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Cuban bandleader and singer-turned savvy TV mogul who, after his marriage to comedienne Lucille Ball in 1940, parlayed their successful “I Love Lucy” series into the Desilu TV production empire, which in its heyday also produced the successful and highly lucrative “The Untouchables” and “Star Trek” series. *p*Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III was born in 1917 to wealthy Cuban landowners. His father was also the mayor of the town they lived in, but that soon changed. At the age of 16, Desi and his mother had to flee to Miami because of Batista’s overthrow of the Machado Government in 1933. *P**BR*When Desi arrived in America, it was a struggle for he and his mother. But soon after he arrived, he joined the Siboney Septet at the Roney Plaza. Later, he started working with Xavier Cugat’s band in 1937 and later put together his own rhumba band. His youthful good-looks and engaging presence soon won him a featured spot in the 1939 Broadway musical and theatrical version of “Too Many Girls” and the following year he was signed by RKO. On the movie set, he met his future wife, Lucille Ball. Later that year Desi and Lucy eloped to Connecticut and got married in a country club. Arnaz was featured in several films, mostly as a colorful Latin. Joining MGM, he won attention for his sole dramatic role in the war drama, “Bataan” (1942), but gave up films for touring with his successful band. The marriage was subject to the road most of the time and to Lucy’s movie career. When the couple came up with the idea for a television series, they fought to do it together to save their marriage. But the network didn’t think the television series would work with Desi being Cuban. But that didn’t stop Lucy and Desi. In the summer of 1950, they went on tour, performing for live audiences to prove that the show would work. Well, as you know, the rest is television history!*P**BR*Desi made the first 5,000 dollars spent into millions in just four years. He convinced the show’s sponsor, Phillip Morris, that Lucy having a baby on the show would give them great publicity. He was right: the birth of Little Ricky drew 44 million viewers (the swearing in of the President that year only drew 22 million), and the story made headlines everywhere across America. With Desi as a successful executive, and head of the couple’s production company, DesiLu, Arnaz pioneered a new way of producing TV shows, shooting each episode of I Love Lucy on film, by three cameras, in front of a live studio audience, so that the final product could be rebroadcast any number of times instead of preserved only on a fuzzy kinescope. Although Arnaz initially reserved all rights to these shows to Desilu, he eventually sold them to CBS, allowing the couple to buy their own studio, the former RKO. He also produced “December Bride”, “Make Room for Danny”, “Our Miss Brooks” and other shows. Even fashion wise Desi brought back smoking jackets, adult denims, and matching he-and-she pajamas.*P**BR*In his private life Desi was a party animal, entertaining extensively on his yacht, The Balboa. Lucy could only take so much of this, and they divorced. After Desi and Lucy divorced for the second time in 1960, Desi divided his time between his Corona horse-breeding ranch and his Del-Mar retreat. In 1963, Desi married Edith Mack Hirsh, to whom he spent the rest of his life with. A couple of years later he formed Desi Arnaz Productions. But that didn’t last long. *P**BR*In 1974 Desi wrote his autobiography, “A Book”, which hit the best-seller charts. Desi’s second wife, Edith, passed away in 1985 of cancer. Desi spent the rest of this life struggling with alcohol, and with the help of his son, he finally stopped drinking entirely. Though this gave him quality time, the years of abuse had taken their toll. The last time Lucy and Desi talked was on November 10, 1986, 46 years after they first exchanged vows. Desi later died on December 2, 1986 at the age of 69 of lung cancer. He was cremated.*P**P**P**BR* Quote from Desi at Ed Sullivan’s “Toast of the Town”: “When I came to this country, we didn’t have a cent in our pockets. From cleanin’ canary cages to this night here in New York, I would like to say Thank you America, Thank you.”


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