Every morning when I wake up (usually between 6:30-7:00 am) it’s 1951, telephones have rotary dials not apps, televisions are black and white not HD, people are reading the newspaper not their lap tops, and husbands and wives are sleeping in separate beds with matching pajamas and are happily wed. If you haven’t guessed why yet, I’ll tell you now; it’s because I’m watching I Love Lucy. A tougher question to answer is how come? How come I watch this show each and every morning while eating breakfast, ironing my clothes and getting ready to head out the door for work? I live in the 21st century and wasn’t even born when the show was originally on the air. In fact, my parents were kids when I Love Lucy took America by storm and became a television phenomenon. I think the answer lies in the personalities behind the characters of the show, and the era in which it is set; a time less concentrated on technology and more centered on traditional family values.
After reading Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life And Comic Art of Lucille Ball by Stefan Kanfer, I began to appreciate the lives of each cast member and the impact they continually have on my life as a present day viewer of the show. Watching Desi Arnaz perform at the Tropicana Club as Ricky Ricardo keeps me dreaming of being a professional musician when I’m lugging my conga drums up and down flights of stairs and across town to gigs. Watching Lucy and Ethel (Vivian Vance) make up after feuding over something trivial reminds me of how special a true friend is, and how nothing should get in the way of that friendship. The same can be said about Ricky and Fred (William Frawley), although what do they really have to argue about when they share the same interests like hitting golf balls on the fairway and listening to boxing on the radio? I found it amusing to know that when I Love Lucy first debuted on October 15, 1951, and the whole cast went over the Arnaz’s ranch to watch the televised episode, everyone was in attendance accept for William Frawley, who instead opted to go home and listen to the heavy weight fights on his radio. Now there’s a man who loved boxing as much as I do! (RIP Joe Frazier)
Now every time I have a rum and coke at a bar I’ll think of Desi Arnaz, whose mother’s grandfather was a cofounder of Bacardi Rum, thanks to reading Stefan Kanfer’s book. I’ll also remember how Lucille Ball answered 2,867 letters sent to her from concerned fans after her miscarriage, how she survived antagonism from the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) who threatened to end her career because they labeled her a communist, how she endured losing her father to Typhoid fever when he died at the age of 28 (she was only 3 years old), and of course, how she overcame ridicule after ridicule from drama school instructors and Hollywood executives who thought she wasn’t good enough to make it in the business. How wrong they were!
I Love Lucy also keeps me dreaming of the prospect of romance, in addition to fulfilling my dream to become an artist. In a day and age of constant sexual scandal, misconduct, abuse and dysfunction, it’s a real relief to see a healthy relationship played out on screen. Of course, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s marriage was not perfect, but watching them on screen, imparting the best of what brought them together in the first place; the love they shared for one another, gives the viewer an experience and enjoyment unrivaled by any other television show to date. Put quite simply, I always feel good after watching. I always feel like there is hope of recreating the beautiful harmony of their relationship that comes through in every line spoken and display of affection. And until I can do that, the Hallmark channel has me covered every single morning!