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‘Scary Lucy’ no more: New Lucille Ball statue to be unveiled in August

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For everyone who loves Lucy, a more lovable depiction is coming.

An accomplished sculptor is hard at work on a new statue of comedy legend Lucille Ball to show her in a more flattering light than the slightly Frankenstein-like sculpture that now sits in a park in her hometown of Celoron, N.Y., and appalled so many fans when pictures of it went viral last year.

Carolyn D. Palmer is putting the finishing touches on the life-size bronze figure, which will be unveiled in a public ceremony on Ball’s birthday, Aug. 6.

“I wanted to portray Lucy beautifully, glamorous with confidence, showing playful, whimsical movement. I wanted to bring forth Lucy’s spirit and joy,” Palmer told Yahoo News.

A committee in Celoron, just outside of Jamestown in western New York, unanimously selected Palmer for the project in a national competition of more than 60 artists. She started with the armature (the frame around which a statue is built) in October 2015.

Artist Carolyn Palmer works on the new Lucille Ball statue, which will be unveiled in Celoron, N.Y., in August. (Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Palmer)
Artist Carolyn Palmer works on the new Lucille Ball statue, which will be unveiled in Celoron, N.Y., in August. (Photo: Courtesy of Carolyn Palmer)

“I consider it my baby. A nine-month process!” she joked.

Palmer, who is based in New York’s Hudson Valley, has been commissioned to create sculptures of historical and public figures for prestigious museums, public venues, and private collections — including one of Pope Francis for New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral — but she says she felt the most pressure not to disappoint with the Lucy project.

Upon seeing the negative press for the original statue, she said, her heart went straight out to its creator.

“I felt bad because every sculptor does not bat a thousand,” she said.

Determined to get it right, Palmer rewatched episodes of “I Love Lucy” and had models wear ’50s dresses to understand Ball’s appeal. She emphasized the importance of movement in bringing the TV icon’s personality to the fore.

A bronze sculpture of Lucille Ball is displayed in Lucille Ball Memorial Park in Celoron, N.Y. (Photos: Courtesy of Tom Andolora)
A bronze sculpture of Lucille Ball is displayed in Lucille Ball Memorial Park in Celoron, N.Y. (Photos: Courtesy of Tom Andolora)

“You could get her proportions just right — her eyes, her nose, her mouth — and still say, ‘Where is Lucy?’ So I worked on moving some of the muscles around her features to really bring her out,” she said.

The original statue, by New York sculptor Dave Poulin, has been derided as “Scary Lucy” and “Ugly Lucy” since it was unveiled in 2009. It shows Ball holding a bottle of Vitameatavegamin, a fictional elixir from a famous episode of “I Love Lucy.” Poulin, who has numerous public commissions to his credit, mostly in upstate New York and Pennsylvania, has apologized for how the work turned out and had offered to redo it.

In 2012, Jamestown native Tom Andolora took two college friends to see the statue, and they shared a good laugh over its appearance. He came home with two pictures of the sculpture and created a Facebook page called We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue in about 30 seconds — without giving it a second thought or imagining it would capture national attention.

It took three years, but in 2015, local media, including the Jamestown Post-Journal, picked up the story, and Yahoo News covered it shortly after — helping to send the story viral.

Tom Andolora, who was raised in Jamestown, N.Y., started the Facebook page called We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue. (Photo: Courtesy of Tom Andolora)
Tom Andolora, who was raised in Jamestown, N.Y., started the Facebook page called We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue. (Photo: Courtesy of Tom Andolora)

“Once it hit Yahoo News, everyone picked it up and it went all over the world,” Andolora said.

Until now, Andolora, a playwright who lives in Long Island City in the borough of Queens in New York, had chosen to remain anonymous. He turned down several requests to appear on television, saying that he was simply a “Lucy fan” who thought she deserved better.

“It was crazy. For about six days, there were hundreds of people writing me. But I didn’t want to do anything that would make people think I was out for myself, out for publicity,” Andolora said.

The Facebook page still has more than 10,000 fans awaiting the new statue. He attributes the success of his call for change to Ball’s legions of fans.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the pilot episode for
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the pilot episode for “I Love Lucy” in 1951. (Photo: CBS/Getty Images)

Both Andolora and Palmer credited Celoron Mayor Scott Schrecengost for bringing the project this far. Schrecengost put together the committee of locals — which included artists, businesspeople, a representative from the Lucy Desi Museum & Center for Comedy and one person who knew Ball personally — to select an artist for the new statue. They chose Palmer, who studied sculpture at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y., and recently made sculptures of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, N.Y.

The unveiling ceremony will be the centerpiece of a larger celebration of Ball, featuring a Dragon Boat Festival, arts and crafts, and food from local restaurants.

Although Schrecengost is excited about the new statue, he said the “Scary Lucy” will most likely stay in Celeron — probably in the same park. Since the story went viral, the botched statue has become a tourist attraction, with people stopping by every day for pictures.

“It put Celoron back on the map. It’s kind of iconic now,” he told Yahoo News. “It’s part of our history. … It’s been quite a roller coaster ride since day one.”

This article is the first time Tom Andolora, the creator of the Facebook page that started this commotion, has revealed his identity. He explained to Yahoo News why he wished to remain anonymous until now. His statement:

“I quickly created a Facebook page four years ago using two photos of a public statue. I never imagined that the subject of that social media posting would become a world-wide phenomenon. ‘Scary Lucy’ is now probably one of the most famous statues of this century. When the Facebook page went viral last April, I was asked to appear as a guest on several television shows to talk about the statue, and I was asked to do countless other media interviews. I declined to participate in any live media and chose to remain anonymous. I made that decision because I felt none of this was about me. I consider myself just another great fan of Lucille Ball. I did think her hometown could do a better job honoring her timeless brilliance than the statue that was erected in Celoron Park. Obviously, millions of Lucy’s fans felt the same. I am proud of what we have accomplished.

I would like to thank the thousands of the Lucy fans who are still following the Facebook page. I will be sure to post lots of photos of the new statue. I especially want to thank everyone who wrote me kind, encouraging messages.

I hope as many people as possible will be able to attend the unveiling of Carolyn Palmer’s new statue of Lucy this summer. The date is August 6th (Lucy’s Birthday) in Celoron Park at noon. Everyone is invited.

Carolyn will be there, and I will be there. I am sure it is going to be a remarkable statue and a memorable event.”

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