October 2011


101 (+1) I Love Lucy Facts

I Love Lucy began entertaining millions 60 years ago this month and continues doing so in re-runs around the world today. From the LucyDesi Center in Jamestown, NY, here’s a list of 101 I Love Lucy facts.

1. The "I Love Lucy" show debuted in 1951 and continued until 1957.

2. The face of Lucille Ball has been seen by more people, more often, than the face of any other person who ever lived!

3. "I Love Lucy" continues to be enjoyed in more than 77 countries. The show is dubbed in 22 different languages!

4. "I Love Lucy" originally aired on Monday nights.

5. The original sponsor of the show was the Philip Morris company.

6. The main characters were Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, played by real-life husband-and-wife Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

7. The supporting actors were Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz and William Frawley as her husband Fred.

8. The Ricardo's landlords were the Mertzes.

9. "I Love Lucy" was one of the first TV shows shot on 35mm film.

10. The film--unlike kinescope, which deteriorates very quickly--endured, making "I Love Lucy" reruns possible right up to the present.

The stars of I Love Lucy--Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, William Frawley, and Vivan Vance--at NORD's Lyons Center, November 26, 1956. Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel were in town to attend the New Orleans Crippled Children's Hospital's annual ball at the Roosevelt Hotel. During a busy day before the ball, they were made honorary citizens for the day in the City Council Chambers, received the keys to the city and had sandwiches and coffee in the Mayor's Parlor, and enjoyed lunch and a tour aboard the Dock Board's yacht, the Good Neighbor, and they appeared at the Lyons Center before a crowd of 5000 NORD kids and golden-agers in an informal half-hour performance. This photograph was taken for the Item.

11. "I Love Lucy" was filmed on a converted movie sound stage.

12. A live audience of 300 attended each taping.

13. The first filming took place on Saturday, September 8, 1951.

14. Lucille Ball received an Emmy award for Best Comedienne in 1952.

15. In the '50's, true-blue Lucy fans could buy living room and bedroom furniture patterned after the furniture used on the show.

16. "Vitameatavegamin"--the health tonic Lucy promoted in a TV commercial--included vitamins, meat, vegetables, and minerals.

17. "Vitameatavegamin" contained 23% alcohol.

18. Working with the legendary Karl Freund, Desi Arnaz pioneered the three-camera technique that became the standard for TV sitcoms.

19. When Lucille Ball became pregnant in 1952, the unprecedented decision was made to write the pregnancy into the show.

20. It was decided that, no matter what the actual sex of the Arnaz baby, the Ricardo baby would be a boy.

21. When the Ricardo's TV son Ricky was born, more people watched that episode than watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

22. Lucille Ball once said she never thought she was funny, she was just being honest.

23. The scripts for the pregnancy episodes were reviewed by a priest, a minister, and a rabbi to be sure they were inoffensive.

24. Lucy belonged to a woman's club named the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Arts League.

25. Lucy wrote an operetta for the Wednesday Afternoon Fine Art League entitled "The Pleasant Peasant."

26. Lucy played the Queen of the Gypsies and Ethel played Lily of the Valley in the operetta "The Pleasant Peasant."

27. "I Love Lucy" paved the way for such great comediennes as Phyllis Diller, Imogene Coca, Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett, and Lily Tomlin.

28. The first nightclub Ricky worked in was the Tropicana.

29. Later, Ricky bought the Tropicana and renamed it Club Babalu.

30. Lucy and Ethel briefly worked in Kramer's Kandy Kitchen as candy wrappers.

Lorenzo Xavier Vegas (Desi) serenades his wife Suzan (Lucy) in the couple’s 1956 romantic comedy, Forever Darling

31. Once, Lucy impersonated the Maharincess of Franistan in an effort to bolster Ricky's nightclub career.

32. Fred Mertz was an old vaudevillian, half of the Mertz and Kertz team.

33. Little Ricky's dog was named Fred in honor of Fred Mertz.

34. In one show, when Lucy thought the building was on fire, the first articles she tried to save were jugs of henna rinse.

