A 32 page comic book is just the beginning of Lucille Ball’s centennial soiree. Starting today at 6am (ET/PT) and all the way through August 7, The Hallmark Channel will be showcasing 96 classic Lucy episodes - with no reruns! - in honor of the Queen of Comedy’s 100th birthday. So make some coffee, pour in a little Vitameatavegamin for that extra special boost, and get ready to celebrate.
Lucille Ball made history as the first female head of a production company and as America’s favorite red-headed slapstick comedienne. “I Love Lucy” was the #1-rated show on television between 1952 and 1953, with an astonishing 67-72% average rating (Museum of Broadcasting). This means that on any typical Monday night, two out of three television sets in the U.S. were tuned to “I Love Lucy.” Though "Lucy" is one of the first television programs to rely on 'canned laughter', Lucille Ball and her gang brought half an hour of giggles every night to the living rooms across America.
Who couldn't love that face?
For the occasion, Hallmark Channel is also releasing a rare, never before published interview between Lucille Ball and TV writer/critic Ray Richmond. The interview reveals an emotional, intimate side of Lucy as she talks tearfully about the two loves of her life, Desi Arnaz and Vivian Vance. Here is an excerpt from “My Lunch With Lucy” :
When I asked her about Vivian Vance and the great sisterly friendship she is purported to have had with her I Love Lucy costar, Lucy began to tear up in remembering the pal who had died a mere five years before of breast and bone cancer.
“Oh God it was so hard,” Lucy shared between quivering sobs. “I couldn’t save her. I felt so helpless. She was the love of my life.”
The description of Vance’s decline spanned some 15 minutes of our time together. I wasn’t pressing with questions. It instead emerged in a single cathartic burst from Lucy’s lips. This was a woman often thought to be rigid and abrasive in private. But here she was reliving one of her most agonizing moments with a visible raw grief, openness and sincerity in front of a complete stranger.
When the subject of Desi Arnaz was raised, Lucy grew immediately wistful and nostalgic.
"What can I tell you, I loved him," she said, a tear beginning to form in her left eye. "He and I just had different hopes for what love and marriage ought to be. But, he's a great father to our kids…a good man." With that, Lucy began dabbing at her eyes. "I'll never stop loving Desi. And I know how much he'll always love me. He and I are good now. Growing older and maturing is the best thing that ever happened to us. And you know it's no secret that we had our problems, but I can look at Desi now and remember the fantastic times we had together back then, too."
"That's all you're getting out of me!" her voice rising. "Can we change the subject please?"
Oh yes we could. And I did, immediately.
Even at the end of a serious interview, Lucy can’t help but flaunt her famous funny side:
“That was fun, kid,” she said, as I flipped off my recorder and handed the housekeeper my cleaned lasagna plate.
“This is one of the greatest moments of my life,” I said to her. “I can’t thank you enough for what you’ve given me today.”
“Ah, well you must not have much of a life if chatting with an old bag is as good as it gets,” she laughed heartily.
Just then, Lucy’s second husband, Gary Morton, walked in, giving his wife a warm kiss and hug that warmed my heart to see. As I was making my way past the loving couple to leave, Lucy made a parting demand.
“Don’t tell anyone I color my hair,” she said. “Let ‘em think it’s still natural. OK?”
I kept Lucy’s secret all of these years. But given that she’s turning 100, I figure she’s probably all right with my finally spilling the beans.