A long, long time ago, back before Titanic or The Simpsons or Friends or Kanye West (all of my sick obsessions), I loved a little show called I Love Lucy. I loved I Love Lucy so much that I saw every episode (EXCEPT ONE, STILL TO THIS DAY) even before it was easy to see every episode of something. I saw every episode of I Love Lucy thanks to a combination of episodes taped off the television by my mother (because Lucy is her ultimate favorite) and that beloved ol’ Nick at Nite. Thank you, Block Party Summer! I’m pretty sure Tuesday nights were the greatest because my cousin and I would stay up until I literally fell asleep (and she would wake me up—because she’s a night owl and I am so not—by sticking cookies in my mouth) watching our favorite characters—Lucy and Ethel. Nicole was so Lucy and I was so Ethel, but since I have really come into my own as an adult, I have never been called a sidekick again. Plus, Lucille Ball was a Leo, and I don’t know if you guys know this, but I am, as well. A proud, feisty Leonine woman. Hear us roar, baby. But seriously, I Love Lucy paved the way for the wonderful world of public television. It was a lot of Firsts, and a lot of Lasts, as well. Never again could we replicate such a dynamic television program, and never again would we even really want to. With no further ado:
EINTKILF I Love Lucy
1. Be cool around famous people.
Some of the most uproarious episodes of Lucy come when the gang moves to Hollywood, California for a stint because Ricky is filming a movie. Lucy always gets crazy around famous people (good grief, I can relate), which always ends up in some humiliating, yet always resolved circumstances. As a young’un, I learned to hide from famous people otherwise you may end up wearing a fake nose to disguise yourself because you previously pied Bill Holden in the face.
“Would you like some rock, Mr. Candy?” Ethel
No, but seriously, true story: last year Tyra Banks came into a Seattle Starbucks I worked at. I simply recognized her voice, freaked out as I bagged up a mini peanut butter cupcake she was purchasing, clocked off and ran down the pier trying to find my boyfriend to tell him what happened. I cannot handle myself in the face of fame!
2. Never sneak cheese onto an airplane.
When the Ricardos and Mertzes are leaving Europe, they last minute decide to take a plane instead of a boat. Because Lucy is, well, Lucy, she has already packed half of Europe with her and cannot quite afford all of her carry-ons. (Imagine it in this day and age!) Because babies cost twenty dollars less than the typical carry-on, Lucy decides to pretend her huge hunk of cheese is a baby instead. When she thinks she may be busted, Lucy decides she and Ethel must eat the cheese in the middle of the night. This naturally freaks out the lady Lucy has been sitting next to the entire flight who then thinks Lucy has killed her child. The moral of the story? When I was a kid, I was always like, damn, I want all of that cheese. Maybe I will try it sometime—though I am sure it is an arrestable offense these days to A) pretend your cheese is your child (hey, I love dairy!) and/or B) lie about something so preposterous.
3. It is not messy, it is lived in!
To prove a point about how messy Ricky is, Lucy decides to split their apartment into halves—of course, because it is I Love Lucy—everything backfires when a magazine photographer comes to visit the Ricardo household and Lucy has utterly embarrassed herself by dressing up like a transient, basically. The main point is, however, that I have always agreed with Ricky on the issue. (Un-shockingly, since I am a total messcat.) There are fifty million things to stress out about in the world, and a clean home should never be on the very top of your list. Maybe like…fourth.
“There’s nothing sloppy about this room. It just looks lived in.” Ricky
4. Don’t get drunk at work.
You have seen the one—you know the one. The good ol’ Vitameatavegamin episode that has forevermore been quoted and cited and praised like it should. My grandmother is a total hippie and thus my mother is a total (kind of) hippie and when we were younger, we never took real medicine, only herbal supplement crap. The best thing about this aspect of my childhood was the amount of “Vitameatavegamin” I consumed, which was actually a thick honey-like cough suppressant that did nothing for a cough, but tasted way more bomb than cherry flavored gag syrup. The main point of all of that commentary is that I can recite Lucy’s speech backwards because I used to make my brother pretend he was the commercial director and I would pretend I was Lucy and as I drank more and more honey-like cough suppressant, I would get fake drunker and drunker. (I am so good at acting drunk. I should be an actress.) Lucy taught me getting drunk at work is a bad idea. Probably. It actually looks kind of fun.
