Jamestown, New York
A museum in downtown Jamestown presents a celebration of local gal Lucille Ball, preserving and promoting her memory since it opened in 1996. You could argue it's hardly necessary, since, despite Lucy's death in 1989, cable and syndication will never let teevee's most beloved comedienne fade from public view. But the museum provides a more personal view of the life and career of Lucille Ball (and some lesser coverage of her nutty first husband, Desi Arnaz).
The building that houses the museum and gift shop is significant -- it's where Lucy bought her first hair dye.
The first impression we get as we traverse the Lucy-Desi Museum is that it's popular with those old enough to remember her TV premiere, or sensitive enough to appreciate her wedding dress exhibit, or both. That's okay -- and it makes for a quiet and appreciative atmosphere.
We do encounter some bad luck: the museum isn't displaying the hairbrush that still has some of Lucy's red hair today, even though the gift shop guy conceded that it was the museum's most popular exhibit. "We have too much to display, so every year we pick a theme. This year we chose the fifties."
There are many items making the connection between Hollywood Lucy's and her family life in Jamestown, where she was born in 1911. There's a portrait of DeDe Ball, Lucy's mom; a Little Ricky outfit; and Lucy's cancelled check from 1956 making her a lifetime member of the Jamestown YWCA. A flippable poster rack of newspaper clips features stories on her occasional return visits, when the town would roll out the red carpet.
The "History Of Comedy Timeline" notes Geoffrey Chaucer (1390), Mark Twain (1880), and I Love Lucy (1951). A video projection theater in the back runs continuously; while we wandered around, it was showing Lucy on some obscure 1970s game show. Interactive computer stations let visitors test their knowledge of all things Lucy.
The face of Lucy, we learn, "has been seen by more people, more often, than the face of any other human who ever lived," and I Love Lucy (which first ran on CBS from 1951-57) is "the most important television series of all time."
Next door is a reproduction of Desilu Studios, with the Ricardo's full-size TV kitchen and living room sets. More Lucy costumes are displayed, and tourists are encouraged to reenact famous Lucy skits in front of a camera connected to an old TV set. You can be on TV, just like Lucy!
Outside, the town keeps up the Lucy consecration. A chainsaw sculpture of the Queen of Comedy stands in Lucille Ball Memorial Park. Signs, murals, and banners are everywhere, and anyone in town can give you precise directions to the museum.
The first weekend in August is Lucy's Birthday Celebration, with grape-stomping and egg-stuffing contests, usually an appearance by Desi Jr. and Lucie Arnaz, and the coveted "Fan-of-the-year" announcement.