When asked to talk about influential historical figures, one sort of automatically goes down the hall where the walls are decked with the likenesses of scientists, explorers, inventors or politicians.
For me, Lucille Ball comes to mind as an influential person in my life, starting with the comedy series, “I Love Lucy”. It was one of the few shows that my sister and I were allowed watching, and decades later, I’ve discovered that her popularity ranged across the globe.
Why Lucy? Why turn to comedy for an influence? My mother taught us at an early age to join in the laughter with others, even when we might be the target—otherwise we’d be miserable and lonely. With the unlikely surname of Heinbockel, one learns to be a stand-up comic. Decades later, I’ve learnt that laughter still has an uncanny ability to heal.
The life of Lucille Ball
Born in 1911, she was 3 when her father died. When her mom remarried, the new dad didn’t want either Lucy or her brother, so the two were parceled—separately—off to relatives. Lucy lived with a strict family who could hardly afford to purchase pencils for her school work.
At 11 she was reunited with her mom, and then went off to enroll in a N.Y. drama school where Bette Davis was the star pupil. The school told Lucy’s mother that she was too shy and reticent to amount to much.
Not prone to giving up, Lucy went to Hollywood in the 1930’s, where she met a young and dashing Cuban: Desi Arnaz. They married, and after a few failed attempts to act together, they were finally recognized as a talented comedy team, and “I Love Lucy” was created. ‘Bombastic and daring’, with themes about marriage issues, women in the workplace and life in suburbia, it paved the way for many more family sitcoms.
Star of the show Lucy was a perfectionist, working for hours to get her facial expressions and antics just right. Her ground-breaking work provided a smooth road for many actors, including Mary Tyler Moore and Robin Williams.
When she and Desi were divorced, Lucy bought out her husband’s shares of Desilu Productions, becoming the first woman to run a major T.V. production studio. She later sold it for $17 million.
That’s a pretty sketchy biography; I encourage you to read about this brave, funny, daring and determined lady to get more salient details to inspire you.
Written by Desi Arnaz before his death: “I love Lucy” was never just a title.