Lucie 'splains It All

Austin Cabaret presents Lucie Arnaz, and here we have a lovely convo.

Lucie Arnaz
Lucie Arnaz (by

Lucie Arnaz comes this Sunday to entertain Austin as a part of Austin Cabaret's 10 year anniversary series of divalicious evenings from the American Songbook. She also happens to be one of my childhood sheroes.

Daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, the iconic first couple of quirk, of course, not to mention show biz masters of their respective crafts (comedy and music), Lucie along with brother Desi, Jr., were part of the Hollywood luminateens in the late-60s - early-70s, during the heyday of pop culture teenage media like Tiger Beat and 16. Both played characters in mom's later career hit TV sitcom, the Lucy Show, and young Lucie watched as little bro Desi was afforded tender-age tastes of the bittersweet tang of celebrity in his band Dino, Desi, & Billy. You can go online to learn the basics about Ms. Arnaz's life as a kid growing up under America's divorced sweethearts, her own marriage to vaunted actor Laurence Luckinbill, her kids, and her general emergence from the post-glaring spotlight, but in the meanwhile, here's a conversation (with a bit of a silly fan – me) to get you up to speed with her current life and loves.

Austin Chronicle: Let's start at the very beginning. I, too, was a child whose mom got outvoted for her name, so the story of your name hits home. The story is legend about your dad putting your name on the birth certificate as "Lucie," while mom was sleeping... She carried you, but didn't get to name you. How do you feel about that?
Lucie Arnaz: I know! (laughter) I think he was right, though. It's an old Spanish tradition that you name first borns after one of the members of the family, either your grandmother or the mother or something. Maybe he was afraid he'd never get a Desi, Jr., at that point, so he figured might as well have a little Lucy. It's good. I like my name. People do misspell it a lot, though.

AC: And he did have a Desi, Jr. How is bro? Are you guys close still? And do you and [husband] Laurence [Luckinbill] still live in upstate New York?
LA: I do. Actually, I live in Connecticut now. Desi and I are close. I wish we were close physically, but he lives in Nevada.

AC: He's still doing the theater? [Desi Arnaz, Jr. and wife Amy own and operate The Historic Boulder Theatre in Boulder City, Nevada.]
LA: Yeah. He's not fond of traveling, though. He just says, "You know what I don't need? Airports." So I don't see him as often as I'd like to. When we did the big Babalu Tribute to my dad last year in January in New York, and then in July in Miami, we were together a lot, and it was so much fun. But doesn't happen that often. We do talk to each other on the phone.

AC: How did the tribute show to your dad come about?
LA: It was a celebration of the music of the Desi Arnaz Orchestra. The show was called Babalu and originated in New York at the Lyric and Lyricist series. They do the series at the 92nd Street Y(MCA) which owns a beautiful, old perfectly acousticated – if that's a word! – Kaufman Theater. For 40 years they've been doing tributes to Lyric and Lyricists. We were discussing arrangements one day, and I was asked by them where my father's arrangements were. I had given them to the Library of Congress a few years ago to protect and preserve. They said, "You know, it would be amazing to do the opening of our season as a sort of a tribute to the Latin music craze in the U.S. – the '30s the '40s the '50s – but as seen through the music of the Desi Arnaz Orchestra and what your father's influence on it was. Because he then brought the music onto the I Love Lucy show." They felt that had something to do with the popularity. That was thrilling to me, because I've used some of those charts in my show. But there is a lot of great music that was only heard in certain old recordings, from radio shows and live performances. So I said, "Okay, let's do that." It took about eight months to put it together. I produced it and wrote and was in it and directed it and hosted it.

AC: And got to breathe life back in it.
LA: It was lovely. We had Raul Esparza in the show singing a lot of my father's stuff; I don't think there's anybody as good as Raul right now.

