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Desi Arnaz’s Wild Life Before ‘I Love Lucy’: Everything to Know

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by Mondadori via Getty Images)

Desi Arnaz remains most widely regarded for his role as Ricky Ricardo alongside his famous wife Lucille Ball in the cult-classic American sitcom, “I Love Lucy.” However, before Desi Arnaz rose to fame on American television screens, the Cuban-American actor actually lived quite a wild life. Here’s everything you need to know about the classic TV icon.

Desi Arnaz Knew a Life of Wealth Before ‘I Love Lucy’

Desi Arnaz might remain iconic in TV history for his role as Ricky Ricardo alongside his real-life wife Lucille Ball. However, before he even came to the United States and learned to speak English, Arnaz was already familiar with a kind of fame, having come from a family of wealth.

According to Do You Remember?, Arnaz, who was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, came from a wealthy and highly-esteemed family. Arnaz’s grandfather associated with President Teddy Roosevelt and was also very influential in Cuban politics. The star’s maternal grandfather was actually one of the co-founders of the Bacardi rum industry. Arnaz’s father, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz II, served as the first mayor of his hometown and birthplace, as well as a part of the “greater political scene” in Cuba. The Ricky Ricardo actor’s uncle served as chief of police.

The outlet states the Arnaz family possessed mansions, ranches, yachts, livestock, and sports cars.

All in all, Desi Arnaz clearly came from a well-established and highly regarded family. Pop-culture historian and author Geoffrey Mark said of the Arnaz family, and Desi Arnaz in particular, “He was born into plenty.”

Desi Arnaz Lives a Varied Life Upon Move to the U.S.

Eventually, however, the Arnazes’ powerful reign in Cuba came to an end. In 1933, the Cuban Revolution broke out. As a result, Desi Arnaz, his mother, and his father escaped to the U.S. by car, shouting “Viva la Revolution,” to avoid getting killed.

At 16, the outlet reports the Arnazes’ homes were burned down and their livestock killed. Once safe from the Cuban Revolution, Arnaz and his father moved to Miami. Other Cuban refugees took in the father and son. Though, compared to their former lifestyle, they lived in a warehouse alongside rats and roaches.

Soon, they found work together in the tile business—all while the younger Arnaz was completing high school.

In 1939, Fandom reports Arnaz moved to Broadway, where he starred in the musical, “Too Many Girls.” A year later saw him in Hollywood for the film production of the same project. There, he met the iconic Lucille Ball, and the two married on November 30th, 1940.

Between then and the founding of “I Love Lucy,” Arnaz received his draft notice for the U.S. Army. While he completed his recruit training, an injured knee saw him on restricted duty. As such, he was assigned to the San Fernando Valley, where he directed the United Service Organization, which aided wounded soldiers.

Before launching “I Love Lucy,” Desi Arnaz also formed an orchestra. That same orchestra was later featured in the hit American sitcom.