The legacy of Lucille Ball has been proudly honored right here in Lucy’s hometown of Jamestown by the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum since 1996. For decades, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz played a vital role in television and on the big screen, and we’re fortunate to have the privilege of preserving their memory and the impact they’ve both had on the world through all of the fun costumes and screen-used memorabilia on display, awards they were both given, photographs of both their personal and TV lives, and much more!
“American people have the ability to laugh at themselves. It is one of the things that makes this country the great country that it is.” – Desi Arnaz
On March 2nd, 1917, the legendary actor, performer, musician, producer, entertainment mogul, innovator, and star: Desiderio Alberto Arnaz III, was born in Santiago, Cuba.
Desi Arnaz’s great-great grandfather, Don Manuel Arnaz, had settled in California in the 1899’s and owned land which is now part of Beverly Hills, the Wilshire district and much of the San Fernando Valley. The name Ventura, well known in southern California – was from Desi’s great-great grandmother.
His father, Desiderio Arnaz II, was mayor of Santiago, the original capital of Cuba. His mother, Dolores de Acha, was the daughter of one of the founders of the Bacardi Rum Company. His grandfather, Don Desiderio, was a physician who accompanied Theodore Roosevelt and the Rough Riders at the Battle of San Juan Hill.
Desi Arnaz spent the early years of his life in a privileged environment — many houses, grand vacations and recreational opportunities. His family planned for him to attend Notre Dame University and become an attorney.
Then disaster struck the Arnaz family in 1934 when Fulgencio Batista rallied the Cuban army against the corrupt Machado regime. All officials associated with the existing power structure (including Desi’s father) were thrown in jail. Desi Arnaz witnessed the arrest of his father and the destruction of his home. Once his father was released, the Arnaz family moved to Miami, where his father began a small company which imported tiles for builders.
Desi Arnaz was attending St. Patrick’s High School in Miami in 1936 when he made his show business debut. He was hired to play guitar and sing in a small rhumba band — the Siboney Septet at the Roney Plaza Hotel in Miami Beach.
Soon afterward, he was discovered by famous bandleader, Xaviar Cugat, who asked him to join his band. Arnaz stayed with Cugat’s band for a year, but then broke away to form his own band in 1937. The new band found success when Desi Arnaz introduced the conga line in Miami.
The popularity of the conga spread to New York, where Arnaz’s band played at the La Conga Club. On Broadway, Arnaz was asked by RKO Pictures to star in “Too Many Girls,” adding to his popularity. Desi Aranaz’s role in this movie led him to further success in show business. It also led him to Lucille Ball.
Enrich the world through laughter: Every purchase directly supports the legacies of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and the 501(c)(3) Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum attraction in Jamestown, NY.