We should all be a little sadder. Or we can be thankful for the laughs.
In a couple of days, Lucille Ball will have been absent from our lives for 30 years. The actor and comedienne died April 26, 1989. In memory of Lucy, here are five things worth finding out about her life and legacy:
‘I Love Lucy’
A 1950s sitcom starring Ball and real-life husband Desi Arnaz as husband and wife, “I Love Lucy” was a groundbreaking ratings monster.
Other comedies of that era featured pre-packaged laughter. “I Love Lucy” was filmed with multiple cameras in front of a live studio audience.
The show was on the air for six seasons. It finished third in the ratings during its rookie season and was No. 1 in four of the next five years, including the final season. On Jan. 19, 1953, an episode where Little Ricky was born aired the same day Ball gave birth to a baby boy, Desi Arnaz IV.
TV viewers voted “I Love Lucy” the greatest series of all time in a 2012 poll conducted by ABC and People magazine. Also in the top five: “Seinfeld,” “All in the Family,” “Cheers” and “M*A*S*H.”
The comedy legends were connected by more than just funny bone and color of hair. They were friends, and Ball became Burnett’s mentor.
A long-lasting relationship started after Ball watched Burnett in a musical and visited her backstage. Ball said “call if you need me.” Burnett needed star power for a CBS special to be green-lighted. Ball rode to the rescue. Burnett would go on to become the star of a popular sketch comedy series that aired for 11 seasons. Coincidentally, Ball died on Burnett’s birthday in 1989. Flowers from Ball arrived at Burnett’s home with this message: “Happy birthday, kid.”
Question for sci-fi scholars: Would “Star Trek” have ever reached television without Lucille Ball?
The Desilu name in Desilu Productions is a mash-up of the names Desi and Lucy. Desilu Productions was their production company. Desi was out of the picture by the time Gene Roddenberry was floating the idea of a space opera called “Star Trek.” Against the advice of board members who thought the venture would be too expensive to bring to television, Lucy rolled the dice on “Star Trek.” The first pilot was blah, but a second pilot earned the series a green light and now Trek is one of the biggest entertainment franchises in history.
Desilu also produced “The Untouchables,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Mannix.”
In addition to being honored with two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Ball holds the record for most appearances on the cover of TV Guide.
She first appeared on the April 3, 1953, issue but her photo (a mug shot in the top right corner) was secondary to a dominant image of baby Desi. She has since appeared on a total of 45 TV Guide covers, including nine collect-them-all covers that were available for an Oct. 13, 2001, issue. The cover story offered a look back at the 50 funniest moments of “I Love Lucy.”
Ball has been in the news lately because there’s a campaign being waged to preserve a New Jersey pond that bears her name. According to an nj.com story, Lucille Ball Pond is a kettle-hole pond that was formed 20,000 years ago when glacial ice melted and left a hole filled with water. Supporters hope the pond can be rescued for environmental reasons and because of Lucy history. There’s an urban legend that she once considered a residence in the neighborhood. Lucy House. Lucy Pond.
The lead paragraph of the nj.com story: “These neighbors really love Lucy.”