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By: Jun. 25, 2010
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I spoke with Lucie while she was in her ‘tiny' Manhattan apartment, as she put it. She was waiting for the delivery of her new mattress. She had recently returned from a wonderfully, luxurious cruise and was getting back to business. Her New York apartment was where she needed to be as opposed to the home in Connecticut she shares with her husband of 30 years, the fine actor Laurence Luckinbill. Together, they have three children.  Mr. Luckinbill also has two children from a previous marriage. Lucie and I spoke briefly the day before the interview and set 10:30 am as the time for me to call her the following day. The morning of the interview arrived and the phone rang at 10am, and it was Lucie, ready to go.


Lucie was doing this interview to help spread the word about BABALU which plays at the Arsht Center from July 8 through 11. BABALU, is a tribute, a celebration of the music of her father, Desi Arnaz. Lucie was the creative, driving force behind this show, which she also directed, hosts and stars in. Along for the BABALU ride are Raul Esparza, Valerie Pettiford, and a special appearance by Lucie's brother, Desi Arnaz Jr. BABALU'S choreographer and stage director is Ramon Del Barrio.

During our interview, Lucie was charming, witty, down to Earth, saucy on occasion, and fascinatingly reminiscent of her mother. This is a driven business woman, who has chosen show business to display the many things she can do. In front of an audience, backstage and in the office. Actually, many would argue that show business chose her.



Beau: Lucie, when was the first time you recall hearing your father sing?

Lucie: Not in-utero.  I don't have memories of my father singing to my mother's stomach. Actually, I can't pinpoint a specific moment. It was probably in the pool. Or in Del Mar fishing. He always sang and he hummed. As though he was always on an island in the Caribbean. He was always singing to celebrate Mother Nature. He respected Mother Nature. He was overwhelmed by God's handiwork. He was always telling us to look at this sunset or to see this beautiful flower.

Beau: Do you recall the first time you heard your father sing ‘Babalu?'

Lucie: On I LOVE LUCY. Generations and generations of people have heard ‘Babalu' for the first time on I LOVE LUCY.

Beau: Does it concern you, does it bother you, that people likely remember your father as Ricky Ricardo and secondarily remember him as a singer and musician?

Lucie: It doesn't bother me. That was his journey, He deferred to the lady. He created the show for her. His way. (and Lucie sang) "He did it his way."

Beau: Was it you who first thought of doing BABALU?

Lucie: I was doing my show at the 92nd Street Y, and I was talking with the artistic director of the Y. That's how it first started. We got a hold of my father's sensational charts. They're now preserved in the Library of Congress. A fan, Edward Moffett I believe is his name. He sent my father the charts of the Desi music from the 30s and 40s.

Beau: What is your favorite moment in BABALU?



Lucie: It is still so new. I am still exploring. I don't know what my favorite moment is yet.

Beau: What is your favorite song of your father's? 

Lucie: "Babalu?" "Good Night."  "I Love You," which he wrote for my stepmother.  He would get the guitar and sing in Spanish and English. Simple yet beautiful. Or there was that big conga drum.

Beau: Do you have a greatest musical moment of your father's from I LOVE LUCY?

Lucie: "Babalu"

Beau: Are there any plans for BABALU after it plays Miami?

Lucie: We're going to bring the show back to New York and then we are going to tour. Lots of places have contacted us with great interest in the show.

Beau: How did your father feel about you and your brother becoming regular supporting players on HERE'S LUCY?

Lucie: He was great. He was very supportive. He took out an ad in Variety congratulating Lucy on having us as part of the show.

Beau: Do you think that your father's music would be known today without I LOVE LUCY?

Lucie: No! I LOVE LUCY was the catalyst that let his music leap to all the households throughout the nation. He always said "There Must Be A Way." Those were his words. He was brilliant. My father launched the conga in America. Way too driving and sexy for what audiences were used too. My father's band was Buddy Rodgers' relief band. My father asked Buddy Rodgers to do the "Peanut Vendor" song at the end of his set. This set the tone for my father and his band. He was just brilliant.



Beau: Do you recall the first time you saw your father perform?

Lucie: It was probably on a Kraft Music Hall that we were on together. Or a benefit. We did lots and lots of benefits.

Beau: Were you in the audience when your father hosted SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE?

Lucie: No, I wish I had been. I was probably on tour with a show or something.

Beau: At what age did you think that show business was for you?

Lucie: During mid high school. My high school was chosen for Drama. During those years I also thought of being a nurse or a vet. Then it was pretty much decided when my mother asked me and my brother to be regulars on HERE'S LUCY. I said to her "do you think this is right, that I can do it?" She said to me "Do I look stupid?" My brother had been in show business with his band. I was concerned that I might fail. So it was agreed that if I failed or was unhappy that the character would be written out, sent off to boarding school or something like that.

Beau: What performance did you give that you are happiest your father got to see?

Lucie: THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG. And it was at the Imperial Theater. Where my father became a star in TOO MANY GIRLS. He came back and told me that I had his dressing room.

Beau: Do you remember any "words of wisdom" your father gave you about show business?