35. Lucy and Ricky were once hired to do a husband-and-wife morning show for Phipps Department Store.

36. Lucy Ricardo's maiden name was McGillicuddy.

37. Ricky Ricardo, like Desi Arnaz, was born in Cuba.

38. Lucy's mother called Ricky "Mickey."

39. The Ricardos and Mertzes drove to Hollywood in a 1955 Pontiac convertible.

40. In "Ricky's European Booking," Ricky sings the theme song from the 1956 Lucy-Desi movie, Forever, Darling.

41. One of Lucy's souvenirs from their Hollywood stay was a tin can run over by Cary Grant's car.

42. Ethel Mertz grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

43. Ethel actually had three middle names during the history of the show (Louise, Mae, and Roberta).

44. During the show's last season, the Ricardos moved from New York City to Westport, Connecticut.

45. Lucy Ricardo's hometown on the show was Jamestown, New York, the real hometown of Lucille Ball.

46. In one of her many writing attempts, Lucy wrote a play about a Cuban tobacco picker--"A Tree Grows in Havana."

47. Lucy once played a petunia in a school play.

48. In "Lucy Meets Orson Welles," Lucy bragged to the great actor that she played Juliet in a high school production.

49. Ricky's name was misspelled as "Bacardi" on their marriage license, prompting Lucy to insist that they be remarried.

50. The Ricardo's apartment lease specifically prohibited children, but an exception was made for Little Ricky.

51. Writers Madelyn Pugh and Bob Carroll gave silver dollars to cast members who caused a spontaneous audience reaction.

52. The "I Love Lucy" theme song lyrics were sung only once--by Ricky, in the "Lucy's Last Birthday" episode.

53. After Little Ricky's birth, the Ricardos moved to a larger apartment, 3-B, in the same building.

54. The Ricardo's resided at 623 East 68th Street, New York City.

55. If real, that address would have been in the East River.

56. One of their phone numbers was Murray Hill 5-9975.

57. In the episode entitled "Lucy Tells the Truth," she admitted that her hair was really "mousy brown."

58. In one show, after Ricky told Lucy to stay away from his nightclub, she disguised herself with a lampshade to try to get in anyway.

59. Lucy Ricardo wrote a book, Real Gone with the Wind, and considered writing a sequel, Sugar Cane Mutiny.

How did Lucy and Ricky meet? The answer came in Episode 1 of Season 7, in the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour installment titled ‘Lucy Takes a Cruise To Havana.’ In a flashback to 1940 we find Lucy McGillicuddy and her best friend Susie MacNamara (guest star Ann Sothern whose character makes a crossover appearance from her CBS show Private Secretary) cruising Havana, where they encounter two tour guides, Ricky Ricardo and his pal, Carlos Garcia (guest star Cesar Romero, who once claimed he slept with Desi). Plenty of Havana high-jinks soon ensue, with second honeymooners Fred and Ethel Mertz and popular crooner Rudy Vallee (as himself) along for the wild ride. In this scene, Ricky serenades Lucy, whom he has just met, with ‘That Means I Love You’ and engages her in a conga duel.

60. Along with Tennessee Ernie Ford, Lucy, Ricky, Ethel, and Fred appeared as "Ernie Ford and His Four Hot Chicken Pickers" on TV.

61. In an episode that saw the Ricardos sailing for Europe, Lucy and her partner, schoolboy Kenneth Hamilton, won the ship's Ping-Pong tournament.

62. Desi Arnaz had such a great memory he could memorize his lines in one reading of the script.

63. On their European trip, the Ricardos visited the ancestral village of Lucy's family, the McGillicuddys, in Kildoonan, Scotland.

64. Fred and Ethel were Little Ricky's godparents.

65. The "I Love Lucy" show won five Emmy awards.

66. The pilot for "I Love Lucy" wasn't about the Ricardos at all--but about Lucy and Larry Lopez.

67. During Lucy's TV pregnancy, the word "pregnancy" was never used. Instead, she was "expecting" (or as Ricky said, "specting").

68. Actor Ross Elliot was so devoted to "I Love Lucy," he postponed his wedding to appear in an episode.

69. Vivian Vance won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in 1954.

70. Scripts for the show's episodes usually ran about 50 pages.

71. Actress Doris Singleton played Lucy's friend Carolyn Appleby.

72. Although "I Love Lucy" opened to generally favorable reviews, not everyone was impressed.

73. Less than a day after the first show aired, the sponsor tried to find a way to get out of the contract, but reconsidered.

