ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A much-maligned statue of Lucille Ball will get a face lift after it drew worldwide attention as "Scary Lucy," according to the mayor of the western New York village where the 1950s sitcom actress and comedian grew up and her life-size bronze has stood since 2009.
Scott Schrecengost said Tuesday that his village will be starting a fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter to collect donations to rework the Lucy statue from the shoulders up. Schrecengost said he has spoken to a sculptor who agreed to fix the statue for less than the $8,000 to $10,000 quoted previously by the original sculptor, Dave Poulin.
"We'd like to have better representation of Lucille Ball in her hometown," Schrecengost told The Associated Press in a phone interview from Celoron, located 60 miles south of Buffalo, New York.
The mayor's comments came only hours after Poulin told the AP he was willing to create a new statue for free. But after Schrecengost said he doesn't want Poulin to redo the work, even for free. Poulin said he was "fine" with that decision.
Celoron, a village of about 1,300 on the southeastern end of Chautauqua Lake, found itself drawing national and international attention when a 2012 statue replacement campaign launched on Facebook with the name "We Love Lucy! Get Rid of this Statue" garnered renewed interest in the wake of local media stories on the statue. Critics of the 400-pound statue dubbed it "Scary Lucy," saying its face bears little resemblance to the "I Love Lucy" star.
Poulin even used the same term in a letter he released Monday evening apologizing for the statue, calling it "by far my most unsettling sculpture."
Poulin said he was on a family vacation with his wife and son last week when the controversy erupted. By the time he returned last weekend to his home in the area, his work was being vilified online as a "nightmare" resembling a drunken zombie.
He said he has received "hundreds and hundreds" of angry emails and phone messages, including some death threats.
"It's totally insane," Poulin said. "There's a lot of nasty, nasty, nasty things being said about me as an artist and about my work."
Poulin, who's in his 50s, said that body of work includes creating more than 120 commissioned public sculptures installed across western New York and Pennsylvania. None of those have ever resulted in similar criticism, he said.
Schrecengost said there was displeasure with Poulin's Lucy statue, which was created a decade ago, from the moment a local couple donated it to the village and it was unveiled in Lucille Ball Memorial Park in August 2009.
"Everyone was shocked and agreed it wasn't Lucy," the mayor said.
There had been earlier attempts to convince Poulin to redo the statue, but the village didn't have the funds for his fee, Schrecengost said. The plans are to raise enough money online to rework the statue's head, neck and shoulders. If the village can raise up to $20,000, the whole statue may be replaced, he said.
Even with its frightening visage, Scary Lucy has always drawn people who pose next to the statue for photos. Now, there's a steady stream of visitors making their way to the lakeside park.
"It's crazy," Schrecengost said. "We've got people nonstop coming down taking pictures of the statue."