[ed. note: Lucille Ball was born on August 6, 1911. Today would have been Lucy’s 104th birthday.]
Who doesn't love Lucy? We can all argue about favorite movies and best actors and finest directors, but when almost anyone is asked "Who is the funniest lady in the history of television?" the answer is pretty much unanimous.
Lucy was a brilliant comedienne, and her classic TV series I Love Lucy has undoubtedly been seen by more people, around the world, than any show in history. Okay, let's take a look at the legendary redhead (one of John Belushi's supreme idols, by the way) the one and only Lucille Ball…
* She used to work as a soda jerk (jerk-ess?). She was fired because she kept forgetting to put bananas in banana splits.
* Lucy was born a brunette. She later was a blond model. It wasn't until she was pushing 30 that Lucy first dyed her hair the world-famous red color. She became a redhead to appear in the 1943 movie Du Barry Was a Lady.
* She modeled under the name Dianne Belmont (after the Belmont racetrack.) She usually modeled heavy fur coats because she was so excessively thin as a young girl.
* Lucy had no eyebrows. For her first movie role in Roman Scandals (1933) she shaved her eyebrows off. (She played a slave girl.) They never grew back.
* Her favorite movie role was in The Big Street (1942). Lucy was extremely proud of her performance and she never forgave ASCAP for not nominating her for a Best Actress Academy Award.
* Lucy was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis early in her modeling career. It took her two full years to re-learn how to walk.
* The first time she met future husband Desi Arnaz, Lucy had a black eye and a torn dress. She had been filming a fight scene in the movie Dance, Girl, Dance (1940). Lucy later put on her own clothes and make-up and saw Desi again.
Desi, who at first did not find her attractive, immediately changed his mind. “That's a big hunk o' woman,” he said.
* Lucy was terrified of birds. Because birds were her main phobia, Lucy refused to stay in any hotel room that had pictures of birds or had birds on the wallpaper. No birds or pictures of birds were ever allowed in her home.
* She was superstitious about using the letters "A" and “R.” Lucy considered them good luck.
* In I Love Lucy she played "Lucy Ricardo.” In The Lucy Show she played "Lucy Carmichael.” In Here's Lucy she played "Lucy Carter.” In Life with Lucy she played "Lucy Barker.”
To her, her career was not hugely successful until she became "Lucy Arnaz" after marrying Desi Arnaz.
* Lucy once panhandled for a penny. As a young girl in New York, she once reached in her pocket and found four cents- one cent shy of subway fare. She panhandled on the street for the penny, until a strange man saw her and offered her ten dollars. (The man was implying he wanted "favors" in return for the money.)
“Look mister,” said Lucy, "All I want is one penny!"
* She was the first woman to ever own her own film studio. As in every actress's (or actor's) dream, she bought RKO studios, a studio that had rejected and fired her earlier in her career.
* Lucy did I Love Lucy to keep her marriage together. Lucy wanted to do the series so she would be able to keep her eye on her "wandering" husband, Desi Arnaz, who had an eye for the ladies.
* Henry Fonda was in love with her. According to Fonda's daughter, Jane, her dad fell "deeply in love" with Lucy during the filming of their movie Yours, Mine and Ours (1968). The two were "very close,” recalled Jane (in a Barbara Walters interview).
* She sent Carol Burnett flowers on her birthday. Lucy passed away on April 26, 1989. That day, Carol Burnett received the flowers Lucy had sent her for her birthday.