How Lucille Ball’s hometown got caught in a worldwide battle between “Pretty Lucy” and “Scary Lucy.”
It may very well be the one time everybody didn’t love Lucy. Our story began in 2009 when Lucille Ball’s hometown of Celeron, New York decided to honor their most famous citizen with a statue. They hired a local sculptor who thought it would be funny to make a statue with Ball in one of her most famous episodes of “I Love Lucy” called “Vitameatavegamin.” In this episode her character, Lucy Ricardo was hired to pitch a health tonic called Vitameatavegamin. (It contains vitamins, meat, vegetables, and minerals hence the name) Well, that’s what it is supposed to hold. The tonic is actually just a quack remedy that is mostly just alcohol. Lucy doesn’t know it though and films the commercial. She takes a spoonful of the product and grimaces from the bitter taste of alcohol. The director doesn’t like the take and asks Lucy to reshoot. After a couple takes, she is quite tipsy.
The episode is considered a television classic. TV Guide Readers voted it the 2nd funniest television episode of all time. (The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s episode of “Chuckles the Clown” was voted Number One. If you never have seen it check it out on YouTube. It’s terrific.) So what better way to honor a venerated comedienne than an homage to her most famous episode?
And so, Sculptor Dave Poulin did just that he created a statue of Lucille Ball in character and making her famous grimace. And in case there was any doubt, he had Lucy holding a spoon in one hand and the tonic in another.
When the statue was revealed in Celeron, the response wasn’t what the sculptor had expected. Instead of clapping their hands, many were scratching their heads. “Who is this?” the townspeople asked. ” Wait, she’s got the spoon and the bottle. Oh, I get it” And so the people of Lucy’s hometown went back to living their lives. The statue wasn’t that much of a tourist draw. Except for an occasional visitor who would see the figure in the middle of the Lucille Ball Memorial Park and ask “Don’t you people have a statue of Lucy around here?”
Enter the Internet. When people began to post pictures of the Lucy statue online around 2017, a campaign was born. The figure was called “Scary Lucy,” and the picture went viral. Fans all over the world became outraged ( The sculptor claims he even received death threats). People said the statue was “demonic.” I guess I don’t see it except for maybe the gouging eyes, gnarling teeth, and whatever that hair thing is. (But perhaps it is discriminatory to call her ‘demonic’ because she’s unattractive. Some demons are very nice looking, the Kardashians for example).
But the viral boulder was rolling down the mountain. People from all over were coming to see “Scary Lucy” and demand a “Pretty Lucy.” In 2018, the city commissioned a different sculptor after 67 different artists had offered their services. And they unveiled Lucy 2.0 also known as “Pretty Lucy.”
Here’s (Pretty) Lucy!
In all fairness, the original artist was trying to show Lucy in one of her most memorable roles, and indeed fans wanted Lucille Ball, the Hollywood TV Star. The new statue id more glamorous and captures Ms. Ball elegance. But fret not, fans of “Scary Lucy” the city only moved her about 75ft away. People had been coming to see her also, so she is still around. And it some ways it’s a perfect marriage of pretty and scary.