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We'll always love Lucy

"So get yourself a big bottle of Vitameatavegamin. It's healthy, and so tasty, too!"

If you don't know the above is from the super-famous "I Love Lucy" episode in which Lucy Ricardo does a TV commercial that goes terribly wrong, well -- all I can say is get yourself a big bottle of Vitameatavegamin and call it a day.

This was one miserable first weekend of August. What with the U.S. financial status taking a beating, coupled with the horrible news out of Afghanistan -- 30 Americans killed when their helicopter was shot down, including two dozen Navy SEALs -- it was almost impossible to escape a sense of doom and futility.

But, if you looked for the silver lining, you found it the fact that Aug. 6 was the 100th anniversary of Lucille Ball's birth, and the Hallmark Channel, in tribute, ran an all-day marathon of "I Love Lucy" episodes and Turner Classic Movies celebrates this month by showing many of her feature films.

It's been said before, but bears repeating: Lucy's failure to set the big screen on fire remains one of those unexplainable show biz mysteries. She was tall, gorgeous and talented. She could play comedy or drama. But despite significant successes, Lucy remained a "well-known actress" rather than the great star she should have been.

It took the still-infant medium of television, the smarts of Lucy's husband, Desi Arnaz, and the brilliant writing of Madelyn Pugh Davis and Bob Carroll Jr. to propel Lucy to the top of the heap, transforming her into the most famous woman in the United States, and to multimillionaire status. The half-hour sitcom genre, the wacky character of Lucy Ricardo unleashed Lucille, who used every bit of comic timing she possessed -- compressing and yet enlarging her gifts. The original "I Love Lucy" shows and the later "Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" still look as good as they ever did, in glorious black and white. I hope every episode is preserved in the Smithsonian!

And if the end of the original series and the simultaneous collapse of Lucille's marriage to Desi killed a little bit of her genius, the public didn't care. She went on and on, and wanted to keep on, even when she knew the "Lucy" character and the format were no longer viable.

The amazing thing about Lucille Ball's success as a comic was that she wasn't funny in real life. She tended to be acerbic and serious. She wasn't witty, and not always terribly warm. Sometimes the real Lucille peeks through Lucy Ricardo -- sophisticated, sarcastic and still a great beauty. The later "Lucy's" were far more infantile than Mrs. Ricardo, much less satisfying. There was also something sad in the references to post-"I Love Lucy" Lucy as "a girl." (Lucy Ricardo was a married lady with a famous hubby and a child. She did undignified things, but never lost her dignity.)

And so, here's to you, Lucille Ball. You lifted my spirits on a terrible weekend for America. And maybe, just as you did back when we liked Ike and feared "the Reds," millions of other Americans tuned out the bad news and turned you on -- wailing, conniving, popping those enormous eyes, doing anything for a laugh. Happy birthday, Lucy. We all still love you.


Before the recent debt-ceiling crisis, first lady Michelle Obama, when asked if she'd ever go into politics, said, "The answer is N-O. Period. Dot."

And since that time, she feels the same, but with more emphasis. Mrs. Obama says also she is always the last to know.

Arriving at a dinner with friends, she was told that Osama bin Laden had been killed. "I was like, 'Wow.' Then I wanted to know the details. I was like every media person."

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