Happy 100th Birthday, Desi Arnaz!
For press inquiries, please contact the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum at 716.484.0800
Desi Arnaz; a legendary actor, performer, musician, producer, entertainment mogul, innovator, and star. Not only did Desi Arnaz break barriers on “I Love Lucy,” he also pioneered the concept of TV syndication and is the reason we’re able to laugh with Ricky, Lucy, Ethel and Fred more than 60 years later.
“I don’t think anyone can tell you what it is that makes you a star.” – Desi Arnaz
Name: Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III
Born: March 2, 1917 Santiago de Cuba
Died: December 2, 1986 Del Mar, California, Lung cancer
Parents: Desiderio Arnaz II Dolores de Acha (“Lolita”)
(November 30, 1940)
Divorced: May 4, 1960
Edith Mack Hirsch (March 2, 1963)
Children: Daughter: Lucie Desiree Arnaz
Son: Desiderio Alberto (Desi) Arnaz, Jr.
About Desi Arnaz
Desi Arnaz was born into a prominent Cuban family in Santiago, Cuba on March 2, 1917.
Desi Arnaz’s great-great grandfather, Don Manuel Arnaz, had settled in California in the 1899’s and owned land which is now part of Beverly Hills, the Wilshire district and much of the San Fernando Valley. The name Ventura, well known in southern California – was from Desi’s great-great grandmother.
His father, Desiderio Arnaz II, was mayor of Santiago, the original capital of Cuba. His mother, Dolores de Acha, was the daughter of one of the founders of the Bacardi Rum Company. His grandfather, Don Desiderio, was a physician who accompanied Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
Desi Arnaz spent the early years of his life in a privileged environment — many houses, grand vacations and recreational opportunities. His family planned for him to attend Notre Dame University and become an attorney.
Then disaster struck the Arnaz family in 1934 when Fulgencio Batista rallied the Cuban army against the corrupt Machado regime. All officials associated with the existing power structure (including Desi’s father) were thrown in jail. Desi Arnaz witnessed the arrest of his father and the destruction of his home. Once his father was released, the Arnaz family moved to Miami, where his father began a small company which imported tiles for builders.
Desi Arnaz was attending St. Patrick’s High School in Miami in 1936 when he made his show business debut. He was hired to play guitar and sing in a small rhumba band — the Siboney Septet at the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach.
Soon afterward, he was discovered by famous bandleader, Xaviar Cugat, who asked him to join his band. Arnaz stayed with Cugat’s band for a year, but then broke away to form his own band in 1937. The new band found success when Desi Arnaz introduced the conga line in Miami.
The popularity of the conga spread to New York, where Arnaz’s band played at the La Conga Club. On Broadway, Arnaz was asked by RKO Pictures to star in “Too Many Girls,” adding to his popularity. Desi Aranaz’s role in this movie led him to further success in show business. It also led him to Lucille Ball.
Desi Arnaz Film Appearances:
Too Many Girls (1940, RKO)
Father Takes A Wife (1941, RKO)
Four Jacks And A Jill (1942, RKO)
The Navy Comes Through (1942, RKO)
Bataan (1943, RKO)
Cuban Pete (1946, Universal)
Jitterumba (1947, RKO)
Holiday In Havana (1949, Columbia)
The Long, Long Trailer (1954, MGM)
Forever, Darling (1956, MGM)
The Escape Artist (1982)
Desi Arnaz Stage Appearances, Broadway:
Too Many Girls (Opened October 18, 1939)
Desi Arnaz Television Appearances, Series:
“The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” (1957-60, CBS)
“Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse” (1958, CBS)
Desi Arnaz Television Appearances, Selected:
“Stars in the Eye” (November 13, 1952, CBS)
“Dinner with the President” (November 23, 1953, CBS)
“The Milton Berle Show” (May 4, 1954, NBC)
“Toast of the Town” (October 3, 1954, CBS)
“Show of Stars” (episode titled “High Pitch”) (May 12, 1955, CBS)
“The Bob Hope Chevy Show” (October 24, 1956, NBC)
“The Desilu Revue” (December 15, 1959, CBS)
“The Mothers-In-Law” (1967-69, NBC)
“Alice” (“One Too Many Girls, ” CBS, March 2, 1980)
“Saturday Night Live” (February 21, 1976, NBC)
AUDIO (8:01) – Ricky Ricardo: The ‘Mr Babalu’ Next Door
(NPR – “In Character”)
Desi Arnaz Gift Ideas