Lucille Ball was my favorite comedienne before I really even understood what a comedienne was. What I knew was that she was the pretty, funny lady who brought joy and laughter to my entire family every day. The I Love Lucy show was “appointment television” in my home long before that phrase was coined. Watching her as an adult, I have a new appreciation for how skilled she was at her craft. So, in honor of Women’s History Month, I’m choosing Lucille Ball as a woman to salute. Here’s why I like her:

 

  • Reason No. 10: She said, “Ability is of little account without opportunity.” And when the studios wouldn’t let her do her television show the way she wanted to, she created her own studio. Ball was the first woman to run a major television production studio, Desilu Productions.
  • Reason No. 9: She married what was then considered a “younger man,” long before it was in vogue. (She was six years older than Desi Arnaz.)
  • Reason No. 8: She finally tired of the cheating ways of her handsome hubby of 20 years, and left him. Her subsequent marriage to Gary Morton was reportedly a union of equals (though Desi supposedly remained “the love of her life”).
  • Reason No. 7:  Lucy reputedly required that her co-star Vivian Vance (who played Ethel Mertz) always be 20 pounds heavier than she was. It’s unclear whether this was a written contract or more of a verbal agreement, but it is clear that Lucy understood her role as the star. This request/requirement may seem petty, but Lucy understood her brand and wasn’t going to allow any blurring of the lines.
  • Reason No. 6: She led by example with a number of “first woman” accomplishments (owning a production studio, being the richest woman in television in 1968, being half of the first interracial couple on TV). When she wasn’t being treated the way she felt she deserved to be, she took things into her own hands. And yet she claimed not to be a fan of women’s lib:  “Women’s lib? It doesn’t interest me one bit. I’ve been so liberated it hurts.” She was complicated. When I saw this quote from her, it reminded me of a line from Jay-Z’s very insightful book, Decoded:  “The real b.s. is when people act like they don’t have contradictions inside; they’re so dull and unimaginative that their minds never change or wander into strange, unexpected places.” Genius is complicated.
  • Reason No. 5: In a world–and industry—where blond hair was worshiped, she dyed hers red.  Standing out was better than fitting in.
  • Reason No. 4: I like her because sometimes her real life was like an I Love Lucy episode.  When she was a young woman she was fired from working at an ice cream store because she kept forgetting to put bananas in banana splits.
  • Reason No. 3: Like many über-talented people, she was a little nutty. Well, perhaps I should say eccentric.  Anyway, she wouldn’t allow any pictures of birds in her house or any hotel room she was staying in.
  • Reason No. 2: She worked steadily in Hollywood for 50 years. Not a lot of women can say that. Men, either, for that matter.
  • Reason No. 1:  I Love Lucy reruns still crack me up.

 

Here’s to you, you gorgeous redhead!

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  • b.elliott March 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    This was so great! I loved Lucy because she always created ingenious ways around Desi “to be on the show” and never stopped trying . . .

    Reply