16 Things You Didn’t Know About Lucille Ball

Retro Staff Comments

For more than 50 years, she played on both big and small screens. From humble beginnings—once not being able to afford pencils for school—Lucille Ball eventually took America by storm as one of our most well-loved and funny actresses. Born August 6, 1911, the star of I Love Lucy left an imprint on the entertainment industry. Smart and witty, she definitely was. But there are plenty of things about Lucille that may surprise you.

1. Before she hit the big time she modeled and performed on Broadway under the name Diane Belmont (a name she chose after Belmont racetrack). She’d go on to land many roles in B-movies before finally making her mark.

2. Lucille’s natural hair color? Brown. When she arrived in Hollywood she bleached it blonde, but didn’t go red until the 1942 filming of Du Barry was a Lady (1943).

Lucille Ball as model Diane Belmont (1933)

Lucille Ball as model Diane Belmont (1933)

3. According to her hairdresser, Irma Kusely, Lucille’s henna rinse (which was applied after hair dye to create the trademark color) was kept under lock and key—in a safe in Kusely’s garage.

I Love Lucy Puzzle

Her trademark hair color was created by first dyeing, then applying a henna rinse.


4. She was 41 years old when I Love Lucy premiered.

Lucy holding twins Mike (left) and Joe Mayer, both of whom played little Ricky.

Lucy holding twins Mike (left) and Joe Mayer, both of whom played little Ricky on I Love Lucy.

5. She was on TV Guide’s first cover. She appeared on a total of 39 covers of the guide, more than any other celebrity.

Cover of the first issue of TV Guide

First issue of TV Guide (1953)

6. In 1962 she became the first woman to run a major television studio (Desilu).

7. The famous Vitameatavegamin commercial was shot in one take with no cue cards. Apparently she was often able to perform long takes in one shot.

Lucy's TV Commercial Tin Sign

Lucille Ball Red Skelton

Lucille Ball & Red Skelton

8. Red Skelton gave her pantomime lessons. During rehearsal for a show that features the two as hobos, Lucille was supposed to follow Red as he pretended eating a meal. She stopped him and asked, “How do you do that?” So he spent a few hours walking her through the entire process. According to Assistant Director Jay Sandrich, by the time they were done, “she was as good as he was”.

9. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—one for film and one for television.

10. During the filming of Roman Scandals (1933) she needed to have her eyebrows entirely shaved; they never grew back. (She appeared in the film as a Goldwyn Girl, and was uncredited).

11. She was once fired from an ice cream shop because she kept forgetting to put a banana in the banana splits.

12. Early in her modeling career she was stricken with rheumatoid arthritis and spent nearly two years relearning how to walk.

13. She despised pictures and artwork of birds and demanded none be displayed in any hotel room in which she stayed.

14. When she first met Desi Arnaz she’d been filming a fight scene for Dance, Girl, Dance (1940), and had a black eye. Arnaz didn’t find her attractive until she was out of makeup.

Lucille Ball screenshot from Dance, Girl, Dance

Desi didn’t find Lucille attractive when they first met. She’d been in makeup from filming.

15. She was offered the role of Angel in The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), but had to turn it down because she was pregnant.
16. Earl on she was accepted into Robert-Minton-John Murray Anderson School of Drama in Manhattan, but was too shy to perform in front of her classmates. Later she said, “I was a tongue-tied teenager spellbound by the school’s star pupil, Bette Davis”. In a letter to her mother, the school wrote, “Lucy’s wasting her time and ours. She’s too shy and reticent to put her best foot forward.”
Last updated: Aug 06, 2014
Filed under: American Icons Tagged with: American icons, movies, television, trivia