‘I Love Lucy’: How Desi Arnaz Responded After Lucille Ball Was Accused of Being Communist

by Jennifer Shea

In many ways, Lucie Arnaz is the keeper of her parents’ legacy. And in that role, she is a major player in all the stories people tell about the “I Love Lucy” stars.

Her father Desi’s memorable response when Lucille Ball was accused of being a Communist is one of many anecdotes Arnaz touched on in a wide-ranging 2018 interview with Palm Springs Life. Arnaz recounted Desi’s reaction in the refugee’s trademark Cuban accent.  

“There’s the line Dad said when Mom was accused of being a Communist,” Arnaz recalled. “‘The only thin’ red about Loosy is her hair. And even tha’ is not legitimate!’ Everyone takes credit for that.”

‘I Love Lucy’ Star Was Accused by the House Un-American Activities Committee

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) formed in 1938 as the Cold War began. It would conduct investigations over the next two decades of alleged Communist sympathies. Many of those investigations focused on artists and entertainers. Pete Seeger and Arthur Miller were among those investigated, per Britannica.

The committee often asked witnesses called before it to give up the names of Communist sympathizers. If they balked, the committee labeled them “red,” according to the National Archives’ Truman Library. Particularly in Hollywood but also in government, such charges froze many careers. By about 1950-’54, the blacklisting known as McCarthyism, led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, was in full swing.

In 1952, HUAC accused Ball of being a Communist. Ball had registered to vote as a Communist in 1936. But Ball explained to the committee that she only did so to placate her dying grandfather, who was fond of Eugene Debs, a labor organizer and Socialist Party candidate for president. The committee subsequently dropped the charges.

How Arnaz Discovered Her Mother’s Memoirs

Ball’s autobiography, titled “Love, Lucy,” appeared posthumously. After her mother’s death, Arnaz told Palm Springs Life, she was going through old files with Ball’s lawyer. They came across a manila envelope with “Lucy” written across the front of it. Inside was the manuscript for a book.

It turned out Ball had been working with Betty Hannah Hoffman on the story of her life. She recorded answers to Hoffman’s questions so Hoffman could transcribe them. Ball edited the manuscript of those answers. Then she tucked it away, saying it would “hurt too many people.”

“She meant Dad,” Arnaz explained.

Arnaz ultimately went over the manuscript herself. She edited it for publication and wrote the foreword. She also recorded the audiobook, which she found to be a cathartic experience.

“When you crawl back inside their words it’s like… wow,” she said. “I was not alone in that [recording] booth, they were with me.”