As a little girl, I would sit on the rug in my grandparent’s “TV” room, gaze locked onto the screen. Summer after summer, I fell more in love with Lucy. While most girls were playing with princess Barbie’s (I had my fair share of Ariel; Don’t Worry), I was playing with Lucille Ball, running the studio and making America laugh.
As time went on she remained my idol because she was the epitome of strength. She wasn’t afraid to look “Ugly”, in fact, I’m not even sure she thought about that term. Every performance, every interview I’ve ever watched she has been genuine and completely true to herself. She embodied life, and it is why everyone truly did love Lucy.
Into my teen years, I learned that she was more that just a funny face, originally nicked named the Queen of the B’s (for her numerous works in B films) but to me she was always the Queen of firsts.
- First Televised Interracial Couple
- First Televised Pregnancy
- First Female Studio Owner
She was 40 when she did the I Love Lucy show – her big break. 40 when she had her first child, 42 when she had the second. Ball raised the bar one what females could do. Without her, where would we be now?
The thing about Lucy, she really was something special. Her charm exploded from the camera and made her a legend. But this woman did it all.
“I had a big talk with myself. And I knew I could do it because I learned a lot from Desi. So I went back and I became tough, you know. A guy can be tough, but the woman being tough was a different thing then. But then, kid, that’s when they put the ‘S’ on the end of my last name.” (1)
She was talking to her pal, Carol Burnett, in what honestly seems to be a long line of talented comediennes. The fact of the matter is that Lucy knew she was being treated differently because she was a woman, and she could find the place to nut up or back away. When Desi was out of the picture, she stood up, took what she learned from him and soldiered on. How sad is it that women were viewed differently? That someone as iconic and powerful as Lucille Ball still felt the gender bias. Ball set an example for generations to come, to never give up on what you wanted, and that you as a woman can do it. If in the 1960’s Ball could run a studio, why do we still have such a gender gap in hollywood?
Once the studio was in Balls hand’s, she made bold choices. “Despite not really being into science fiction, Lucy understood that Star Trek, if it worked, could be big. There had never been anything like it on TV, and if it hit, it would bring in money from merchandising and reruns. It was a gamble, but Desilu had been built on gambles. She made the call. In November 1964 production began on the first Star Trek pilot. And 47 years later, the franchise continues, for better or worse.”(2)
Last weekend, I took a walk around my neighborhood. Down the street from where I live The Academy has a new section of buildings set up. There is the giant Emmy Statue and several dozen busts on those who have made their mark on the industry. If you walk past the main entrance you can see two full sized statues, and from afar you seen a normal couple talking. He is standing, a wild gesture demonstrating his facts. She is seated, vividly watching him. While she is technically sitting, all the lines of the art point to her. My friend quietly said, “We wouldn’t have sitcoms if it weren’t for her”. A quiet moment grew, as the two of us both vying for jobs in the industry, had the realization that the woman in front of us had without meaning to created countless opportunities for people and for us. This woman sitting so beautifully relaxed had so much more influence then she could have imagined.
Desilu was built on gambles. It was built on her. Although their marriage failed, Desi Arnaz believed in Lucy so much he took a gamble on her and “I Love Lucy”. It put them on the map and in the history books. And Desilu studios…was bought out by Paramount. The fact that one comedy legend started one of the most successful sci-fi trends is mind blowing. Imagine if Lucy hadn’t taken that gamble, would we still be sitting in theatres watching the next Abrams adaptation? This one woman created a record breaking, historical company. If one woman can do all that, whose to say we can’t? If we can make half the mark Lucy did on the film industry and the world – we could be a better place.
– Lexcee Riley
Image Source: pophistorydig.com
(1) Make ‘em laugh: The funny business of America; Michael, Kantor; Maslon, Laurence ebook. 30 March 2016. copyright 2008 Hachette Book Group