Also, I challenge any television show to ever be as funny as this episode. I have not seen it since, and this came on in 1952.
5. How not to make homemade bread.
The most delightful thing about the episode “Pioneer Women” is the fact that Lucy and Ethel are demanding “modern conveniences,” while their husbands believe that they can all live without anything invented before 1900. Can you even imagine living for even a day without anything invented in the past fifty years?! I cannot even imagine living a day without my smart phone, nonetheless my cell phone, and I don’t even have an iPhone or anything really fancy.
Ew. What a diva. I can certainly live without a dishwasher, though, unlike Lucy and Ethel’s argument in favor of “modern conveniences.” I know how to sponge up, thank you very much.
The ladies learn how to churn their own butter, bake their own bread (which is when I learned that thirteen cakes of yeast is way too many unless you are feeding a studio audience!) and dress like, well, “pioneer women.”
Dammit, now I want cheese and bread.
6. Everyone’s job is hard.
In another classic Husband vs. Wife episode, Ricky and Fred challenge Lucy and Ethel to get “real jobs” and they will do housework instead. After a bit of job searching, Lucy and Ethel get hired working at a candy factory. Naturally, Ricky and Fred totally mess up dinner and dessert while Lucy and Ethel end up in a terrible conveyor belt incident in which they have to stuff tons of chocolate into their hats and blouses and mouths. (Real bummer.) In the sixth grade, for a report I gave on Lucille Ball, I reenacted this scene. It killed the audience, and I got to eat a ton of Hershey’s Kisses. Best day ever.
Oh, the lesson! Housewives work hard too, and candy shops are not all Willy Wonka-like, guys. Stop judging each other.
7. Never do business with friends.
The Ricardos sell the Mertzes their old washing machine, which unfortunately breaks down the next day. Since they had not actually exchanged money yet, Fred insists that the deal is not done, though Ricky fights back with the whole “possessions is nine tenths of the law” argument. When Mrs. Trumbull (that wonderful babysitter/neighbor of theirs)’s nephew wants to fix the machine and buy it for fifty dollars, everyone wants it back. One thing leads to another and the poor washing machine ends up over the porch railing, in no one’s possession. The families make up, and everyone remains friends, but there is a great lesson here: money between friends is pretty much always a terrible idea. And, I guess, don’t sell your friends broken machinery.
8. Don’t move to the country!
…because, in my opinion, the episodes in the country are the most boring, besides the one with the brick laying. Hilarious. City > country. I know I’m a big city girl, but come on. The country is boring.
9. How to have the best birthday party.
Lucy tries to top Little Ricky’s friend’s birthday party to assure that more people will come to his fifth birthday shindig. What better way to accomplish a feat like stealing kids from a party with clowns and magicians than by hiring Superman himself? (Real George Reeves!) Naturally, Lucy counts her chickens before they hatch and has to dress up like Superman herself—which results in her getting trapped outside on the apartment ledge while the real Superman entertains the children.
“You mean to say that you’ve been married to her for fifteen years? And they call me Superman!” Superman
10. Be yourself.
The best part of Lucy Ricardo, or Lucille Ball, or any character she ever portrayed was her authenticity. Even if you are a totally crazy, flamboyant, grandiose, adventurous, opinionated human being, just rock it. Nothing like being yourself. Nothing like it.
I need to say one more slight thing that I learned from I Love Lucy. Especially right now, in another height of our nation suffering from inequality when it comes to love– when her show was taken from radio to television, Ball refused to act on the show without her real life husband Desi Arnaz, even though no one really wanted to promote the bi-racial/bi-cultural couple when it was so taboo back in the 1950s. Lucy stuck to her guns, of course, and the show is arguably still the most famous sitcom of all time. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all stood up for love, as well? I learned that from her, too. As the product of a bi-racial marriage, I was always a huge fan of Lucy and Desi for that. Love rules.
Thanks, Lucy. Happy birthday!