Actor, Television Program Producer. He is best remembered for the hugely popular television sitcom "I Love Lucy" (1951 to 1957), which he produced and in which he portrayed 'Ricky Ricardo.' Born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III in Santiago, Cuba, he was the son of a wealthy landowner who was also the mayor of Santiago. The 1933 Batista revolution landed his father in jail and stripped Desi's family of wealth and power. Following his father's release, the family fled to Miami, where Desi worked a variety of odd jobs to help support his family. In 1936, he got his first professional musician's job as a guitarist for the Siboney Septet. He later took a cut in pay to work for Xavier Cugat in New York. Six months later, he returned to Miami to lead a Latin combo of his own, with help from Cugat. It was there where he introduced the Conga Line to American audiences. It soon became a national phenomenon and led to a return to New York, where he was offered a role in the successful 1939 Broadway musical "Too Many Girls." In 1940, he signed with RKO and traveled to Hollywood to star in the film version. There he met his co-star and future wife, Lucille Ball. They were married later in 1940. Desi went on to make three more films with RKO and one, the classic war film "Bataan," with MGM before being inducted into the Army during WWII. During his two years in the service, he was responsible for keeping stateside troops entertained. After being discharged, he went back into music, forming a new orchestra. It was an instant success, and he went on to record several hits during the late forties. He also served as orchestra leader on Bob Hope's radio show from 1946 to 1947. The orchestra stopped recording in 1949, after which Desi worked with his wife Lucy to start up their joint production company Desilu and its first major project, the television sitcom "I Love Lucy," which ran for six years on CBS and became the most successful television program in history. Desi's orchestra remained together as part of the TV program. As producer of the "I Love Lucy series," Desi originated many techniques that are now standard procedure in series television, including the use of several cameras to film the performance, preceding performances with a warm-up man, filming before a live audience, and the re-running of films of old episodes. At the time, normal practice was to broadcast live from a studio in New York. Desi's innovations allowed "I Love Lucy" to be filmed at Desilu in Hollywood and broadcast from New York via film. The existence of a broadcast-quality film print for each episode also opened the way to syndication of the series, which is still widely aired today. Even after "I Love Lucy" ended, Desilu Productions continued as a successful and influential company. Desilu produced "December Bride," "Make Room for Daddy," "Our Miss Brooks," "The Untouchables," and other shows. Desi's marriage to Lucille Ball broke up in 1960. He retired from active participation in show business and sold his half of Desilu to Lucy for $3 million, which made her the most powerful woman in show business. He eventually moved to Del Mar, California, with his second wife, Edith, where he lived the rest of his life, occasionally turning up on television or film. He passed away in Del Mar on December 2, 1986, a victim of lung cancer.
Bio by: Edward Parsons
Ashes scattered in the Sea of Cortés at Ranch Las Cruces, near La Paz, B.C.S., Mexico