AC: I was just going to ask you about connecting with other Latin music artists as a result of this. Has the show broadened your horizons?
LA: I can't say that I've connected with lots of other Latin music people. I asked Raul to do it, and he said yes because it was only for five performances at the Y. His agents didn't want him to do it because… they called it a benefit. I said, "It's not a benefit! You're getting paid. Not much, but you're getting paid something!" And he basically told them to shove it, that he loved this music, he loved Desi, and he wanted to do it. And then my brother came in from Nevada, played percussion along with Papo Pepin who was one of the finest Latin percussionists here in New York. We had a 15-piece orchestra, complete with violins and violas and cellos and harps. It was pretty amazing. And Valerie Pettiford sang and danced her Latin butt off, and I did the show and Ron Abel, my long time musical director who will be in Austin with me, was the musical director of the whole event, helped me put it together. It was just the most wonderful experience of my life so far. Then we had an opportunity to take it to Miami in July. In July, most of the people in Miami are the Cubans, so they all came out in droves to see it at this beautiful center there, with a brand new recital hall, seats about 3,000 people. That was amazing. So five more performances down there. Then we thought we would try to do it again somewhere because we love doing it, but it's pretty hard getting all of those people together. It's an expensive undertaking, because of the band. So it was kind of just this wonderful trip to heaven I got to do twice last year, and who knows, we're gonna do a special performance of it on October 15 at the Library of Congress in their theater in D.C. It's a small theater though, it only seats a couple hundred people, because its usually just for VIP recitals and things. But it has a lovely sort of ampitheater quality to it, and we'll probably have to not have 15 musicians, because i think it would blow people out of their seats. Maybe we'll do it with 10 or 12, but we're gonna take the arrangements that they're housing for us again and put together a special version of the Babalu show there. That's exciting. My brother will probably come in and play for that one.

AC: Other than Ron, your musical director, do you bring anyone else down for these touring shows, like the one here in Austin this weekend?
LA: Well, it depends on where we're going. I have musicians that I love around the country. Some in the west coast, some in the middle of the country, some down in Florida, lots of them in New York. But my favorite drummer, don't tell my other drummers I said this, lives in Austin, and he's the one that basically found, and I think arranged for this gig to happen. Steve Samuel. He plays with the Jerry Jeff Walker band and travels all over the world with him. He teaches at the college and privately. And he's been my drummer for many, many, many, many years on and off, when – like my first drummer. And he's probably one of the best drummers on the planet. He's gonna be playing for us down there. He's bringing his favorite bass player.

AC: Getting back to the Latin music for a half a second, have you ever been the Cuba?
LA: I have not been the Cuba. When I was little, my father didn't have any desire to take us back there because of the craziness that was going on. And he didn't have that same feeling that a lot of the people in Miami have, you know. He loved being an American. He remembered the beaches and the beauty of Cuba fondly, but he wasn't all about 'When am I gonna get to go home?' He was completely over that. And after what happened with the Batista revolution and losing everying and starting over in this country, he always said, "Where else could you get a chance to start again and do what we've done?" And he never looked back. But I've been curious to see Cuba. So this year, my husband has been working diligently to see if there's a way we can take a trip down there.

AC: Do you think you would you be able to trace back family, or do you have known family there?
LA: As far as I know, there is no immediate family that is still there. Everybody got out, thank God. But I have family here in Connecticut who remembers where they all lived, and I'm gonna take them all with us when we go. So Pedro will be able to show me Santiago [where father Desi was born], which will be amazing. Not to mention the fact that he will be a good translator as well (laughs). My Spanish leaves a lot to be desired.

AC: …and it is Cuban Spanish, which is a bit different.
LA: Little different, yeah. I was just talking to Larry about it yesterday. He was getting out a Spanish book here, we're trying to bone up on it a little bit before we try to go. We're also going back down to Baja, California, where my father built a house. Beautiful, beautiful house down in, below Cabo, you know. And when we go down there, we have to speak Spanish a lot, but it's Mexican Spanish, you know and it's not the same, but you get by with whatever it is. But he started to speak Spanish, my husband Larry, and he had that like Spanish/Mexican sing-songy thing, you know (imitates his sing-songy interpretation), and I go, "Nononononono, you're not gonna get away with that in Miami, and you're not gonna get away with that in Cuba. They're gonna shoot you! (Laughter)

AC: (laughs) …probably not in Baja either.
LA: No, well, in Baja a little bit, it's a little more Mexicano, you know? (imitates sing-songy again, laughter) It goes up and down; Cubans do not. I don't know how that's gonna translate on paper, there's no way to write any of that!

