‘I Love Lucy’: Child Actor Keith Thibodeaux Discussed How Show Affected His Social Life Growing Up

by Will Shepard

In the 1950s, I Love Lucy was one of the most popular shows on television. Its cast members entered rarified air in terms of popularity. Not only did Lucille Ball make an incredible name for herself, but so did Keith Thibodeaux.

Thibodeaux was only 5-years-old when he joined the show. In 1953, he became an overnight sensation after blowing people away with his drumming ability.

From there on, Thibodeaux’s fame grew and grew thanks to I Love Lucy. But, that level of fame has an impact on your social life, both positive and negative. So, in an interview in 2019, he talked about the impact the show had on his social life.

“I had kind of divided life, a schizophrenic life,” Thibodeaux said. “The show didn’t film 12 months out of the year, so I had time off, … and during that time I would go to a normal school, a parochial school called St. Victor’s right off Sunset Strip in West Hollywood from grades 1 to 4.

“I had two lives: my normal life with my friends at school … and this other life when I was on the set,” the I Love Lucy star recounted. “I was introduced to Lucy and Desi’s children, Lucy and Desi Jr., and I would go and spend a weekend with them in Beverly Hills or on their ranch or in their Palm Springs house.”

“I Love Lucy” Star Had to Figure Out How to Balance Show Life With His off-Camera Life

At such a young age, managing dueling lives is hard. It certainly took a toll on Thibodeaux. The actor described dealing with both of the lives he was living. It is blatantly apparent how hard it was on him.

“When my dad said, ‘Lucy or Little Desi wants you to come over for the weekend.’ I would always be kind of dragging my feet and complaining and crying, ‘I don’t want to go! I want to be with my friends!’ To me, that was real life and [going to their house] was not real life. But I always enjoyed my time over there once I got there.”

Balancing life is always a difficult task. But, it seemed that the I Love Lucy star was well-liked by everyone who knew him. It made transitioning back and forth between worlds easier.

Thibodeaux described how he and Desi Jr. were food friends. He also noted that Lucille Ball was his co-worker, yet the mother of one of his best friends. This was a weird tight rope to walk for him. Nonetheless, the star of Love Lucy really trusted him.

He got to go on vacations with the Balls to Disneyland. However, it separated him from his family and he described how weird that was for him.

“People always confused me and Desi Jr. I went and spent a Christmas with the Arnazes in Palm Springs, which I didn’t want to do because I wanted to be with my family. It was a very kind of lonely feeling not to be with my family when I was so young.”