The following article was originally printed in the Fall, 1993, issue of our club magazine:
In 1974, Desi Arnaz agreed to write his memoirs. The decision shocked his family and friends: for years he'd hated writing even a letter.
A deal was struck with William Morrow & Company, and Desi, assisted by his longtime associate Kenny Morgan, set about the task of telling his life story. Very quickly, Desi and Kenny realized they had enough material to fill not one but two books. The first, they decided, would cover the first 43 years of Desi's life, ending in 1960 with his divorce from Lucille Ball. The second would chronicle his "post-Lucy" years.
The first volume, ultimately titled A Book, by Desi Arnaz, was published in 1976 and was an immediate success. TV Guide serialized chapters from the book, and Desi embarked on a lavish publicity campaign that included guest appearances not only on the talk show circuit, but on comedy outings like NBC's Saturday Night Live.
A year later, before undertaking a nationwide book-signing tour to promote the paperback version of A Book, Desi outlined for his business manager his plans for volume two.
Alas, Another Book, as it was to be called, never actually materialized. Like Lucy, Desi decided he liked living life more than writing about it. All that remains today of the planned "rest of the story" is Desi's outline. We ran across it recently, and thought you might find it interesting...
You have asked me to write in a few pages what my second book will be about.
"A Book" was the story of the first four decades plus a couple of years of my life. And, as one of the critics described it, how I, born of a prominent Cuban family, went from "riches to rags to riches" in the U.S.A.
"Another Book" will be, as you so well analyzed it after listening to some of my thoughts, the story of my search for a different kind of life--my second life. It seems to lay out in three main parts:
First Part: What led to my decision to sell my stock in Desilu and quit running the company--a company that I had started just to handle the nightclub and theater tours with my orchestra, but that had now become the biggest and most successful television company in the country?
Why does anyone give up all the money, power and prestige that go with being the boss of such an organization and one of its major stars, to say nothing of the awards, honors and applause such as you had never dreamed of receiving? Writing about the reasons for that decision, obviously many and very important ones, will cover the period from 1959, when Lucy and I separated, to the latter part of '62, when I quit Desilu and sold my 1/2 ownership to her.
For the sake of brevity in this letter, and knowing you are familiar with most of that period, I will not go into all the details now, except to clarify something you once asked me: whether or not my separation from Lucy was what really made me do it. The answer is no. After all, Lucy and I had been separated once or twice before and even actually gotten a divorce, and then reunited and married again, and this new separation would not in any way affect our business relationship. As I stated in my press release at the time, "Lucy will pursue her career on television and as the star of a new Broadway musical, 'Wildcat,' while I will continue my work as head of Desilu Productions." And for the next three years that is exactly what we did-- Desilu financed "Wildcat" and Lucy starred in it on Broadway. I was able to concentrate a lot more on running the studios in Hollywood and producing new shows for our company.
During that time and until November 8, 1962, when I announced my resignation, we managed to accomplish a few things:
Roncom Productions (Perry Como's company) and Essex Productions (Frank Sinatra's company, with Howard Koch as production chief) moved to our studios.
George Stevens rented the entire facilities of Desilu Culver and a major part of our back lot to film "The Greatest Story Ever Told."
We set a deal with Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey for The Greatest Show on Earth, a new Desilu hour show under development.
Ben Casey, with Vince Edwards, Sam Jaffe, etc., joined our list of tenants.
Desilu developed, produced and filmed other pilots, some we sold, some we didn't. One with Rowan and Martin didn't sell because Madison Avenue didn't think they were funny.
But we sold others besides The Greatest Show like Guestward Ho! and Harrigan and Son.
"The Scarface Mob," our version of The Untouchables for wide-screen, was released in theaters. Fifty-nine openings and fifteen circuits initially, many more later in this country and the rest of the world. We also produced ten Kraft Mystery Theaters for Perry Como's time spot on Wednesday nights.
Desilu Sales, Inc. was formed, our own distribution company, with a thirty-million-dollar inventory.
