Anniversary waltz for Lucille Ball, ‘Lucy’

Hollywood celebrates thesp

It’s time to take a moment to remember why we love Lucy.

A number of tributes, exhibits and events are set to mark the twin milestones this year of the 100th anniversary of Lucille Ball’s birth, on Aug. 6, 1911, and the 60th anni of “I Love Lucy’s” debut, on Oct. 15, 1951.

The backstory of “Lucy” and the many achievements of Ball and Desi Arnaz have been well documented, but it’s a legacy of risk-taking, innovation and unparalleled talent that has grown only more impressive with the passage of time.

Through the couple’s insistence on producing a show on film from Los Angeles, rather than live in New York, “Lucy” invented the three-camera sitcom, modern editing techniques and the riches of syndication. And Lucy and Desi owned it all, through Desilu Prods., after spending their own money on a pilot to convince skeptical CBS execs that America would warm to a ditsy redheaded housewife and her Cuban bandleader husband.

Three months after the launch of Desilu in April 1950, Daily Variety reported the first rumblings that the pair were about to produce a “tele pilot film” but were keeping mum on details. The following year, the bet-the-farm gamble that Desilu was taking on “Lucy” was palpable in a full-page launch ad that ran in the Sept. 5, 1951, edition.

Variety’s review of the “Lucy” bow wasn’t a rave, but it hit the mark in noting that the show “should sell lots of cigarettes” for sponsor Philip Morris.

Among the upcoming tributes, the Hollywood Museum on Highland Avenue will unveil an extensive exhibit of Lucy-ana that runs Aug. 4-Nov. 30. Ball’s daughter Lucie Arnaz, “Lucy” editor Dann Cahn and other notables will be on hand for the opening night.

For hardcore enthusiasts, there’s Lucy Fest, which runs Aug. 3-7 in Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., which pays year-round tribute to its famous daughter with the Lucy Desi Center. This year’s festivities include an attempt to set a Guinness Book record for the number of people dressed as Lucy Ricardo.

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