Before Lucille Ball became one of the most groundbreaking women in American comedy, she was a girl from Celoron, New York. Needless to say, the town has long been proud of the celebrated television star, and in 2009 local leaders presented a bronze statue to honor her.
Unfortunately, much like an episode of "I Love Lucy," the unveiling didn't go quite like officials may have hoped.
Inspired by the 1952 classic episode “Lucy Does a TV Commercial,” the sculpture by artist Dave Poulin depicts Ball holding a bottle of a fictitious health supplement called “Vitameatavegamin.” There was just one problem with it. In trying to commemorate the episode, Poulin gave the sculpture an awful grimace. Almost immediately, local Lucy fans began calling for the statue, now nicknamed “Scary Lucy,” to be replaced, Kwegyirba Croffie reports for CNN.
"From the day of its installation I have shared my disappointment in the final outcome and have always believed it to be by far my most unsettling sculpture, not befitting of Lucy’s beauty or my ability as a sculptor,” Poulin told Emmet McDermott for the Hollywood Reporter in 2015.
The statue drew all kinds of unkind comments, with many comparing its likeness to the zombie extras on “The Walking Dead” along with a host of other monsters. Town residents began organizing to get the statue removed, and Poulin says he has even received death threats, The Guardian reports. While Poulin later offered to fix the statue, local officials declined and sought out a new artist. Now, after years of arguing and just in time to celebrate what would have been Ball’s 105th birthday, a new statue has been unveiled in Celoron’s Lucille Ball Memorial Park.
Sculpted out of bronze by artist Carolyn Palmer, the new Lucy is clad in her trademark polka-dotted dress, high heels, pearl necklace and perfectly coifed hair, Amah-Rose Abrams reports for artnet News. Palmer refers to her statue as "New Lucy," Liam Stack reports for The New York Times.
"I am relieved that the response has been positive. I went back to the park incognito and sat on a bench and people were there looking at her and touching her and it was great. All that work was not done in vain. I am very pleased tonight," Palmer tells Croffie.
While Ball’s fans can relax with the knowledge that their idol is being honored with a statue that better captures her likeness, those who hold a candle for “Scary Lucy” don't need to worry. Though it may not be the best memorial for the comedian, the odd-looking statue has been moved just 225 feet away from "New Lucy," Stack writes.
"We left it here because it has been such an attraction. We've had thousands of people here over the past year from all over," Celoron Mayor Scott Schrecengost tells Croffie. "We had a family here just last week from Hungary that was in New York and traveled an extra distance just to see that statue itself, not knowing that we had a new one coming."
Now fans pilgrimaging to Celoron to honor the iconic performer can have their pick when it comes to statues—see the one that celebrates Ball in all her glory or walk a few feet away to consider the one that takes some, well, creative license.