5 THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT LUCY
After almost 70 years of I Love Lucy, Lucille Ball is still one of the most recognizable faces in entertainment. But behind the red curly hair and bright blue eyes, there’s a lot people don’t know about this iconic woman. From childhood tragedies to business milestones, here are some fascinating facts about Lucille Ball.
Born in Jamestown, NY, Lucy suffered tragedy at a young age. Her father died of typhoid fever when she was only three, leaving her mother alone without a job and five months pregnant. DeDe, Lucy’s mom, was only 23 and wasn’t sure how she’d survive.
After living with her grandfather for a few years, DeDe got remarried and left. Though she claimed at the time it was to help her stepdad find work in other cities, DeDe later said that the new man didn’t like kids much and wanted his wife to himself. Lucy was forced to live with her new step grandparents, a puritanical couple that didn’t care for Lucy’s talents. It was an unhappy home and Lucy just wanted her family back.
Thankfully, DeDe left her second husband, came back to Lucy and her brother, and they formed a home in Jamestown with her beloved grandfather, Fred Hunt.
DEDE ENCOURAGED LUCY TO START ACTING…TO GET AWAY FROM A BOY
Lucy started performing at local shows at an earlier age and clearly loved the stage. She wanted to pursue acting, but was temporarily side tracked…by a boy. When she was 14, she started dating a 21-year-old ne’er do well. DeDe did not approve and as the relationship got more serious, she decided to stop it.
DeDe offered to pay for acting school in New York City, partially in hopes that the distance would cool the new relationship. Lucy’s teenage love couldn’t beat the chance to get into show business, so she left town and left her older boyfriend behind forever.
ACTING SCHOOL DID NOT LOVE LUCY
In her autobiography, Lucy talks about her complete failure at acting school. The teachers all praised a big-eyed blonde in class, yet never cared for her. That blonde turned out to be Bette Davis, so at least they got one thing right.
They said she wasn’t photogenic. They said she didn’t have talent. After a few months, Lucy was kicked out. The school was so sure she would never be an actress, they said it was a complete waste of money for her to continue her studies.
LUCY’S FAMILY WAS SUED INTO RUIN
Lucy returned to Jamestown, but wasn’t beaten down. Her expulsion from acting school was only a temporary setback. Unfortunately, her family was about to experience something much worse.
One afternoon, a few kids gathered in Lucy’s backyard to shoot at a target. Her grandfather Fred was very careful about gun safety. He told all the kids to only aim at the target and if anyone was sitting around watching, they had to be perfectly still and not distract the person with the gun. Though tweens playing with guns may still seem overly dangerous, this was a different time and the grandfather took many precautions.
Sadly, one of the children heard his mom calling him from next door and he ran across the lawn…just as they fired the gun. The boy was shot in the spine and paralyzed for life. Fred offered to take care of the child’s medical bills, even though it was an accident, but the parents sued. As the only adult supervising the children, he was held liable and Lucy’s family lost all their money, their house, everything.
LUCY STARTED HER CAREER AS A MODEL NAMED DIANE
With her family in financial ruin, Lucy was even more determined to make it in show business to take care of her family. In 1928, she moved back to New York City and quickly found work as a model. Lucy modeled fancy fur coats, dyed her hair platinum blonde, and changed her name to Diane Belmont.
Her ongoing modeling work greatly helped the family, but Lucy wanted to do a lot more than stand around in fur coats.
ARTHRITIS ALMOST ENDED HER CAREER
Out of the blue, Lucy started feeling extreme pain in her legs. She could barely walk and she certainly couldn’t stand for hours for her modeling job. She returned home to Jamestown and discovered she had an extreme bout of rheumatoid arthritis — in her early 20s! After she recovered, one leg was severely shortened. Lucy had to wear a 20 pound orthopedic shoe to stretch it back out. Thankfully, she fully recovered, went back to New York, and continued her path to stardom.
JUST ANOTHER CHORUS GIRL
At a modeling gig, Lucy got offered a small chorus girl part in a film, so she headed off to Hollywood. This led to a string of small chorus girl roles at RKO and she made enough money to move her family out to California.
Lucy was just as beautiful as the stars of the 1930s, but her willingness to be silly made her stand out. Whenever they needed a girl to do a gag, get covered in mud, or do a pratfall, Lucy was the first to volunteer. She was glamorous and ridiculous, a combo that would soon come in handy.