by Gina Sestak
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Lucy-Desi Center in Jamestown New York, which has two museums devoted to the late great comedy stars. Why Jamestown, you may ask? Because Lucille Ball, like Lucy Ricardo nee McGillicuddy, was born and raised in Jamestown.
If you're anything like me, you have dozens of episodes of I Love Lucy stashed in your memory. Lucy tipsy from tasting Vitameatavegamin or trying to conceal chocolate in her hat. Ricky demanding she "''splain" or beating out Babalou on his conga drum. These images all look something like this:
Black and white. After watching the show for so many years, it just seemed natural to think the Mertzes and Ricardos lived in shades of gray. Imaging my surprise when I saw the actual costumes and sets -- they were in vivid color!
What an eye opener! Now I'm forced to suspect that James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart didn't tool around in grey cars and that Veronica Lake didn't really have white hair.
As writers, I think we need these moments in which our perception of the world shifts, these moments that broaden our perspectives.
I'm not only talking about visual perception. I Love Lucy seems so tame by today's standards that it's sometimes hard to remember how cutting edge it was for the time. That show was very controversial -- it depicted a "mixed marriage" - a white woman wedded to a Latino man, which was then still illegal in some states. It was also the first tv show to openly feature pregnancy, which up until that time had been hidden away and only hinted at. Lucy flaunted her big belly, wearing maternity clothes and even cross-dressing to disguise herself as a paunchy male reporter to crash Ricky's baby shower. America was shocked, but then America got used to it.
And this is the essence of what art can do -- a seemingly simple set of black and white performances can change the way we see the world.