TV & Movies

What Are Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz’s Kids Up To Now?

Lucie and Desi Jr. were thrust into the spotlight from birth.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz hold their two children, Desi Jr (left) and Lucie.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The line between truth and fiction was often blurred on the iconic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. On the show, married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz played a pair of married characters, and in one particularly memorable episode, Lucy even “gave birth” shortly before giving birth in real life. Their real children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr., grew up in the spotlight — and sometimes onscreen, too.

Ball and Arnaz’s relationship is having a major cultural moment. It was dramatized in the Aaron Sorkin film Being the Ricardos, which takes place behind the scenes of I Love Lucy during one particularly eventful week, and was nominated for three Academy Awards. And now, this week, a new documentary about the coupe, directed by Amy Poehler, Lucy and Desi, is being released on Amazon.

The Arnaz children both appear in Poehler’s documentary and serve as executive producers on Being the Ricardos. Lucie struck up a friendship with Nicole Kidman, who plays Ball in the film, and told the Los Angeles Times in an interview, “To see someone play Lucille Ball for real and not as a joke — that was unique. Not sending her up like some sort of impersonator. It was a little spooky and kind of wonderful. Same thing with Javier [Bardem] ... I’d look at him and think, ‘You’re my dad. And wait, I’m older than you are. What?’ It was kind of wonderful to go back in time.”

As adults, Lucie and Desi Jr. have balanced their own careers in the performing arts with efforts to preserve their parents’ legacy. Below, find out what happened to Lucie and Desi Arnaz Jr., and where they are now.

What happened to Lucie Arnaz?

Lucie Arnaz was a natural performer from a young age. As a child, she put on makeshift plays at home, and Lucille Ball even had a stage built for her to perform on in the family’s garage. After an early stint on the short-lived sitcom Here’s Lucy, in which she starred alongside her mother and brother, Lucie decided to go into musical theater. She started in summer stock productions and worked all the way up to Broadway, where met actor Laurence Luckinbill. She married Luckinbill in 1980, and had three children with him.

In addition to her career onstage, Lucie has continued to work in film and TV, headlining the short-lived The Lucy Arnaz Show in 1985, and earning a Golden Globe nomination for her turn in The Jazz Singer in 1980.

In recent years, Lucie’s toured musical shows Babalu and Latin Roots, which pay tribute to her father’s Cuban heritage. She also starred as the scene-stealing grandmother Barthe in a 2014 touring production of Pippin, a role she says finally freed her from the shadow of her mother. In an interview with the Palm Springs Desert Sun, she explained, “The story is that it took me all these years — 49 years in show business — to find something to do so that when I came out the stage door, the first thing people said to me was not, ‘God, I love your mother.’”

She’s long expressed an ambivalence about her early childhood fame. In a 1985 interview with The Los Angeles Times, Lucie reflected, “I have no desire to become any more famous than I already am… I grew up with it; I know what it’s like. Some of it is great, but you know what? We still have spots in our lawn where the grass won’t grow. And the loss of privacy — having everybody knowing every little thing you do — is a pain. It really is.”

Lucie has worked together with her brother to preserve their parents’ legacy through the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum in Ball’s birthplace of Jamestown, New York, which was expanded into the National Comedy Center in 2018. Recently, she’s been busy helping to produce and promote the new films about her parents’ lives. She allowed Poehler to use a “treasure trove” of previously unpublished interview recordings for her documentary, for instance, and described the affecting scene of her parents’ last conversation to People. The resurgence of interest in her parents “feels amazing,” she told ET. “It's raining Lucy and Desi right now and it just feels great!”

Lucie and her husband remain married to this day, and currently live in Palm Springs, California.

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What happened to Desi Arnaz Jr.?

Like his older sister Lucie, Desi Arnaz Jr. grew up in the shadow of his famous parents. Unlike her, he had an alter ego on their television show: Little Ricky. Although he didn’t play Ricky himself, many viewers assumed the child on I Love Lucy was Ball and Arnaz’s real son. “When I was 3 years old I used to watch the I Love Lucy show,” he told The Pittsburgh Press in 1984, “and my first memory is my mother and father telling me, ‘Now that’s not real. This is real, here at home.’”

In a 1985 interview with Camden’s Courier-Post, he reflected, “I saw that my mom and dad were just regular people and had the same problems as everybody else. And I thought… why is it that people are interested in success and fame and wealth and power and prestige and stardom and all that? Is it because they think those people have learned something, or have gained something because of their outward recognition? Does that make them different? No, it doesn’t make them any different!”

But Desi’s young life was far from ordinary. At the age of 13, he co-founded the rock band Dino, Desi, and Billy with Dean Martin’s son; the group was signed to Reprise Records by none other than Frank Sinatra. He also worked as an actor in his adolescence, sharing the screen with the likes of Gregory Peck and Melanie Griffith.

But behind the scenes, he was struggling. He started drinking at 13, and began using drugs by 16. His 1979 marriage to clean-living actor Linda Purl failed, he told the Courier-Post, due to his substance abuse.

In the early ’80s, he got clean. He married ballet dancer Amy Bargiel in 1987, and they moved to Boulder City, Colorado, where she worked as the executive director of the Boulder City Ballet Company. Sadly, in 2015, Bargiel died of a cancerous brain tumor at the age of 63.

Desi adopted Bargiel’s daughter, Haley. He also had another daughter, Julia Arnaz, from a previous relationship. Julia had a daughter of her own, Desiree — Desi’s granddaughter — but she died of cancer last year at 31.