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I Love Lucy…And Here’s Why

It really all started when I was about one and a half, so says my mother. I was in my parents’ bed, joining them in their nightly routine of watching I Love Lucy reruns. In 1996 there was no Netflix, TiVo, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or any other form of instant entertainment. Therefore, my parents relied on the few channels we got at home to play reruns of their favorite sitcoms, which of course included I Love Lucy.

Though there were not many options at the time for television entertainment, this was not a bad option. My mom has told me my entire life that I was instantly captivated by the show and its comedy, always yelling “Again! Again!” when something funny happened and clapping my hands. As DVR had not been invented yet, my only choice to see one of Lucy’s comedic moments “again” was to continue watching reruns with my parents every night. So that is exactly what I did. For years.

I was always a little beyond my years in terms of my interests as a child, but this was something different altogether. I truly thought that Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel; the people that occupied my imagination and living room each night as I intently watched, were my best friends. They made me laugh, I knew everything about their “lives”, and for some reason, I thought they must know me since I watched them on television every single night.

As far as I was concerned, I was part of their travels to California, and when Lucy went on her crazy adventures I was the one she would talk to about them. Each year on her birthday, I would ask my mom to make her a cake and we would invite our unfailingly supportive family over for a birthday party. Yes, I have several home movies of all of us singing “Happy Birthday” to Lucy, orchestrated by me of course. It worked both ways, however.

Every year on my birthday Lucy, Fred, Ethel and Ricky would “stop by my birthday party” and leave a present on my front doorstep. I never saw them however as, according to their postcards, they had to get back on the road to get home to New York City.

Sadly, it does not occur to a five year old that I Love Lucy is fictional, the characters I adored were just actors, and, above all, I was watching something that was filmed in the 1950s, all the while believing it was present day. On my eighth birthday, when no present showed up on my front doorstep, my parents finally broke the horrible news to me.

It seems crazy, I know. But think about it. The internet was just becoming popular, so the thought a present-day eight year old would have to Google “I Love Lucy” or “Lucille Ball” never occurred to me, nor would I have known how to do so. I was entertained entirely by my imagination and the “facts” that were presented to me. I was heartbroken, to say the least, so much so that a few years later when the truth about Santa Claus came to light I was completely unfazed.

After the initial shock had worn off, I welcomed Lucy back into my life and began watching the entire series from start to finish and actually doing some research about the woman I had called my best friend for the first eight years of my life. I can confidently say after all these years that Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy have somehow, some way, always been an important part of my life. I have seen every episode of her many television series multiple times, each time appreciating the comedy in a new way. I wrote my college admission essay on her, which proved to be unique and interesting enough to help get me into my top choice school. As a young woman in her twenties, I have grown to respect and admire her even more so than I did as a child, but for very different reasons.

Recently, I was watching a documentary about Lucille Ball’s life in the entertainment industry from beginning to end. I was astounded by what I learned.

Not only did she play a huge role in the day-to-day operations of filming I Love Lucy, but she was Vice President of Desilu Productions until she bought out her then-husband Desi Arnaz and took complete ownership of the company. This made her the first female CEO in history.

She was the first woman to be pregnant on television and was groundbreaking in the sense that she portrayed a multi-ethnic relationship. These are two things that had never been done on television before. Most importantly, she persevered through any at all adversity that came her way, from the very start when she was sent away from drama school after being told she had no talent, to her CEO days as she overcame countless obstacles to pave the way for powerful women in Hollywood on and off the screen.

When she was honored at the 1986 Kennedy Center Honors, actresses Bea Arthur, Valerie Harper and Pam Dawber, who were all known for their television show roles, performed a song paying tribute to “Lucy” and thanking her for making a place for women in movies and television. How many of our favorite actresses from past and present would be nonexistent if she had not persevered? She proved that beautiful women had more to offer the entertainment industry than sex appeal and glamour. She was gorgeous, fearless, unwavering in her pursuit of success, and of course, funny. After watching The Golden Globes this week, it is more apparent now than ever the power of women in the entertainment industry and it all traces back to those who laid the foundation, like Lucille Ball.

We can all learn some lessons from Lucy other than how (not) to do a T.V. commercial, connive your way into a show, or meet movie stars. She showed me that you must fiercely pursue your passions, even when the world does everything in its power to drag you down. Your time will come. She taught me that making people laugh is powerful and that there can be comedy found everywhere in life if one takes the time to stop and notice. Don’t be afraid and don’t be embarrassed by who you really are, because that person can make a difference. It is okay to be a little eccentric. Although I had to give her up as my best childhood friend, Lucille Ball has continued to impact my life at every stage in more ways than I can count. The most comforting and hopeful thing about all of this is that I know she will continue to inspire others for generations to come and that the laughter she gave the world will truly never end.

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