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HE'S dark and Cuban and lithe, girls. His hair is shining black. His skin is olive. His eyes are so dark a brown as to appear black — that sloe and sultry black which promises so much. He keeps his promise. His full name is Desiderio Arnaz. He pronounces it Dessy Arnaz. And it is his real name. As it is the name of his father. And of his grandfather who fought on the American side in the battle of San Juan during the Spanish-American War. He is very young. Twenty- three. He was born in Santiago, Cuba. March 2, 1917.


Yes, my dears, the new answer to your old prayers is everything you thought him when you saw him dance and heard him sing at La Conga in Florida, at La Conga in New York, on the stage in Too Many Girls and as you are soon to see him in RKO's screen version of the same. His first picture, your next palpitation.


He is of the amorous Latin temperament, having thought that he was in love some five or six times in his brief span of days — and nights. He has, always, many dates. Since he has been in Hollywood, he has dated Betty Grable, Pat Dane, Ann Miller, Lucille Ball. Now it is Lucille and Desi every evening, every date. Every luncheon and every hour of every day, too, since they are in the picture together. It is love again. But Desi doesn't want to marry for five years (neither does Lucille) for reasons which he will explain later on in this story, when you know him better.


He likes to dress when he takes a girl out. He leaves the evening up to the girl. It is where she wants to go, it is what she wants to do. He sends Corsages before he calls and he sends cut flowers the next morning. He does not kiss a lady's hand, that.


It was, he says, like the French Revolution, only worse, "because you couldn't fight back, there were 1,000 to one." The boy saw his father's house burned to the ground and looted at the ravaging hands of a shouting mob. He saw his father's fortune swept away, all of his property confiscated, the brilliant, intelligent buildingup of a life trampled under hobnailed boots.


Like splinters in sensitive flesh there remains in his memory the sight of his mother's fine rosewood piano, and her mother's and grandmother's before her, smashed to atoms on the pavement as the house burned . . . certain "pictures" which are etched on his memory as though by needles of pain . . . his own beloved guitar a little pile of kindling. . . .


"All those little things you have as a kid," he told me, "not of much intrinsic value, perhaps, but precious to you because of the association, all smashed, all gone. My father was worth half a million dollars. That is a great lot of money anywhere but more in Cuba because there, living is cheaper. I escaped from the house, with just a minute to spare, too, with my trousers, a pair of shoes and a polo shirt which I had on my back — nothing else. Not a penny did we have, not a single possession. The treasures and accumulations of generations were gone."


The boy saw his father, his father whom he had always seen in the high places, crowned with the esteem and respect of his compatriots, stripped of all that he owned and all that he had been, and thrown into jail along with the rest of the Congress.


Later, his father was given his freedom with the proviso that he leave the country. He fled to Miami, Florida, and a month later sent for his wife and son.


Desi and his young and beautiful mother, who had been hiding in the home of friends, escaped the country disguised as Revolutionists. Driving in a limousine which flaunted Revolutionary banners, shouting "Hurray for the Revolution !" at all strategic points, they managed to make a safe but hairbreadth escape.


"That was my first acting," Desi told me. "It is how I feel I can one day be, not only a singer and dancer but a dramatic actor, to Because then I played a role which, if my make-up had not been flawless, if my ability to throw myself into another 'character' had not been foolproof, it would have meant, not a lapsed contract," Desi smiled grimly, "but two lapsed lives, my mother's and mine.


"I think it woke me up," added Desi, "that's what it did for me, it woke me up. Having seen such deeds done, I could never again stay in dreams."


So in the winter of 1934, Desi made his escape and joined his father in Miami. But it was not an escape into a new haven of security and peace, not then, not yet. "It was a tough time," said Desi, "especially in the winter."


In the summer the elder Arnaz sent his son to a camp near Tampa. And there, playing football (what a consistent continuity life sometimes writes, when you think of how later Desi's Big Chance came when he was cast as Manuelito, the South American football flash in Too Many Girls), he broke his leg. That ended camp and, for the time, football. Desi's father, a doctor as well as a statesman, cared for his son until able to walk again, the boy cast around for a job.