AC: "Parentheses: Frito Bandito voice… "
LA: Yeah, the Frito Bandito [guffaws], exactly! Señor Wences! Sa'right! Sa'right!

AC: What is Mr. Luckinbill (the actor, husband Larry) doing these days?
LA: Primarily writing. He fell in love with researching and performing one-man shows about 15 years ago. Now he's doing these things called Great Speeches and Words Matter – taking the great speeches of great Americans and putting a podium show together that he can take anywhere that doesn't require a set, doesn't require anything, just requires the actor. Similar to what Charles Laughton used to do. I used to hear my mother say decades and decades ago, where [Laughton] would just come out with three great books. One was the Bible or whatever, something from Sophocles or whatever, and he would perform. He would open these books and he would start by showing people what the book was. But then he had it memorized, and he would just become these speeches and this stuff. Larry remembers seeing him when he was a kid and saying, 'Wow, that was mesmerizing!' He's a great reader, my husband; he loves history. He loves to connect the dots, and so he's always happy when he's writing.

AC: A truly underrated actor.
LA: Oh, indeed. An actor's actor, as I like to say.

AC: I think a lot of people feel that way about you, too. A show person's show person. Have you two thought about kind of blowing it out all supernova and just doing a project together and showing everybody?
LA: Not at this point, no. I'm kind of happy doing the concert; he's happy writing. There's so much work involved in trying to fight with the networks. I mean, I don't know what that game is anymore, I don't understand. I do like watching reality TV (laughs); I'm addicted to the Food Network and Dr. Oz and Oprah. But I don't know that there's a place for me there anymore; I'm not sure. And I like theater, especially when something comes along that I'm passionate about. Also, I'm sort of sliding sideways into producing, directing, and just being happy with the music. I'm very content doing that, and enjoying my [pregnant pause] adult years.

AC: When Lucie is not involved in projects that honor the legacy of her parents, what does Lucie do for Lucie?
LA: Well, I try not to make that what I do, but I do stay involved, you know, because there's nobody else to say yes or no. I get involved with certain projects because they seem worthwhile if they're about the folks. In 1993, I produced that documentary which I'm very proud of. I do have an enormous respect for the work that they've done, especially the music that my dad did. That's where I live. But other than that, I do my own music. I do my own music; I'm producing. We're writing a show based on the life of June Havoc, who was a dear friend and adopted grandma of my kids. I adored this woman and her life, and we own the rights to her life story, she past away last year at age 97. And she was the original Baby June when it was, 'My name's June; what's yours?' in Gypsy and grew up to be a phenominal actress and lived through the years of dance marathons and wrote a play about it. She has a fantastic story. And that's what I do, you know? And my kids are not… they're grown up but they're not finished. I'm still the mom. My daughter has just opened a show, Don't Tell Mama, Monday night, and every Monday night for the next three weeks.

AC: She's up there doing that?
LA: Uh-huh, in New York. She opened a show in New York and blew it out of the park, she was amazing. And my son is a guitar player and writes music, and he's in Los Angeles and just put his own CD out, and we try to guide him and you know. The parenting/family thing is still going full steam ahead here.

AC: I feel ya.
LA: Well Larry and I just celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this year, and we really have decided to slow down and take some cruises and go visit the house in Baja, and say 'yes' more often to the adventure, and not worry too much about where's the money gonna come from. Even though, you know, we're not movie stars, we're not television stars. I don't own I Love Lucy. So many people think I'm independently wealthy, I'm not, at all. But I also know that money is not my source. It comes from some place all together different. I will always make ends meet, and it's more important for me to wake up every morning and be really happy with where I am, what I'm doing, and be surrounded by the people I love. So right now, life is pretty darn good.

AC: You always seemed like a person who had her head screwed on straight... Even as a kid under the microscope and spotlight, you projected having your act together. It seems like you're kind of living that reality now, as well. Is that facade? Is that the real Lucie? Do you ever just feel like you need bust out?
LA: (laughs) I've got you fooled. Huh!

