As is true of most kids, I loved staying home from school. The slightest touch of the sniffles would send me headlong into a campaign to spend the next few days on the couch, snuggled under an ancient afghan. On the occasions when I was A) truly under the weather or B) convincing enough that my parents capitulated and let me stay home, I reveled in hours upon hours of syndicated television. I liked the Andy Griffith show (mostly for the theme song), and didn’t much care for Perry Mason. Laverne and Shirley helped pass the time, and I liked the Fonz, so I watched Happy Days, too. Ah, but my most sacred half-hour every sick day was spent at 623 E. 68th Street, in the living room of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.
Sipping hot chocolate with my cat curled on my lap, I felt both comforted and exhilarated when I heard the Desilu orchestra’s breezy strains of “I Love Lucy.” Whether she was shilling for liquid multivitamins, working an assembly line in a candy factory, or stomping grapes in rural Italy, I truly did love Lucy.
As Ricky Ricardo, Desi Arnaz provided the perfect comic foil for Lucy’s madcap antics, reacting with both exasperation and affection. I loved Ricky Ricardo’s pomaded hair, sharp suits, and the fact that he played music in a Manhattan nightclub. (In retrospect, this pretty much explains the majority of my dating choices throughout my 20s.) The clip below is one of my favorite scenes in “I Love Lucy” history: a poignant moment in which Lucy and Ricky Ricardo mirror Lucy and Desi’s real-life happiness. Sadly, their offscreen marriage proved too tumultuous to last, and ended in divorce in 1960.
Lucille Ball died when I was ten years old. At the time, I was performing in my first musical, singing in the ensemble of a local production of “Tom Sawyer.” I was just beginning my life as a performer, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, the lessons I learned from years spent watching Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel would serve me very well in the years to come:
A good friend will try to talk you out of a crazy idea. Your best friend will clap her hands and say, “I’m in!”
No matter how messy life gets, things have a way of working themselves out.
Lucille Ball once said of herself, “I’m not funny. What I am is brave.” Lucy, on your 100th birthday, I humbly submit that you were both funny and fearless. Thanks for all the laughs; you were one of a kind.