Lucille Ball had done an extensive list of interviews during her reign as Hollywood’s favorite redhead. The world had fallen in love with the comedienne from Jamestown, New York; she was a staple in the lives of many and an inspiration to young and old. After her death in April 1989, Lucy’s son and daughter, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr., were visiting with their mother’s attorney. Upon asking the attorney to sift through some old files of their mother’s, they discovered a hidden diamond among the papers. It was a complete biography, written in first person by Lucy herself. Realizing that their mother had been misquoted and misinterpreted during her lifetime, as many entertainers are, Lucie and Desi Jr. decided to let Lucy speak for herself. For the first time, Lucy tells her story in her own words, the way it was intended to be told.
Born on August 6, 1911, Lucy tells of her childhood surrounded by her mother Desiree Hunt (who she called DeDe), her father Henry Durrell Ball and her grandparents. Lucy’s grandmother actually delivered her. In her first person writing, Lucy offers the reader her entire life candidly. Her grandfather went to trial for events surrounding the accidental shooting of a neighborhood boy. Though he was found not guilty, he walked away a broken man who would never quite be the same again.
Still miles away from the legend she would become, Lucy did modeling work with her friend Marion Strong (the later namesake for a character in “I Love Lucy”) in New York City. She eventually found her way into a number of small roles, mostly extra work in some B-movies. Lucy knew that these films would not make her a star, nor was she expecting them to. She did, however, get a lot of experience. That experience proved beneficial in the more noticeable roles she would soon land. It is here that Lucy’s determination truly blossomed. During filming many of these movies, she suffered a number of physical mishaps, including an unusual form of arthritis that threatened her ability to walk. Nevertheless, she pressed on and in 1940, her life would change forever. On the set of “Too Many Girls”, she met Desiderio Alberto Arnaz ye de Acha III, better known as Desi Arnaz. The two fell quickly for each other. As Lucy put it: “It was not love at first sight…it took five minutes”. Lucy and Desi frequently worked on opposite coasts, so they kept in touch via telegram. The first, from Desi, was dated October 15, 1940 and read “Darling, I just got up. I loved your note and adore you. Loads and loads of kisses, Desi”. Shortly after, they were married.
When the idea of “I Love Lucy” came around ten years later, there was talk that the show would fail before it even began. The notion of an “all-american” girl with a Cuban husband was thought too difficult to pull off. This was the 1950s, and by all logic, Lucy and Desi would be television’s first interracial couple. Lucy had endured a few miscarriages, but finally delivered their first daughter Lucie in 1951. When the show was given the green light, it rushed in like a tornado. Lucy and Desi’s original names on “I Love Lucy” were going to be Lucy and Larry Lopez. They became the Ricardos, and almost immediately were sponsored by Philip Morris, the largest cigarette company at the time. During a talk with the show’s writers about the character of Lucy Ricardo, Desi blurted out “She tries so hard…she can’t dance and she can’t sing…she’s earnest and pathetic…oh, I love that Lucy!”. That line determined the now legendary title of the show. When Lucy became pregnant with their second child, it was almost certain that it would jeopardize the show. They would have to work Lucy’s real-life pregnancy into “I Love Lucy”, but it was prohibited to say the word “pregnant” on television. Instead, they used the word “expecting”. The episode where Lucy gave birth to “Little Ricky” outdrew the television audience for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Inauguration by 2 to 1.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, though they divorced, became entertainment legends. Lucy tells her life story both beautifully and honestly. Her strength and endurance are nothing less than inspiring. The book is written in a way that not only captivates, but forces the reader to turn the page. There are many inner-stories and anecdotes weaved throughout, and the combination of Lucy’s wit and humor make this an extremely enjoyable read. In the foreword written by Lucie Arnaz, she says “My brother, Desi, and I decided to share this with you now because we believe that’s what she (Lucy) would have wanted, and inscribed it to all of you the way she would have signed it – simply, Love, Lucy”.