The unveiling of the recently renovated Minuteman caused a few old-timers* to reminisce about one of the statue’s most famous star turns.
In 1957, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo “moved” from their East 68th Street brownstone to Westport. Their good friends Fred and Ethel Mertz joined them.
It was the 6th and final season of “I Love Lucy.” And in the very last episode, Lucy accidentally smashed the Minuteman statue that Ricky is about to unveil at the “Yankee Doodle Day” celebration. Hilarity, of course, ensued.
Lucy Ricardo, posing as the Minuteman statue.
The episode — including a cameo appearance by 5-year-old Desi Arnaz Jr. — was watched by over 35 million viewers. (The top-ranked comedy in 2013-14, ” Big Bang Theory,” averaged 20 million.)
So how did Lucy end up in Westport, demolishing the Minuteman statue?
According to a fascinating story by Marshall S. Berdan in the December 2006 issue of Westport Magazine, the show’s writers needed “a whole new set of zany predicaments” that the suburbs could provide. (The reason given on TV: With young Desi Jr. growing up, the apartment was too small.)
Bob Weiskopf — one of the 4 writers — had actually lived in an old Victorian house on Canal Street, before moving to California. He suggested Westport as the Ricardos and Mertzes’ new home.
Broadway set designer Ralph Alswang and his wife Betty — Weston residents — drove a senior writer around town in December of 1956. They showed her Compo Beach, downtown and the train station, then had dinner at Cobb’s Mill. That one day in Westport sealed the deal.
According to Berdan, actor Arthur Kennedy’s 1928 home on Old Hill Road — with plank floors, wooden beams and a massive stone fireplace — served as the model for the Ricardos’ home. The Mertzes moved into the “guesthouse.”
Lucy did find “a new set of foils,” Berdan wrote, “in the form of Westport’s somewhat stiff, commuting corporate types and their patrician Yankee wives, the latter in collective form as the Westport Historical Society, the Westport Garden Club and an unnamed country club.”
In one episode, Lucy lost control of a power lawnmower on Main Street and the Boston Post Road. In another, the Ricardos and Mertzes attempt to surprise each other at the train station, but miss connections. I’m sure it looked funnier than it sounds.
In the Minuteman episode, Lucy Ricardo reads a poster to Ethel Mertz in “Westport.” It says: “Yankee Doodle Day Celebration — Statue Dedication at Jessup (sic) Green.”
In the final scene of the Minuteman episode, Berdan said, “the Ricardos’ dog nuzzles the replacement statue (Lucy) to life while Ricky extols the bravery and heroism exhibited by the patriots at the Battle of Compo.”
That’s a far cry from the scene on Monday, when Westporters got their first look at the newly restored Minuteman.
But it sure puts the complaints about the old guy wearing a Santa cap in perspective, no?
*Not as old as the Minuteman, but still.
For exceprts from the “I Love Lucy” Minuteman episode, click below:
(Hat tip to Richard Epstein)