Desi Arnaz: 1917-1986: Bandleader, Entertainer, Producer Biography
Young Latin Bandleader, Happy Tv Couple, Always Loved Lucy
Desi Arnaz made his mark as the straight man of the comedic couple behind the popular 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. A Cuban immigrant, Arnaz was also a very savvy businessman. Arnaz's talents as a singer and entertainer helped to make I Love Lucy the first great television sitcom, but it was his skill as a businessman that built the Arnaz family empire.
Arnaz was born Desiderio Alberto Arnez y de Acha on March 2, 1917, in Santiago, Cuba, to Desiderio, the mayor of Santiago and a wealthy land owner, and Dolores (de Acha) Arnaz, who was the daughter of a founder of the Bacardi rum company. The two later divorced. The Arnaz family were part of Cuba's small but vastly privileged upper class—among their holdings were a cattle ranch, two dairy farms, and a villa on an island in Santiago Bay. As part of a distinguished political family, Arnaz was expected to attend college and pursue a career in law and politics. In 1933, when Arnaz was a teenager, the Cuban revolution against the corrupt regime of President Gerardo Machado changed the family's course. The family home in Santiago was ransacked and burned, and his father, who recently had been elected to congress, was jailed. Informed that he would be allowed to leave the country, Arnaz's father fled to Miami, leaving their wealth behind and later sending for his son. By the time Arnaz arrived, his father had established an import-export company, and father and son scrimped, living at the company warehouse and eating canned beans.
In Miami Arnaz got a job cleaning cages for a canary dealer that paid fifteen dollars a week, a good wage for a teenager during the Depression. He left his political future and his cage-cleaning job behind when he was offered a job with a Latin dance band at the Roney Plaza Hotel, for thirty-nine dollars a week. It was the first time he had considered a show-business life for himself. He had only previously used his five-dollar pawnshop guitar to serenade and woo women.
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