Lucille Ball Said Desi Arnaz Was the ‘Kindest’ at Work but Would ‘Blow His Stack’ at Home
Hollywood icons Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz starred in thier hit I Love Lucy while simultaneously running Desilu Productions. Though their relationship was known for being tumultuous, Arnaz kept a cool head when he was at the studio. In her memoir, Ball described how her husband felt free to vent his frustrations at home after a full day at the office.
Desi Arnaz handled the business dealings at Desilu Productions
While Ball was considered a comedic genius, she credited Arnaz for his business prowess. He frequently handled multimillion dollar deals from show business to real estate but got very little recognition for his intelligence.
“Desi drove himself mercilessly,” Ball wrote in her memoir, “Love, Lucy”. “For years Hollywood had regarded him as just another ‘hotcha Latin charm boy.’ They never thought he had the brains or the savvy to become a big business tycoon.”
Ball pointed out her ex-husband’s bravery in taking risks that often paid off, though she was the one who usually received the accolades.
“As a matter of fact, his business acumen amazed me too,” she admitted. “As writer-producer Cy Howard says, ‘Desi built a television image with tremendous theatrical flair and courage. He was also the shrewdest businessman I ever knew. Unlike most Hollywood tycoons, he could make million-dollar business decisions without welshing and without fear.”
Lucille Ball saw two sides of Desi Arnaz
The famous redhead commended Arnaz’s management of Desilu Productions and noted his fierce attention to detail when it came to business.
“Desi was by nature an easygoing, music-loving Latin who, left to his own devices, would sleep every day until noon,” Ball wrote. “He learned to be tough but didn’t really enjoy it. Since Desilu was his baby, he felt he had to be on top of every deal. His 18-hour days were filled with big business squabbles, clashing personalities, and long hours of rehearsals.”
Arnaz found it best to deal with creatives in a calm manner and often pent up his frustrations until he got home to his wife and two kids, Lucie and Desi Jr.
“When enough aggravation accumulated, he’d blow his stack at home,” Ball explained. “At Desilu, he was the kindest, most considerate boss who ever lived. He agreed with me that creative people should be given a lot of leeway and shouldn’t have to account for every minute of their time. … But at home, one button off a shirt could make Desi go to pieces.”
When Lucille Ball realized how the pressure was affecting Desi Arnaz
Ball recalled a pivotal incident when they were remodeling a home in Beverly Hills in 1955 and were finally able to move in during the spring of that year. Sadly, their celebratory entrance was met with a disaster.
“Desi carried me over the threshold of our new home with a flourish – then stopped and gasped,” Ball remarked. “During the night, the water pipes in the 18-year-old house had burst. The thick white wall-to-wall carpet was a stained, sodden mess, the wallpaper was streaked, the newly plastered walls were disintegrating.”
Ball described Arnaz’s ensuing temper tantrum as so volatile that their children had to be ushered out of the room. She saw firsthand that the pressure of running Desilu Productions was taking its toll on Arnaz.
“Desi really flipped,” the I Love Lucy star wrote. “As the children huddled against me in terror, he ranted, raged, stormed, kicked the walls, and then began tearing them down with his bare hands. … I have never seen Desi in such a state. I was terrified he was going to seriously hurt himself. I realized for the first time how the strain of our snowballing empire was eating away at him.”
Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960, and the comedy icon eventually took over Desilu Productions.