If you’re a fan of early television, you probably recognize this set. Hint. Lucy Ricardo sat on this sofa. Of course, the show was “I Love Lucy”, the first hit TV series. It ran for 6 years and 179 episodes, made Lucille Ball a star, and spawned Desilu, a production company that made her an entrepreneur. Ruth and I recently showed the Vitameatavegamin episode to a 14-year-old. He begged us to let him have the DVD so he could watch it again. Her comedy, at least in “I Love Lucy”, is proving enduring.
Lucille Ball’s career really didn’t take off until she had a successful radio show. She moved from New York State, where she was born in Jamestown, to California in the early 1930s and made a string of mostly forgettable films. She was seldom the star of these movies. Then she decided to become the female half of a radio comedy called “My Favorite Husband.” It was sponsored by Jell-O and was successful enough that she was invited to turn it into a show on a new medium called television. By then she was married to a Cuban named Desi Arnaz, and she insisted that he play her husband. CBS initially didn’t like the idea, but she eventually prevailed. “I Love Lucy” made history. By the time Lucy Ricardo was ready to deliver a baby, the episode called “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” was seen by 44,000,000 people. Ball won 2 Emmys for “I Love Lucy” and 2 subsequent Emmys for follow up shows, TV projects that she starred in without Desi. When she died, Lucille Ball was buried in Jamestown’s Lake View Cemetery.
Question #2. Who is the lady above? Hint. She went on to create a character named Ethel Mertz after this photo was taken. Of course, she was Lucy’s landlady and co-star in “I Love Lucy”, Vivian Vance. There’s a lot about her in the Lucy Desi Museum that opened in Jamestown 23 years ago. It was remodeled in 2008 and is a 5 Compass experience. It contains lots of trivia, like “I Love Lucy” was filmed in CBS’s largest studio that could seat 1050 people, and it took 4 days to make one episode. It has production facts, full recreations of sets, series costumes, etc. I asked if this show remains popular and was told that it’s known by kids who often visit this museum with their grandparents.
I was delighted by the National Comedy Center that opened in August, 2018, near the Lucy Desi Museum. It also surprised me that it ended up in Jamestown instead of a larger city like LA until I learned that Lucy maintained strong ties with her hometown. In fact, she was planning to return to it in 1989 but died before that could happen.