Remember the I Love Lucy episode in which a famous Italian director casts Lucy in his movie called “Bitter Grapes”?
She assumes the movie is about wine making and sets out into the countryside to immerse herself in the role. It doesn’t take long for Lucy to find a vineyard and is quickly put to work in a vat stomping grapes. She turns the job into a dance, but soon discovers it isn’t so much fun and wants to quit. Her bossy co-worker won’t allow it and soon there is an all-out “fistful of grapes being flung” war.
Lucy falls down. This time, she isn’t quitting. The fight is on.
Her own life could have been a metaphor for that scene. Like other famous people who failed before they succeeded – Lucille Ball picked herself back up after falling, time and time again.
When she was three years old, Lucy’s father died of typhoid fever. Although her family was poor, at the age of 15, she convinced her mother to let her attend a New York City drama school. But when she got there, she found herself too nervous to perform.
According to biography.com, Lucy explained, “I was a tongue-tied teenager spellbound by the school’s star pupil, Bette Davis,”. The school finally wrote her mother, “Lucy’s wasting her time and ours. She’s too shy and reticent to put her best foot forward.”
Lucy wouldn’t give up that easily and returned to New York City where she landed jobs as a fashion model. That venture came to an end after she contracted rheumatic fever and was too ill to work for the next two years. When she recovered, Lucy found chorus work on Broadway, but was eventually let go. She went on, in the 1940’s, to have so many supporting roles in B movies that she was considered “Queen of the B’s”.
But by 1950, Lucy had become a star on the popular CBS radio show My Favorite Husband. She and her real life husband, Desi Arnaz, founded Desilu Productions that same year and wanted to take the radio show to television. And in 1951, I Love Lucy was born.
She was 40 years old when the show debuted on national television. It was Lucy who pioneered the use of a live studio audience and her show became the most successful and longest running comedy series in TV history. It lives on in syndication around the world.
Lucy was as business smart as she was funny. Through Desilu, she helped to create shows that she knew would resonate with audiences, including Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and The Andy Griffith Show. And after she and Desi divorced in 1960, Lucy bought and ran the company.
For her legendary accomplishments she earned four Emmy Awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Kennedy Center Honors as well as other accolades.
Lucy once remarked, “I’m not funny. What I am is brave.”
We’re brave too when we put our best foot forward and take risks to better our lives. Even bitter grapes couldn’t stop Lucy from immersing herself into fun, new adventures. They shouldn’t stop us either.