AC: Do you ever feel like you need to bust out?
LA: No, no, as a matter of fact, I think I've only gone deeper into whatever that is that you're observing. I'm glad you said that. I can't imagine that I looked like that way back then, I think I looked frantic to myself when I see myself on talk shows and things at that age.

AC: Nah, the Kim Carter character [on The Lucy Show], on Merv Griffin, on TV talk shows, you always just seemed like the hip big sister...
LA: I don't know how to be something I'm not, so I wasn't trying to be anything other than me. I was always a little too Sparkle Plenty, as my mother used to say. 'Slow down, stop being Sparkle Plenty.' It's like, 'Like me! Like me!' You know, but that's the age, because my daughter's going through that right now, and I'm going, 'Oh, I seeeee, yeah, okay.'
I've been blessed with really great influential spirits around me. My grandmother, even though my parents worked a lot, my grandmother DeDe was salt of the earth. Just a great dame. And she had pioneer values, and it didn't have anything to do with celebrity; it didn't have anything to do with Hollywood; it didn't have anything to do with being rich or having money. It was about, "I'm gonna teach you how to take a dollar every week out of your $5 a week allowance and put it away in a Christmas Club so you got money for Christmas." I mean it was the basics; we learned the basics. And my mother was very frugal, she wasn't celebrity oriented, we didn't have big Hollywood parties. She worked really, really, really, really hard, and she was normal. The only thing abnormal about our growing up was, like I said, I had two working parents, and I regret that they weren't home more.
Compared to the insanity going on today in Hollywood, with, you know, the Paris Hilton lifestyle and everything – I don't know what that feels like. I have no concept of that. So, we didn't turn out to be kids who cared about that so much. Desi, if anything, got the worse shake, because as an 11/12-yea-old, he was in a rock group. Screaming teenagers... you know, so that's a little like, "Huh? Who am I? What? Oh, I'm special!' And, it led him down a path; plus he was burdened with being so handsome.

AC: Yeah, sooo cute. Oh, gosh!
LA: A hottie: he was a hottie. As a teen, you know? But suddenly you're dating Liza Minelli, and Patti Duke, and Ann-Margaret, and it's like… [she channels her moms voice] "What?!"

AC: I bet sister Lucie would always be on hand to give a reality check.
LA: Oh absolutely, did I ever. But he had this whole other lifestyle that I didn't have. He had his drugs and alcohol days, and had to go into rehab and successfully beat all that stuff down. Thank God, otherwise I don't know what he'd be today. I never took that course, you know? I was completely "healthy"… Got married at 20, got divorced at 21, dated seven gay guys (laughter). I had my own who-the-hell-am-I trip. It took me a long time to figure out how to act out whatever thoughts I was turning into my belief system. But then I've always been a seeker, and I've have Tommy Tune as a friend for a long time...

AC: I was gonng ask you about Tommy Tune!
LA: Well from day one, when I started working with him in Seesaw, he was all very Yoga poses and Temple to the Sun God, and [imitates a very Zen Tommy] "Tranquilidar, Lucie, tranquilidar!" You know, he really changed my life, "Be here now." First person who ever said that to me and turned me on to some of those metaphysical ways of thinking. And I kind of poo-pooed it back then, but it rooted itself somewhere in me. I've always been a seeker: What's a better way to do this? How can I get through this more easily?
Years, years later I sort of stumbled via a benefit that I was doing in San Francisco on my favorite songwriters, who I just adore that Nancy LaMott sang for years, and Nancy LaMott was one of my favorite cabaret singers ever; she's dead now. She died very young. There's a songwriter named David Friedman, and he wrote a song called "Help Is on the Way," and he's written "Listen to My Heart," and "You're Already There," all kinds of stuff. They did an AIDS benefit in San Francisco that is named after David's big hit song, "Help is on the Way," and I met him after the show one night. He and his partner Shawn – who used to be a lighting designer at Don't Tell Mama's for 20 years – he's now a liscened Unity Minister for Unity Church. And okay, fine, Geez, I never met a gay minister before or one that wanted to go out and stay out all night til 4 o-clock talking at a diner about metaphysics and music! You know like, the two of them together between lyrics and Unity: it was like, Wow! They became two of my best friends, and I started performing with David, and then he said why don't you come down to the church and we'll do this song, I'll play, you can sing to the little congregation we have before we go to do it at your concert. Okay. And I went and I heard Shawn speak one day down there, and I found this whole other thing. Cause I call myself a recovering catholic…

