I had every “I Love Lucy” episode recorded on VHS before DVD series sets had been invented.
I also had a documentary on Lucy’s life that I watched until it wore out and an autobiography of hers that I read until the book jacket became dog-eared.
I never dreamed that I would get to go to Lucy’s apartment and walk the streets of her hometown — Jamestown, N.Y.
In 2001, replicas of the Ricardos’ living room, kitchen and Hollywood hotel toured the country as part of the “I Love Lucy” 50th anniversary celebration.
I was 15 when my family and I went to Biloxi, Miss., to see it, but I felt 5 as I stood staring at the rooms where Lucy and Ricky lived in beautiful living color. Part of me wanted to run out the door and down the hall to see if Ethel and Fred were home.
Four years later, we took another family vacation to Jamestown for Lucy-Desi Days, an annual fan event.
The headliner that year was Barbara Eden, who appeared in the “Country Club Dance” episode during the final season and later became the star of “I Dream of Jeannie.”
Lucy’s brother, Fred, and cousin Cleo, whom she referred to as her sister, were also scheduled to be there. Then, after we had already bought our tickets, Lucie Arnaz announced that she was coming too.
The entire trip was a dream for a loyal Lucy fan like myself.
Lucy and Ricky (or the people who are paid to impersonate them, at least) helped the mayor read a proclamation at the opening ceremony.
I not only saw “I Love Lucy” director William Asher and film editor Dann Cahn but also got so close to these television pioneers that I could have touched them.
My family went on a bus tour that took us by the house where Lucy was born, the house in nearby Celoron where she grew up, her grave and other places of significance.
That afternoon, my mother and I talked Daddy into letting us stop at the gift shop before going back to our hotel.
We walked through the door and were greeted by Lucie Arnaz herself.
She was passing out samples of some chocolate candies that were available in the store. She said something to me when she handed me mine, but for the life of me I can’t remember what it was.
I’m just glad I didn’t say something really stupid to her, like “Do you know who you are?”
I was still recovering from the shock of meeting Lucy’s daughter when I noticed that Cleo was in the store too.
My mother and I walked around pretending to shop while actually watching the two of them out of the corner of our eyes. Then the back door opened and in walked Barbara Eden.
She was as pretty as ever and was very nice to the few customers who had the nerve to talk to her. I couldn’t. I was afraid of fainting.
My mother and I also met Marilyn Borden that weekend and got her autograph. Borden and her twin sister, Roz, played Teensy and Weensy in the “Tennessee Bound” episode where the gang gets thrown in jail on their way to California.
I feel the need to tell you readers at this point that I am not exaggerating this story, as Lucy was prone to do when talking about her meetings with celebrities. I have plenty of photos, autographs and souvenirs (including those chocolate candies) in my old bedroom to prove it.
My mother also found a dirty old softball in my closet recently that shows how long I have been a Lucy fan. It is signed “to our friend Jennifer” from Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley.
Their handwriting bears an uncanny resemblance to mine while I was learning to write in cursive.
I could go on and on about why I love Lucy. Maybe I will in October, when the show officially turns 60.
In the meantime, I want to make other fans like myself aware that they can now own four of Lucy’s classic comedy series on DVD.
The complete sets for “I Love Lucy” and “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” have been available for some time.
Three seasons of “The Lucy Show” and three seasons of “Here’s Lucy” have also been released. Another “Here’s Lucy” set is coming out in late March.
Of course, I have them all, and I highly recommend them.
Except for a brief hiatus following her divorce from Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball had a show on television every year between 1951 and 1974.
It is a testament to her talent that every one of those episodes is as funny in 2011 as they were back then.