The sun never sets on Lucille Ball. All over this worried world tonight, nations of untold million are watching reruns they also watched the first time around. Joy requires no translation. God wanted the world to laugh, and he invented you. Many are called, but you were chosen. All of the funny hats, the baggy pants, the mustaches and the wigs, and the pratfalls and the blacked out teeth - they didn't fool us one minute. We saw through all the disguises, and what we found inside is more than we deserve. - Sammy Davis, Jr
So, on the occasion of her one hundred and second birthday, I don't really know what I could tell you about her that I haven't already said. Or how I could thank her in some new, special way for all she's given me - laughter and otherwise. Thus, this isn't going to be some incredibly long or wonderful post that I'm particularly proud of. But I hope it gets the message across.
People fall in love with Lucy Ricardo. Lucille Ball wasn't much like Lucy Ricardo at all, and this comes as a disappointment to some. I love Lucy Ricardo as much as the next person, but it's Lucille Ball that I've fallen in love with. I hear a lot about the pained lives of the Marilyn Monroes, their sometimes eccentric behavior excused by the ordeals they suffered through. Lucille Ball was, in a lot of ways, the same, except she was never given that excuse. Yet, she was very similar. Lucy had a persistence in her to not fall into patches of vulnerability. And following her divorce from Desi, she built a shield of armor around herself.
I've said this before, but I'll say it again: the piece of film that I feel displays the true, human Lucy is not I Love Lucy or any of the television shows that followed it; it's not any of her movie work. It's her home movies. Though she loved her fans and gave them more due respect than, perhaps, almost any other star (except maybe Joan Crawford), stardom always seemed to make her a bit uncomfortable. Robert Osborne became friends with her in the 1960s and once shared an anecdote that I feel is very telling. Around the time of her divorce from Desi, she was an emotional wreck, and needed to get away from their home and the memories that haunted her there. So she would come to Osborne's house and lie on his couch for hours and sob. From his apartment, you could see the lights of Los Angeles twinkling below, and Osborne made a comment to her that he hoped would raise her spirits. "It's a wonderful feeling to know that every one of those lights out there, you just have to say the word 'Lucy' - you don't even have to say the last name, and they know it's you," he told her. But this frightened her. She said in response, "Oh God, don't say something like that! That's terrifying."
In the home movies, she is in her element. Most of them were shot by Desi, to whom she revealed herself to more than anyone else. Lucie Arnaz said in later years: "He knew her in a way that I don't think anyone else ever could." And that's apparent in the clips. Though she herself has attested to being happiest when she was working, the home movies show a side to her that even her best work (aka I Love Lucy) couldn't reveal. Her playfulness, her cuddling with her dogs and her cats, her quietness, her fears, naked and on display. She was an incredibly complex woman. But perhaps more than anything, the home movies shows all these facets in a raw light.
And that's the Lucy I love, the Lucy I look to each day for inspiration.
I'm not really sure what else to say. She means so very much to me, and I don't think, at this point, even words could express that. I'm not being sappy. It's the truth. I love you, Lucy. What's one hundred and two years? You're timeless. Happy birthday, baby.