Here's a fun fact about myself: every day of my life I try to emulate you. No, really, it's the truth. If I am to be perfectly honest, sometimes I see a bit of yourself in me. Oh, I'm no where near as wonderful, but there are occasions where I feel that I can relate to you or understand you. Times where I can be empathetic with moments of your frustration, your passion, your pain. A lot of the time, however, I see the qualities in you that I have always desired and struggled with myself. Your courage, your this is the way I am, take it or leave it attitude, your drive, your perseverance, your patience. I know if you were to read this, you'd shake your head and wouldn't believe it, because you never knew how truly amazing you were. I'm not kidding, either. Each time you walked onto a talk show, an awards ceremony, a television special, game show, whatever it may be - the audience, whose hearts you'd won long ago, gave you a rousing applause and a standing ovation. Each time, you would get this look in your eyes, this special (and rare among celebrities) glisten that seemed to ask, "Is this really for me?" Genuine modesty was a hat you wore well, a trait that came out of your own naivety; you didn't know how great you really were.
Even your inarguable talent: when you won the Emmy for Best Situation Comedy in '53, you and Desi went up to the podium and profusely thanked your writers. "Would it be wrong to have them come up here and accept the award instead?" you said. Years and years later, when you were interviewed by Barbara Walters with Gary now by your side, you brushed aside your abilities. "I don't think funny," you admitted nonchalantly. "I can do funny things if people write them down for me, but I don't think funny." You would say, forget me.You'd argue that the true Queen of Comedy was Carole Lombard and that the funniest girl at parties could never be you but Judy Garland. ("I'm a mortician compared to Judy," you said.)
You were always quick to compliment other performers. You even once told someone, "If you want to see real comedy, don't look at me, watch Vivian Vance!" You never forgot to remind a reporter that Desi wasn't given enough credit for what he had done for I Love Lucy. You were sure to appreciate all fields of talent, from Julie Andrews to Audrey Hepburn to Lily Tomlin, whose comedy you admittedly did not "get", but enjoyed "studying". Even the stars that hurt you, the ones that you didn't get along with as well, the ones that didn't synchronize with your work ethic; never would you say a bad word. When the Richard Burton diaries were published in the early 80s, you ran out and bought a copy before someone could stop you. When you saw what'd he written about you*, I'm sure you felt awful, but you were above ever publicly badmouthing him. You just had such an immense respect and understanding for those with talent and those that honed this talent.
Self pity and luck were foreign ideas to you. Your morals lay in family, love, generosity, hard work, and loyalty. Perhaps it was loyalty that was one of your very strongest suits, and God, is it one of the things I love most about you, a quality I appreciate most often in people. When you liked someone, you loved them, and you never let them suffer in any sort of way as long as you were there to do something about it. Whenever someone helped you out in the slightest, you never forgot it. You kept the same employees for decades, at home or at the studio. I've read of so many occasions where you were assisted by someone during your movie career in the 40's, and later these people, or even their kin, got a job on I Love Lucy. Even their most minor of merits to you were rewarded; the director Mark Sandrich rearranged the few lines you had as a flower shop clerk in Top Hat so it worked better for you, and his kindness was never forgotten. When Mark's son was fresh out of the army in the 50's, he was given a job as an assistant director on Lucy.*
And if there had been the loyalty to your employees and your friends, there was even greater the one you had your family. They were dependent upon you, and you always took care of them: your mother and your brother and your grandparents and your cousin. I'm always touched by how truly important they were to you - and all that you did for them, which you never even thought twice about, because the fact that they loved you was reason enough. You were the kind of a woman that never let any act of generosity, kindness, or love go unnoticed.
