‘I Love Lucy’: Desi Arnaz Once Revealed if the Show Was ‘Painful’ to Watch After His Divorce With Lucille Ball

by Josh Lanier

Desi Arnaz told a journalist in 1980 that he still watched some of the old I Love Lucy episodes. Despite the acrimonious divorce and bitter feuds in public, Arnaz said he looks back on the episodes with happy memories, despite the behind-the-scenes drama.

The couple married in 1940 and divorced 20 years later. During their time together, they produced one of the greatest sitcoms of TV history in I Love Lucy. They also built a TV empire with Desilu productions. And Arnaz told Entertainment Tonight that he was happy with what they’d accomplished.

He said he and Lucy are still “good friends” and talk a few times every other week. They both remarried shortly after their divorce. He married Edith Mack Hirsch. Lucille Ball married comedian, Gary Morton.

“We had 20 wonderful years together and we’re still close,” he said of his relationship with Ball in 1980. “… We’ve got some wonderful kids. Now, we’ve got a grandson — he already looks like Rocky Graziano, this character. So we’re very close and we’re very good friends. I still love her very much.”

Their children — Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. — have said their parents were better friends than romantic partners. Desi Arnaz had a long history of philandering and alcoholism that soured the marriage early on. Even as Lucy turned a blind eye toward it.

When Arnaz died in 1986, Lucille Ball was one of the 100 guests in attendance.

Arnaz Talks What They Couldn’t Do on ‘I Love Lucy’

Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball had a life outside of the show. And it would occasionally bleed over into their hit show I Love Lucy. Usually, it could be handled off-screen, like their constant fighting, but when Lucy got pregnant with Desi Arnaz Jr., it constituted a major problem. Mostly because CBS wouldn’t allow them to even say the word pregnant, much less show a pregnant woman on TV.

This was the era in which couples slept in separate beds.

Dezi Arnaz told David Letterman in 1983 some of the ways the network considered getting around the “issue.”

“Could you believe they said ‘well, can you hide her, you know, baby (bump) behind high chairs or sitting down at a table?’” he recalled executives asking. “I said not Lucy. When she gets pregnant, brother, there’s no question about it. She waddles around like a big elephant. There’s nowhere no way to hide her for six months.”

So, CBS had no choice. I Love Lucy was the most popular show on television, and executives weren’t going to put it on ice while Lucy gestated. So, they allowed her to be pregnant in the show as well, which turned out to be a watershed moment for television. Most fans and critics consider the five-episode arc some of the best episodes in the show’s history.