Some people envision Lucille Ball as a tough-talking businesswoman. Others cast her as a feminist icon. Still, others portray her as a historic figure for her groundbreaking work on “I Love Lucy.”
But Ball’s granddaughter, Kate Luckinbill-Conner, says she was just an American girl with big dreams.
In an episode that aired this weekend, Luckinbill-Conner spoke with the Today show about her nana and about the difficult balance Ball had to strike to maintain a family and a successful show business career.
Lucille Ball Had ‘Big Dreams’
Luckinbill-Conner said that as far as she was concerned, Ball was simply an ordinary woman who dreamed big and lucked out.
“She was honest to a fault,” she said of Ball. “Some people took that as tough. Some people took it as feminism. But it wasn’t, really. She was a regular American girl who had big dreams and no idea how to accomplish them.”
Luckinbill-Conner was just 4 years old when Ball passed away. But she remembers Ball feeding her Oreos and milk while she watched “Inspector Gadget” as Ball played backgammon in the background.
Ball’s Family Life Was Important to Her
It wasn’t easy to balance “I Love Lucy” with starting a family, but Ball managed it somehow. In fact, the need to accommodate her schedule while she gave birth to Desi Jr. was what inspired Desi Arnaz to come up with the idea of reruns.
“She just kept pushing ahead,” Luckinbill-Conner said of her grandparents. “They wanted to have a family. They wanted to remain being a family. So I think that that’s really important for people to remember as part of the history. Because it allows us to remember that we can all have families and work if we support each other in that. If we’re together in us all wanting that balance, then we can find it.”
Later in life, Ball admitted she missed working on the show. In a 1985 interview with Joan Rivers, Ball said she enjoyed working and that while family was important to her, the show was also an irreplaceable part of her life.
“Honey, I miss it every day of my life,” Ball told Rivers. “But I can’t go back. You can’t top what we’ve done. 25 years or more. And you can’t go back. No, I wouldn’t try to top what we did. We had it too good, and we were in early, real early. And kind of made up our own rules as we went along.”
From being pregnant on the show to running the Desilu production company, Ball certainly made up her own rules about balancing her work and home life. And future generations of working women can take a lesson from her example.