‘I Love Lucy’: Little Ricky Actor Keith Thibodeaux Once Revealed How He Most Identified with Desi Arnaz On Set

by Joe Rutland

While it might be hard to understand, “I Love Lucy” actor Keith Thibodeaux said he identified most with sitcom lead Desi Arnaz.

Thibodeaux talked about his time as Little Ricky on “I Love Lucy” during an interview back in 2019 with the New York Post. During the interview, Thibodeaux, who was credited as Richard Keith in the show, talked about his relationship with Arnaz.

“I really think the person I identified with the most was Desi Arnaz because of his Latin culture,” he said. “I was a Cajun from Louisiana and our cultures were very similar, and the fact that he was a percussionist and I was a percussionist, we had something in common.

“When he died (in 1986) I really took his death harder than anyone else’s,” Thibodeaux, who was born in Lafayette, La., said. Desi Arnaz, who divorced Ball in 1960, died on Dec. 2, 1986, at 69 years old. Arnaz was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, and came over to the United States as a bandleader.

Yes, the real-life-imitates-art phrase works here as Arnaz played bandleader Ricky Ricardo on “I Love Lucy.” Thibodeaux did appear in some other TV shows, especially on “The Andy Griffith Show” between 1962-66 in a recurring role. These days, you can catch him as executive director of “Ballet Magnificat!” founded by his wife Kathy, a ballet dancer.

Besides Arnaz, Lucille Ball, William Frawley, and Vivian Vance from the original cast are all dead.

Ball, Arnaz Make Purchases Of Movie Lots To Form Desilu Productions

Back in 1958, Ball and Arnaz were riding high with the success of “I Love Lucy” even as they were then doing “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour.”

Their financial situation was enormous. They decided to form Desilu Productions but, in order to do so, they bought up multiple studio lots for millions.

Ball and Arnaz bought two studios from RKO for $6.1 million. One was right next to Paramount Pictures; the other was in Culver City, Calif. Also in 1958, Desilu sold the rights to the sitcom to CBS for $4.5 million. Those numbers were big in 1958. Imagine what they would be in the 21st Century.

Two years after this move, the “I Love Lucy” lead stars Ball and Arnaz divorced in 1960. Ball purchased Arnaz’s shares of Desilu Productions in 1962. It turned her into the first female president of a Hollywood production company, one that oversaw other shows than Ball’s work.

Arnaz himself went on to produce shows after the sitcom days. Either at Desilu or independently, he oversaw shows like “The Untouchables” and “The Ann Southern Show.”