The Tragic Story Of Lucille Ball's Son, Desi Arnaz Jr.
Lucille Ball's name surely rings a bell with anyone who loves classic comedy. Her hilarious sitcom I Love Lucy was revolutionary for its time, and our parents and grandparents passed their love for the show down to many of us. Her ex-husband, Desi Arnaz, was just as famous during his prime - so it's no wonder that when they had a son, Desi Arnaz Jr. instantly became one of the most famous people in America.
In fact, he first appeared on TV before he was even born, while he was still in Lucy's womb. But even though he went on to become an actor and musician himself appearing in over 30 films and television shows, his career was always overshadowed by the fact that he was his parents' child.
And that took a toll, as Arnaz Jr. grew up in the media spotlight. Denied a normal life, he instead leaned into the fame. In 1978, at the age of just 25, he told People magazine, quote, "Years ago I was a playboy."
According to Dino Martin, Arnaz Jr.'s beloved friend and son of Dean Martin, Arnaz Jr. was, quote, "in love three times a week." Martin also revealed that when the two were in a band together, Arnaz Jr. played the field, and there was, quote, "no shortage of groupies."
As a result, Arnaz Jr. became a father himself when he was just 15, to a daughter named Julie. Her mother, Susan Howe, was a model at the time, but the fling was brief - Arnaz Jr. and his daughter didn't have a relationship until she was 25 years old, and even then it was strained.
Arnaz Jr.'s womanizing was a quality he seemed to have inherited. Back in the day, Desi Arnaz Sr. had a reputation for being quite the womanizer himself. But Arnaz Jr.'s womanizing got even more attention partly due to the fact that he was in the spotlight from a young age - a symptom of having two famous parents - and partly due to the fame of the women he dated, including big stars like Patty Duke, Liza Minnelli, Kim Darby, Tina Sinatra, and more.
But Arnaz Jr. didn't just struggle with fame and women. Like many child stars, he also struggled with drugs.
Arnaz Jr. attributes his drug use to self-medicating. The actor grew up in a world where the media constantly told him who he was, and Arnaz Jr. says he didn't know who he was.
Besides womanizing, Arnaz Jr. also seemed to inherit his substance abuse issues from his father.
Keith Thibodeaux, the actor who eventually played Little Ricky on I Love Lucy, told People magazine in 1989 that Desi Sr. wasn't always much fun to be around.
"Desi was really a great guy when he wasn't drinking [...] but as kids we'd definitely stay away from him when he was drunk."
Thibodeaux said that Arnaz Sr. frequently had violent, drunken outbursts, including a time he beat up Arnaz Jr.'s tutor and another time he fired a gun off into the air because someone was hanging out on a beach that he owned.
All of which just added to the difficulties Arnaz Jr. faced growing up. So, by his own admission, he began using drugs as a way to destroy himself - because he was tired of being Desi Arnaz Jr.
Still, despite their issues, both of Arnaz Jr. parents were extremely supportive of their son. And though they were divorced, they came together one more time on his behalf: when Arnaz Jr. went into rehab, both of his parents actually went with him to make sure he got the support he needed.
For Arnaz Jr., who was able to get clean with their help, it finally was a true Hollywood ending.
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