We gave General Artists Corporation a deal to represent and negotiate network sales of Desilu's product, except any of the old and/or future "Lucy" product, for which privilege we got a half a million dollars cash from GAC for our development fund.
In the summer of 1961 I bought "The Beardsleys" to do as a motion picture starring Lucy. She eventually did it with Henry Fonda as "Yours, Mine and Ours."
On November 19 of that same year, Lucy married Gary Morton. Nevertheless, in January of 1962, I bought "Life Without George" to be adapted for TV as The Lucy Show. It was sold to General Foods and went on the CBS network on October 1, 1962. I was the executive producer of the first eight shows.
Before my resignation in November of that same year, The Lucy Show was already well established in the first ten of the Nielsen and Desilu Productions was assured of a record twenty-two-million-dollar gross for 1963-64.
So, even though I will not say that our separation, subsequent divorce and Lucy's marriage to Gary had nothing to do with my decision to quit, I will have to say what else made me do it. In the book I will say it candidly and in detail.
For now - just the essence of it: Once you arrive at the plateau of success we were at, you find yourself in a whole new ball game, where the players are engaged in fierce competition for more and more success, and more and more money, and more and more power, and in which strains and tensions are such that the only relief they find is in pills, alcohol and sex--which enables them, at least for a short time, to continue in this seemingly endless contest. A merry-go-round you wonder who you got on and how in hell you can get off! Most people never get off for fear of losing it all.
Norman Vincent Peale once asked me how come I didn't seem to be one of those that when reaching that plateau of success, seem fearful of losing it. I told him that perhaps it was because once before in Cuba we had it and lost it all, and yet we've seemed to have managed to survive and even succeeded in getting some of it back. So I wasn't afraid of getting off--I was anxious to do so. I knew that if I were to stay on that crazy merry-go-round, I would eventually be morally and physically destroyed. And once you face that fact and admit it to yourself, what you give up ceases to mean much.
Second Part: How do you at 42 years of age, much too young to retire and too old to begin college, go about searching for a new life?
First of all, I had never given it too much thought, so I didn't know where to start looking. As I told my wife, Edie, when I asked her to marry me, "Sweetheart, I don't know what we will find in this new venture we are about to embark on. The only thing I can promise you is that it won't be dull."
Edie has certainly played a most important role in my second life. Why she came aboard and how she has managed to stay afloat for over thirteen years is beyond my comprehension and a tribute to Irish/American Womanhood.
The following are some of the many different things I got into from the end of '62 to whenever we want to end this one. I'm sure you'll agree it will be the bulk of the book:
(A) Desi Arnaz Corona Breeding Farm - Here we will enter into the world of racing, once again a completely new and different business endeavor where we will learn about the most interesting science of Thoroughbred Breeding and the exciting and at times unpredictable sport of racing - a sport that is now a multi-billion-dollar business. We will me and be able to tell many anecdotes about people connected and involved in both of them--Louis B. Mayer, Liz Whitney, Johnny Longdon, Shoemaker, Arcaro, Westrope, Pineda and other jockeys and their personal and professional lives, aficionados of the sport, such as Durante, Joe E. Lewis, Joe Frisco, Bing Crosby, Pat O'Brien and many others, including Edie, whom I met when she was a cigarette girl at Santa Anita and whom, in spite of my reputation as a successful Lothario in those days, I could not get into the hay until I married her twenty-five years later.
Edie's relationship with Lucie and Desi and how much they, and Lucy herself, think of her - also my friendship and relationship with her son Greg and some of the stories about his father Clement Hirsch and me while he and Edie were separated and I was courting her. (At one time he had two private eyes following us and I had two others following the ones that were following us. We both decided after a while it was a waste of money.
How this kind of life at the Ranch benefited our children and all they learned from its nature: the love and care of animals, the magical experience of witnessing natural birth--nothing compares with the birth and first hour of a baby horse.
Stories about stallions, brood mares, and racing horses and the fascinating people who have owned them.