You were one for the centuries, a woman with a drive and a deep passion; passion for the ones you loved, for your work, for your fans. You really were an every woman, and I'm not even kidding. Maybe the role you played best was at work, in your environment. But I know for certain that your favorite was as a domestic - as a wife, and as a mother - "I'd like to be remembered best as a good wife and mother," you once told a newspaper. You were raised with the classic virtues of your generation, values I think you cherished very much, but none the less defied. You grew up in a culture where it was the norm for a woman to depend upon a man, and though I believe that deep down you wanted that sense of protection very much so, there was something about you that couldn't help rebel against it. How could you not? Your own mother, DeDe, was a single mother (and of course, your various relatives, especially your grandparents, played a huge part in your rearing but all the while, when your father died she was left a single mother, a term so rare in those days), strong and independent.
You came from a society that would have expected you to marry an older man and have many children quite young, but both of your husbands were younger than you - and you didn't have Lucie until you were thirty nine (obviously, this wasn't by your choice, but still). If you don't think that's something you necessarily have to be proud about, it is. In the decades since the liberation of women, each generation would like to think they gave birth to women like you who redefined the standard, but let's face it: you were doing it back in the 50's! And to top it off, you were a businesswoman; oh, I know, you didn't take on much of the financial aspects of running Desilu until later, but you did. Don't you see? You were "the every woman" long before the expression had ever been coined; the first woman to appear as pregnant on television and also the first to run her own studio. What was best of it all was you didn't do all of these things to make a particular point or to have a certain distinction; you were just being yourself.
And you mean a lot to me. Really, you do. You don't know how wonderful it is for me to take comfort in the fact that whenever I've had a bad day or am feeling upset for whatever reason, all I have to do is just think of you to feel better. Not just because you make me laugh and smile (which OBVIOUSLY you do), but also because I remember how strong and brave you were. You really had courage and you truly knew how to persevere. You never gave up. You never did. And you inspire me to to the same. There is a quote of yours, "You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world," and whenever I'm feeling sick of myself or disappointed, I try to remember that.
I hope you knew how loved you were, how loved you still are. Entertainers are appreciated, respected, and well liked - but few have been adored to your extent. In 1986, with your final show not catching on in popularity, I'm sometimes afraid that in the end you didn't realize how much we love you. But you really were the most beloved performer. Hell, you even took the number one spot in a list of deceased stars (according to a poll anyways) that Americans wished were still alive. I Love Lucy is still considered the best show of all time. You gave in an interview to Johnny Carson, in about the late 70s, I guess, and he asked you, "Isn't it incredible to know that fifty years from now people will still be watching you?" You kidded him, you scoffed, you rolled your eyes as you laughed that that wouldn't be true. But it is. The "I" in I Love Lucy was originally intended to be Ricky/Desi, and it was, always, but soon the "I" became each one of us: we all fell in love with Lucy Ricardo, and then with you.
My favorite episode of Lucy, though very nearly impossible to pick, is the one where you told Ricky - Desi - that you were expecting a baby. When you and Desi cried at the end*, and your emotions were real, it is to me (and trust me, many others as well) the most sentimental moment in television history. Each time I watch it I'm moved; even the first time, when I didn't know the history behind that scene, I was touched entirely. And one can't help but become emotional even more so when they know of the miscarriages* you had.
Which brings me to say, your life was never easy; far from it. You prided yourself, I think, as being a tough girl who could handle whatever was thrown at her, and you did - but I know that there was a greater part of you that was deep, sentimental, vulnerable.. and that side of you, to me, is one of your most endearing qualities as an actress and as a human. I say as a actress (and especially as a comedienne) because you brought this vitality to your characters; a warmth, a particular lovable factor that made it impossible not to sympathize with the roles you played. Even when Lucy Ricardo was being absolutely ridiculous or made the biggest of goofs, we always wanted everything to turn out okay for her in the end - and there's that satisfaction in knowing it always did. Lucy, you forever gave us the happy ending, even when you didn't always get to have one yourself...
