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Desi Arnaz

From Academic Kids

Desi Arnaz (March 2, 1917December 2, 1986) was a Cuban born musician, actor, comedian and television producer.

He was born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha, III in Santiago, Cuba, to a wealthy family. After a 1933 revolution, Arnaz and his parents fled to Miami, Florida. He worked at different odd jobs to help support the family, including cleaning out bird cages.

He began his career as a professional musician in 1936, playing guitar and percussion for a Latin orchestra. He then took a pay cut to work in New York City for Xavier Cugat, his mentor. Arnaz returned to Miami six months later to lead his own combo. It was there he introduced the Conga Line to American audiences, which soon became a national rage. He formed his own orchestra and returned to New York.

Arnaz was also a successful recording artist, beginning in 1937, and had a hit with the voodoo-flavored "Babalu" (1946), his signature song, which was recorded at RCA Victor.

In 1939, he starred on Broadway in the successful musical Too Many Girls. He then went to Hollywood to appear in the 1940 movie version at RKO, which starred actress and comedienne, Lucille Ball. They married in 1940.

He and Ball were the parents of actress Lucie Arnaz (born 1951) and actor Desi Arnaz, Jr. (born 1953).

Arnaz appeared in several movies in the 1940s, most notably Bataan (1943). After his service in World War II, he formed another orchestra, which was successful in live appearances and recordings. After he became engaged in television, he kept the orchestra on his payroll throughout the period he remained an active producer.

He produced and starred in I Love Lucy where his Cuban orchestra leader character was named Ricky Ricardo, husband of Lucy Ricardo, starring his real-life wife, Lucille Ball.

He was told that his Cuban accent and Latin style would not be agreeable to American viewers, but he overcame these objections by auditioning the proposed television show before live audiences with great success.

He was the founder, with Ball, of Desilu Productions. There he developed the multicamera setup production style using adjacent sets that became the standard for all subsequent situation comedies. In addition to I Love Lucy, he produced December Bride, The Texan, Make Room for Daddy, The Mothers-in-Law, The Lucy Show, Those Whiting Girls, Our Miss Brooks, and the pilot episode of The Untouchables. all Top Ten shows in their time. He is also credited with the invention of the rerun.

Arnaz' marriage with Ball began to collapse under his serious problems with alcohol, drugs and womanizing. They divorced in 1960.

After the divorce, Arnaz retired from active participation in show business, except for a memorable guest hosting stint on Saturday Night Live in 1976. In 1963, he married his second wife, Edith Mack Hirsh. They eventually moved to Del Mar, California, where he lived the rest of his life, making only an occasional TV and movie appearance.

He died in Del Mar at sixty-nine years of age from lung cancer. He was cremated and his ashes scattered.

Desi Arnaz has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for contributions to Motion Pictures at 6327 Hollywood Boulevard, and for television at 6220 Hollywood Boulevard.

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