He was, of course, completely disoriented. His future, formerly so set and imposing a piece of architecture, was in as many pieces as a jigsaw puzzle. How to put it together again now that the planned pattern was gone ?


He couldn't be a lawyer now, college was out of the question. He couldn't be a dairy farmer, the farm was gone. But he did play the guitar and sing . . . his father had always enjoyed hearing him play and sing but when Desi told him he thought he could get a job playing the guitar and singing at the Roney- Plaza in Miami Beach the elder Arnaz turned a choleric purple. His son, the son of Desiderio Arnaz, a paid entertainer I Dios, not while he lived.


In Cuba, Desi explained to me, it is different. There, paid entertainers are not received. They enter hotels and cafes by separate entrances, go out the same way, would not dare to, would not think of mingling with the guests. But in America, as he tried to explain to his father, it is different. Here, he argued, everyone who works, no matter what they work at, so long as they are honest and honorable, is Some- body. Besides, there was $5.00 a night to be had. . . .


DESI played that winter with the orchestra at the Roney-Plaza. He recouped a part of his lost fortunes by buying a guitar (on time) for $12.00. But this, too, was but a beginning of such a series of ups and downs as would make a teeter-totter look like a flat trundle-bed. He went back to Cuba for six months and, not to offend, was bombed the hell out of there. He returned to Miami and again played at the Roney-Plaza. In the middle of that winter he was told that he would have to leave the country, he and his mother and father. They were tourists and they were working (the elder Arnaz had started a small importing business, pottery, tiles and the such). After being nearly strangled by the red tape involved, they managed to obtain permission to remain and Desi formed his. own band, his first, seven pieces, made up of Latin boys recruited from Tampa, Key West and other scattered towns (that year, in addition to having his band, Desi also went to high school, taking three subjects he needed in order to graduate). They played mostly by ear (Desi's musical education has consisted of a few' piano lessons at home, nothing else) but they must have been pleasing to other ears because Xavier Cugat heard them, offered Desi a spot with him as featured singer.


"After another fight with my father again," Desi told me, "I went to New York with Cugat and stayed with him about eight months. We played the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, in Cleveland, Washington, D. C, and other places. I was not very content. New York, when it's cold and you don't have enough money, it's awful !"


That was the end of 1937. Desi quit Cugat and went back to Miami, with the understanding that Cugat would get a band together and, as an individual unit but under the Cugat auspices, Desi would open at the new La Conga in Miami. Cugat couldn't get a band together, in time. Desi had to. And no magician, conjuring rabbits out of his hat, performs a greater feat of legerdemain than did Desi. . . .


"We were the only attraction opening at La Conga," remembers Desi, with a Cuban shudder. "We sang Chita, a song just coming out, and Say, Si Si, that was our theme song. Ted Husing happened to be there.

The manager asked him to say something about us on the air. He announced the whole program and gave me the terrific boost. He was kind and for a little, I believed now the world would be kind again."


But when the season closed, Desi found himself with no band, no money and no Cugat. For he had turned down a ten-year contract — a contract which would also have tied strings around him, all other contracts he might have made, including radio or films. Desi plays hunches. Always. He played a hunch that time, penniless and jobless as he was and said, No.

BY THIS time, he had begun to like this business. He wanted to go to New York where, he knew, the Big Time still ticks. From his father's former secretary (a man, not a woman . . . "you can't borrow money from a woman," says Desi) he borrowed $150.00 and went to New York.

When he arrived, having traveled as thriftily as possible, he had $60.00. He didn't get a job for five months. Have you ever tried living in New York for five months on $60.00? "Don't," says Desi.


