Lucille Ball always liked to tell it like it is. The I Love Lucy star and producer is one of the most iconic women in entertainment history. Her work on I Love Lucy alongside Desi Arnaz, along with her work as the first female owner of a production company, changed Hollywood for good.
But even Ball had to retire at some point. In a 1981 interview with Merv Griffin, Ball talked about how she missed her work. Even though she owned a production company at the time, she felt it was different from actually being able to act on a production.
“Would you ever go back to a weekly series?” Griffin asked. Surely, plenty of companies would be thrilled to have Ball on to do one. The opportunity was there if she wanted it, but Ball wasn’t feeling it.
“Gale [Storm] is around but my Vivian’s gone and… well, let’s not talk about it,” she said with pain in her voice. Clearly, the loss of Vivian Vance was quite hard on Ball. Vance played Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy, and she and Lucille Ball were close friends. For Ball, going back to work without Vance simply wouldn’t be the same.
“Besides,” Ball said, “There’s no sense trying to top what we’ve done.”
In spite of her reservations, however, Ball would go on to make another series. Turns out the actress couldn’t stay away from the work. Her sitcom Life With Lucy aired in 1986 but was unfortunately canceled after two months.
Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance Had a Decades-Long Friendship after ‘I Love Lucy’
Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance were incredibly close. Though, it didn’t start out that way. In fact, both of them disliked each other for months before finally realizing their chemistry.
“As the show goes on, the Ethel Mertz character gets more and more prominent, because she realized that as well as she and Desi worked together, actually, the better team was Lucy and Ethel,” The Lucy Book author Geoffery Mark told Closer.
She also played the role of Lucille Ball’s best friend on The Lucy Show, where she played Vivian Bagley.
Tragically, In 1977, Vance suffered a stroke. Then, Vance passed from Breast cancer in 1979. Lucille Ball visited with Vance during her final days and had one final meeting with her after decades of friendship that spawned on I Love Lucy. Paige Peterson, a friend of Vance who was there that day, described the moment to People.
“You could hear them laughing, and towards the end, there was a lot of sobbing,” Peterson said. “It was an amazing thing to witness. The love of these two women.”
Lucille Ball continued to work in the industry and sit in for interviews up until her death of a ruptured aorta in 1989. Both she and Vance had a special place in the hearts of many and cemented themselves a permanent spot in entertainment history.