Ethel Mertz is a fictional character as portrayed by Vivian Vance
in the classic situation comedy I Love Lucy
She was born Ethel Mae Potter in Albuquerque, New Mexico early in the 20th Century. Young Ethel Mae soon left her birthplace to find fame as a singer and dancer in New York City. She married Fred Mertz
, a WWI veteran and her very experienced partner in a musical Vaudeville act, who appeared to be some years older. After the demise of Vaudeville, the Mertzes purchased a brownstone apartment building in Manhattan. She soon became best friends with a newlywed tenant, Lucy Ricardo
whose husband, Ricky Ricardo
, was a successful nightclub entertainer who immigrated from Cuba.
Known for her down-to-earth manner and bigger-than-life appetite, Ethel Mertz is the quintessential "second banana" in American situation comedies. She would try to reign in Lucy on mostly every outrageous scheme, but she would always succumb to the pressure applied by her friend and eventually team up with her on whatever dubious endeavor Lucy had planned.
The husband/wife relationship between Fred and Ethel Mertz could be fractious and testy, as they were often at loggerheads. A common dynamic would have the two friendly couples divided into opposing factions determined by gender, where each side would attempt to prove their superiority to the other. But then again, on issues concerning their finances, Fred and Ethel could demonstrate solidaridy, and true conviction to their partnership.
The Mertzes were seldom physically demonstrative, and the most affection Ethel would display to her "ol' fat Freddy" usually consisted of her rubbing his bald pate or a peck on the cheek. But they were happiest when they could perform any of their old Vaudeville routines, when they would dance and harmonize with true professionalism. The both enjoyed dressing up in outrageous costumes at the drop of a hat, and were especially drawn to the entertainments of "The Gay Nineties" in much of their musical performing.
When the Ricardo and the Mertzes traveled through Ethel's hometown of Albuquerque, the townsfolk welcomed her with great enthusiasm. They somewhat confusedly believed that Ethel was a bigger star than her best friend's husband, Ricky Ricardo, who was on his way to Hollywood to shoot a movie. The people of Albuquerque hung huge banners on their roadways proclaiming:"Ethel Mae Potter! We Never Forgot Her!"