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Lucille Ball Sent Carol Burnett Flowers The Day She Died

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images

Birthdays are usually a time of celebration, but on Carol Burnett’s 56th birthday, she had little to celebrate. Her longtime friend Lucille Ball passed away the same day, but not before she’d kept up a very important tradition.

Ball and Burnett first met in 1959

Headshot of Lucille Ball as Lucy from "I Love Lucy"
American actress and producer Lucille Ball, best known for her starring role in the hit 50s sitcom ‘I Love Lucy’. (Photo Credit: Weegee (Arthur Fellig) / International Center of Photography / Getty Images)

I Love Lucy had been over for a long time before Lucille Ball met Carol Burnett for the first time. America’s number-one sitcom aired from 1951 to 1957, and Ball had become a household name. When Ball first met Burnett, it was backstage at Burnett’s Broadway show Once Upon a Mattress in 1959.

Ball was fond of Burnett early on in her career. Right from the start, Ball called Burnett “kid.” Burnett described meeting her for the first time, saying, “She called me ‘kid’ because she was 22 years older than I.” Burnett continued, “Just as she was leaving, she said, ‘Kid, if you ever need me for anything, give me a call.'”

Burnett called in Ball’s favor

Carol Burnett dancing with a mop
Comedian Carol Burnett in her characterization of a char-woman on her TV show, circa 1972. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

A few years following their first interaction, Burnett was approached by CBS to do a variety show. However, there was a catch – CBS was only going to grant Burnett the variety television special if she could secure a big name to sign on, too. Immediately, Ball came to mind.

Burnett contacted Ball, cashing in the favor she’d offered the night they met, and soon the two funniest women in television were together on Burnett’s special that was called Carol +2. Their show premiered on March 22, 1966. This special was the pinnacle of Burnett’s career to date, and led to her securing her own television showThe Carol Burnett Show, a year later.

The two remained good friends

Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball in dresses
Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball, circa 1971. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

Ball and Burnett remained good friends over the years. Ball appeared on Burnett’s show four times in the first four years of the show, which aired for a whopping 11 seasons. Given her popularity and history on television as the First Lady of Comedy, Ball acted as a mentor as well as a friend to Burnett, offering her advice throughout her career.

Ball and Burnett were such good friends that Ball even hosted Burnett’s baby shower. “It was a black-tie baby shower! With men attending,” Burnett described. “It was one of the funniest evenings ever.”

Burnett received flowers the same day Ball died

Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett posing for a photo
American actors and comedians Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett pose together at a tribute to actor and comedian Danny Thomas at the Century Plaza Hotel, Los Angeles, California, circa 1975. (Photo Credit: Frank Edwards / Fotos International / Getty Images)

Over the years, Ball had made it a tradition to send Burnett flowers on her birthday. However, on April 26, 1989, she was not expecting to receive flowers. That day was not only Burnett’s 56th birthday, but was also the day that Ball passed away at 77 years old. She died around 5:00 in the morning but had already taken care of her commitment to her friend.

More from us: The Tragic Way Lucille Ball Said Goodbye to Desi Arnaz Before He Died

“She would always send me flowers on my birthday,” Burnett said. “She died on April 26th. That afternoon, I got flowers from her that said, ‘Happy Birthday, kid.'”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!