This page is reserved for trivia about I Love Lucy and its actors that doesn't fit on any episode summary page. So, if you know an interesting fact about the show's general production or behind-the-scenes gossip about the actors' relationships, feel free to add it below! A word of caution to readers: Some trivia written below delves into backstage "gossip" about the actors' relationships that doesn't always showcase the actors in the family-friendly, always happy image that the show itself gives off. Read at your own risk
The characters of Fred and Ethel Mertz were created by taking the first name of Lucy's brother, Fred; the first name of her good pal, Broadway star Ethel Merman. Ironically, Vivian Vance had been an understudy for Ethel Merman while on Broadway. Vivian must have been truly destined to play Ethel Mertz! The Mertzes derived their surname from a doctor who lived down the block from Pugh in Indianapolis. The writers spent many hours mulling over possible monikers, ruling out truly funny names like Throttlebottom. They knew they needed something that was wryly humorous, something they could "play with." When Pugh suggested Dr. Mertz, the team echoed, "That's it!"
Some of the more idealistic I Love Lucy fans tend to say that William Frawley and Vivan Vance's hatred for one another was just rumors and nothing more. The same goes for other troubled relationships behind the scenes. But believing that all of this backstage gossip is only made of rumors is naive, considering the many, many instances of evidence and quotes available in almost every I Love Lucy book not intended to be family-friendly. Bill and Viv hated each other but were such great performers that they fooled America into thinking that they got along really well. It is as simple as that. Their hatred for each other started very early on, in the first week or so of the show. Vivian started off as being very friendly and cordial to Bill, but when he heard that Vivian thought he was too old to play her husband, Bill started the rocky road. He just started being really rude and mean to Vivian, and things went south from there. A very foul-mouthed individual, Bill would usually refer to Viv as "the bitch" (or worse things that will not be printed here!), and Viv would insult Bill's old age and other aspects. The first time they were set to sing and dance together, Viv made it clear that she didn't think Bill would possibly be able to keep up with her in performing, and this was one of the most hurtful insults a person could give to Bill. The nicest thing Bill ever said about Viv was still a backhanded compliment- "She's one of the nicest girls to ever come from Kansas... But I wish she'd go back there." One part about playing Ethel Mertz that would forever stick in Vivian's craw was having to have an "old man" be her husband. She thought of herself as glamorous and still young, and she hated having someone old enough to be her father be her romantic partner on the show. Every time she'd get a new script, she'd flip through it, dreading any scenes where she'd have to be in bed next to Bill. She probably hated "First Stop"! And any time she had to kiss Frawley, she would give only an air kiss. This is best shown in "Equal Rights" in the prison scene.
As for the relationship between Lucy and Vivian, things were better but far from perfect. The relationship started off very stormy, but they did grow to be very good friends over the years. However, even as friends, there was always a sort of barrier between them, since Lucy always would be Viv's boss in some way. But over the years, they bonded by performing and having fun together and (in later years) crying together over their marital problems. But Viv got a very chilly welcome from Lucy when the show started. Lucy didn't think Viv was "dumpy" or overweight enough to play Ethel, and she didn't want to be upstaged as the beautiful star. Another part of the backstage trouble that often has been said to have been a rumor is the part in Vivian's contract that made her always be 20 pounds overweight. But, like Bill and Viv's hatred for one another, this was true, far from a rumor. Lucy learned to respect Vivian because of how Vivian wouldn't take any of Lucy's nonsense. Lucy would walk all over people if allowed, and she actually liked when somebody would stand up to her. One of the best, most "juicy gossip" quotes from Vivian that shows how she stood up to Lucy occurred during the filming of "Lucy's Show Biz Swan Song." Due to her pregnancy, Lucy got a dressing room very close to the stage, so she wouldn't have to walk as far. Vivian had to get a faraway dressing room, and one time, she was a bit late getting to the stage, because she had to change costumes and practically run from the dressing room. Lucy snapped at her about being late, and Viv fired back with, "I'd tell you to go f--- yourself, but I see that Desi has already handled that!"
Desi Arnaz had an extraordinary memory. He often would be able to memorize all of his lines for the show after the first reading, and he usually would learn everybody else's part by filming time! He was the true force behind the workings of the show, and in the later years, he was busy off doing Desilu production tasks during most of the rehearsals, but because of his great memory, he didn't need to practice his part. He knew it cold right away.