AC: Oh, I'm a Cath-aholic, congrats!
LA: Having left that and never found anything to replace it with it really seemed appropriate. I wasn't about to get myself in a church, I don't wanna go to church. So I went down there and I just listened to Shawn talk. It's spirituality for practical living, it's not church, you know? And I just loved it. Well, that was five years ago, and I'm a member of Unity Church now. So I guess I was always headed down that road somehow, but I'm very glad I found what I found when I found it, so that at 60 almost, I look at the next 20 or however many years I'm allowed to have here in a more relaxed, trusting way.

AC: And it seems you got to avoid, like you were saying, that sort of celebrity gush and trauma…LA: The truth of it is, too, if you grow up in this business and you are the kid of two hard working parents hwo are as famous as anyone wants or needs or could imagine being, and you see that that hasn't made them any happier then what the hell are you running towards? What are you knocking yourself out for? Slow down, you know? It isn't what you think it is. So, you either do it because you love it, and I love what I do, but you don't give up your soul for it.

AC: Back when you were a teen, your mom was married to Gary Morton at that point...? Did you grow up with Gary or was Desi [dad] a big part of your life?
LA: Both. Legally I guess, this was not joint custody in those days, so my dad had weekends and summers, and then of course you get to a certain age where you're 15 or 16, I was on The Lucy Show. I really couldn't go anywhere for the whole summer anyway. But I visited my dad on a regular basis. And we had double Christmases and double birthdays. The time after they were divorced, once I got over the fact that daddy wasn't gonna be there anymore, which was very painful for a 7-year-old, in truth, the following years were much better because the two of them still loved one another and they still depended on one another and still talked to one another and they were less vicious to one another. Gary was a good stepparent. At times I resented him, like, 'don't tell me what to do, you're not my father.' But in fact, he tried really, really hard, and he had a good spirit about him. He was funny. He made my mother laugh, so he calmed her down a lot, and it wasn't so bad.

AC: Aside from the cabaret and the show tunes are you a fan of contemporary music and what might surprise us that you're a fan of?
LA: Probably nothing. (laughs) I dont think I could surprise anybody at this point. I think they know me too well. I'm still pretty much stuck on the old stuff. I feel such a plethora of great American Songbook standards. And then every once in a while somebody'll write something that sounds like it's gonna be around forever, but it was written a few years ago, you know? But yeah, I'm just a fan of the lyrics. So anybody who sings great… the classic song, with beautiful arrangements. That can be in every genre. I don't have favorite singers; I hate to be quoted as saying, oh that's my favorite singer.

AC: I was poking around IMDB, and there was something new I learned about you today, because I do not remember this about you…
LA: Don't believe everything you read on Wikipedia or IMDB. (Laughter)

AC: Well I'm gonna ask you this then: Were you really in consideration for the role of Rizzo in Grease?
LA: I was, but the reason that's on there [Wikipedia] why i didn't get it, somebody made up: My mother wouldn't let me do it??? Are you kidding? She would never step in front of my career like that, ever. Ever! And who wrote that? I've tried to tell a million people, how do you get it off of there?

AC: Get your manager on that one...
LA: I was up for the role, but there's an even worse story though. I mean, if that was the truth, it would just be embarrassing because it would sound like she was still trying to mother me at age whatever. But there's actually a stupider story, and they should put that one… but I'm glad they didn't.
I auditioned for it. Randal Kleiser was the director, and Alan Carr was the producer, and Michael Eisner was the producer via Paramount Studios. I auditioned, and I got the part but Michael wouldn't actually sign on the dotted line. Michael Eisner would not say 100,000%: you have the deal. He wanted to see the other people in the cast, and Randal said, "Lucie, Lucie, trust me. I get the final say on this: You have the part. You got the part." I said, "Okay, okay, but listen I'm booked to do Bye, Bye Birdie at the Melody Top Theater in Milwaukee during the time that I have to start shooting, and I've already signed the contract, and I'm gonna have to pay 5,000 dollars if I don't get out of it by such and such a date. So, could you please let me know by such and such a date," 'Cause you know, I was young; this was my money. Nobody else was paying for it but me, and that was a lot of money to me. And he said, "Oh, absolutely, absolutely." Well the date came and went, and I'm calling him every week. "Can you please let me know…" "Well, Lucy trust me, trust me." "I'd like to trust you. Can you pay the $5,000 then...?" "Well, no I don't think we can agree to do that." Then I remember that I was with my mother in Palm Springs while this was going on, and I was having these phone calls back and forth and back and forth, and I hung up the phone, and I said I don't know what to do. And she said, "You have a committment, if they're not gonna pay it, and you don't want to pay five grand, you have to stick with your committment." So she advised me. Then I kind of called their bluff. And they wouldn't go against Michael Eisner. They wouldn't write it on the dotted line, and they said, "Well then, I guess you have to go do the play, but you would have had the part."

