Desi Arnaz (full name "Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha III") was
born on March 2, 1917 in Santiago
. His father was the mayor
of Santiago, so the young Arnaz led quite a privileged childhood.
On August 12, 1933, the first Batista
revolution occurred. Arnaz's father was thrown into jail, and the
family was stripped of their wealth and power. Arnaz and his mother
fled to Miami, where they devoted the next six months to freeing his
father from prison. Arnaz's father was eventually released from
prison mainly because U.S. officials believed that he was neutral
during the revolt.
By the time he was seventeen years old, Arnaz was singing and
playing with local bands around Miami. While playing one of these
gigs, he was discovered by Xavier Cugat, the world's leading Latin
bandleader. He offered Arnaz a job in his band, the Xavier Cugat
Orchestra, on the condition that Arnaz finish high school first.
Arnaz graduated from high school, then toured with Cugat's band for a
After leaving the Xavier Cugat Orchestra, Arnaz started his own
band, featuring himself as a singer and congo player. He
single-handedly created the Conga craze in Miami's top clubs.
Arnaz' success as a bandleader prepared him for success in a
Broadway musical called "Too Many Girls." When the musical became a
movie, he went to Hollywood to recreate his role on the screen.
Arnaz met Lucille Ball on the movie set for "Too Many Girls."
After a whirlwind romance, they eloped during the promotional tour for
The two formed a production company called "Desilu." When CBS
approached Ball about making a television show out of her radio
series, "My Favorite Husband," Ball negotiated a deal where her
actual husband Arnaz would play her husband in the show, and Desilu
would maintain creative control of the program. That program was
"I Love Lucy." The first episode of "I Love Lucy" went on the air in October of 1951.
Their marriage produced two children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr.
By the end of 1959, the two had decided that enough was enough. The last episode of "I Love Lucy" was aired in April of 1960, and they
divorced soon afterwards. Arnaz remained the chief executive of
Desilu until 1962, when he got Ball to buy out his 25% of the
Arnaz married Edith Mack Hirsch on March 2, 1963, a marriage
that lasted until her death in 1985.
Arnaz wrote his autobiography (entitled simply A Book), owned a
successful horse breeding farm, and was a professor at San Diego
State University. Arnaz also served as ambassador to Latin America
during the Nixon administration.
Arnaz died of lung cancer in 1986.