Tuesday, June 14, 2011
We came to know and love her as the daughter of America's favorite couple, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. We also knew them as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on "I Love Lucy" in the early days of television. Lucie Arnaz became a huge star in her own right, from her beginnings on the "Here's Lucy " show to her exceptional career as a singer and dancer. Lucie brings her new show "Latin Roots" to the Landmark Theater in Port Washington this Saturday. I was thrilled to speak with Lucie the other evening from her home in Connecticut...
MICK: Please tell me about your show "Latin Roots" coming to the Landmark On Main Street in Port Washington on Saturday, June 18th.
LUCIE: For ten years, I've been trying to put together this Latin Roots show that I've been dreaming about. After my last Cd a few years ago, I thought my next was going to be Latin music and what inspired me to go into the concert business to begin with, which was my father's music. A year ago in January, I got this opportunity to do a tribute to his music based on his original arrangements which is housed at the Library of Congress. We did the show here in New York for Lyric and Lyricists as we opened their 40th season with it. It was a huge success for five nights. Then we were invited down to the big Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami Beach to do it last July. My brother [Desi Arnaz Jr.] was in it with me, Raúl Esparza sang a lot of my father's numbers, Valarie Pettiford danced in it with two other dancers, and a fifteen piece orchestra. The show is called "Babalu". It was spectacular! Simultaneously, as I was directing and producing this show as a tribute to my dad, I was also producing a Latin Roots Cd. They both came out on the same weekend! I am so happy with this music and this type of Cd. It's contemporary music with a Latin flair. I have a song my father wrote, I have Cole Porter and Johnny Mercer and some new stuff. The show I'm bringing to Port Washington is all focused on that. It rocks and it's very sassy and it's kind of sentimental. It's a labor of love and a Valentine for my dad!
MICK: Is this show at the Landmark different from your Babalu show?
LUCIE: The Babalu show had a much bigger orchestra and had the original Desi Arnaz orchestration with his charts from the Desi Arnaz Band. But some of the songs are the same just with a smaller trio. The Babalu Show was five people and two dancers. This show is just me! I can't do the Babalu show alone and I can't do it for cheap! It cost me a lot more money to take that out!
MICK: I read that as a child, you had an early appearance on the "I Love Lucy" show. Do you have any recollection of that?
LUCIE: I have no recollection of that and there's a good reason for that! It was a misprint that somebody put in a book a long time ago. I believed it my whole life! TV Land finally started running the entire "I Love Lucy" shows without any of the cuts or edits for commercials. I couldn't wait to finally see the episode that they told me that both my brother and I were on. It was the final "I Love Lucy" episode where there's a statue out in the park and Lucy is pretending to be the statue. There's a crowd scene and I was always told that me and my brother were in this scene. I looked and sure enough, there's my brother but that's not me! It's some other girl! So that was just an assumption on somebody's part. However, I guess I could say I was in the original 'I Love Lucy" show because my mother was pregnant with me when they did the original pilot!
MICK: Keith Thibodeaux played Little Ricky on "I Love Lucy". Were you friends with him?
LUCIE: Very good friends! I thought he was my brother for the longest time! He practically grew up in our house. He's lived in Jackson, Mississippi for the better part of his life. Desi and Keith were the best of friends. Keith was around 4 years older than Desi but growing up, they were best friends. He virtually was the inspiration for my brother to learn how to play the drums. Keith went everywhere with us. They grew up and went their separate ways. Keith had a little rock band and Desi had Dino, Desi and Billy. That was the only connection. Years later, Desi is watching a talk show and realizes Keith is on the show. Meanwhile, my brother had got married to this lovely lady named Amy Bargiel who was a ballerina and ran a ballet company. So he's watching this talk show and sees Keith and his wife who's a ballerina and runs a ballet company! Desi says "Hey Amy, come in here! There's my friend Keith who played Little Ricky! He got married to a ballerina who runs a ballet company too!"
Amy looks and says "Oh yea! She was my room mate in college!" What are the chances of that? Strange things happen in this world!
MICK: What is your fondest memory of your mom and dad. I know there must be many but is there one that really sticks out?
