Vivian Vance as Ethel Mertz on "I Love Lucy".
|Birthname:||Ethel Louise Roberta Mae Potter|
|Personal and Family information|
|Born:||Sometime between 1905 and 1909|
|Birthplace:||Albequerque, New Mexico, U.S.|
|Apartment building owner/landlord|
|Related to:||Fred Mertz (husband)|
Will Potter (father)
Ricky Ricardo, Jr. (godson)
|Good friend of the Ricardos and best friend of Lucy who oftentimes gets mixed up in hilarious predicaments with her|
|Appeared on:||I Love Lucy/The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour|
|Character played by:||Vivian Vance|
Born Ethel Louise Roberta Mae Potter sometime between 1905 and 1915 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1954, Ethel celebrated somewhere between her 40th and her 50th birthday. Lucy Ricardo turned 33 in 1953 (said in episode #72), so Lucy had to turn 34 in 1954, which also almost matches up with her given birthyear of 1921. If Ethel turned an age between 40 and 50 the year that Lucy turned 34, there is either six to sixteen years between the women. Using Lucy's birthyear of 1921 and subtracting from six to sixteen years, Ethel would have been born between 1905 and 1915.
Her birthdate is never given, but she is a Leo, so her birthday must be sometime in late July or early-to-mid August. Not much is known about her early childhood. She was raised in a ranch outside of Albuquerque. Her father, Will Potter, owns a successful soda shop in Albuquerque, and when Ethel visits him in early 1955, her mother is nowhere to be seen. Her mother is never shown or given a name, but Ethel went home crying to her mother's after an arguement with Fred in 1952, and Ethel told Fred she was visiting her mother when she went to help Lucy trick Ricky on the camping trip in 1953.
However, her father, Will Potter, tells her upon her visit to Albuquerque, "WE haven't touched your room since you left it," so either Ethel's mother still is alive and living with her father, or Will has since married somebody else. Her father owns a successful soda shop in Albuquerque. Ethel never mentions having any siblings, but as for other family, her Uncle Oscar is married to her Aunt Emmy, and her Aunt Martha is married to her Uncle Elmo. Ethel attended Albuquerque Elementary School as a child, along with Betty Foster Ramsey, who she reunites with when she moved to Westport. Ethel's father even belonged to the same lodge as Betty's father, Leslie Foster. In high school, she took French, but she forgot it all by adulthood.
A very talented singer and dancer, young Ethel knew that she wanted to go into show business to use her beautiful soprano voice. As a young adult, the former "Miss Albuquerque" gave a performance at the Little Theater in Albuquerque, as a "farewell" to the town before she left for New York to pursue a career on Broadway. She considers herself to have been a "star of musical comedy." She was so well-liked and respected in her home town of Albuquerque that, when she returned in 1955, the Little Theater put up on their marquee: "Ethel Mae Potter, we never forgot her!" She was quite the catch in her young days, and while she was still living in Albuquerque, her long list of suitors included Billy Hackett (now editor of the newspaper in Albuquerque), Deke Arledge, and Hank Spear.
Courting and marriage to Fred MertzEdit
Sometime after she left her home town of Albuquerque, she met Fred Mertz, her future husband. Mr. Potter didn't like Fred, so Ethel and Fred eloped against Mr. Potter's wishes when Ethel was 19. Ethel and Fred got married on May 3rd. The year is unknown, but several possible dates can be calculated using given information. Using Ethel's tentative birthyears, she would have been 19 between 1925 and 1935. The Mertzes celebrate their 18th wedding anniversary in 1951, which would mean they eloped in 1933. They celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in 1952, which would give a wedding year of 1927. It is thought that Fred and Ethel were a couple for about a year before they eloped, as Fred once remarks that he has been buying Ethel birthday presents for 26 years. This, of course, is one year longer than their longstanding 25-year marriage period.
Fred and Ethel set out on having a rather successful vaudeville career together after their marriage. They performed all over the country. It appears that they performed under the name Mertz & Mertz; this was the name on their vaudeville trunk, which they bought from a man who had a seal act. One of their career highlights was starring in the Flapper Follies of 1927 at the Palace Theater in Jamestown, New York, an act which they reprised in 1952 at the Tropicana.
The two also did an apache dance together sometime during their act, and Ethel used to do some sort of an Egyptian dance. The Mertzes seemed to have lived a sort of vagabond life early in their marriage. They traveled a lot for vaudeville, and once, they somehow got stranded in Indianapolis. To survive, the couple worked at a diner, Fred as the waiter and Ethel as the cook. It is likely that they were in vaudeville together the first five years of their marriage, as Ethel once says (before her California trip) that she hadn't been out of New York for 20 out of the 25 years she had been married! The other five years most likely were spent traveling all around the country for her and Fred's act.