‘I Love Lucy’ Star Lucille Ball Had Only Four Cents When Trying to Break Into Entertainment Industry

by Megan Molseed

Lucille Ball is one of Hollywood’s most well-known actresses. Known for her fiery red hair and expressive looks, Ball is the classic Hollywood “starlet.” The actress’s unending ability to capture her audiences is certainly a one-of-a-kind talent.

Initially, Lucille Ball struggled to make it in Hollywood. She eventually found fame as the loveable and rambunctious housewife Lucy Ricardo. When she did, it seemed like the former chorus line dancer and model was meant for stardom.

However, fame was a goal that eluded the tenacious woman early in her career. In fact, things once got incredibly bad for the performer. At one point, Ball found herself alone in New York City with only four cents to her name.

Lucille Ball Depended On the Light Eaters In Her Early Acting Days

According to the Lucille Ball biography, “Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball,” the actress found ways around finding meals with very little money. Ball even sought what she called a “one doughnut man” at short-order restaurants.

This was a customer who ordered doughnuts and coffee. Leaving the restaurant after eating only one of the doughnuts and placing a five-cent tip. The actress would wait for the “one doughnut” man to leave the restaurant. Lucille Ball would then slide onto his stool, finishing the doughnuts and ordering more coffee with the nickel.

However, Lucille Ball soon realized how precarious her situation truly was when she reached into her purse and found she had only four cents. An amount that wasn’t even enough to cover the five-cent subway fare.

“So I panhandled for a penny,” the actress recalled, adding that the situation became so dire that she briefly battled thoughts of suicide.

“I thought ‘I’ll get killed faster in Central Park because the cars go faster there,'” the actress recalled. “But I want to get hit by a big car-with a handsome man in it.”

The star noted that that final thought was enough to pull her out of her funk as she realized she probably didn’t want to actually die.

“I said to myself ‘if I’m thinking this way, maybe I don’t want to die,'” she recalled. “So I regrouped my forces.”

Stardom Didn’t Come Easy For the Loveable Actress

During the beginning stages of her career, the actress found herself with numerous rejections as she initially tried to break into acting. Lucille Ball even tried to find fame by changing what would end up being her iconic red-haired look as well as her name, which eventually held unprecedented star power.

Ball dyed her hair blond and took on the personality of a made-up character Diane Belmont. The Jamestown, New York native even added a Montana background to the new personality. This did help the actress land a few roles, but not for long.

Eventually, the actress found her way onto television and into the hearts of so many as the world fell in love with Lucille and then-husband, Desi Arnaz in the hit comedy series “I Love Lucy.” Becoming the Hollywood icon we all know and love.