AC: I never liked that guy.
LA: It was just so silly, because I gave up Grease to go do Bye, Bye Birdie at the Melody Top Theater in Milwaukee??? Tommy Tune, he was gonna be my leading man, and then the joke of it was, even he backed out because he got a better gig. If it makes any difference, we did sell out the entire run, and I did get a Carbonell Award, that makes a lot of it worth it….

AC: (Laughter) Kinda heartbreaking. I could see you as Rizzo. Have you played it on stage?
LA: Nope. Nope, it would have been fun. You should have seen me; it was really great. (laughter) But here's another horrible story that goes along with that horrible story. I'm getting out all of my good stories, and I'm going to write a book now.

AC: Yay.
LA: You won't use it anyway, but I'll tell you just…

AC: I might, don't tempt me.
LA: Maybe I'd better not tell you.

AC: Tell me.
LA: Well, I auditioned for Mike Eisner in the big conference room at Paramount. Picture a conference room with probably 25 seats around the table, and he's at one long end and Randal and I are at the other, and I look just like Rizzo. I've got my hair in a pony tail, I'm wearing pink and black, you know, I'm Rizzo. And I read two scenes with Randal, and Randal said afterwards "You totally nailed it. That's exactly what you should be doing. That's it. You couldn't have done it better. It's perfect." So anyway I finished the scene, I looked down at Michael, had his head on his hand and he says to me, "Wow, that's amazing. The entire time you were reading that scene, you know all I could think about was your father used to own this studio, and now I run it."

AC: OH. MY. GOD. I told ya I never liked that guy!
LA: (Laughter) I looked at Randal, he looked at me, and he went, "Okay Mike, well, we'll talk to you later then. Thank you." It doesn't mean he didn't like it, doesn't mean… just means… You get it. (laughs) Yeah, I have a few of those where you just go, "Oooookay. Thanks for showing up." (laughs) All I could think of, especially the way he worded it, "The entire time you were doing that, all I could think of was… "

AC: That sucks! (laughter) What a… I don't even want to say the word that I'm thinking in my mind.
LA: It's okay. It is what it is; it was what it was. And I knew I did a good job, I knew I did a good job but then it was like weirder than weird that he wouldn't commit and then I had to not take it and then it didn't… (laughs)

AC: Have there been other weird disconnects because of your pedigree?
LA: (laughs) Oh, I just hurt myself. I'm still recovering from a broken rib. Out of pneumonia. I had it in December, and I coughed so hard during the pneumonia that I broke a rib. It's almost better, but I just laughed so hard just then. Ow, ow, ow. (High pitched laughter) I hadn't thought about that in a long time, and it just suddenly it struck me as very funny. Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, that sort of thing [the disconnect] happens a lot. A whole lot.

AC: That's total heartbreak. I genuinely meant what I said about being completely underrated...
LA: I have a good sense of myself, it didn't last too long. I mean I had to just roll my eyes. I kind of think I knew even then that this was not my problem. That this was just kind of silliness. And that's why I mean I didn't go, "You ___"… I said, "Okay! All righty then. All righty then." But you know, it comes with the territory, and that territory is also why I got to go around the Matterhorn [at Disneyland, an E-ticket ride] when I was 5 twice without waiting in line again. So you take the good with the bad.

