‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball and Her Son, Desi Jr., Were on the First-Ever TV Guide

by Matthew Memrick

Comedian Lucille Ball and her son, Desi Arnaz Jr., were featured on the first-ever TV Guide on April 3, 1953.

The magazine featured the big baby at just 75 days old over a blue background while his proud mom made a face in a much smaller photo at the top of the cover. It sold for $0.15 cents.

The words “Lucy’s $50 million baby” appear above both mother and child. (Considering inflation by today’s standards, that translates to $512,297,752 in 2021 dollars.) 

Because the baby was on “I Love Lucy,” one of the top-rated shows in the country in 1953, the baby’s birth was the most publicized in history to that point.

According to TV Guide, the first edition sold 1,560,000 copies in only ten U.S. cities. 

Lucille Ball and her husband, Desi Arnaz, scheduled their son’s Cesarean birth for Jan. 19, 1953, to coincide with the show’s baby delivery. The TV stunt landed a rating bonanza. TV Guide said a record 68.8 percent of all TV sets in the country tuned in to CBS for the episode.

The episode also put the first inauguration address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the back burner. His inauguration was on the following day. Interestingly enough, Congress had initially been set March 4 as Inauguration Day, but the date moved to Jan. 20 with the passage of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933. 

Real Life Desi Story

The TV Guide cover made life interesting for the authentic Desi Arnaz Jr.

“Because that cover was so widely seen, everyone thought I played Little Ricky, and that’s stuck with me throughout my life,” the 68-year-old Arnaz told TV Guide in 2013.

Arnaz expounded more on the cover, saying his parents cast six infants for the TV Guide cover.

In real life, Arnaz Jr. never played himself in the show. Keith Thibodeaux to the role of Little Ricky as a tyke. Both kids became friends, and photographers often took pictures of the two together. For history buffs, Arnaz would eventually play Lucille Ball’s son in the 1968-1974 show, “Here’s Lucy.”

Over the years, Arnaz Jr. had acted in TV guest spots on shows like “The Streets of San Francisco,” “The Love Boat,” and “Fantasy Island.”

Lucille Ball TV Guide Edition Sells Big

The Lucy Store sells the rare TV Guide edition for $850 on its website. But one current eBay seller has his mint condition copy going for $2,099. 

Other kinds of Lucy memorabilia bring in big bucks too. In a list of top 30 Barbie dolls worth a fortune today from 2018, the Lucille Ball version of Barbie from 2004 came in with a $1,500 value.

A lifesized Lucille Ball Resin Statue Realistic Prop Display is for sale on eBay with a listing price of $15,000. Another Ball signed item is also listed at $15,000.