Lucie: "There Must Be A Way." Live life one wave at a time. Left to right. One Wave at a time.

Beau: Do you ever recall hearing your mother sing one of your father's songs around the house?

Lucie: No. My mother didn't ever sing around the house. She could carry a tune, she could sing. She did the musical WILDCAT on Broadway. Lucy Ricardo usually sang awfully, because it was funnier. She could sing, but never around the house.

Beau: Your father was never nominated for an Emmy award. Why do you think?

Lucie: Is that so? Was he never nominated?

Beau: Do you think it was because he was Cuban?

Lucie: Corruption! Don't even get me started on the subject of awards, it is crazy. They make no sense. How do you decide one great actor is better than another in a different part? It is crazy. I could really go on about this subject. At least now I am on the Board of The American Theater Wing. I'm a Tony voter. I work hard to make sure I'm a good Tony voter. I see everything I'm supposed to. It is rough, but I make sure I do. It is wonderful being on the Board of The American Theater Wing. They do so much with schools, outreach. Just fabulous stuff. So much of the Wing's teaching stuff is on the internet now. That's just so great. The amount of students we can reach on the internet.

Beau: Lots of people thought it was simple meanness that kept you from being Tony nominated for THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG.

Lucie: Well, there you go. Awards make no sense. Honor people but get rid of the competition. There were eight outstanding achievements this year, let's say, so we give out eight honors. The competition is just crazy.

Beau: Was Vivian Vance the one who told you to get involved with theater?



Lucie: She was The One. She insisted. She was doing a guest starring part on HERE'S LUCY. She asked me what I did during hiatus. She said she saw passion in me. She told me "Don't Get Stuck On TV." That's what happened to her. Before I LOVE LUCY she had a great career in the theater. She is the one who refocused me on theater.

Beau: What was the first Broadway show you saw?

Lucie: My Mom was in WILDCAT, so we were in New York. Lots of theater. I remember the first three. First was THE MIRACLE WORKER with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Then I saw THE MUSIC MAN with Robert Preston and Carol Burnett in ONCE UPON A MATTRESS.

Beau: Was any show or movie of special importance to you?

Lucie: We used to put on shows in our back yard all the time. I lip-synched Ann Margret going "Bye, Bye, Bird-hee." And all the other parts too, I did all the parts.

Beau: Do you have a special childhood memory of your father you can share?

Lucie: So many. I get feelings you know? How can you answer the question? I adored my father.

Beau: After your father died, I recall seeing you on television, looking in the camera and saying "Don't Smoke."

Lucie: Did I do that? I probably did. They take cameras and microphones and put them in your face, right after your father or mother has died. Can you imagine? I probably just wanted to throw up.

Beau: Do you know what BABALU music was your father's favorite?



Lucie: Well, I could make up an answer that would be great for the story, but, I don't know. I really don't know which one was his favorite, what he would say. When he sang Babalu, he never gave less than his all. He was like a force of nature. This tortured man, this beaten soul, that's what Babalu is about. He was spectacular performing Babalu every time he did it.

Beau: Do you think the story of your father and mother would make an interesting Broadway musical?

Lucie: Indeed. "The Desi Story." I'm working on it now.

Beau: Did your father ever teach you a song or to play a musical instrument?

Lucie: He didn't teach me to play any musical instruments. I don't recall him ever teaching me a song. But, he was always teaching me a song. He was always singing. He sang everywhere, all the time, he sang after dinner, always.

Beau: What is your favorite part that you have played?


Beau: Is there a dream part you want to play?

Lucie: Mame. I think I'm going to be doing it soon.

Beau: Are there any current Broadway shows you have seen and loved.

Lucie: You mean this season. Yes and they're not musicals. I would say NEXT FALL, RED, and A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE.

Beau: How did June Havoc affect your life?

Lucie: She was my adopted mother. She used to live at my folks' ranch. A few years back I found out that she too, lived in Connecticut. I figured how great for my kids to have a grandparent figure in their lives. Someone elderly they could learn from. They had their grandparents die when they were so young. She was funny, smart and loving. A great director. She was Auntie Mameish. A positive force and spirit. Her brain was razor sharp till the end.

Beau: The Lucie Arnaz Show. I saw all the episodes.

Lucie: I was very proud of that show, it was great. It was based on a British show. They only gave us like 14 episodes, I think. There's a chance that if I concentrated on television I may have become someone like Mary Tyler Moore, or who knows? This is my journey.

Beau: Do you have a pet peeve?

Lucie: People coming up to me and asking my favorite I LOVE LUCY episode. I dunno, Vitametavegamin? I've come up with a stock answer for that question. I ask them, "why do you want to know?"

Beau: Lucie, they're probably just asking you that question because they want to meet you.

Lucie: Of course, I realize that. They just want to meet me.

Our interview was at an end. It would be too cliché to say I Love Lucie. She is a sweetheart and a very strong woman and very strong business woman. Her singing voice is one of the greats. How her singing has grown throughout the decades! Lucie's new CD is Latin Roots. It is great. I'll be there when BABALU opens in Miami, July 8th at the Arsht. WWW.ARSHTCENTER.ORG.






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