Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III was born in Santiago, Cuba in 1917. The world best remembers him by his shortened entertainer name, Desi Arnaz.

Desi was of Spanish descent, born into a pretty wealthy family back in Cuba, but they had to exile to the United States after Fulgencio Batista took power in the 30's and stripped them of their wealth. He came to Miami, then in New York City met Xavier Cugat who inspired Arnaz to start up his own Latin band. Arnaz became pretty successful with his Latin orchestra and then did Broadway and roles in Hollywood pictures, where he ran into the woman that would change his life: Lucille Ball. They were married in 1940.

The idea to transfer Ball's successful radio show My Favorite Husband onto the new medium known as television, ran into a bit of problems at first, mainly the fact that Lucille insisted that her real life husband Desi be cast on the TV show. Racism being more pronounced then, CBS executives did not think America would want to see a Hispanic portraying Lucille's husband on TV. Ball and Arnaz proved their worth, touring the country on a live stage show version of the concept, and the executives were won over by positive live audience response. Ball hoped that this would also help her already strained marriage with Arnaz by bringing them closer together if they were able to live and work in California as a team.

-In 1951, before the perfection of videotape, nearly all television shows were live productions, fed from the East Coast because of time-zone differences. Philip Morris approved the idea of filming I Love Lucy, but the sponsor wanted a live audience, which had been effective on radio. Desi and cinematographer Karl Freund, a veteran of pre-World War II German expressionist cinema working in Hollywood, devised a plan for staging the show as a play, performing each act before an audience, and simultaneously filming with three or four cameras stationed in different locations. Because this technique increased network production costs, CBS asked the Arnaz and Ball to take a cut in salary to compensate for the increase. In negotiation, Arnaz agreed, providing Desilu, a company he and Ball had created, would then own the shows after the broadcasts. A few years later the couple sold the films back to CBS for more than four million dollars, a sum that provided the economic base for building what became the Desilu empire. The practice of filming television episodes also paved the way to TV reruns and syndication.

And the rest they say is history. Arnaz' revolutionary contributions to the television landscape were enormous and are still used today. His personal life with Lucille Ball however, was sadly marred by alcoholism and womanizing. OH THOSE LATIN MEN! HAHAHAHAHA! Twenty years of marriage, two children, and Ball had had enough. They divorced, but remained lifelong amicable friends. Arnaz remarried in 1963, and remained so until his wife Edith passed away in 1985. A lifetime of heavy smoking took its toll, and Arnaz himself succumbed to shitty lung cancer on December 2, 1986.

This simple and humble blog post is in honor of a Latino who made history as a TV star and astute producer/businessman. Sporting his trademark funny accent, going off in Spanish, and playing off Ball's crazy antics, Desi Arnaz is forever immortalized along with his other three co-stars on the most popular television show in history.

¡Gracias Ricky Ricardo!


M- Filer said...

Too bad he couldn't keep it in his pants. Too bad for Lucy that is, he was a notorious womanizer, but he sure knew how to bang on those bongo drums!

Scot said...

Nice insight into the early world of television. A nicely put together post. I'm enjoying the change from the ghetto speak of late (although that has its place too).

d. chedwick bryant said...

Nice post--I always liked Desi... he had natural grace and charm--and a killer sense of humor that was overshadowed by you know who.

Good Old Batista --puppet for the American Govt--I have not heard anyone mention him in years!

molly said...

thus far, pattie only has the nicest things to say about george, which makes me happy
i loved them as a couple, so id hate to see her badmouthing him, though im not done yet!
ill let you know

Gavin Elster said...

A wonderful post. The multi camera process enabled the couple to purchase most of
RKO (what is now) Paramount studios.

Its odd what is going on with your blog. The more posts like this the more I want to F*ck you.

Go figure.

kimy said...

ohhhhhh ricky. bob-a-loo!!

Todd said...

Cool info. I knew that I Love Lucy was an important TV show, I just never knew why. Now I do.

Gledwood said...

Only in America would "hispanic" be considered a "race" apart...

I mean imagine applying the same reasoning to the European Union.

Everyone there comes from countries with a white European majority... apart from ... ooh! Spain. Where people aren't white European. No !! They're "hispanic"...

how ridiculous!

Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Desi is so familiar now that it's hard to believe that 55 years ago it was revolutionary for him to be seen with a "white" woman. When I was a little kid watching Lucy reruns, they inspired my early aspirations to move to Manhattan and live in a swell apartment and be married to a Cuban nightclub singer. I accomplished about 85% of that dream. When I messed up, I'd scream "WAHHHHHHH!!!!"

Marko said...


I have missed you sooo and looks like I have alot of catching up to do.

I will be online more now, thank gawd!

My blog practically got wiped out and it is coming back to life as we speak but ALL of my links got destroyed so I have been trying to look for everyone. They all have dissappeared. I added you again and once again, I am sorry for the abscence!

Happy Holidays!

Gary said...

Wat - I love this post because I am a huge fan of Lucy/Desi. Have you read Desi's autobiography? I saw a documentary on the two of them and it ended with them together in a pool near the end of his life. They were so wonderful together it is ashame that relationships have to end because of the roving eye. It causes so much pain. Anyway, seeing them in the pool brought a tear to my eye. Great post, thanks.