Scary Lucy, Lovely Lucy
Scary Lucy, Lovely Lucy

Scary Lucy, Lovely Lucy

Field review by the editors.

Celoron, New York

August 7, 2009, was a big day in Celoron, New York -- the first time that the opening ceremonies of the annual Lucille Ball birthday celebration were held in her childhood hometown, rather than in the larger, adjacent city of Jamestown, where she'd been born. To mark the occasion, a full-size bronze statue of Lucy was dedicated in the downtown village park. The local sculptor, Dave Poulin, had supposedly been working on the statue of the comedienne/TV superstar for five years -- but its completion was so rushed that he hadn't shown the final version to anyone before its unveiling.

Scary Lucy with her bottle of Vitameatavegamin.
Scary Lucy with her bottle of Vitameatavegamin.

The sculpture was of Lucy as she'd looked in a 1952 episode of her television series, I Love Lucy, making a funny face after drinking an alcoholic concoction named Vitameatavegamin.

According to the story published in the next day's Post-Journal newspaper, statue donors Mark and Jetta Wilson were "extremely pleased" and "extremely happy." They declared the statue to be "just perfect" and praised Poulin's "attention to detail" and "excellence," qualities that they said were characteristic of Lucy herself. Poulin said he was "thrilled" to have created a statue that "resonates with people."

Apparently, everyone lied.

Celoron mayor Scott Schrecengost told us, years later, that on the day of the unveiling the Wilsons were extremely unhappy. "They would've liked to have crawled under a rock," he said, because of Lucy's bizarre appearance. Poulin's comments to the press -- also years later -- struck a similar sour note. He insisted that he was unhappy with the statue, too -- although by then his Lucy had definitely resonated.

Another distinctive Poulin face, this one in Russell, Pennsylvania.
Another distinctive Poulin face, this one in Russell, Pennsylvania.

Poulin, as he would point out repeatedly, was no amateur. He had created over 100 public bronze figures, and was known for his community work with young artists. But he had the habit of making sculptures with unusual eyes (a combination of bulging irises and hollowed pupils) and overly articulated teeth -- a particularly difficult approach to pull off appealingly in a bronze statue inviting close-up inspection. It was an unforgiving style for someone trying to capture a famous female face, especially a face as beloved as Lucy's in her hometown.

Mayor Schrecengost told us that he considered removing the sculpture, particularly after a post appeared on Facebook titled, "We Love Lucy; Get Rid of This Statue!" (It turned out to have been written by someone from rival Jamestown). But hauling away the statue -- which had been a free gift to the small town -- would take time and money, and Poulin's Lucy did attract some visitors, even if they weren't thrilled by what they saw. So the mayor let the statue stay -- the first of what turned out to be several good decisions on his part.

Lovely Lucy arrived in love-starved Celoron in 2016.
Lovely Lucy arrived in love-starved Celoron in 2016.

In April 2015 "Scary Lucy" went viral (and acquired her name) when tabloid journalists and social media suddenly discovered the three-year-old Facebook post. TV talking heads and stay-at-home comedians had a hilarious time comparing the statue to everything from bug-eyed Steve Buscemi to a creature that controlled the people of Celoron through their nightmares. Poulin had few defenders, and their best argument was that America's two other Lucy statues, in North Hollywood and Palm Springs, were also bad.

Poulin told the press that he'd received death threats, and published a letter in The Hollywood Reporter, of all places, where he wrote that, "From the day of its installation, I have shared my disappointment in the final outcome," and that he'd "suggested years ago they remove the sculpture so as not to continue to anger people."

Scary Lucy could, at this point, easily have been removed. The town was flooded with proposals from artists, pledging to create a better replacement statue. Mayor Schrecengost told us that he received offers for Scary Lucy from both the Comedy Central channel and the National Comedy Center in Jamestown. But he was wary of their motives and leery of doing anything to further offend Lucy fans. He also realized that Scary Lucy was now drawing crowds to his town. Some of those visitors liked Scary Lucy, finding her features strangely endearing.

Lovely Lucy.
Lovely Lucy.

Mayor Schrecengost assembled an "art team" of professionals to carefully review the new Lucy proposals. He wanted no more surprises. The sculptor eventually chosen was Carolyn Palmer, and on August 6, 2016, her statue -- quickly dubbed "Lovely Lucy" -- was unveiled on Scary Lucy's old spot in Celoron's park. Palmer told the press that the pressure to not screw up this statue was "completely intimidating." But her Lucy was graceful and glamorous and everything the town could've hoped for. It cost a whopping $250,000, and it was paid for entirely through private donations.

If ever there was a time to scrap Scary Lucy and make Dave Poulin happy, this was it. But mayor Schrecengost instead decided to keep both statues, simply moving Scary Lucy a short distance away from its new companion. He felt that having a nice Lucy statue was good, but that having both statues was better. Scary Lucy had fans. "One time," he recalled, "some people were boarding a bus after taking pictures with the new statue. I was walking past and I said, 'You know, Scary Lucy is still right over there.' They nearly ran me over getting back off that bus!"

Even this dog had a difficult time appreciating Scary Lucy.
Even this dog had a difficult time appreciating Scary Lucy.

In time, Dave Poulin's Lucy and his similarly styled works might find a following, a la Bob Ross. But in the controversy's immediate aftermath, Poulin seemed profoundly discouraged. He stopped making public sculptures, gave away his foundry equipment, and moved to South Carolina, where he unexpectedly died in June 2020.

Dave Poulin's statue of Lucille Ball ultimately led to good things for Celoron. Scary Lucy, despite her bad reviews, continues to deliver a weird joy to people who can appreciate a spoonful of Vitameatavegamin.

Scary Lucy, Lovely Lucy

Address:
Lindsey Place, Celoron, NY
Directions:
From NY-394 on the western edge of Jamestown turn north onto Fairmount Ave. Follow this road about two miles. You'll see a park on the right with a red post fence. Pull in and park; you'll immediately see Lovely Lucy. Scary Lucy is about 100 feet to the left, facing away from the parking lot.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Lucy's GraveLucy's Grave, Jamestown, NY - 2 mi.
National Comedy CenterNational Comedy Center, Jamestown, NY - 2 mi.
Lucy Desi Museum and Desilu StudiosLucy Desi Museum and Desilu Studios, Jamestown, NY - 2 mi.
In the region:
Shark Girl, Buffalo, NY - 57 mi.

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