‘I Love Lucy’: Why Desi Arnaz Said His ‘Whole Life Was a Bunch of Accidents’

by Jennifer Shea

“I Love Lucy” star Desi Arnaz published his memoirs in 1976, a decade before his untimely death in 1986 of cancer. And he said the book – titled, aptly, “A Book” – reveals that his life was a sequence of one lucky happenstance after another.

In an appearance on “The Late Show with Johnny Carson” after the book came out, Arnaz confessed that his whole life up until that point had been “a bunch of accidents.”

“You know, when you read this thing,” he said, gesturing at his book, “you really see that my whole life has been a bunch of accidents. Everything that happened to me is because something else happened. Being with Bob [Hope] was like going to college for a couple years to study comedy by the master of all comedy.”

Carson pointed out that, for example, Arnaz was partially responsible for starting the conga craze in the U.S. Another accident, Arnaz insisted.

Watch Arnaz’s “Late Show with Johnny Carson” appearance here:

‘I Love Lucy’ Star Was a Savvy TV Businessman

Arnaz was a bandleader and a savvy businessman as well as the star of an iconic sitcom. He came to the U.S. at age 16. Soon after he arrived, he joined a Cuban combo, and it wasn’t long after that before he was leading his own band.

It was Arnaz’s idea to invent the rerun (he came up with it around the time of Desi Jr.’s birth), which became a popular goldmine for TV shows. The Los Angeles Times said it “doomed live television,” but Arnaz’s business savvy made Arnaz and his then-wife Lucille Ball millions.

And Arnaz also led the way by coming up with the three-camera filming technique, in which three cameras record simultaneously from different angles. It became a commonplace television practice soon thereafter.

Arnaz Died of Lung Cancer

The “I Love Lucy” star had a habit of smoking Cuban cigars. And it was that habit that did him in eventually.

“It was from smoking those Cuban cigars, that’s the truth,” his doctor, Charles Campbell, told the L.A. Times upon the actor and musician’s death.

Arnaz’s daughter Lucie was with him at the time of his passing. His son, Desi Jr., and Ball were reportedly on their way. Arnaz died at his home in Del Mar, a suburb of San Diego.