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"Lucie Arnaz: Gotta Love Her" (WAG Magazine)


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Here is a great interview with Lucie and Larry about their marriage, family life, and Lucie's career from WAG Magazine.


Lucie Arnaz: Gotta Love Her


Harry: Would LOVE excerpts from this article; but, it won't 'load' for me; suggestions?? The site I pulled up: WAG Magazine was about animals - correct? Thanks....Regards, Joyce

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“She is a flawless, thoroughbred theatrical animal.”


Actor Larry Luckinbill is referring to his riveting wife, Lucie Arnaz – a woman he has shared his life with for the past 31 years.


The all-American (okay, half-Latin) daughter of television royalty – Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz – has a vibrant presence that is all her own.


“She has been doing this and doing it with the best all her life,” Larry says.


He is the calming counterpoint to the fiery performer who ushers you into her Weston, Conn., home with “There’s coffee in the kitchen. Help yourself.”


Before Weston, there was Los Angeles and Katonah and London somewhere in between for a run in “The Witches of Eastwick.” But before Katonah was New York City.


Hit rewind.


It’s 1979.


Lucie was performing in “They’re Playing Our Song.”


She lunched at Joe Allen on 46th Street in Manhattan with fellow actress and friend Marilyn Redfield, who urged her to say hello to the “actor’s actor” that was Laurence Luckinbill.


The stage was set for the classic meet-cute.


At the time, Luckinbill was in Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two” on the Great White Way. He had come out of a terrible divorce, Redfield told Lucie, so “just say hi.”


Lucie was an organizer for the Matinee Idles, a group of Broadway actors who met between shows on Saturdays.


“I’d call up dressing rooms all over Broadway shows, and some days there’d be 15 to 16 people from different shows. I thought, ‘Maybe he’d like to do that.’”


Fortunately for Larry, Lucie had been down on her luck in the love department.


“The kind of people I had been seeing while I was Cinderella at the ball on Broadway were very handsome, young, stud-like twinkies,” Lucie recalls. “Very handsome, stud-ike twinkies that were really not interested in having a serious connection with anybody. But I was having a very good time with the stud-like twinkies… and wasn’t looking to find anybody.”


She pauses and leans forward in a rocking chair next to her fireplace.


“Which – Isn’t that what they say? – is when you find him.”


Luckinbill was everything any “interesting man” ought to be.


She was initially intrigued by him, not attracted.


“He had the chocolate brown corduroy pants and a brown and grey soft flannel woolen shirt and one of those brown hunting jackets with the patches,” she gushes. “A chocolate brown cap and a pipe and a book and a dog and a rocking chair and a fire…yeah, that’s what I saw.”


The wood-burning fire in her living room today crackles with her story.


“I remember sitting in the audience at ‘Chapter Two’ and thinking, ‘Wow, just one time, let me be on stage with an actor as good and as realistic as Larry Luckinbill,” she says. “He got all the jokes, totally believed what he was saying….But you can’t tell him all this, head gets too big. But he can’t hear too well, so it’s probably all right.”


When the stars first met, Lucie refused to take the rebound-girl role.


Larry dated a few people and “I went off and had a lovely affair with someone, too.”


When they both came to their senses, they sealed the deal in 1980.


The duo first performed the play “Whose Life Is It Anyway?” as newlyweds.


“When we first got together, I knew from looking at him he’d be this magnificent actor… but with plays. I had been doing the ‘Here’s Lucy’ show for many years, so I’d come prepared, knew all my lines, knew my blocking and knew you’d get this thing done, and it wasn’t brain surgery,” Lucie says.


That’s when the “humiliation factor,” or as she calls it, “the HF” came in.


“We’d go on stage and Larry would ask a million, freakin’ questions, ‘Where do I sit? Where do I go? Why do I do this?’ and I was sooooo embarrassed,” she says. “But around two-and-a-half weeks (of rehearsal) he’s flawless, knows all his lines, we’re about to open, have our tech rehearsal, and I have a breakdown.”


Questions and an artist’s insecurities flooded Lucie’s mind.


“I realized, that if you don’t figure this stuff out right in the beginning, you’re going to question, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’” she says. “You had to get it right.”


Larry agrees that it was a challenge to perform together in the early years.


“The material we were doing was not easy,” he admits. “Even ‘Social Security,’ which is a comedy by Andrew Bergman, is a layer of complexity, and it’s hysterically funny. But you have to really know who these people are and why that’s funny.”


While Lucie has honed her nightclub routines, documentary production work and television and movie performances, it is the live theater that is the cornerstone of her career.


“I like the high-wire act,” she says. “The create it, prepare it, learn it, know it, then toss everything out of the way, pull up the curtain and let me do it. I don’t know if it’s the pressure or the excitement… of proving that you know what you’re doing and nobody else can save your ass.”

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There’s the softer side of Lucie, in her salmon-pink velour pants, cowl-neck top and chandelier earrings of pink and crystal.


Then there’s the animal Larry referenced, with flashing eyes, spunky highlighted hair, bright smile, throaty laugh and flailing hands.


“I remember seeing ‘Lost in Yonkers’ with Mercedes Ruehl and I wrote Neil Simon a letter and said, ‘This is the one,’” Lucie says. “He’s so prolific … I was dissolved in tears watching this play. It’s kind of a funny character, Bella, and it has a lot of humor until it doesn’t, and it’s a very important and dramatic play, really.”


During the Broadway run of the play, Lucie would take over the role of Bella – the fragile child-woman in a dark, dysfunctional immigrant family – an experience that underscores her belief in the importance of childrearing.


A child psychologist in California once told Lucie – mother of three, stepmother of two – to ‘spend 15 minutes each day alone with each child… alone.’”


“He said, ‘You don’t understand, it makes them feel worthy of love,’” she says. “I started to cry and it seems like almost every horrible scenario where these people turn out to be ax-murderers, you can trace it back to these people not feeling worthy of love. Something in their childhood told them, ‘You’re nothing.’”


That was the catalyst in raising her own children.


But as a couple, Larry and Lucie had been living a show-biz life that made parenting a bit more complicated than usual.


“My mother had passed away (in 1989), we were going to stay in California for two years and we ended up staying for four years, just going through ‘that’ when a parent dies,” she says. “Going through their estate, it’s one thing. But when Lucille Ball is your parent and she dies, it’s a whole other thing.”


Katonah, where Larry and Lucie subsequently made their dream home, meant public school for some of their brood, more time together, “and it really made a big difference.


“I had thought I was doing it differently,” she says, her voice the softest it’s been this interview. “I was born the year the show went on the air. She’s (Lucille Ball) getting bigger and bigger. They’re hiding her behind lampshades. She has me in July and she starts filming the ‘I Love Lucy’ show, so it was like, ‘Bye.’”


She swings her arms as if she’s passing a bundled baby.


“There were lovely people at home who could take care of me.”


It was her grandmother, Dede Ball, who barred Lucie and brother Desi Arnaz Jr. from sweets and to this day, “neither of us have had a cavity.”


She throws her head back and opens her mouth as proof.


“They (her parents) would come home on weekends, we’d have summers at Del Mar Beach and that was lovely. But there was a lot of them not being there, so when I had my kids I was really trying hard, because here we are again, two actors doing two different shows.”


Lucie is clearly self-aware and introspective, especially about her husband.


“Probably the moment I fell in love with him (Larry) was during a conversation about characters, and I never say this – God strike me dead -- but I compared something to Lucy and Ethel,” she says. “And he goes, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘You know, Lucy and Ethel.’ And he goes, ‘Oh, I did not watch that show growing up.’ It was like, ‘I always heard there were people like you. What spaceship did you land on?’ I just loved that he didn’t care.”


The couple lived together for years in Katonah until 2007, when Lucie credits New York taxes with sucking the life out of the actors’ existence.


Weston became home because of its closeness to Lucie’s nice “Cuban cousin” and proximity to gigs in New York and goings-on in Westchester.


Art fills the Connecticut home: “Stuff we liked, stuff her dad gave her and we didn’t collect with any eye to anything except what we liked,” Larry says.


Luckinbill points to a painting depicting a poor immigrant turned welcome guest in Joe’s Clam Bar.


“It’s a genuine, Depression-era works project, which is not germane to this article, but it’s just spectacular,” he says, mentioning that, he, too, is a writer, with works in Esquire and Cosmopolitan magazines under his belt. “I love Depression art, not depressive art, but I like how people made their way.”


For the performers, it is about doing what feels right and what is comfortable.


Like filling their home with the sounds of son Joe Luckinbill’s guitar and smooth growl.


Or stashing Hemingway on all shelves.


Actually, stashing books by all authors everywhere.


“This is only one-third of it, the rest we’re giving to the Westport Library,” Lucie says.


She stores hundreds of photos in scrapbooks – of her family, of her life, of her parents.


“My whole career is in here.”


The next leg of her career takes her to Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency hotel in New York City, where Lucie will perform five shows Jan. 5 through Jan. 8.


“They’ve lowered their cover for me,” she says. “A lot of actor/chorus people like to come see my show, and it will be a little more affordable for them.”


This is what’s most important to her – sharing her art.


The same holds true for Luckinbill, who is happy to share some of his own wisdom with this writer.


“Someone once told me to get rid of the ‘BW’ (beautiful writing) and just tell the story.”


You make a mental note to rein in your adjectives – or at least, to try.


Because when Larry Luckinbill gives you advice, it’s coming from Lucie’s “actor’s actor – the kind everybody wants to be.”


Visit her at luciearnaz.com.


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