Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, known as the stars of the popular show I Love Lucy, captivated audiences with their perfect comedic timing and garnered immense adoration from millions of fans. However, behind the scenes, their relationship was riddled with significant challenges. In this article, we delve into Desi Arnaz’s struggles with infidelity and addiction, shedding light on the less glamorous aspects of their lives.
Both on and off-screen, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz shared a high-profile relationship that dominated the ratings during the 1950s with their comedy TV series, I Love Lucy. The show revolved around the fiery redhead, Lucy, and her marriage to a Cuban bandleader named Ricky Ricardo.
Their journey together began when they met on the set of the 1940 comedy film Too Many Girls and subsequently tied the knot in the same year. In 1951, they starred as the married couple Lucy and Ricky Ricardo in their own show. Arnaz portrayed a fictionalized version of himself on screen. I Love Lucy remained at the top of the ratings until 1957, earning numerous awards. It also paved the way for spin-off series like The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Show, which ran from 1957 to 1960. Unfortunately, the series finale served as a real-life divorce filing from Lucille.
It was during this time that fans became aware of Arnaz’s infidelities and his departure from the sweet and supportive husband persona he portrayed on screen as Ricky. However, this wasn’t the couple’s first separation. In 1944, Lucille filed for divorce, citing Desi’s infidelity and drinking problems. They later reconciled after discussing their issues and agreeing to pursue joint projects that would keep their professional lives intertwined.
Before the creation of I Love Lucy, Arnaz frequently traveled as a bandleader, often returning home in the early hours of the morning. Meanwhile, Lucille had her own commitments, voicing a CBS radio show called My Favorite Husband. Lucille insisted that Arnaz also star in the television adaptation of the show, which eventually became I Love Lucy. Her motive was to keep him close, as she believed that if he continued touring with his band, he would engage in extramarital affairs. She hoped that by having him at home, their marriage would have a better chance of lasting, which, in reality, it did.
In 1951, the couple welcomed their first child, Lucie Arnaz, followed by Desi Arnaz Jr. in 1953. Desi Jr.’s birth was even incorporated into the storyline of I Love Lucy. Despite the growing family, Arnaz continued his extramarital affairs and other vices.
In the book Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lucille described Arnaz as a “Jekyll and Hyde” figure, indulging in drinking, gambling, and relationships with other women. She admitted that she saw this behavior coming and had always hoped for change. However, she acknowledged that Desi had a destructive nature.
In the same book, Arnaz suggested that their constant togetherness due to their work contributed to their marital problems. He believed that they both worked excessively and didn’t have enough time apart to let tensions cool off.
In 1955, a tabloid published a story titled “Does Desi Really Love Lucy?” that alleged Arnaz’s infidelity. The article included claims that he frequented a well-known Hollywood escort agency. Scotty Bowers, a former gas station attendant turned Hollywood pimp, later revealed in his controversial memoir, “Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Life of the Stars,” that Arnaz was among his A-list clients. Bowers claimed that Arnaz had encounters with two to three women every week, describing him as someone who sought out quick flings with any attractive woman. Bowers even recalled an incident where Lucille confronted him at a party and expressed her anger, slapping him and accusing him of pimping for Desi.
Despite their tumultuous relationship, Lucille and Arnaz were one of Hollywood’s earliest power couples. In addition to their acting careers, they founded Desilu Productions in 1950, which became known for producing iconic TV series like I Love Lucy, The Lucy Show, Mannix, Untouchables, Mission Impossible, and the immensely popular Star Trek.
After their divorce, Arnaz married Edith Mack Hirsch in 1963, and they remained married until her death in 1985. Lucille, on the other hand, wed comedian Gary Morton, who was 13 years her junior. They stayed married until Lucille’s death in 1989. Despite their divorce, Lucille and Arnaz maintained a close relationship.
Desi Jr., their son, is now 70 years old and has retired from acting and music. In his younger days, he had a relationship with actor Patty Duke, which his mother did not approve of.
Their firstborn, daughter Lucie, is now 71 and has pursued a career as an actor and singer. She appeared on various TV shows, including her own short-lived series, The Lucie Arnaz Show (1985). When reflecting on her parents’ relationship, Lucie shared a poignant memory of her father’s passing. She recalled being by his side as her mother, Lucille, spoke lovingly to him, repeatedly saying, “I love you.” Desi nodded and reciprocated, saying, “I love you too, honey.” Desi passed away in her arms, and Lucie revealed that the last time her parents spoke was on their wedding anniversary, November 30.
Lucie concluded by expressing that although her parents couldn’t achieve their desire to stay together, they shared a deep and enduring love until the very end.