Folks in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Celoron, New York, were so excited to see the new statue of their most famous citizen unveiled in 2009.
But then they got a look at the life-size bronze of the comedy icon and gasped.
“That looks like Steve Buscemi!”
What the statue didn’t look like was anything like the beloved comedian/actress. But there it stood in a place of honor in the village’s Lucille Ball Memorial Park, where she used to play as a child.
The statue depicted Ball holding a spoon and a bottle of the fictional health elixir Vitameatavegamin, which she pitched with drunken fervor on one of the most famous episodes of “I Love Lucy.”
It was the statue’s face that people hated. They called it “ugly,” “frightening,” like a “Walking Dead extra,” “Conway Twitty” and worse. One person joked that townspeople wished the statue would get struck by lightning.
In 2012 fans launched a petition drive on Facebook called “We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue.” The statue became a viral sensation and the subject of revived debate last year when Yahoo! News wrote a story about the effort to replace it.
City officials went back and forth with sculptor Dave Poulin over makeover plans.
“(I) 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 said at the time, according to People.
“Yes, in retrospect, it should have never been cast in bronze and made public, and I take complete ownership of that poor decision.”
Seven years later a new life-size bronze, by a different artist, is ready for unveiling on Aug. 6, which would have been Ball’s 105th birthday.
After the town’s mayor decided he didn’t want Poulin to simply make over the original statue, New York sculptor Carolyn Palmer beat out more than 60 artists in a national competition to create a new one, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
She has sculpted other famous people, including Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson and Pope Francis. The pontiff blessed her marble likeness of him when he visited the United States last year.
“I not only wanted to portray the playful, animated and spontaneous Lucy, but also the glamorous Hollywood icon,” Palmer said in a statement.
“I just hope that all the Lucy fans are pleased and that Lucille Ball herself would have enjoyed this image of her.”
For inspiration Palmer reportedly watched episodes of “I Love Lucy” and hired models who posed in ‘50s-style dresses. She even bought a red wig to inspire her as she worked nine months on her 6-foot “baby.”
The village resident who started the Facebook petition has seen the new statue, hidden inside a giant wood box at the park for the time being, and reported that “it is stunning.”
The old statue is gone but won’t be forgotten. As ugly as people thought it was, it became a popular tourist attraction.
In May 2015 the Celoron Village Board voted to give it to the new National Comedy Center, scheduled to open in 2017 in nearby Jamestown, according to THR.
If nothing else, the comedy center officials said, the statue made people laugh.