LUCIE: That's almost an impossible question. But guess the one that i would choose, at this moment, would be the last time I put the phone up to my father's ear so that my mother could talk to him and they told each other how much they loved each other.
MICK: Your costar on "Here's Lucy" was veteran character actor Gale Gordon. I know he was with your mom throughout her entire TV career. What was he like?
LUCIE: He was one of the nicest, funniest, dearest men on the planet. I think I only knew two people in the sixty years I've been on this earth that were genuinely nice to everybody and that talented...that was Gale Gordon and Jimmy Durante. He was truly unique and I learned so much from him about how to be professional, to come prepared and keep a good spirit about you. He was the best guy to work with. I'm sure that's why my mother depended on him for so many years. She always knew that whatever you gave him, he could always knock it out of the park.
MICK: You've done numerous stage plays. Do you have a favorite role?
LUCIE: I do have a few. "Lost In Yonkers" was a thrill, one of Neil Simon's best works ever. He won the Pulitzer for it. It's a cathartic, riveting, dark and funny play. I had the wonderful part of Bella. I also loved the fact that I could tap dance with Tommy Tune in "My One and Only". That was a huge undertaking. I had just had my third baby when I went into rehearsals for that. To learn that amount of dancing was a big triumph. That was fun, fun, fun! "They're Playing Our Song" was a pretty perfect show too! It was my first Broadway show. I've had so many parts! I loved "Annie Get Your Gun" and "The Witches Of Eastwick". "Seesaw" was the very first National tour I ever did with Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields music, Michael Bennett directing. That was extremely memorable.
MICK: Are you close with your brother?
LUCIE: Yes! Not physically because he's out in Nevada and I live in Connecticut. We try to get together as often as we can. We're having another family reunion on what would have been my mother's 100th birthday this year. Every Ball of the Ball family comes together. Desi and I will be there with our kids. We've had a wonderful time doing the Babalu Show together. That was great fun!
MICK: Is the family reunion going to be in Jamestown, New York?
LUCIE: We were thinking about going to Jamestown because there's all kinds of festivities there this year. My Aunt Cleo, who was my mother's cousin but really raised as her sister and was also executive producer of "Here's Lucy", is one of two matriarchs left. The other is Zoe. Zoe gets around pretty good for 93 but Cleo not so much. So everybody is going to Cleo in Northern, California!
MICK: are you involved with the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown?
LUCIE: Yes as much as I possibly can! I was on the board of directors there for over five years and created the place. It's a lot to be a board member. I'm also a board member of The American Theater Wing here in New York. Between my concerts and that, directing, producing, editing and writing..it's just too many things. They went through some great changes up there! They have a brand new, very savvy, very smart young creative and artistic executive directer who is doing a fabulous job at the Center. They've come up with some stuff that I think my mother would be very proud of. The original idea that we had, that was sidetracked by the previous administration, was to have a festival of comedy called for Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Support comedy into the future! Teach it, find it, honor it, award it! Also, they are creating the first ever "Comedy Hall of Fame" which is being named after Lucy and Desi. That's all happening this year! We support them 100 percent!
MICK: Up until this point in your career, what would you consider your greatest achievement in your career?
LUCIE: I would have to say winning an Emmy Award for directing and producing "The Lucy and Desi Home Movie". That was a cathartic experience to create. I worked on it for four years and you never know what you have. You just follow your heart and make what you think is right, not a trash piece. To be awarded an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary was pretty thrilling. It's hard to beat that!
MICK: Is there anything else you would like to accomplish? You've accomplished so much in your career!
LUCIE: Everything! I have lots to do yet! I'm dancing as fast as I can! I have lots more Cd's I want to make, books I want to write, about ten documentaries I want to make. I have three Broadway shows in the hopper that my husband Larry and I want to produce. I won't live long enough to do all of this so I have to work fast! I've got plenty left to do!
See Lucie Arnaz this Saturday, June 18th at 8pm in "Latin Roots"
The Landmark Theater, 232 Main St., Port Washington (516) 767-6444
For more on Lucie....www.luciearnaz.com