74. Lucille Ball was a perfectionist, and almost all of the show's scenes were the result of painstaking rehearsal, not ad-libs.

75. Desi Arnaz did the "warm-up" of the studio audience before shows.

76. An actual candy maker named Amanda Milligan appeared with Lucy in the classic episode entitled "Job Switching."

77. In the spring of 1953, "Little Ricky" was portrayed by twins Richard Lee and Ronald Lee Simmons.

78. The names of Lucy's and Desi's real-life friends were often used for characters in the show.

79. Keith Thibodeaux joined the cast of "I Love Lucy" during its final season as Little Ricky. Keith was the only Little Ricky who had speaking lines.

In ‘Ricky Minds The Baby,’ Episode 14, Season 3 (aired January 18, 1954), Ricky decides Lucy deserves a break from her household duties, so he offers to take care of Little Ricky. Lucy, Ethel and Fred sneak in to catch Ricky telling the tyke a bedtime story in Spanish, ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’ A classic scene, with Desi in legendary form.

80. The first issue of TV Guide featured Lucille Ball and Desi IV on the cover with the headline, "Lucy's $50,000,000 Baby."

81. In only its second season, "I Love Lucy" attracted 45 million viewers.

82. Jess Oppenheimer, Bob Carroll, Jr., and Madelyn Pugh wrote the show in its early years.

83. Ms. Pugh insured that the gags written for Lucille Ball could actually be done by a woman.

84. William Frawley had a clause in his contract allowing him to take time off to attend the World Series when the Yankees were playing.

85. Ed Sullivan's entire Toast of the Town show on October 3, 1954, was a tribute to "I Love Lucy."

86. The show's scriptwriters used key words to refer to Lucy's trademark expressions, among them "Puddling Up" and "Foiled Again."

87. The Ricardo's neighbor, Mrs. Trumbull, (played by Elizabeth Patterson), babysat for Little Ricky.

88. For the episode "Pioneer Women," a metal shop custom-built a pan for the eight-foot long loaf of bread that shot out of Lucy's oven.

89. After filming "Pioneer Women," the crew cut up the eight foot loaf of rye and divided it among themselves.

90. Little Ricky was born January 19, 1953.

91. The pilot episode cost $19,000 to produce.

92. "I Love Lucy" was so popular on Monday nights that department stores changed their late shopping evening from Monday to Thursday.

93. The original title of "I Love Lucy" was "The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz TV Show."

94. In one episode, Lucy--who had been snooping--escaped from a neighbor's apartment by putting on a slipcover and disguising herself as a chair.

‘The Diner,’ Episode 27, Season 3, aired April 26, 1954, after a falling out over their respective duties as business partners, the Ricardos go head-to-head against the Mertzes in the diner business. The Ricardo's side of the diner was called A Little Bit of Cuba; the Mertzes' half was called A Big Hunk of America.

95. On the average, 93 people worked on each "I Love Lucy" episode.

96. The audience for "I Love Lucy" sat on grandstand bleachers erected by a scaffolding company.

97. Federal Maritime Board officials so liked two episodes that took place on an ocean liner, they requested-and received-copies of the films to promote the Merchant Marine.

98. At the time of Lucille Ball's death in 1989, "I Love Lucy" was appearing in over 80 countries in syndication.

99. On March 1, 1953, Jack Gould of the New York Times commented that "I Love Lucy" was so successful because "It's very human--and so are we."

100. The first episode, entitled "The Girls Want to Go to a Night Club," aired October 15, 1951.

101. The last episode aired on May 6, 1957, "The Ricardos Dedicate a Statue."

from the LucyDesi Center, Jamestown, NY

And a bonus fact, courtesy TheBluegrassSpecial.com:

102. Insisting that the show be in “basic good taste,” Desi Arnaz banned from I Love Lucy scripts all ethnic jokes and any humor based on mental or physical handicaps, and allowed jokes about Ricky Ricardo’s accent only in the form of Lucy’s mimicking of it.

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