(B) The many houses built or bought and remodeled--Del Mar, Palm Springs, the Ranch, Las Cruces, Beverly Hills, the hotels (Desi Arnaz Indian Wells Hotel, Punta Pescadero in Baja), bungalows at the different studios. Lucy has always said that every time I go someplace I either buy or build a house, hotel, golf course, ranch or studio there. As I recount the past, I can't really argue with her. It is something I am glad to have inherited from my father as it gave me an opportunity to show my children that life existed beyond Beverly Hills.
(C) Desi Arnaz Productions, Inc., which I formed three years after selling Desilu, with the avowed intention of tackling one project at a time and only from the creative end of it.
The first one was to be a book I read, liked and bought to make as a theatrical motion picture. I paid fifty thousand dollars for it and hired a fine writer, Ben Maddow, to do the screenplay for another fifty thousand. "Without Consent," the title of that book, is about the relationship between a seventeen year old girl and an eighteen year old boy, both decent, normal, healthy American teenagers which turns into a very touching love story set in the 50's in a small town in Florida where sexual relationships with a minor was still a capital offense. We had to deal with some very touchy subjects in the film, but I knew we could treat these subjects honestly, in good taste, and successfully. (After all, in I Love Lucy we were not allowed to use the word "pregnant," but I think the best and most meaningful shows we did were about Lucy's pregnancy and the birth of the baby.) So, I went ahead and rented studio space, the David Selznick plush bungalow at our old studio, Desilu Culver, and Lucy became my landlady. I also hired some of the top people in the film industry to help in the pre-production of the film. When I realized that it wasn't going to be as easy as I thought to get a financial and distribution deal for "Without Consent," it became necessary to get involved in some network-financed television projects to help pay the rent to Lucy and the salaries to those I had already hired.
Soon again, I was involved in a whole bunch of them: The Carol Channing Show, The Mothers-in-Law, Land's End, Gussie My Girl, Brother Bertram, The Chargers and others. The success or failure of some of these projects and the reasons why will give us an opportunity to examine my further involvement in the television industry in a era in which the ownership, production, creative control, and the programming of it's product were being taken over, not slowly but surely, by the networks, thus weakening the decision making in those areas of the independent producers, sponsors and advertising agencies. A trend which was obviously heading toward the complete monopoly of television the networks now have, and are fighting to retain. It was not as good a time for an independent producer as that in which we started Desilu--and even though it may seem it much have been more sad than funny, tragedy and comedy are first cousins and we will be able to write quite a bit about both through our experiences in those years.
(D) Desi Arnaz, University Professor - my baptism in the Academic World at San Diego State University. How it came about, what I try to teach those sixty students in that first semester, what I thought about their generation, and most importantly, what they thought about mine and what I learned from them. I was very flattered to be asked to be a professor, but scared to death to tackle it. I am grateful they did, it was one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my life, and as soon as you stop bugging me about "Another Book," I will beg them to let me do it again.
(E) That last sentence kinda leads me into the writing of "A Book," another venture you got me into and which I had no idea how to begin. I didn't even like to write letters! And
if no one has written a book about writing a book and an author's involvement with editors and publishers, salesmen and publicists, critics and best seller lists, paperbacks and hard covers, book sellers and buyers, magazines and newspapers, advertisers and hustlers, advances, rights and clearances, deadlines and re-writes, etc. etc. etc., then I'm not going to write too much about it in this book became that is a world all of its own and I'd like to save it for yet another one.
I have tried to list some of the things that were important and had an impact on my life during those years and which would be interesting to write about. I know I have left out many, such as my children growing up and what went on between us during that period.
My several close calls with death were certainly important and scary and yet, strangely enough, full of laughs.
My several visits in jails and courtrooms didn't lack suspense or
And you know, I've had a few interesting encounters with the opposite sex.
I hope this is sufficient for now and I thank you for making me do it. It will be a big help in writing the book.
Third Part: (just in case you wonder what happened to it) will be really like an epilogue, dealing with what, if anything, I have found: I think a few different distribution of values: wealth and fame do not equal happiness and peace of mind, but health and love do; learning to appreciate many of the so called "little things in life" always before taken for granted. As the Spanish saying goes, "The sun rises for everyone, all you have to do is get out of the shade."
Salud y pesetas,
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