Parkland Press

Friday, September 20, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Lucie Arnaz, CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Lucie Arnaz, "Latin Roots," 8 p.m. April 20, State Theatre for the Arts, Easton.

Lucie: She's home!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN Focus Editor in Focus

'Latin Roots' concert salutes Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball

Lucie is home.

Lucie Arnaz's home and life is on stage with "Latin Roots," 8 p.m. April 20, State Theatre for the Arts, 453 Northampton St., Easton.

"Latin Roots" is a music tribute to Arnaz's dad, Desiderio "Desi" Arnaz, with video tributes to her mother, Lucille Desiree Ball, and their family.

"It's a really fun show," Arnaz says in a recent phone interview from Palm Springs, Calif., where she and her husband of 32 years, actor Laurence Luckinbill, plan to relocate next month from Connecticut.

"Latin Roots," Arnaz explains, is a hybrid version of "Babalu: A Celebration of the Music of Desi Arnaz and his Orchestra," performed, along with Raul Esparza and Valarie Pettiford, in 2010 as five sold-out shows for the Lyrics & Lyricists series at the 92nd Street Y, New York City.

Arnaz has presented "Latin Roots," which is based on her CD of the same title, with a 16-piece band and Desi Arnaz Orchestra original arrangements, in Miami and for the 60th anniversary of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

"Lars, what's the name of that auditorium?" she calls to Luckinbill. He replies that it's the Coolidge Auditorium, which is in the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress.

"We had lots of offers to do that show, but we couldn't get the team together," she says of "Babalu."

"When Tommy Tune came to see this show, it inspired me to go back and do a smaller scale," Arnaz recalls.

At the State Theater, Arnaz reprises her show presented at Feinstein's at Loews Regency, New York City, singing and accompanied by music director Ron Abel, piano, and a bass player and drummer.

"Latin Roots," Arnaz says, "includes some of dad's arrangements and all kinds of stories of my family on video shown at the top and during the show."

The show includes songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Johnny Mercer and tunes by Agustín Lara, Rafael Hernandez and Margarita Lecuona.

Said Michael Feinstein of Arnaz's show: "She captures the energy and spirit of her father's music and puts her own inimitable stamp on it. She's an original and a treasure."

Last month, Arnaz performed "Latin Roots" at the Annenberg Theater, Palm Springs Art Museum, in a benefit that raised $450,000 for the Betty Ford Center's Children's Program.

"I'd love to set the show ['Latin Roots'] down in Vegas for three or four weeks," Arnaz says.

Lucie Desiree Arnaz and her brother Desi Jr., of rock band Dino, Desi and Billy fame, had walk-on parts in "The Lucy Show" (1962 - '68). Lucie had a role in "Here's Lucy" 1968 - '74). During the 1970's, Arnaz guest-starred on a number of episodic TV shows. Her own series, "The Lucie Arnaz Show," was on TV in 1985.

Arnaz has had numerous stage roles, including her 1979 Broadway debut in "They're Playing Our Song." In 1986, she won an award for her international tour with Tommy Tune in the musical, "My One and Only."

Her most notable movie role is opposite Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier in "The Jazz Singer" (1980), for which she received a Golden Globe supporting actress nomination.

She received an Emmy for her 1993 documentary, "Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie."

In 2008, Arnaz and Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne were part of a Lucille Ball tribute at The Paley Center For Media, New York City.

"I've done all of it," Arnaz says of her career. "I've probably jumped around too much. You try to do a little bit of everything, but one gets in the way of the other. Not a lot of TV shows are calling for me now. I'm very happy doing what I do. If I get a call for a Broadway show, I'd be happy doing it.

"Concerts are a way of make a living and a great way to live. It didn't take you away every single morning. Once you've done television or a movie, you see how it takes away from you children or kids."

Arnaz and actor-writer Luckinbill, with whom she has appeared in many stage shows, have three children, Simon, Joseph and Katharine. Luckinbill has two sons from a previous marriage: Nicholas and Benjamin.

