Lucie Arnaz on What People Would Be Surprised To Know About Father Desi Arnaz

The world knows Desi Arnaz best as Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy and Lucille Ball’s ex-husband. Arnaz was a Cuban-American actor, musician, comedian, and producer. He was born on March 2, 1917 in Santiago, Cuba and died Dec. 2, 1986 in Del Mar, CA.

Though he was one of the biggest celebrities of his time, his daughter, Lucie Arnaz, says there’s something about her father people may be surprised to learn.

Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball
Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball | Dick Hanley/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Desi Arnaz’s early life in Cuba

Before the Batista revolution, Desi’s family “had [Santiago] pretty well wrapped up.”

“His father was the mayor of the town,” Lucie told the Television Academy Foundation of her dad’s family in Cuba. “His uncle was the chief of police. His mother’s family were the early founders of the Bacardi Rum Company.”

But everything changed when the revolution occurred.

“The Batista revolution came in and overthrew the Machado administration, which his father was in,” she said. “They lost everything. They lost their homes, their livestock was killed, their pets were slaughtered, they crushed and burned the piano and all the family photos.”

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So Desi and his father fled to Miama.

“He lived in Miami in a warehouse with Grandpa,” said Lucie. “And he killed rats with a bat, he said. It was rough. And he cleaned canary cages there for a while for a living.”

After cleaning canary cages for a time, Desi’s father told him he should go try and make some money as a musician. That’s when Desi got discovered and began his journey to Hollywood, where he met Ball.

Desi Arnaz was ‘extremely bright and well-read’

When the TAF asked Lucie what people would be surprised to learn about her father, she thought of his love of reading.

“Very well-read,” she said. “They’d probably be surprised that Ricky Ricardo was–who was always made fun of for talking like we don’t–was extremely bright and well-read. Self-educated through some of his life because he never really got the chance to go to college. He read every book, every magazine cover to cover and he had a fantastic vocabulary.”

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Lucie went on to say that her father was a life-long learner.

“He did so many things in his life it’s hard to describe my father,” she said. “He was really multi-talented. He took everything head-on and took great joy in figuring out how to do things. I liked that part of him a lot.”

What Lucie Arnaz got from her father, Desi Arnaz

Lucie thinks she inherited Desi’s good business sense.

“I think I’m a pretty good business person, actually, because I think like he does,” she said. “If you don’t know, ask. And there are no stupid questions. Hire the right people and let them do their job. He also used to say, ‘If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything,’ which sounds ridiculous but it’s actually served me very well in my life. He was very practical in that sense.”

Additionally, Lucie has her father’s zest for living.

“I have my dad’s joie de vivre, which is the French word for Cuban fun,” she laughed. “He always just had a love of life. And a great sense of humor, twisted sense of humor.