"I was no beauty, that's for sure," you once said, but don't deny it. You were gorgeous, inside and out. Oh, an incredible cliche for sure, and it sounds cheesy as hell, but it is true. You had eyes and a smile that seemed to make your emotions transparent even when you weren't speaking a word, and I think the best examples of that are times that had to do with Desi. The end of Lucy is Enceinte - Ricky and Lucy disappeared, you and Desi took the stage. Then there was the time you danced to "Cheek to Cheek" in the following episode; you two didn't cry, but the joy, bliss, and happiness shone through so obviously on your faces that even as a little girl I could see it. Fast forwarding years and years to the Kennedy Center Awards in '86; Desi had died just a few days before and you'd come straight to D.C. after his funeral. Robert Stack came onto the stage bearing a letter, written by Desi, expressing the words he had wanted to be there in person to say. As Robert Stack spoke, your eyes began to well up with tears and your lips trembled - so much so you covered your face with your hand. You weren't acting at the time, but your composure was what you struggled to retain, and you fought to do so, but in the end as you quietly cried, stricken with emotion, all your feelings became crystal clear. "I Love Lucy," he finished, "was never just a title."
Your home movies, the ones taken in the 40s and 50s, are some of my favorite footage of you. Because I feel that those clips show the real you, the you that no biography could ever possibly put into the words. The girl in those movies is a total and utter summary of why you're my favorite person. Running up to the camera to say hello, waving and grinning. Showing off your legs in a swimsuit, cuddling with your cats and your dogs, dressing up in crazy costumes. Making your silly 'Lucy' faces, sitting and smiling quietly, playing with and hugging your children. Then there's you and Desi: embracing and kissing, mouthing "I love you, I love you" to one another, licking the frosting off of Lucie's hands on her first birthday, him biting your cheek playfully, standing at the church in your second wedding, and then proudly with your completed family in 1953: Desi, Jr. in your hands and Lucie in his. I've read that even after you had divorced Desi, even after the kids had grown up, and you had settled into your senior years, you still loved to show those old movies in your living room, over and over. You never got sick of them and I know why you loved them best: because those movies showed who you really were, and what made you that way.
Let me finish this letter by thanking you. Thank you for the millions of laughs and smiles you've given us; and to me, personally. Thank you for making this world a just a little brighter. Thank you for giving me a role model. Thank you for always being me there for me. Thank you for cheering me up when nothing else can. Thank you for being the best. Thank you for changing my life.
You are my favorite and always will be.
I didn't have to write so much... I didn't really have to write all of this, because it could have all been summarized in three words: "I love you." I do. I love you.
All the love in the world,
*1: Richard Burton & Lucy (as well as Elizabeth) worked together for an episode of Here's Lucy. Burton and Lucy clashed, and later Burton wrote a disgusting monlogue about her in his diaries, which were published posthomously after his death. An avid reader of celebrity biographies & autobiographies, Lucy was quick to buy a copy.
*2: Jay Sandrich would go on to work on such notable shows as The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Cosby Show, & The Golden Girls.
*3: Lucy had three miscarriages before giving birth to Lucie in 1951, just a month short of her fortieth birthday.
*4: Their tears here were unscripted. As they had struggled so much to have children, when they had Lucie they were sure they would have no more, and when taping they became overwhelmed with the emotions of being blessed with not just one, but two children. Embarrassed, they called for a second take, but the audience stood up and protested. The original filming is what aired and continues to air.
Okay, there's my overly emotional entry. Now, remember, it's not too late to write your letter and send your links into: firstname.lastname@example.org. It doesn't have to be as long as mine. Write even a paragraph if you'd like; the more entries the merrier! ...Also, I want to apologize, to all of you readers & especially Marcela and Nat, because I was supposed to have this letter up yesterday, but thanks to a change in my plans, faulty Internet connection, my own stupidity, this didn't go up until about a day... and a half later then I promised. Thus, I pretty much derailed everything. I'm so sorry, dahhlings.
You can see all of today's submissions here. There will be more to come on Monday & Tuesday. Thanks so much for participating guys!!! xxx