This was the ordeal, net by fire this time, but by near-famine, aching feet, aching pride. He found, he told me, a very nice Italian family "up in Brooklyn." They took the boy in, let him sleep there. "They looked after my underclothes and socks and soul," he said. They did more than that for him. They restored his faith in the goodness of people, who share when they have not enough for themselves. (Beauty, for Desi, does not always ride in limousines, minked and jeweled and sprayed with orchids. He knows better.) He ate only when it was absolutely necessary. He watched that $60.00 go down to $50.00, then to $20.00, then to $10.00 and $5.00 . . . dwindling in the face of his despair.


Mornings he'd trudge across Brooklyn Bridge, walk long miles to the union to see if they had any club jobs. They never did. He made the rounds of the agencies. Not once did it ever occur to Desi that women might help him where men would not. Not once did he think of trying those places where sleek young men dance with satiated older women, for the womens' pleasure and their pay. And then, he says, the miracle !


"I was so discouraged on this night," he told me, "that I got down on my knees and prayed. I prayed that night, I really prayed. "They say 'no miracles,' but / believe in miracles. Because, believe me or not, the next morning I got a wire. It was signed 'Taps.' I didn't know him and he didn't know me. He was an agent. He had been told about me and, not knowing where to find me, tried the union. For all the months I had been in New York, I had not ever left my address with the union. But the day before this wire came, why, I do not ever expect to know, I did leave my address there, and my name.


"So at last I got a job. It was to sing and dance at Fan and Bill's, a cafe near Glen Falls, in New York. I only worked there six months and so all I did was pay what I owe. Then I was offered to have a band at the Central Park Casino. Some of my boys were still around town, making out as best they could. I collected them.


This was Big Stuff, we told ourselves. Now we were going places, pretty places. The Casino opened and goes for two weeks and closes. We go to work one night and there are no lights outside. 'That's funny,' I say, 'something has gone wrong with the lighting.' I knock and there is nobody in the place, all black in and out."


SO, AGAIN, Desi went back to Miami where he took his band into La Conga. And, also again, he returned to New York at the end of six months. In New York he was offered two jobs — he could go to Ben Marden's Riviera or he could go into the new La Conga, then opening. His manager advised Marden's. But Desi had another hunch — and played it. He decided he would be "lost" at Marden's. He took the gamble and opened at La Conga . . . "and thank God I did," he said. "I started first with the relief band, then became the first band . . ."


Now at last Desi's ups and downs became, successively, ups . . . George Abbott was planning a production of Too Many Girls but was having trouble in finding anybody to play the part of Manuelito. Abbott, happily for Desi and I am sure, for himself, is a rhumba-addict and danced frequently to the music of Desi's band at La Conga.


Lorenz Hart, who, with Richard Rodgers, wrote the musical numbers for Too Many Girls, also knew well the music and work of Desi. It occurred simultaneously to Abbott and Hart that their "night work"had not been in vain, that Desi was the one to play Manuelito.


"I went in the show," said Desi, "though I almost didn't. They asked me if I could act and I said I don't know, I never tried.' I was making about $300 a week at La Conga and thought that was terrific. But I played my hunch. I went in the show. I doubled in La Conga and the show for a long time. The show ran seven or eight months and I started getting the movie offers. I didn't want any of them. I wasn't putting on an act, I really wanted to stay longer with the show. Besides, Mr. Abbott told me, I am sure we will make a picture of the show and you will be in it. If they want you now, they will want you more a little from now.' That advice coincide with my hunch about that, so I stay until Mr. Abbott comes to Hollywood, too, and now we are making the picture.


"They have the option for another picture," said Desi, "if they take that up I do not know. I never make plans. Everything I do is by my hunches. Why make plans when revolutions, earthquakes, things over which you have no control can control your destiny and make Philadelphia scrapple of all your most careful plannings ?"


MERELY, more than he seems, I said . . . now you know why . . .

Now you can better understand Desi when he says, "I won't like to be typed as a leading boy that's always saying, 'I love you.' I want to be more the type of Jimmy Stewart or Spencer Tracy or Clark Gable. That's what I'll try to do . . ."


Now you can understand why people in Hollywood say of Desi, admiringly, "He's smart. He's smart about money. Smart about his career. Smart about people."