Arnaz's latest projects involve each of her parents.

The Comedy Hall of Fame is proposed for Lucille Ball's hometown, Jamestown, N.Y.

"There's never been a comedy hall of fame and they're building it in Jamestown, New York, and naming it after my folks," says Arnaz.

The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Desilu Playhouse, which houses the Lucy Desi Center for Comedy in Jamestown, holds the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, Aug. 1 - 4, around the time of Lucy's Aug. 6 birth date. Arnaz appeared at last year's festival.

Lucille Ball was to attend the first Lucy Comedy Fest and accept an honorary degree from Jamestown Community College in 1989, but died that April, prior to the event.

Since 1991, the Lucy Comedy Fest has featured performances by Lewis Black, Ray Romano, Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, Joan Rivers and Bob Newhart. The festival attracts more 10,000 visitors annually.

On Aug. 6, 2011, for what would have been her 100th birthday, 915 Lucy look-alikes gathered in Jamestown, N.Y., recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most number of persons dressed like Lucy in one place at one time.

The Lucy Desi Center for Comedy offers courses in improv, sketch and stand-up.

On display at the museum are "I Love Lucy" sets that traveled the United States in 2001 - '02 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of what's regarded as the most popular TV show ever, as well as props, costumes, photographs, videos, audio, the Tropicana Room for events and a souvenir shop.

The Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame is honoring Desi Arnaz at its inaugural gala, April 23, New World Center, Miami Beach, Fla., when the first Desi Arnaz Pioneer Award will be presented to Nat King Cole, with his daughter, Natalie Cole, accepting on his behalf.

Nat King Cole is being honored as the first black singer to record three albums in Spanish.

Lucie Arnaz will sing one of her father's popular songs, "El Cumbanchero," in Spanish, accompanied by a symphony orchestra.

"It's the silliest song," says Arnaz. "It's the guy who plays the drums. It goes round and round. But then it's interesting. The last line ... it's a carnival song ... there's a conga line. I touch my chest and mouth and point to the sky. 'There he goes.' Arnaz says she now can't perform the song without being overcome with emotion. "There he goes," she repeats.

Whereas, Lucille Ball's upbringing was in a small town in southwestern New York state, Arnaz grew up in Hollywood.

"Jimmy Durante and Jack Benny it wasn't like these people are on TV and they're coming into my home, but that they were friends who happened to be on TV. It was a business for my parents. They were two working parents. It took them away from home too often.

"You are a product of your environment. My mother was a product of her career. She lived where she had to live for her work. She couldn't live in that town [Jamestown]. She was too big for that room. She was bold and audacious. They didn't treat her well at all."

Arnaz gets into some of the more serious aspects of life with her parents as part of a lecture series, "Unique Lives, Unique Experiences."

Lucille Ball was the first woman to run a television studio, Desilu Productions, which she and her husband founded.

Says Arnaz, "None of that came because she was aiming for it. She got out in front and did what she did when she was younger. Her family was a mess. At 15, she went to New York.

"She went to Hollywood and raised her hand for every bit part. 'Yes, I'll fall down.' She went with the flow. She just put one foot in front of the other and let life lead."

Arnaz said her mother's philosophy is promulgated in the Kander and Ebb song, "Say Yes."

"She was that kind of person."

After their divorce in 1960, Lucille Ball bought out Desi Arnaz's share of Desilu. "She couldn't wait to get out of it," Arnaz says.

Arnaz reflects on her dad's story and gives him his props with "Latin Roots":

"Here's a guy who comes over from Cuba and he marries this redhead and they start this show and she gets pregnant and she has me."

There's a "Meet & Greet" with Lucie Arnaz after the April 20 State Theatre "Latin Roots" show, with complementary champagne and strawberries, to benefit the non-profit State Theatre.

Ticket information: statetheatre. org, 610-252-3132