Here’s an insider redhead confession: you could perch a red wig on top of a parking meter, and if even my closest friends walked by it they’d be like “hey Moll, I saw you around town today, you didn’t say hi.”
And curly red hair? Forget it. It’s like walking around every day with a joke shop glasses-and-nose combo. Red hair turns you into a living caricature – and nobody knew that like Lucille Ball, who would turn 103 today if she weren’t dead*.
* Birthdays for dead people always confuse me. Is it her 103rd birthday? Her 77th birthday again? Her 25th Birthday With Jesus, if you’re the kind of person who was really into Touched By An Angel?
Lucille Ball didn’t really have red hair, but no matter. I’m inclined to think she dyed her hair, in part, because it made her instantly recognizable. It’s the parking meter effect: you could put a Lucille Ball wig on a baby and I’d think that Lucy had risen from the grave and that death had just sucked some of the height out of her. But take real Lucille Ball, give her a different ‘do, and I can not distinguish her from random people from the same era.
It’s harder than you think. Hover your cursor over “answer” for the answers, or scroll to the bottom of the post if you’re on a device that won’t let you do that.
Question 1: An Old-Timey Baby
Not to sound discriminatory towards babies – I mean some of my best friends are babies, and all of my best friends were babies – but all babies kind of look alike. I’m just brave enough to say it. And without her poofy red hair, Lucille Ball looked like any other baby you could find by running a Google image search for “baby from 1910s”:
Question 2: Some Flapper
Here’s the thing with flappers. During the high school English unit on The Great Gatsby, every teen girl is like “if I lived in the 1920s, I would have been a flapper!” But no, you probably wouldn’t have, unless you are part of whatever your era’s most badass youth counterculture movement was. That’s when they had youth counterculture – now all the youths just read the internet or whatever, which is a shame because it sounds so cool to say “my great-grandmother was a flapper!” and so not cool to say “my great-grandmother was on tumblr!” But you know who was kind of a flapper, for real? Lucille Ball, who as a 14-year-old in 1925 dated a 25-year-old “local hood.” In 1925 that meant he looked menacing on street corners, talked out the side of his mouth, and went to speakeasies. So which flapper is Lucy?
Question 3: An Ice Skater
People in the 1930s and 1940s loved wholesome activities that were also free or cheap, because they had no money due to the Great Depression and World War II – so it’s no wonder that ice skating became the “in” past-time (until the 1950s, when the nation decided that it “seemed kind of Russian”). Growing up in Western New York, young Lucy had plenty of time to practice her ice skating moves because trust me, it is a freaking tundra up here for about 60% of the year. But without the benefit of her red poodle hairdo, can you tell which ice skater is Lucy?
Question 4: A Scary Lady
Question 5: A Wholesome Brunette
Lucille Ball is Baby Number 1. Does the third baby look extra cute to you? That’s because it’s Shirley Temple. Baby 2 is, as my godson said of the Jesus figurine in his nativity set, “I don’t know, just some baby.”
Lucy is flapper C. A isn’t a flapper at all – it’s a Halloween costume. And B is Lois Moran, inspiration for Rosemary in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is The Night. We don’t think of Lucille Ball as a, you know, ’20s girl, or former flappers as grown women in the ’50s, so it’s weird to think they’re roughly the same age.
Lucille Ball is ice skaters B and C. In case you’re wondering, (A) is Jean Harlow and (D) is “a teen.”
Lucille Ball is the second scary lady, but that is a great way to sleep so your hair doesn’t get tangled, girls.
Lucille Ball is Wholesome Brunette A. Wholesome Brunette B is my grandmother, which is weird because she was usually blonde but I guess was going for something for a while, and Wholesome Brunette C is Hedy Lamarr, which incidentally was also the name the above grandmother gave to her wig mannequin.