On the opposite end of the dialogue memorization spectrum was William Frawley. He reportedly would tear out all of the pages of a new script that had any Fred dialogue on it and throw away the rest, without even reading the full script! Writer Bob Weiskopf said thatFrawley would often go and complain when he had too many lines. He wanted as little to do and say as possible. Weiskopf said Frawley just wanted to get off the set and go drink at the restaurant Musso and Frank's. Vivian Vance said that, one time, Frawley saw the script for "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined," and he asked if this was next week's episode. Vivian told him that it was the script for the current episode they were about to film in 15 minutes! Frawley didn't even bother to learn the basic plot of the episode! This is not to say that Frawley didn't take his role of Fred Mertz seriously. He was very thankful for the role, because it brought him good, steady work that he didn't have before the show started. He just didn't care to bother learning about any parts of the show that didn't include Fred. Lucille Ball once said, "Bill Frawley WAS Fred Mertz, period," and this was largely true. The two were very similar in interests and personality, so Frawley didn't need to concern himself with any additional information. He just could show up and play himself.*When Desi offered William Frawley the role of Fred, Desi was about the only one who wanted Frawley. Everyone else didn't think he'd do a good job because of his past antics and heavy drinking, but Desi took a chance with him, knowing Frawley would be the perfect Fred Mertz. Desi did give Frawley an ultimatum, though, saying that, if Frawley messed up once by skipping work/rehearsal, he would be out. Frawley faithfully came to work the entire time he played Fred, never missing a required day.
The only time Frawley would take off work (with permission) was whenever the Yankees were in the World Series. He put a clause in his contract saying how he would be allowed to attend every Yankees World Series. Frawley was a huge sports nut, especially regarding baseball.
William Frawley was a known bigot, so in the show's infancy, he wasn't exactly thrilled with the prospect of having a Cuban boss, but he and Desi grew to be quite close. In fact, at Frawley's funeral in 1966, Desi was chosen to be one of the pallbearers.
During the first rehearsal, Frawley gave off a great retort. When lunchtime came, Lucy and Desi just pulled out a picnic basket of fried chicken and started eating, not bothering to notice that none of the other cast and crew members had anything to eat. Frawley was understandably annoyed by this, so he sarcastically spouted off with, "When do the PEONS get to eat?"
When planning to make the pilot, Lucy and Desi originally were told to make the show a lot like their real lives, where both Lucy and Desi's characters were rich and successful in Hollywood. Lucy and Desi correctly knew that their viewing audience wouldn't be able to relate to celebrity problems, and this is why they chose to have the show be about common, everyday domestic problems. Also, the original character names of Lucy and Larry Lopez were quickly disposed of for several reasons. First and foremost, everyone felt that the overused alliteration in the names bordered on unrealistic and nauseating. Secondly, it was feared that having the characters' last name be Lopez would confuse Desi with another bandleader from that era whose last name was Lopez. Finally, it is speculated that "Ricardo" was thought up to please Lucy's superstition about the "A-R" letter combination in names being lucky for her.
The cast and crew had a tradition on the show from the start - whenever somebody would get spontaneous applause from the audience for doing something, they would receive a silver dollar at the end of the episode. There was a chart to keep track of how many silver dollars each person had. So, the next time you hear spontaneous applause on the show, just say to yourself, "There goes another silver dollar!"
As for Emmys won surrounding the show, Lucile Ball won for "Best Comedienne" in 1952 and for "Best Actress in a Continuing Performance" in 1953; Vivian Vance won for "Best Supporting Actress" in 1953; and the show itself won for "Best Situation Comedy" in both 1952 and 1953. When Red Skelton beat Lucy the first year she was nominated, he famously said that they "gave [the Emmy] to the wrong redhead," and that Lucy should have won.
William Frawley was nominated five times for an Emmy, but sadly, he never won. Desi Arnaz was never nominated throughout the show's run. When questioned about all of his Emmy losses, Frawley hilariously quipped, "It didn't surprise me. I knew they didn't know what they were doing when Vivian Vance got one!"
Throughout the show, the Mertzes' and Ricardos' home phone number changed a lot, the writers always trying to make sure that they used New York numbers that weren't in real service. Here's all of the Ricardos' numbers: Murray Hill 5-9975 and Murray Hill 5-9099. And here's all of the Mertzes's numbers: Circle I-2099, Circle 7-2099, Plaza 5-6098, and Skyler 4-8098.