The Lesson Of Scary Lucy

Lucille Ball originally came from Celoron, New York, a small town in the western part of the state.  Celoron decided to celebrate its most famous citizen by commissioning a life-size statue of the legendary TV sitcom star of the ’50s and ’60s, who was one of the most gifted physical comedians of all time.  No doubt Celoron also hoped to spur visits to the town by diehard fans of the star.

Unfortunately, what Celoron got was “Scary Lucy,” a large bronze piece that bears no resemblance whatsoever to the familiar redhead.  And it’s not because it is an abstract modern art piece, where achieving an actual likeness of the subject is not the principal goal.  No, the statue is, in fact, an attempt at a faithful representation of Lucille Ball — it’s just one that fails miserably and is pretty frightening-looking to boot.

The friendly, funny woman from I Love Lucy is depicted with a spoon and what appears to be a bottle of Vitameatavegamin, in a nod to one of the show’s most famous episodes.  So far, so good, I guess — although people who don’t know the show might think the statue is supposed to represent a scary governess chasing a young child and insisting he consume a hated spoonful of Castor Oil.  But the face and head doesn’t look like Lucille Ball in any way.  Instead, they depict a ’50s motorcycle punk apparently turned zombie, with a greased swept-back hairdo, googly eyes, poor dental work and a bad complexion.  If you didn’t know it was supposed to be Lucille Ball, you wouldn’t guess it was her in a million years.

The good people of Celoron don’t like the statue, presumably because it gives them nightmares, so they’ve decided to hire another sculptor to “fix” it, even though the original sculptor offered to provide a new statue for free.  I have no quibble with the decision not to go back to the well with the original artist — given the quality of this statue, who knows what kind of horror he might produce.  But how does an artist “fix” Scary Lucy?  Cut off her head and attach a new one?  That’s just about as scary as the current effort.

What’s the lesson?  Do your due diligence.  Before you hire an artist to create a statue or paint a portrait, look at their past work and the people they are trying to represent, and make sure that they are truly up to the job.  And if they ultimately produce something that looks terrifying, for God’s sake don’t display it publicly — unless it’s Halloween.

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Is The Red Head Dead?

Climate change advocates have made a lot of dire predictions about irreversible increases in global temperature, seas rising and swallowing island nations, and other catastrophes wrought by the nefarious greenhouse gas emissions of humanity.  But now they may have crossed the line:  they’re predicting the extinction of redheads due to climate change.

The theory is that red hair is an evolutionary response to the lack of sunlight in areas like Scotland, where red heads make up a sizable chunk of the population, because red hair and fair skin allows people to get the maximum amount of vitamin D from a minimum amount of sunlight.  If gloomy places like Scotland starts to get more sunlight due to global warming, the theory goes, then the evolutionary advantage red hair provides will be lost, and redheads will vanish from the human gene pool.

There’s some facial rationality to this theory.  If you’ve ever seen a redhead in a hothouse climate like Florida, you know that gingers wouldn’t flourish in perpetually sunny conditions and instead would retreat indoors, bemoaning their apparently permanent sunburns.  There obviously will be less inclination to engage in the physical activity needed to pass on those redhead genes if your skin is burned to a brick red color and feels like it’s on fire.

I’m hoping the climate change scientists are wrong on this very upsetting prediction.  I’m a fan of redheads, and not just because I married one and Kish’s family tree is full of them.  The world would be a poorer place without Lucille Ball and Maureen O’Hara, Vincent Van Gogh and Winston Churchill, Ron Howard and Willie Nelson.  With a lineup like that, we’ll even take a clinker like Carrot Top now and then.

Catch Phrase Fever

What was the first TV catch phrase?  When did TV writers and stars realize that there was something different about this new entertainment medium that made viewers crave the familiar line that they had heard so many times before?  The discovery probably occurred at the very dawn of the TV era, when someone like Milton Berle was running out of new ideas and decided to re-use some old material, and realized to his astonishment that the audience loved it.

I can’t think of many catch phrases from the early TV shows.  If Lucille Ball had a catch phrase on I Love Lucy — other than crying Waaah! when one of her plans went awry — I don’t recall it.  The first catch phrase I can think of is also one that would never be used on modern TV:  Ralph Kramden’s frustrated uppercut and cry of “Pow! Right in the kisser!” when Alice had finally and conclusively squelched another of his harebrained get-rich-quick schemes on The Honeymooners.  (Of course, everyone knew that Ralph loved Alice deeply and would never, ever hurt her.)  If that was in fact the first catch phrase, later TV stars owe Jackie Gleason a huge debt.

As Timeless As Wine (Or Human Behavior)

Archaeologists have uncovered the world’s oldest known wine press in southern Armenia.  The wine press was found in a cave and is being dated to 4,000 B.C. — 6,000 years ago.  In short, the wine press is so old that it predates even the rise of the ancient Egyptian civilization.

The archaeologists believe that the wine press produced a dry red vintage using some kind of foot-stomping method.  They also speculate that the wine was a special vintage used in a burial ritual by a complex ancient society.

I think the key facts in the article suggest a different back story.  Those key facts are (1) a cave, (2) wine, and (3) the world’s oldest discarded leather shoe, which also was found in the same cave.  Do those facts sound to you like the ingredients of a burial ritual?  Or, do those signs point to a secret drinking place where the lazy ne’er-do-wells of the tribe could escape to kick off their shoes, stomp a few grapes, guzzle homemade hooch, and enjoy some drunken hilarity with their buddies away from the tribal chief, the high priest, and angry spouses?  To confirm this theory, the archaeologists need only start looking for dice, chicken bones, and signs of ancient graffiti in the vicinity.

The wine press may be 6,000 years old, but human beings really haven’t changed that much over the millennia.