Big Red Lips: Learning from Lucy

LucyIf one more talking or writing head on TV or in print proclaims that young people entering the marketplace will have a near impossible time getting a job or that the “millennium” generation better get used to the fact that they’ll never live as good as their parents, I’m going to scream. Or let someone do it for me.

And they say it with such certitude – with intellectual arguments — and near irrefutable evidence. “Unemployment is at an all time high.” “The economy is crashing.” ‘The world is teetering on the brink of disaster.” And just checking the web, TV or newspapers for the daily riot quotient only seems to confirm this outlook.

Those entertaining a career in entertainment would seem to have it even worse. It’s an unstable business full of illogical people. Or perhaps it’s an illogical business full of unstable people. Take your choice. Or choose both.


Because while this news certainly upsets me as a screenwriter who wants to work again, it makes me positively (but in a good way) LIVID as a teacher of many extremely talented, creative, enthusiastic students of the millennia who want to be in entertainment and are doing more than entertaining that career option. They are actually doing it. Or trying to do it. Or are entering or about to enter the marketplace despite what you say.

To these courageous youngins I say, it’s never not always wise to listen to your nay saying elders.

To their elders I say – SHUT UP THE F&$K HECK UP!!

Dream stomping is such a common pastime in our culture, especially during tough times, that it’s almost become de rigueur. Remember the old adage that it’s not enough to succeed, but you have to see your friends (or loved ones) fail? – multiply it by a lot and you get what’s going on now. People will say – “oh, we’re just being realistic – “warning ‘em” “preparing them “ For what? Another reason not to get out of bed in the morning? (as if we needed to add to the list) A new and improved excuse to not try anything new at all? (I mean, if that’s the case, why even wake up at all?) Are you saying that it used to be easy but now it’s hard? Or it used to be difficult but now it’s impossible. Or something else? Because whatever is being said, I can tell you from the trenches, is extremely, uh….. (let’s be polite here) counterproductive?

What is productive in August – a time when Congress, the president and other people who have paying jobs are on vacation (it still is vacation even if you’re unemployed) and are still looking for a laugh – is to go to the tried and true for some WISDOM that’s stood the test of times and yeah, even a few laughs. (hey, we’re on vacation).

And what better place to look for all that than to Lucy.

Yeah, Lucy. As in Ricardo. She was a housewife in the 1950s. Actually, she was a fictional character. But rather than listen to anything the dooms-dayers are saying, I’d urge every young (and old) person to watch a bunch of the made up, meaning not real, “I Love Lucy” episodes from the past and consider some of the lessons imparted for the present. If you don’t want to do it because I said so – do it in honor of Lucille Ball’s 100th birthday – which was commemorated nationwide in various celebrations, writings and web/TV pieces last week. Heck, even Google posted a clip on their page from “I Love Lucy” in recognition of her centennial. And how many black and white TV show fictional characters from the fifties do you see Google modifying their logo for? (The correct answer is ——NONE). Given Google’s standing as a success model in our post millennium world, that and that alone, should mean that at least some of her lessons are worth following.

LUCY LESSON #1 — BE WILLING TO TRY SOMETHING NEW – meaning — BE FEARLESS IF YOU WANT IT. You may or may not know Lucy was determined to break into show business with or without the approval/help of her bandleader husband Ricky. So determined that she talked her way into being the TV commercial pitch lady on one of his upcoming TV appearances despite the sour taste it left in her mouth (with dubious results).

LUCY LESSON # 2 – THERE IS ALWAYS A PLAN –Lucy was consistently told by her bandleader husband Ricky she could not be part of his nightclub show for various reasons (talent being a big one) but she knew she had it and always came up with a plan to prove him wrong. Even if it meant doing the jitterbug right after the eye doctor dilated her pupils and she couldn’t see.

LUCY LESSON # 3 – IMPROVISE, NO MATTER HOW MUCH THE ODDS SEEM AGAINST YOU – When Lucy’s back was against the wall she NEVER gave up, no matter who much the odds seemed stacked against her. When she was told by her husband she could never get a paying job (yeah, men FREQUENTLY said that to their wives in the fifties) and she indeed found herself in an impossible situation, she still found a way to sweetly (‘cause it was a candy factory) trudge forward.

LUCY LESSON #4 – DON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER, DESPITE WHERE IT LEADS – When Lucy’s bandleader now turned would be movie actor husband Ricky is not being given a film by his studio (MGM) she pretends to be his agent because A) he doesn’t have one, B) he needs the help and C) the studio needs a push in his direction. Someone has to take the initiative and stop complaining so — she goes into action.

LUCY LESSON #5 – ASPIRE TO SING, EVEN IF NO ONE LIKES YOUR SONG – If you really want to sing, you’ll find your audience – and a way to be heard. That’s the Lucy way. Sure, she might not have had the typical singing voice – but what she lacked in traditional pitch, she made up for in stage presence.

LUCY LESSON #6 – IF ALL ELSE FAILS, MAKE PEOPLE LAUGH WHILE YOU’RE DOING ANY AND ALL OF THE ABOVE – Lucy is in Italy. She has a PLAN to soak up the local culture in preparation for a potential MOVIE ROLE when an Italian director thinks she could be ON CAMERA – something new and interesting in his next film. No matter she doesn’t know Italian, or grape stomping. She WON’T TAKE NO FOR ANSWER and perseveres even though IT’S RISKY and NONE OF THE OTHER WOMEN LIKE HER.

These are tried and true themes that have survived show business FOR DECADES. They might not all work for you, but I’ll bet at least one does. Or at the very least, lightens the load. And these days, you can’t do much better than that.

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