Lucie - Desi Update

Keeping Up with
the Arnazes

In Step with Lucie Arnaz & Desi Arnaz Jr.

by James Brady

It all began on CBS half a century ago, on Oct. 15, 1951. And by the time it ended -- six seasons and four Emmys later -- I Love Lucy had inaugurated a golden age of television comedy. It was a simple premise: a Manhattan apartment, a gorgeous, dizzy redhead and her Cuban bandleader husband, and their neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz. The show and its stars, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, enjoyed a love affair with America that may endure as long as TV itself.

Ball and Arnaz will be remembered this fall on the 50th anniversary of their debut with considerable drum beating, including a two-hour special on CBS in November and a national tour already under way, with contests and interactive events (visit their "apartment," climb into a wine vat and squash grapes).

I recently met with the delightful Lucie Arnaz in Manhattan to talk about I Love Lucy and her parents, and I spoke with Desi Arnaz Jr. by phone at his home in Nevada. I've also been reading up on the show and its stars.

They filmed in Hollywood, but Lucy and Ricky supposedly lived at 623 E. 68th St. in Manhattan -- which would plop them in the middle of the East River. Vivian Vance, who played Ethel, was just two years older than Ball but had to stay 20 pounds overweight by contract so as to look older. Ball was on the very first cover of TV Guide. Her hair was a "mousy brown," and she dyed it red every two weeks.

What was it like growing up the child of Lucille Ball? "She had her hands filled," said Lucie, "because I was born just before the series started. There was a 'Little Ricky,' but never a 'Little Lucy,' because for some reason they thought if there was a little girl on the show, I might be hurt." Says Desi Jr.: "My mom and dad never really wanted either of their kids on the show." (Six child actors played "Little Ricky" at various ages.)

"I went to Catholic school," said Lucie. "But my college plans all went on hold when my mother did Here's Lucy and gave Desi (Jr.) and me a chance to play on the show. We went through plenty of angst, but we weathered the storm. You know, having two working parents who were also famous wasn't the worst thing that could happen to a child. They adored their cast and crew." And despite their 1960 divorce, added Lucie, "they loved each other until the day they died."


Brady's Bits

Lucie Arnaz was just back from London, where she starred for 15 months on a West End stage in The Witches of Eastwick. She and her husband, the actor/writer/director Laurence Luckinbill, have a home in Westchester, NY., and n apartment in Manhattan.

Desi Jr. and his ballerina wife, Amy Bargiel, live in Boulder City, Nev. "I own a theatre, run a studio, produce movies, produce music, and help my wife with her dance studio," Desi told me. He won a Golden Globe at 18 for the film Red Sky at Morning. Seven out of 10 Americans with a TV watched the arrival of "Little Ricky" on I Love Lucy when it aired in 1953. Desi Jr. gets a bit cranky with people who can't distinguish between TV and reality. The reality? "The date of my birth was not an accident," he told me. "It was a Cesarean, and they planned it for the day when 'Little Ricky' would be born on the show."

Lucie Arnaz

Born July 17, 1951, in Los Angeles. Married to Philip Menegaux, 1971-77. Married to Laurence Luckinbill since 1980; two sons, Simon, 20, and Joseph, 18; one daughter, Katharine, 16.

Includes The Lucille Ball Show, 1963; Here's Lucy, 1968-74; The Lucie Arnaz Show, 1985; Sons and Daughters, 1990-91.

Includes They're Playing Our Song, 1979; The witches of Eastwick, 2000.

Desi Arnaz Jr.

Born Jan. 19, 1953, in Los Angeles. Married to Linda Purl, 1980-81. Married to Amy Bargiel since 1987; one daughter, Haley, 25.

Includes Here's Lucy, 1968-71; Mr. & Mrs. Bo Jo Jones, 1971; Automan, 1983.

Include Red Sky at Morning, 1971; A Wedding, 1978; The Mambo Kings, 1992.


Masthead photo by Mark Ragonese Article photo by Eddie Adams

Reprinted from Parade Magazine, October 7, 2001, with permission of publisher.

© 2001 Parade Publications
All Rights Reserved.

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