Lucy has never left our TV screens, so it’s hard to believe that it’s been 25 years since her death. To remember America’s favorite redhead, here are 7 facts you may not know about her rollercoaster life.
Lucille Ball was my first
introduction to a comedy leading lady. A walking contradiction (glamorous with
a slapstick charm, ditzy with a razor wit), Lucy showed me there were no
boundaries to what a woman could be—and that included being funny! Let’s face
it: She put “klutzy comedienne” on the map decades before Liz Lemon ever
fumbled her first cup of coffee.
But behind Lucille’s Kewpie
doll grin, there were dark struggles and exhilarating triumphs – a history I
never knew as I (and the rest of America) watched her wildly shove chocolates
into her bra, wallpaper her bedroom in a maze of dizzying stripes, and beg
Ricky to put her in the Tropicana’s next number. I still get a goofy grin on my
face when I remember how Lucy used an “anonymous” song request to tell Ricky
she was pregnant.
So, to remember the comic
genius that was Lucy, here are seven little known facts about the life that led her
to make us laugh and love her even more:
1. After her
father’s death in 1914 from typhoid fever, Lucille was raised primarily by her
mother Desiree (Dede) Ball and her stepfather Ed Peterson. The family was so
poor Lucille couldn’t even afford the pencil she needed for school. She would
hoard pencils for the rest of her life.
2. Lucille spent
much of her childhood living with Peterson’s mother, who introduced her to needlework
as a hobby, which inspired Lucille’s life-long love of crocheting.
3. Lucille was
accepted to the prestigious Robert-Minton-John Murray Anderson School of Drama
in Manhattan after auditioning with a comic monologue (the others did
Shakespeare), but was dismissed after a month because she was too shy to perform in
front of her classmates.
4. She initially
dyed her hair blonde to pursue acting and modeling in New York. It wasn’t until
MGM purchased her contract in 1942 that she returned to her roots as a redhead.
5. When CBS balked at
Lucille and Desi Arnaz‘s insistence on shooting I
Love Lucy on expensive film in Hollywood, the couple agreed to take a pay
cut in exchange for retaining full ownership rights to the show and running it under their newly formed Desilu
6. I Love Lucy
was the first comedy to be filmed before a live audience. When it aired,
department stores closed early and telephone and water usage dropped.
7. After her
divorce from Desi in 1960, Lucille promptly took control of Desilu (becoming
the first woman to head a major studio in the process), bought out Desi, and
sold the company to Gulf+Western for $17 million.