Lucille Ball had a fascinating back story. Fans knew her as a loveable red head and the First Lady of Hollywood. But before she was famous and met Desi Arnaz, times were rocky.
It’s all documented in a new book, Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz: They Weren’t Lucy & Ricky Ricardo. It was written by Darwin Porter and Danforth Prince. A second part of the book comes out later this year.
Long before Lucille Ball became one of the most famous women in Hollywood, she spent time in New York, auditioning for roles. This was back in the 1920s and 30s. According to the book, Ball tried for parts using the name Montana Ball or Diane Belmont. She was a struggling actress who would stash leftover food from her dinner dates in her purse to bring home.
She also dated Pat DiCicco, who was believed to be affiliated with the mafia. According to the book, Lucille Ball was staying at the Kimberly Hotel in Manhattan. As she took a bath, someone started shooting. The book said: “While she was soaking in the tub, she was fired upon and the bathtub was riddled with bullets. Miraculously, she escaped injury, but the room downstairs was flooded.”
In another instance, the book said she was dancing at a club in Harlem. Ball saw a man and wanted to flee the club. So she and her friend quickly left. The man shot another person after Ball departed.
Lucille Ball Dyed Her Hair Red to Distinguish Herself from Betty Grable
The book said that Lucille Ball often lost parts to Betty Grable. She considered her a rival. In order to stand out, Ball started dying her hair red using a special henna rinse.
Kay Harvey, who was interviewed for the book, said “It was because of Grable that Lucille quit yawning her way through a picture and did some real acting.”
And before she fell in love with Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball dated some big name actors. The list included Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Milton Berle and Orson Welles. The book reports that Berle floated the idea of television by Lucy when he was on dates with her.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz officially met in 1940, while the two were working on the movie, Too Many Girls. Ball played a college girl named Connie Casey. Her father hired four football players to be her secret bodyguards. Arnaz was one of the football players.
The book said that Lucille Ball couldn’t take her eyes off her future husband. She was attracted by his ‘broad shoulders and chest” and ‘how he swayed to the catchy rhythms of the bongo drums.’”
The day after the two met, they moved in together. And within a decade, the two created I Love Lucy.