‘I Love Lucy’ star Desi Arnaz got sober a year before his death, daughter says: ‘I was very proud of him’

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Desi Arnaz achieved sobriety towards the end of his life with the help of his son, Desi Arnaz Jr.

The late actor’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz, opened up about her famous parents in the upcoming documentary for Amazon Prime Video titled “Lucy and Desi.” The film, directed by Amy Poehler, features archival footage and recordings of the pair’s stories told in their own words. It premieres on March 4.

Arnaz famously starred as Cuban bandleader Ricky Ricardo alongside his wife Lucille Ball in the beloved ‘50s sitcom “I Love Lucy.” According to the documentary, Arnaz’s drinking sometimes got in the way of their marriage. The couple divorced in 1960.

“He resisted going into AA or any program for a long, long time,” Lucie, 70, told People magazine on Thursday. “We don’t air our dirty laundry in front of other people; he hated that part. But he finally did after his [second] wife Edy died. He was just so upset that my brother convinced him… ‘Come on, dad. You can do this.’ And he did it. He stopped drinking.”

Desi Arnaz famously starred as Ricky Ricardo in the ‘50s sitcom ’I Love Lucy’.
(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

“I was right next to him when he stood up and said, ‘My name is Desi and I’m an alcoholic,’” Lucie continued. “It was the proudest moment of my life to sit next to him and hear him do that. It was like, ‘OK, I don’t care what you do after this. That was the best thing you’ve done.’ Because that was hard for him. It’s hard for everybody, but for him especially it was really hard.”

According to the outlet, Arnaz found out he had lung cancer shortly after getting sober. He passed away a year later in 1986 at age 69.

“… I was very proud of him,” said Lucie about her father’s journey to sobriety before his passing. “That takes an incredible amount of courage.”

Lucie insisted that her parents’ love for each other “never went away” even though they moved on to other spouses following the split.

“There was forgiveness,” she said. “There was understanding.”

Previously, Lucie detailed her parents’ final exchange over the phone before Arnaz died.

“I could hear her say, ‘I love you,’” Lucie told People magazine on Wednesday about her mother’s last conversation with her father. “She said it five times in a row. And he was nodding and saying, ‘I love you too, honey.’”

“He died in my arms,” Lucie shared. “None of us realized it at the time, but the day they last spoke was Nov. 30, their wedding anniversary.”

Desi Arnaz (1917-1986) kissing his daughter, American actress and singer Lucie Arnaz, on the cheek, circa 1985. 
(Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Ball passed away less than three years later in 1989 at age 77 from cardiac arrest.

Lucie told the outlet that “I Love Lucy” was not only significant to audiences but also to her parents during their marriage.

“They did the show so they could be together because my dad was always on the road and they never saw each other,” she explained. “So my parents thought, ‘Well, this is going to save our marriage, and we can have a family.'”

“They gave the country this wonderful creation, but they never got what they wanted – to stay together,” said Lucie. “… [But] they loved each other until the end.”

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were married from 1940 until 1960.
(Photo by CBS/Getty Images)

Keith Thibodeaux, who played Little Ricky in the sitcom, told Fox News Digital in 2020 that he developed a close bond with his TV dad on set.

“Desi and I really hit it off,” he explained at the time. “I’m from South Louisiana, French Cajun heritage. And I have this weird last name. In fact, he gave me another name, Richard Keith, for the show. Because he didn’t think that anybody could pronounce ‘Thibodeaux,’ which they couldn’t at that point. I think the Cuban culture and the Southern Louisiana Cajun culture have similarities in terms of family and culture. So not only did we connect rhythmically but on a personal level too.”

“I think our roots really connected us and I really felt that on set,” he shared. “And Desi kept me grounded in a strange way. He was more down-to-earth. Lucy was more of a Hollywood star. Desi was more than just a Latin guy with a funny accent [who] barely spoke English. He was amazingly talented and did a lot of hard work behind the scenes, too. It was easy to bond with him.”

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