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The world still loves ‘I Love Lucy’

Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) and Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) spend Christmas Eve with their friends the Mertzes and share memories in "The I Love Lucy Christmas Special," a rediscovered program not seen on television in its entirety since Christmas Eve 1956, on CBS.  (CBS)
Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) and Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) spend Christmas Eve with their friends the Mertzes and share memories in "The I Love Lucy Christmas Special," a rediscovered program not seen on television in its entirety since Christmas Eve 1956, on CBS. (CBS)

Sixty-nine years ago Thursday, on Oct. 15, 1951, “I Love Lucy” premiered, introducing the world at large to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Both seasoned performers before “I Love Lucy,” Ball and Arnaz cemented their places in entertainment history while portraying Lucy and Ricky Ricardo in the series that ran from 1951-1957.

In honor of the beloved show, Oct. 15 has been declared National “I Love Lucy” Day. Credited with being the longest-broadcasted TV show of all time, reruns can be seen on late-night networks including the Hallmark Channel, TBS, Nick at Nite and TV Land.

To celebrate National “I Love Lucy” Day, grab your Vitameatavegamin and chocolates, and cue the reruns. Read these facts about Ball and Arnaz, from their time on and off the show, to be even more prepared.

Ball wasn’t a natural redhead.

While known for her trademark red hair, Lucille Ball was actually a brunette. She first dyed her hair blonde while working as a model for Hattie Carnegie. Then in the early ‘50s, at MGM’s request, she dyed her hair “golden apricot,” as her stylist Irma Kusely called the color. Apparently, Kusely used a special henna rinse to achieve the perfect hue.

Ball was the first pregnant woman to play a pregnant woman on television.

The writers wrote Ball’s second pregnancy with her son, Desi Arnaz Jr., into the show. On “I Love Lucy,” the child was affectionately known as Little Ricky. According to Biography, more people tuned in to watch the episode featuring the birth of Little Ricky than President Eisenhower’s inauguration ceremonies.

“I Love Lucy” starred the first interracial couple on screen.

In another first, Ball and Arnaz were the first interracial couple on television. Ball insisted her then-husband, the Cuban-American Arnaz, play her husband on the show. The pair married in 1940 and divorced in 1960. By all accounts, the pair had a close friendship even after their divorce.

Ball was the first woman to head a major production company.

After buying Arnaz out of their Desilu Productions, Ball became the first woman to head a major Hollywood production company. During Desilu’s 17-year run, the company produced a number of shows, including “I Love Lucy,” “The Lucy Show,” “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” “Star Trek,” “Mission: Impossible” and “The Untouchables.” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “My Three Sons,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “Hogan’s Heroes,” among many others, were filmed at Desilu.

Arnaz and his family fled Cuba for Miami.

Though Arnaz came from a wealthy family, life was not easy for the young Arnaz. His father was the mayor of Santiago de Cuba and served in the Cuban House of Representatives, but after the Cuban Revolution of 1933, the family’s property was confiscated, and the actor’s father had to serve six months in prison. Soon after, the teenage Arnaz and his family made their way to Miami.

Arnaz led an orchestra in real life.

While Ricky Ricardo led the band at the Tropicana Club on screen, Arnaz led the Desi Arnaz Orchestra in real life. Arnaz’s band performed as the Tropicana Club band. They also scored the background and transitional music in “I Love Lucy.”

Arnaz helped create the modern sitcom format.

Arnaz, along with cinematographer Karl Freund, is credited with bringing the multiple-camera production technique to TV shows. “I Love Lucy” used three cameras at once, multiple sets and a live studio audience. The show also was one of the first to be filmed on 35-mm film.

Arnaz and Ball also created the idea of reruns.

As the story goes, after Ball had the couple’s second child, old episodes of “I Love Lucy” were aired to allow Ball and Arnaz time to rest and be with their children. These episodes proved to be so popular, even though audiences had already seen them, that other series followed suit, and the concept of reruns was born.

Arnaz limited his screen time post-“I Love Lucy.”

After the show ended, Arnaz stepped out of the spotlight and moved behind the scenes. He executive produced “The Lucy Show” and the show “The Mothers-in-Law,” appearing in four episodes as Señor Delgado, a Spanish matador. He also hosted “Saturday Night Live” in 1976 to promote his autobiography, “A Book.”

Ball, Arnaz and “I Love Lucy” live on.

At the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, aka the Lucy Desi Museum, in Jamestown, New York, fans of the adored stars and the show can view memorabilia from Ball and Arnaz, props from “I Love Lucy” and Desilu Studios and an exact replication of the Tropicana Club. Arnaz died in 1986 and Ball in 1989.

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