Lucille Ball Once Described ‘Running Away’ from Home

by Clayton Edwards

Lucille Ball was a Hollywood icon. When she and Desi Arnaz started I Love Lucy, they changed the world of television. The duo invented reruns, moved the capital of broadcast television to Hollywood, and kicked down barriers for writers. The impact their show had on the world is truly immeasurable. As a result, myths and legends about Lucille’s life sprang up even before she passed away.

One of the prevailing myths about Lucille Ball’s early years is that she ran away from home. They say she left her home in Jamestown, New York to try to make it big in NYC. Back in 1971, she appeared on The Dick Cavett Show alongside her daughter Lucie Arnaz and Carol Burnett. During her time on the show, she cleared the air about the time she ran away from home.

Cavett starts the conversation by saying, “Did you run away from home, or do I have it wrong? There are various versions…” Lucille ball cut him off. She informed him that there are various versions because she didn’t want her daughter to hear the real story until she reached “a certain age.” However, when this was filmed, Lucie was an adult. Ball said, “She’s old enough now to hear anything and she has.”

Then, Lucille Ball said, “I didn’t really run away,” destroying the myth around her early years.

Lucille Ball on “Running Away” from Home

“The first time I left,” she said, “I was allowed to go away and stay with friends and family here in New York City.” She was in NYC to attend the John Murray Anderson John Milton Dramatic School. She went on to say that Bette Davis was the “star pupil” at the school and the faculty didn’t have much faith in Lucille Ball. They went so far as to write her mother a letter saying that she was wasting her money by having Ball in their school, she said. “That ended my dramatic school training,” she quipped.

Lucille Ball said she actually ran away from home one time. It didn’t work out for her. “Once I ran away without permission. I got about as far as three blocks and there was my mother with a lunch and an umbrella. She knew I was going, she was watching the whole thing.” Ball said her mother handed her the lunch and umbrella saying, “Here you are. You might need these.”

Looking back, Lucille Ball probably wouldn’t have been successful at really running away from home. “I cost my mother a fortune coming back [from NYC to Jamestown] because I died of homesickness… I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, I was violently ill, ran a fever and I’d call my mother. She’d send the money and I’d go home.”