It’s been over 31 years since Lucille Ball passed away, but she is still dearly missed by millions of fans to this day. In a recent interview, the actress Paula Stewart opened up about her long friendship with the star.

Stewart told Closer Weekly that she can still remember the moment she first met Ball in 1960 as if it were yesterday.

“Lucy looked gorgeous,” Stewart said. “She was in a black dress with pearls. I couldn’t figure out how this elegant woman could be such a clown on TV.”

Though Ball was already a Hollywood icon by 1960, she was still nervous about making her singing debut.

“When a break came during rehearsals, I saw Lucy standing in a corner, nervously pulling on a cigarette, so I went over and asked if I could help her with her songs,” recalled Stewart, a trained singer who had appeared in several Broadway shows. “She just threw her arms around me. She was so grateful that somebody was going to help her.”

This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship that would last for the next thirty years.

Ball was at a bit of a low point when the two first met, as she had just ended her marriage to Desi Arnaz.

“I noticed Lucy would go back to her apartment after rehearsals and she was very lonely,” said Stewart, adding that it was she who decided to introduce Lucy to nightclub comic Gary Morton. He would become Ball’s second husband.

“He was tall and nice-looking,” Stewart said. “They were cute together.”

Stewart was Ball’s maid of honor when she married Morton in 1961.

“Lucy loved Gary in an easy, uncomplicated way that she couldn’t love Desi,” Stewart said. “Plus, she’d been so lonely and Gary filled that void for her. She reminded me of that and thanked me almost every day.”

Ball later stood by Stewart when she went through her own divorce and suffered financial problems.

“When I went bankrupt, Lucy was the first person to come to my rescue and say, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get through this,’” said Stewart. “She supported me for several years and let me live in her guest house for months. She was my savior.”

Though she was known for being wacky onscreen, Ball was not like that at all in real life, according to Stewart.

“People remember that crazy character on TV, but she was nothing like that,” Stewart revealed. “She was very proper.”

In fact, she described Ball as someone who was incredibly down-to-earth.

“She’d go to the fancy parties, but she really lived a simple life and her best friends were ordinary people,” Stewart said. “She didn’t think she was greater than anyone else.”

“Lucy was loving and warm,” she added. “I miss her very much.”

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