Suzanne LaRusch --
The Lady with Lucy's Face
Suzanne LaRusch, Hollywood-based actress-comedienne, is the world's most-renowned impressionist of Lucille Ball. "You're tremendous!" says the real Lucy's daughter, Lucie Arnaz. "It's a little eerie."
"Suzanne's likeness to Lucille is uncanny," agrees I Love Lucy writer Madelyn Davis. "She has caught all of her mannerisms, her voice, and even her appearance."
Suzanne made her professional debut at the ripe old age of 18- months in a Kodak commercial. She was a very busy child actress, doing TV commercials and such shows as Dennis the Menace, The Loretta Young Show and Window on Main Street. She even auditioned in 1967 to play one of Lucille Ball's youngsters in the movie, "Yours, Mine and Ours."
Suzanne graduated top of her class in dance and drama from Glendale High School, then toured in dinner-theatre productions of "Barefoot in the Park," "Sweet Charity," and "Born Yesterday." In 1979 she was chosen dance captain for the Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, and cheered the team on to the 1980 Super Bowl. She kept her acting skills honed with appearances on such television programs as The Mighty Carson Art Players (with Johnny Carson), The Jeffersons, Designing Women, and Dear John.
She also stayed active with one of her first loves, dancing. "I guess I have always been 'a hoofer' at heart," she says. "In fact, I was auditioning for a job as a dancer at Universal studios the morning that Lucy died. It was a very traumatic day for me; I had always been a big Lucy fan. But I did manage to get through the audition, and landed the dance job for the summer.
"The studio, at that time, only had one full-time lookalike employed for the facilities tour, and that was a lady who imitated Marilyn Monroe. Well, this lady was so good that she received more assignments than she could handle. Finally, the studio hired me and another lady to help out. I worked up a Marilyn imitation, and also one of Mae West and Betty Boop (although the studio told me I was not petite enough to be Betty).
"When the Lucy exhibit opened in the spring of 1991, I suggested that they include a Lucy lookalike. For this the studio needed to get Lucie Arnaz's approval. I decided to have some 'audition' pictures made to send to Lucie, just so she could see what we had in mind. I found a mid-1950s full-color shot of Lucy, and started to experiment with copying the hair and make-up. Some ideas worked, others didn't. Once I was happy with what I saw in the mirror, I called a friend who is a make-up artist on Star Trek, and asked him to come see what I had done. He walked into my dressing room already in conversation. 'Okay, Suzanne, let's see what you've done to yoursel....Oh, my gawd, Suzanne!' and he stopped cold.
"'What? What?' I asked. 'What's wrong? Tell me and I'll change it.'
"'No! Nothing! It's perfect just the way you have it! Don't change a thing.' He was so stunned, he was nearly white.
"The studio sent Lucie my photos and a live-action video tape, and in January, 1992, she approved my recreating the Lucy Ricardo character for the Universal exhibits. 'She's really unique,' Lucie wrote to the studio. 'I've never seen anyone capture the Lucy character that well before. I was very impressed, and, of course, you have my approval. I'd also like you to let her know how I feel, and thank her for bringing to life the "inside" of "Lucy" as well as the faces.'" Lucie and her brother, Desi Jr., quickly authorized Suzanne to portray the scatterbrained Redhead in venues outside Universal as well, and in 2000 their company -- Desilu, too -- and CBS named her their "Offical Lucy Performer."
Over the years she has entertained for former President George Bush, was a surprise guest for Roseanne at the 1997 Women in Film Lucy Awards, and has appeared on such national television programs as Leeza, The Rosie O'Donnell Show and The Morning Show with Bryant Gumbal. She was featured on the AT&T Float saluting "The Golden Age of Television" in the 1999 Rose Parade, was selected by Mattel, Inc. to promote the 2001 "Lucy and Ricky 'Spectin'" dolls in promotional and press campaigns, and has appeared numerous times on Home Shopping Network's "I Love Lucy"-themed specials.
Suzanne appeared annually in our Loving Lucy Conventions (1996-2001), which attracted Lucille Ball fans from all over the world. For 1997's convention, she wrote, produced and starred in "Lucy Through the Years," a one-woman show tracing the life and career of our favorite redhead. No one was more surprised by her recreation of Lucy Carmichael of The Lucy Show than the series' co-stars, Jimmy Garrett and Ralph Hart:
In 1998, she starred in Gregg Oppenheimer's recreation of a "My Favorite Husband" radio program, appearing opposite Dwayne Hickman, Tony Dow, and such Lucy players as Peggy Rae, Doris Singleton, Sandra Gould, Shirley Mitchell and Janet Waldo.
For Loving Lucy 1999 Suzanne recreated Lucy Ricardo in a special dinner show set on board the Constitution during Lucy and Ricky's trip to Europe. Tab Hunter guest starred in the production, which naturally concerned Lucy's efforts to get into Ricky's act. Also in the show were Adrian Israel (as Ricky), Rhonda Richards (as Ethel), Keith Thibodeaux (as the ship's welder), and Roz and Marilyn Borden (as themselves).
Suzanne never tires of appearing as Lucy. "To see the way people's faces light up... to see them smile and have a good time," she says, "makes all the work involved worthwhile. I love it!"
For more information about Suzanne, visit her web site at:
"Live" On Stage
Compilation produced by Thomas J. Watson
Original material © 2009 Dual-Crown Productions
All Rights Reserved.
"I Love Lucy" is copyrighted by and a registered trademark of CBS Worldwide, Inc.
Images of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz used with permission of Desilu, too, LLC.
Licensing by Unforgettable Licensing, Northbrook, Illinois.