Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Man Behind the Ball

"Listen, Ethel, next to sugar, Cuba's biggest export is ham."

With all due respect to the comedic genius that was uniquely Lucille Ball's, it is one of the overlooked facts that I Love Lucy wouldn't have been nearly as funny without Ethel, Fred, and particularly Ricky to act as her foils. With his big, shoe-button eyes and charming accent, Desi Arnaz brought something completely different to the standard 1950's portrayal of the sitcom husband: sex appeal. And even though his inadvertent mangling of the English language was often fodder for laughs (Ricky: "An' that's another thin'! You're always muckin' the way I talk!" Lucy: "That's because there's so much to 'muck'!"), Ricky Ricardo was perhaps the first ethnic character on television to not be a caricature, punchline, or punching bag. He was a a good provider, a loving husband and father, even a bona fide movie star ("You're doing lots of remakes, why don't you take one of your big hits and do it over for Ricky? Like Gone with the Cuban Wind? It Happened One Noche?").

More important, Desi was the brains behind his and Lucille's production company, Desilu, which he ran until 1962, when he sold his interest to Ball, by then his ex-wife. Even though their long, passionate, contentious marriage didn't last, Lucille and Desi, just like Lucy and Ricky, were inextricably tied to one another. Even though both had happy, successful second marriages, their bond was greater than any wedding vow. Five days after Desi's death from cancer, Lucille Ball was bestowed with the Kennedy Center Honor. At the ceremony, a posthumous letter by Desi was read, the conclusion of which was, "I Love Lucy was never just a title."

Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III
March 2, 1917 - December 2, 1986


  1. oh my ! that second picture of him is just incredible !

    well him too i'll say !

  2. Many people think that the opposite of love is hate. Not true. The opposite of Love is Apathy. Hate and love are alway closly linked - both are passionate.

    Edie Adams sang a song on the final (or next to final) show of the Lucy/Desi show and Lucy asked for a particularly poignant song and Edie sad that the whole studio was just filled with the sadness that the couple had come to enbd of their road. You don't get that with apathic people.

    Lucy Arnez did a wonderful tribute to her parents after Lucy died using home movies that she found buried in Lucy's home. Included in that was video of Lucy and Desi playing in the pool with their first grandchild two decades after their divorce. You can see the playfulness in their banter and they mutual joy in their grandchild.

  3. I literally gasped as I scrolled down to reveal that last picture. I know Hollywood photography could do wonders, but good gracious!

    Now, as they are both residents of Fabulon, I can only hope that she has learned let her walls down, and he has learned to keep his zipper up, and they found joy together.

  4. Desi did have a lot of sex appeal. I am so glad I grew up watching those I Love Lucy reruns. According to Darwin Porter in "Merv Griffin: A Life in the Closet" (among other tawdry sources) Desi Arnaz had torrid affair with Cesar Romero, which makes me like him even more!!

    1. Really? To think that a man cheated on his wife with another man makes you like him?
      What is the world coming to?
      I guess I am old fashioned. I gain respect for people who are responsible, and keep their marriage vows.
      I respect Desi in many ways but being un true is not one of them. I don't believe that he was ever involved with a man either. These things come out when money can be made tarnishing celebrities, not when the celebrity is still alive to deny it

  5. I cannot BELIEVE that last photo is Desi. My god! Excellent blog, by the way, loving every minute of it.


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