After 32 years on the East Coast, Lucie Arnaz is packing her bags and heading west. It sounds like one of the story lines from her parents’ classic TV show, I Love Lucy, but in this case it’s truth, not fiction.
For the past three decades, Ms. Arnaz and her husband, actor Laurence Luckinbill, have called the greater New York area their home, spending the past six years in Weston. But now the couple is headed for warmer climes in Palm Springs, Calif.
“Change is good for the soul,” an upbeat Ms. Arnaz said in an exclusive interview with The Forum.
But before she goes, Ms. Arnaz is making two special appearances at the nearby Ridgefield Playhouse.
On Friday, May 10, she is starring in Lucie Arnaz: Latin Roots, a “Copacabana-style” musical tribute to her Cuban heritage. The show is directed by Broadway star Tommy Tune, and features a 12-piece big band, video footage, and lots of costume changes. “It’s going to be so much fun. I have a lot of surprises in store for the audience,” Ms. Arnaz said.
This will be only the third performance of the show, which she is preparing for a potential run in Las Vegas. “It’s a real treat to perform it here before I leave,” Ms. Arnaz said.
Her final appearance at the playhouse is Sunday, May 26. The Ridgefield Playhouse Film Society is hosting a screening of Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie, an Emmy Award-winning documentary Ms. Arnaz made about her famous parents, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
The film features personal home movies and interviews Ms. Arnaz conducted with close friends and relatives who knew her parents well. “Making the documentary was very cathartic for me,” Ms. Arnaz said.
After the film, Ms. Arnaz and Mr. Luckinbill will chat with the audience in a Q&A hosted by Morton Dean and Ira Joe Fisher.
Heart of show business
With entertainment icons for parents, Ms. Arnaz and her brother, Desi Arnaz Jr., grew up in the heart of show business in Los Angeles. But unlike the happy Ricardos the couple played on I Love Lucy, in real life Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had a turbulent marriage that ended in divorce.
“The irony is my parents did I Love Lucy in order to keep the family together, but instead it tore them apart,” Ms. Arnaz said.
While conducting research for the film, Ms. Arnaz learned that her mother, who was somewhat cold and distant, had a very tough childhood. “I asked my uncle what my mom did for play. He said she didn’t play, she worked,” Ms. Arnaz said.
Her Cuban-born father had issues with self-esteem. Although he had achieved enormous success as the mastermind behind I Love Lucy and the wildly successful Desilu studios, Mr. Arnaz was constantly being overshadowed by his wife’s success. He took to womanizing and it ended their marriage.
Ms. Arnaz considered herself “Daddy’s girl” and took to show business at a young age. As a teen, she appeared opposite her mother on The Lucy Show and Here’s Lucy. She was inspired and encouraged by family friend Wayne Newton, whom she calls “Mr. Entertainment.”
A versatile performer, Ms. Arnaz achieved critical acclaim in the Broadway musical They’re Playing Our Song and in the film The Jazz Singer, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination. In recent years, she has become a popular nightclub performer, appearing at such venues as Feinstein’s in New York City. She is actively working on writing her life stories.
Like his wife, Mr. Luckinbill has had a varied acting career. He starred in play and screen versions of The Boys in the Band, and among his most popular screen characters, he was Spock’s half-brother Sybok in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. More recently, he has written and starred in one-man shows about Lyndon Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, Clarence Darrow, and Ernest Hemingway.
In June, the Luckinbills will celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary. The couple has three children, Simon, Joseph and Katharine. Mr. Luckinbill has two sons, Nicholas and Benjamin, from a previous marriage.
For years, the couple made their home in Lewisboro, N.Y. They decided to downsize six years ago. Ms. Arnaz said she fell in love with Connecticut while visiting her cousin, Pedro Wasmer, in Fairfield. So she asked her cousin’s neighbor, Robert Wiederlight, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker, if he knew any nice properties for sale. “He brought us to Weston and showed us a beautiful home on White Oak Lane. It was perfect so we bought it. I love Weston, it’s a great town,” she said.
Now that the couple is moving, they’ve asked Mr. Wiederlight to help them sell their home. “We’ve come full circle, like bookends,” Ms. Arnaz said.
Ms. Arnaz has an enthusiastic and upbeat attitude about life which she credits in part to her involvement with the Unity Center in Norwalk, which practices positive spirituality.
She said she is sending positive spiritual thoughts to her brother Desi, who runs the Boulder Theater in Boulder City, Nev., and his wife, Amy. Amy Arnaz is battling a brain tumor and undergoing treatment.
“Amy can use all the positive thoughts people send her way,” Ms. Arnaz said.