Book review: Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball

Ginger Rogers’ mother Lela became a stage mom to Lucy and many other aspiring actresses.

The book Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball I actually read last summer, on a transcontinental flight from Newark to San Diego. I meant to write about it then, but forgot. Now it’s nearly thirty years since Lucy died, so I guess it’s time.

If you don’t know, Lucy was the star of the most popular situation comedy in the US in the 1950s, I Love Lucy. She had successful programs in the 1960s as well, The Lucy Show/Here’s Lucy.

The existence of the book is a tale of its own. After Lucy died on April 26, 1989, her children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr., were tasked with wading through artifacts. Lucie came across a 300-page manuscript written by her mother c. 1964.

Most people, including Lucy’s closest friends, didn’t know about the existence of this work at all. Perhaps she didn’t want to share it because her portrayals would hurt her then-ex-husband Desi Arnaz. But he had died in 1986, so the book was published in 1996 and became a best-seller.

The details were astonishingly precise, starting with her birth on August 6, 1911, in her grandparents’ apartment in Jamestown, NY, in the southwest corner of the state. She had many challenges growing up, including her father dying at age 28 when she was not quite four.

She was raised by an extended family, including her beloved grandfather, who everyone called Daddy. Later, there was an what she thought was a legal injustice borne by Daddy which affected Lucy’s viewpoint throughout his life.

Lucy took almost any job in New York City: showgirl, extra in Broadway and road shows, modeling coats and dresses, posing for illustrators. It was as a “Chesterfield (cigarette) girl” that first got her to Hollywood.

Ginger Rogers’ mother Lela became a stage mom to Lucy and many other aspiring actresses. “Lela was the first person to see me as a clown with glamour.”

Many more tales were shared before she met this Cuban musician and band leader named Desi. They fell hard for each other, and married rather quickly after they met.

Keeping their marriage together, though, was challenging, as they were both on the road separately a lot. I Love Lucy, in part, was born from addressing that need.

If Lucille Ball, or her TV roles are interesting to you, or if you’re just trying how one young woman worked hard to make it in show biz, I highly recommend Love, Lucy.


Ken Levine: The History of Sitcoms podcast.

What’s My Line? game show (1954), Lucille Ball as mystery guest.

Lucy Desi Museum

The radio show My Favorite Husband morphed into the TV show I Love Lucy.

Lucile Ball's monogrammed 1972 Mercedes-Benz
Lucile Ball’s monogrammed 1972 Mercedes-Benz

Lucy Desi Museum, Jamestown, NY: July 12, 2016

A stop in Jamestown was a last-minute addition to the itinerary when we decided that we should see a state park on the return trip, rather on the way out.

We knew that Jamestown was the birthplace of actress Lucille Ball, back on August 6, 1911. There’s something about a small town that needs to embrace its stars the way that New York City or Los Angeles simply cannot. Continue reading “Lucy Desi Museum”

Who starred with whom, and where?

The IMDB has an advanced search function.

There is this list of the five best television series of all-time, compiled by ABC News and People Magazine, and conveniently broadcast on ABC in the past couple weeks. Interestingly, all were comedies, none of them were broadcast on ABC, and the latter four would probably be canceled quickly these days because the early ratings were not particularly good. The list included:
I LOVE LUCY (CBS)
SEINFELD (NBC)
MASH (CBS)
ALL IN THE FAMILY (CBS)
CHEERS (NBC)

I read about it on Ken Levine’s blog. He (pictured) mentioned this because he was a writer for two of the shows, MASH and Cheers, which I suppose I’d consider for my list as well. I’d also pick Lucy, if only Continue reading “Who starred with whom, and where?”