Lucille Ball's centennial reminds me why I love 'I Love Lucy'
Last year, I wrote a little something about how Gustav Mahler saved my life. A tiny bit of hyperbole aside (never miss an opportunity to theatricalize), he did.
But long before Mahler entered my consciousness and helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life, there was Lucy and Ricky and Fred and Ethel.
They were my favorite childhood companions and they stayed with me right on through adulthood, giving me lift after lift along the way. They are with me still.
Cringe or chortle if you must, but it's the truth. I am a life-long "I Love Lucy" fanatic. And on the occasion of the centennial of Lucille Ball's birth -- Aug. 6, 1911 -- I couldn't resist a few words about how much she and that brilliant sitcom mean to me.
Watching "I Love Lucy" in re-runs remains one of the clearest memories I have of my youth. Actually, just hearing it is an even stronger memory. I became so fond of the show that, ...
when our TV set went on the blink for a while and had only sound, but no picture, I would still sit in the front of the set at the appointed time to listen to "I Love Lucy." I loved it just as much.
Over the years, wherever I lived, I soon found out when the show was being aired. It came in especially handy whenever I was feeling down; nothing could snap me out of it like a visit to the Ricardos flat at 623 E. 68th Street.
In Los Angeles, during my time in grad school, I would sit many an evening with the sweet little, Mrs. Trumbull-like landlady of the humble house where I rented a room off-campus, and we would watch the 6 p.m. re-runs together while eating supper off of TV trays. Then I would go back to my oh-so-serious musicological studies.
As the decades went by, "Love Lucy" never lost its hold. Lucille Ball, alas, did not interest me as much in other contexts. I never cared for her later sitcoms. I happily discovered her early movies (some are quite terrific), but had a tough time with the later ones (oy, that "Mame"). Still, the comic genius of Lucille Ball was never in doubt.
I have great respect for what she accomplished throughout her life, but it is her chapter as Lucy Ricardo that really means the most to me. Heck, it even landed me a life partner -- 27 years ago this month, an acquaintance of mine in Fort Lauderdale told me I just had to meet a guy he knew who loved Lucy as much as I did. Robert and I still toss dialogue from the show into our conversation. We always will.
So thanks for everything, Lucille Ball. You and the terribly underrated Desi Arnaz created an amazing product with the help of the ideal Vivian Vance and William Frawley, and, of course, the superb script writers. You made television history and television magic, Miss Ball. Another hundred years from now, assuming the planet remains habitable, you will be still be making people laugh.
I had to post a gem from "I Love Lucy" to end this verbiage, but what to choose? Too many favorite moments.
In the end, I figured that, since this blog covers music and theater, I should pick a scene from one of Lucy Ricardo's disastrous moments onstage -- in this case, a scene from the immortal operetta she wrote as a fundraiser for the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League -- "The Pleasant Peasant."
The fact that she couldn't carry a tune didn't dissuade her in the least from taking a major role, of course. Little did she know that the chorus would be right behind her, ensuring that the music would have a chance:
SUN FILE PHOTO