August 08, 2006

Everyone Loves Lucy

This past weekend, Jamestown celebrated the birthday of one of the city's most famous citizens and the city was full of celebrities, come to join in the celebrations.

Diane VincentAmong them was one who looked very familiar. This is because she looks and dresses like Lucy Ricardo, the fictional character who made Lucille Ball a star. Her name is Diane Vincent.

Ms. Vincent is a resident of Los Angeles. She is one of only two women in the world who have been officially licensed to imitate the famous redhead. She has been coming to Jamestown celebrations since 1999.

"I am a singer, dancer and actor in my own right," Diane laughed when asked if she wore the red wig under the wimple. "When I was growing up, people didn't used to run over and tell me I looked like Lucy."

Joining Diane was Rhonda Medina, who imitates Ethel Mertz, Lucy's partner in chaos and sidekick.

So how does a singer, dancer and actor who was born after I Love Lucy was no longer being produced, come to be an imitator of a fictional character?

"I was appearing in a production of the musical Pal Joey, back in the late 1980s. My costume included a red wig, big eyelashes and a big red lipstick mouth. Someone took a photo of the cast and when it was printed, people often commented that it appeared Lucy was in the show." Diane said.

Struck by the similarity, not long afterwards, she saw an advertisement for people to audition for the Universal Studios Theme Park as a number of celebrities, including Lucy. She auditioned by standing on a stage and answering a battery of questions in character as Lucy. It took nine months for the studio to make the selection, but she’s been doing Lucy ever since.

"I work at the park, 40 hours per week, plus I appear in shows when I can and it's not infrequent that people in Hollywood want impersonators of various stars to come to parties, openings of new facilities and so on. I do as many as I can," she said.

Is there a particular costume that she always wears when portraying Lucy? She said she is gradually acquiring a wardrobe of Lucy costumes.

"At first I just had the blue and white, polka dot dress, which is the one she wore most frequently in the series — in 25 different episodes, in fact," she said.

As time goes by, she has worked with a dress maker to watch episodes of the series, identify costumes which the actress wore, and produce them in real life.

One of the problems in creating her growing wardrobe turns out to be color.

"Since the series was filmed in black and white, people made up their minds what color everything was, but different people might have assigned different colors," she said. "Our best guide has been the paper doll books, for which the authors researched the colors and shades of everything as closely as possible."

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