I'm posting this in honor of Star Trek's 47th anniversary and also to honor a great lady who should be remembered for more than just her comedic talent.
(Originally posted on Tumblr. Credit to the writers.)
How to Geek:
Whose intervention ensured Star Trek saw the light of day?
Answer: Lucille Ball
Most people recognize and remember Lucille Ball as the lovable and silly star of one of America’s earliest and most loved sitcoms, I Love Lucy. What most people don’t know is that Lucille was a savvy business woman and that she and her husband Desi Arnaz had amassed a small fortune and owned their own studio, Desilu.
It was at Desilu that acclaimed Sci-Fi screenwriter and visionary Gene Roddenberry got his big break. Roddenberry pitched the Star Trek pilot to the studio as a sort of Western-inspired space adventure. While many within the studio balked at the idea, Lucille liked the idea and the first pilot was approved and filmed. The pilot was pitched to NBC and was promptly rejected on the grounds that it was too intellectual, not enough like the space-western they had been lead to believe it would be, and audiences wouldn’t relate to it. Lucille, a fan of Roddenberry’s work, pushed back against NBC and insisted they order a second pilot. Ordering a second pilot was a practice almost entirely unheard of and save for Lucille’s charisma and clout with the network it would never have happened.
Roddenberry shot the second pilot, NBC accepted it, and Star Trek premiered in 1966, thus beginning a new era in the Sci-Fi genre and laying the foundation for half a century of Star Trek fandom–an era that would have never come to pass without the intervention and insistence of Lucille Ball.
Bonus Trivia: After her divorce from Arnaz, Lucille bought out his share of their studio. As a result she became the first woman to both head and own a major studio.
More about Lucille Ball
There is much, much more to know about Lucille Ball and her contributions to pop culture, but even more to know about her and her contributions to feminism.
Without Lucille Ball, there would never have been a Mary Tyler Moore.
The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, the Andy Griffith Show, Dick Van Dyke, My Three Sons, I SPy and That Girl were all part of what she, specifically, realized were going to be popular, often despite everyone else saying she was wrong.
Desilu bought RKO, though later sold many of the rights to films from that incredible collection.
As a company,they developed the standard multiple camera format that is used on all sitcoms today.
Today, what was once Desilu, is known as CBS Televisions Studios.
She was an older woman who married a younger man — a Cuban, which in those days was an interracial marriage — through elopement. It was, for the times, scandalous.
So scandalous, that the radio show that ultimately became I Love Lucy was sidelined because Executives didn’t think the public would go for it.
A Cuban headlining a major hit was and is a major win, that is often overlooked these days because of the stereotypes that came from such a popular show.
Together, her and Desi were incredibly shrewd. When the sponsor, Phillip Morris, wouldn’t pay for the expense of filming the show, they said they would take a cut in pay in exchange for the rights to the film, and ended up owning I Love Lucy. It would be two decades and change before CBS got it back, and then under some terms that were favorable to Lucille and Desi’s children, ultimately. Both of whom were born when she was in her 40’s.
She registered as communist in the 1930’s, and as a result, was brought up before the damnable McCarthy HCUAA. She supported Roosevelt for President, and then later voted for Eisenhower — showing that she was more interested in doing what’s right, over doing it for personal gain.
She was one of the greatest women of the last century, a “B movie queen” who changed the world in ways that are, as is often typical, consistently overlooked.
She was the prototype that pushed women to question the status quo, the icon that many struggled with and against, an example that reverberated with people old and young when marching and shouting and arguing about a woman’s right to be her own person and have control over her own life.
She not only inspired it, she lived it.