Decades before the world came to love Lucille Ball, she was just a small-town girl who used to get “homesick” and was terrified of NYC.
In the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now, Harvard psychologist John T. Chirban shares more transcripts from a series of intimate interviews he conducted with Lucy in the 1980s that reveal her surprising start as a young woman in Hollywood.
In the Nov. 23 issue, Dr. Chirban revealed how Lucy told him she’d had two miscarriages and discussed in depth her tortured relationship with her ex-husband, Desi Arnaz.
Lucille and Desi in 1950. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
“I used to get very, very homesick,” Lucy told Dr. Chirban, “but at the same time, I was just dying to get into the business.”
She had big dreams, but as a teenager studying drama in NYC, Lucille Ball found herself sobbing to her mother on a pay phone far too often. “I’d take my last nickel and put it in the telephone and reverse the charges.”
“I had no talent whatsoever,” she insisted to the doctor, who was researching a study on women and success. “I never studied for anything. I never even finished school.”
It’s hard to believe that the TV star, who would go on to master the art of physical comedy on I Love Lucy, once tried to not stand out at drama school. “I was shy and terrified. I never opened my mouth and when I did, I said all the wrong things,” said Lucy. “They said, ‘There is no way. She sounds terrible and she’s awkward.’ They literally wrote a letter and said my mother was wasting her money.”
Lucille in 1939. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
“I finally got into show business by coming out [to Hollywood] on a fluke,” said Lucy, who was hired as a contract actor by RKO in the 1930s. “It sounds like I came up the hard way, but to me it was marvelous to be paid a lot of money after getting $25 or $35 a week. Suddenly getting hundreds of dollars a week to learn a business was a great way to apprentice.”
“At her core, she was a moral and traditional woman,” Dr. Chirban tells the magazine. “She said she would never forget the agony of trying to go out and do this, but she kept that goal ahead of her.”
“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t gone into the business,” she told Dr. Chirban in the early 1980s, before her 1989 death at the age of 77. “I enjoy so much the thousands of people that come up to me and say, with tears in their eyes, ‘Thank you for the years of laughter.’ You’d be crazy if you didn’t like that.”
To read the full story on Lucille Ball, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!