AC: What a great outlook on life you have. Let me ask you one last question: No budget constraints, no time constraints, no prior committments with a $5,000 dollar in Milwaukee. What medium? Is it gonna be film, music, a show, Broadway? What is your dream gig?
LA: Wow. It would take me all day to figure that out. There's too many. First of all, A) part of my answer is: There are too many versions because there's the Broadway version, there's the television version, there's the movie version. But the first thing that popped into my head was how much I used to like what we were doing when I did The Lucy Show, I loved the schedule. And I talked to people who were on those kinds of shows now, and they do not have the same kind of schedule. We came in on a Monday at 10 o'clock, we were finished with the whole week by Thursday, by 9 o clock, maybe 8:30. And we rehearsed full shows, sometimes even musicals. We never left there later than 6 o'clock everyday after rehearsals. We worked four weeks; we had two weeks off. Every two or three months we had a month or so off. We worked in front of a live audience, we had fabulous guest stars every week, I got to do music, I got to make people laugh. It was the dream gig. And the schedule allowed you to have a life.

AC: What about Oprah's network?
LA: They don't do shows like that anymore, really. Well maybe…

AC: Somebody needs to bring that back.
LA: Well, what they do now, even when they film shows live like my parents used to do – with three cameras, live, in front of an audience – they keep the audience there for 7-8 hours. They review the show, and then they do it again, and then they do bloopers. It's paaaaaaainful for the audience and totally unnecessary. They shoot all week through Friday. That's not quite the same.

AC: Well, maybe someone should bring it back? Maybe that's the premise. That old three-camera traditional shooting style?
LA: You have to have your ducks in a row. You have to be of a certain mindset, that you got it the first time. What's funny now, they have monitors and everything up in the booth, too. Back then, we didn't even know if we got the shot really. We were just on different cameras. It was film; you're gonna go get the film, it's gonna be developed, and then you're gonna go to rushes, and then you're gonna… oh no, they missed that shot! They don't even have that problem now. You know right away whether you missed the shot. Anyway, it was a delightful, delightful, delightful way to work and be on television. Millions of people see it and you can change people's lives.
If it were a film project, I would somehow have a scene to act with George Clooney, and I would have a scene to act with Merryl Streep, and one with Glenn Close, and one with Diane Keeton, and one with Geoffrey Rush, and one… I would just have tons of tiny little scenes with great actors. I would be able to have that always on film so that my children could see when I was dead, and it wouldn't matter if anybody else ever saw it. And if it were Broadway, I would say it would be a phenomenal musical written by either David Yazbek or Ron Able or David Zippel – those are the people that I love. Oh, and I wouldn't have to do eight shows a week!

AC: I wish all this for you.
LA: Thank you! I believe if I really wanted it bad enough… If you hadn't asked me this question, I wouldn't be actually thinking these things. But if I wanted it bad enough, my belief is that it will happen. So I better be careful if I think about it too long, it might actually happen, and then I'll have to do it!

[Ed. note: In retrospect, I realize I should have told Ms. Arnaz that somewhere, her dream gig TV style is happening in the Betty White vehicle, Hot in Cleveland. Perhaps we will see Miss Lucie on TV sooner than we think or she even thinks?!]

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Celebrities
Rating the VH1 Divas
Rating the VH1 Divas
This year’s crop prepare to lipsync for their lives

Brandon Watson, Dec. 14, 2012

Uh Oh – What's Lashonda Lester Doing with Andy Warhol?
Uh Oh – What's Lashonda Lester Doing with Andy Warhol?
Same thing she's doing with the Beach Boys & Charlie Manson

Wayne Alan Brenner, July 23, 2012

More by Kate X Messer
LBJ Library at 50: All the Cake
LBJ Library at 50: All the Cake
Getting some free cake on LBJ's birthday is a rich tradition

Aug. 26, 2021

The Gay Place: It's Aliiive!
It's Aliiive!
You can't keep a Gay Place down; just ask Sarah Marloff

Jan. 20, 2016


Celebrities, Austin Cabaret, Lucie Arnaz, Desi Arnaz, Lucille Ball, show tunes, Broadway, Hollywood, AIDS activist, Laurence Luckinbill

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle