“What’s she uncomfortable about?” Arnaz claimed of wife and also costar Lucille Ball. “I don’t take out various other broads. I simply take the end hookers.” A new novel, The Queen of Tuesday, digs into a legend marriage.

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Desi Arnaz, one feeling compelled come say, had actually some explaining to do.

Arnaz, the big-boned spouse top top America’s favourite TV show, had been caught out, in actual life, with a prostitute. In ~ the really top that I Love Lucy’s success. And it seemed that for some time, the “sprinkled his affections anywhere Los Angeles,” as a reporter because that Confidential put it. Currently the whole country would know.

The perfection that Lucille Ball and also her husband transfer to American homes veneered a much an ext complicated, attractive truth. Desi’s infidelities had actually long to be a glitch in their relationship—and together a an outcome the most successful routine in the history of American TV almost didn’t obtain on the feet.

I dove deep into Lucille and also Desi’s marriage while researching my brand-new novel, The Queen of Tuesday. The publication is a kind of three-fer. The the story of Lucille Ball’s rise, the story of mine grandfather, and the story of your fictional romance. Family members lore has it the both were once at a party thrown through Donald Trump’s father, not long after which my grandparents’ marriage separation up. I knew inventing the affair would be risky. Yet the an ext l learned around Lucille, the an ext I wanted to develop a bit of payback because that her.

In 1950, Lucille to be a former B-movie star. Having been to reduce by RKO and also MGM, she’d turned to radio. When CBS involved her v a TV deal, she knew the sell was a lucky break. Still, she demanded the the network actors Desi as her husband. She feared that if she wasn’t about him all the time, that cheat.


A pregnant round stands v Arnaz outside their home, 1953. From CBS photo Archive/Getty Images.The couple had split up when already. In the mid ’40s, fifty percent a decade before Lucy, Lucille initiated a divorce “to teach Desi a lesson.” but the divorce had never bring away effect. Lucille and Desi’s separation hadn’t made it a solitary night. A reporter created that she’d “walked out of court into Arnaz’s arms.”

All the same, she never ever trusted him. If a TV sell meant she couldn’t stay close sufficient to store watch top top Desi, Lucille i will not ~ accept. Follow to she biographer Kathleen Brady, executives at CBS told her that the typical viewer wouldn’t accept a Cuban husband for a “red-blooded American girl.” (What shade did they think Cuban blood was?) but Ball i will not ~ be swayed. She and also Desi set out come prove the comic appeal of their marriage, touring vaudeville theaters throughout the country. Audiences love it—and CBS relented. At the very least in this instance, the American world weren’t together racist together network execs had believed. The display aired, and was much more successful than anyone had construed television can be.

That’s verifiable. Within 6 months that its debut, much more than half of the country would track in come I Love Lucy every week. Compare the to today’s fragmentized entertainment landscape. CBS’s behemoth, NCIS, reaches more than 8 million. 

The Lucy heat led human being to feel a an individual share in the family. During the second season, Lucille faced her real-life pregnancy by incorporating the birth right into the series’ storyline. CBS concerned this can be in negative taste. An advertisement agency advised them not to present a swollen ship on air, so even here Lucille blazed brand-new ground.

“Lucy Goes come the Hospital”—in which her character had a baby boy, time to coincide with Ball’s real-life delivery—was watched by more than 70% of all U.S. Tv sets, a record. America started expressing its love by gaining I Love Lucy pajamas, I Love Lucy bedroom sets, I Love Lucy comic books, and I Love Lucy dolls.

This to be the stratosphere in which Lucille and Desi were flying as soon as news of Desi’s liaisons v prostitutes intimidated to crash the whole enterprise.

Desi would need to take that on his strongly handsome chin.

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In 1955, Confidential to be to tabloid journalism what I Love Lucy was to sitcoms. It was so successful regarding be a proof of concept—the sort of magazine that made career-ruining scandals out of outing actors and also reporting ~ above interracial romances. The tagline “Tells the facts and also names the names” consistently sent spasms of terror through Hollywood.

The cover of the January 1955 concern featured a shoot of Lucille hugging Desi above the words: “Does Desi yes, really Love Lucy?”

Claiming the story would certainly jolt fans “right out of your TV hammocks,” the reporter described the “off-pasture passions” the “duck-out daddy” Arnaz: “Desi has, in fact, verified himself one artist in ~ philandering.” The performer’s liven schedule, the story go on to say, expected “he’s had actually to sandwich his sin.”