August 11, 2011

She really loves Lucy

The day Linda Silver donned a red wig and black polka dot dress was also the day that her image appeared in a Taiwanese newspaper.

A Reuters photographer snapped a shot of Silver, alongside two American women dressed in similar garb in James - town, N.Y., and soon the image had circulated worldwide.

Silver, a Kingston elementary school teacher, was one of more than 900 Lucille Ball fans who participated in a Guinness Book of World Records contest last weekend to beat the world record of Lucille Ball impersonators.

"It was exciting," Silver said. Participants were given a Lucille Ball mask and a T-shirt with a polka dot dress print on it.

"When it was time to go, I said to my husband 'I have the polka dot dress and the wig, I'm wearing that,' because that's more original than the T-shirt," she said.

The world record event was part of the annual Lucy Fest, a five-day celebration of Lucille Ball in her hometown of James - town.

"It would have been Lucy's 100th birthday ... it was also the 60th anniversary of the I Love Lucy shows," Silver said of this year's festival.

This is the eighth year that Silver has made the five and a half hour drive with her husband, Steve, who comes for moral support.

"This year's festival has renewed interest in Lucille Ball again," she said.

Historically, special guests have included Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano, and I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden.

Silver said the festival organizers have been trying to get comedian Carol Burnett to come for years.

"I'd say Carol Burnett was a close second to Lucy," she said, referring to her comedic prowess.

The festival, which annually draws a crowd of more than a thousand people, also features interpreters who act out the main characters of the I Love Lucy show, Lucy and her husband Ricky.

"(In other years) they've had a Lucy masquerade ball, so you dress up as Lucy from your favourite episode," she said.

Though the festival mainly attracts Americans, Lucille Ball has been known to have a global appeal.

"We sat with a couple from Australia that had come just for the Lucy festival," she said.

Silver has a proven passion for all things Lucille Ball, having fallen in love with her shows at the age of 10 during her lunch breaks from school.

"I watched ( I Love Lucy) with my family, with my grandmother mostly," she said. "We ran home for lunch to catch the ... episode while we ate our sandwiches."

For the past 20 years, Silver has become an avid collector of Lucille Ball memorabilia, with an entire basement full of dolls, books, cups, globes, ornaments, chairs and plates dedicated to the famed actress.

In her backyard, Silver also has part of a lilac tree she says used to belong to Lucille Ball in her own backyard.

Since I Love Lucy began, Silver said the shows have never been completely off air.

" I Love Lucy will forever be popular," she said.

Silver said Ball's comedic talent is what makes her so special.

"Every single show that she has ever done makes you laugh," she said. "You just really appreciate her timing, how she can deliver a joke and the whole situation she'd get herself into."

Want more Lucy - visit the Everything Lucy website!

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