930s and 40s. It wasn’t until I Love Lucy that her amazing talent was finally given the vehicle it needed for the world to take notice of the rare gem Lucy was!
4. She Loved Lilacs
Lucy loved lilacs, and would make a point of being in New England in May
“just to see and smell lilac in bloom.”
5. She was Buddies with Ginger Rogers
Lucy was great friends with Ginger Rogers, and the two double dated with Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda! (Ginger and Jimmy, Hank and Lucy!)
6. Desi was a Younger Man
Lucy was six years older than Desi, and that didn’t stop him from thinking her the most beautiful woman EVER. When he first saw her, Desi reportedly exclaimed,
“What hunk of a woman!!!”
7. Separate Finances
From the very beginning of their marriage, Lucy and Desi kept their bank accounts separate. Lucy was a saver, Desi a spender, and the pair decided, as Lucy put it, that
“It would save a lot of arguments, we felt, if we kept our incomes and obligations completely separate.”
8. She Dreamed of Being a Mother
Lucy and Desi wanted children desperately, but it took them years and, sadly, several miscarriages, before they welcomed their first child, daughter Lucie, into the world. Lucy was a month shy of 40 years old when she became a mother, her life’s dream.
9. Desi Named the Show
The iconic name for the show, I Love Lucy, was accidentally thought up by Desi! One day, while discussing character development with the show writers, in Lucy’s words, Desi exclaimed,
“‘Lucy [the show character] tries so hard…she can’t dance and she can’t sing…she’s earnest and pathetic…Oh, I love that Lucy!’
And so the title of the show was born.”
10. There Would be No Cruel Humor
Lucy and Desi had strict guidelines for the quality of humor on I Love Lucy, and there were certain lines that would not be crossed. As Lucy shares in her book,
“The humor could never be mean or unkind. Neither Ricky nor Lucy would ever flirt seriously with anyone else. Mothers-in-law would not be held up to ridicule. Most of all, Desi insisted on Ricky’s manhood. He refused to ever be a nincompoop husband.”
Maybe one of the reasons why I Love Lucy was so popular in its day, and why it remains so popular now, is that these rules Lucy and Desi decided to live by on camera made it so the show couldn’t resort to cheap laughs, or hurt anybody’s feelings with cruel jokes.
How could such a positive show not attain and maintain such a large fanbase? Good call Lucy and Desi!
Happy Birthday, Lucy!
There you have it! 10 facts to celebrate why we all love Lucy.
Happy Birthday Lucy! Thanks for being one of a kind, and for making the world a better place with your grace and humor.