08/05/2011 10:36 am ET | Updated Oct 05, 2011

Why Lucy Still Makes Us Laugh


In the nine years she reigned as America's most beloved housewife-mother-troublemaker-nutcase, actress-comedian Lucille Ball easily proved that even the most discerning TV viewers would never tire of a clearly unhinged sitcom character--no matter how outrageous her antics. But has anyone ever tried to categorize the soup-to-nuts (or, in her case, chocolate-to-grapes) lunacy that was Lucy Ricardo? Author Steve Kluger--who has spent a lifetime studying, analyzing, loving (and even meeting!) Lucy--gave it a try with this cheat sheet of I Love Lucy's most memorable moments.

Lucy Ricardo offends, alienates, or inadvertently assaults the following celebrities:

William Holden: Attempts to disguise herself so he won't recognize her from the lunch-dumped-on-his-head fiasco at the Brown Derby, but accidentally sets her nose on fire instead¬--then douses it in a cup of coffee.
Cornel Wilde: Bribes the hotel bellboy to let her hide in the breakfast cart¬--underneath the scrambled eggs.
Richard Widmark: Falls off the wall into his back yard after stealing a grapefruit from his tree, then resorts to breaking and entering in order to sneak out the front door. Almost gets away--until the St. Bernard sits on her.
John Wayne: Ruins his cowboy boots--four times in 24 hours--after stealing the cement slab that bears his footprints from Grauman's Chinese Theatre, and then dropping it.
Charles Boyer: Hires him to pretend he's Charles Boyer, then discovers he really is Charles Boyer after she squirts an orange in his eye.
Bob Hope: Accidentally mustards his hand when she sells him a hot dog at Yankee Stadium, distracting him just long enough for a foul ball to find his bald spot.
Superman: Poses as the Man of Steel for her son's birthday party, winds up getting her cape stuck on a drainpipe thirty-four feet above East 68th Street, and has to be rescued by the real Superman.
Danny Thomas: Rents her home to him before a two-month trip to Hollywood falls through, decides she doesn't like the idea of strangers using her best dishes, then drops in every five minutes to water the plants and dust the lamps in the hope that they'll leave. They don't.
Tallulah Bankhead: Spray-paints her.

Lucy Ricardo gets stuck in the following locations and/or pieces of heavy machinery:

A walk-in freezer (with two sides of beef)
An industrial washing machine (which starches her)
A third-floor window ledge (twice)
A runaway lawnmower (which beheads neighbor Betty Ramsey's tulips)
A snowed-in cabin in the Alps (from which she's rescued by a Swiss oompah band playing "La Cucaracha")

Lucy Ricardo disguises herself as...

• a theatrical producer's deceased dog.
• her own grandmother.
• a tobacco-picker's fiancée.
• a stuffed armchair.
• the Maharincess of Franistan.
• Ernestina Klump.
• Queen of the Gyspies.
• Clark Gable and Harpo Marx.
• a clay head.
• a chrysanthemum.
• a Revolutionary War statue.
• Richard Widmark's rug.

Lucy Ricardo disrupts the following modes of public transit:

The Lexington Avenue IRT (with a loving cup stuck on her head)
The Holland Tunnel ("How was I supposed to know there wasn't enough room to make a u-turn?")
The U.S.S. Constitution (which has to slow down so a helicopter can lower her onto the deck)
The Union Pacific Railroad (where she makes friends with the emergency cord all the way across the country)
A Pan-Am Clipper (when she smuggles a 30-pound piece of cheese on board, names it Chester, and then bottle-feeds it)

Lucy Ricardo has trouble 'splainin' to Ricky...

• ... why a Frenchman is hanging out of their window.
• ... how the hobo who shows up at her front door is actually her first husband.
• ... why she turned the living room into Cuba.
• ... how she got stuck in a porthole.
• ... why there's a tuna in the bathtub.
• ... why the new barbecue looks like it was taken apart and then put back together by Picasso.
• ... why two dozen broken eggs are leaking out of her shirt.
• ... why she told the quiz show host that the French sent Marie Antoinette to the guillotine "to scrape the barnacles off her hull."

Lucy Ricardo finds herself in a jam when...

• ... her beard won't come off.
• ... a bottle of health tonic gets her plastered while she's rehearsing a TV commercial ("With Vitameatavegamin, you can spoon your way to health. It's so tasty, too!")
• ... she and Ethel are forced to eat eleven pounds of chocolate off a candy factory conveyor belt.
• ... she's mistaken for a cat burglar named Madame X.
• ... the grapes she's stomping on turn her purple.
• ... she catches the gobloots from a boo-shoo bird. (Don't ask.)
• ... the French police arrest her for counterfeiting.
• ... she tries to jump out a window with a fake cast on her leg.
• ... it turns out that it's not legal to invent a charity called "Ladies Overseas Aid" to raise money for the "Lucy and Ethel Want to Go to Europe" Fund.
• ... a 12-foot loaf of bread shoots out of the oven and pins her to a kitchen cabinet.