It's why he's not going to be swept off his feet by anyone or anything, short of an earthquake or a revolution ... "I don't think I am susceptible," he told me, "the first thing I notice about girls," he said, "is if I feel comfortable with them, that's the first thing I like. I got to be attracted to them first by their appearances of course, but if I don't like them, I don't care how beautiful they are. I like a girl who is intelligent. I don't like just pretty girls. I like them pretty, of course, but that comes secondary !"


He doesn't want to get married for another five years. He said "I'd start worrying about my money if I married and that would spoil my work. I have worried too much about insecurity to want to risk it for two . . ."


He is completely master of himself. Flattery, feminine and swoony ... "I don't believe in that flattery from girls," he told me, smiling, "it is not for me. They do it to everybody. They are mostly kids after matinee performances. And those five bad years I lived will be cold water in my face if I ever go spoiled . . ."


Nor is there any "going Hollywood" for Desi. He went hungry too long. He is saving his money. He has rented a small house. His mother is with him. She never goes to sleep until she hears him come in at night. "She thinks I am still twelve," said Desi, but tenderly. He calls his mother by her name, Lolita, and says it as one says a lovely name for a lovely person.


Yes, he's dark and Cuban and lithe, girls . . . but I repeat, and you agree don't you, he's more than that . . . much, much more.


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IN SPITE of the fact that Lucille Ball will have to live at least 105 years more if she expects to have seven years bad luck for every mirror she's broken, these statistics don't bother her one bit. She always breaks a mirror for good luck on the first day of every picture.


It's just an old Ball ritual, and it seems to be working better now than ever before, judging from her smashing success in Dance, Girl, Dance and Too Many Girls.


"That mirror I used before Dance, Girl, Dance certainly was everything it was cracked up to be," she laughed. "Do you know I never was so scared as when I went into that picture. Just thinking of my part as Bubbles, the 'Tiger Lily,' made me tremble. It was my break of breaks, this picture, and 1 didn't want to make people dislike me. I didn't see how they could do anything else, because I had to be mean to .Maureen O'Hara, who had the sweet girl role in the picture.







"I had to steal Louis Hayward from Maureen," she continued. "I had to slap her face, pummel her on the stage of the burlesque theater — of course I got a makeup department black eye out of that myself — and be generally hateful. But the character was a real one. I had known girls like that. The part had meat on the bones ; so I took it — and now I'm glad. It was the best role I've had."


Actually it's a well-known fact that the oval of glass had nothing to do with Lucille Ball's sudden rocketing to success as a comedienne. It's the girl before the looking glass, the smasher herself, who's responsible. There's no magic or mystery about it — no hocus-pocus, no sleight of hand — for it wasn't done with mirrors !

"In Too Many Girls I was an ingénue— definitely. I was afraid to take that part too; this time because there wasn't much to do. Perhaps I was meant mainly for decoration. And I don't know if I'm decorative enough to be decoration. You see, I like to do, not just be."


James Francis Crow, Hollywood's best and fairest critic, will tell you that the impulsive Miss Ball DID in that picture — and plenty. He spent a handful of sentences on Lucille's personal charms — and those big eloquent eyes.


The eyes have it — no doubt about that! They're as blue as Naples' sky and how much more expressive ! Lucille often claims her face is too small for the mannequin body that comes with it. But don't you believe it. For argument's sake, if it does lack quantity, it certainly is balanced by quality.


SINCE then she has reached the heights in achieving the body beautiful. It has been said that the Los Angeles Police Department still has an ordinance on the books to the effect that Lucille Ball must keep those lovely limbs off Hollywood Boulevard during heavy traffic time.


All in all Too Many Girls is the high point in the outline of history of Lucille Ball, because she scored a hit, got her first star billing in an "A" picture, earned another starrer in Three Gobs and a Girl, the Harold Lloyd film now being made, and boosted her stock still higher.


She recently graduated from Cinema City's "B" college. And so a star is born — born the hard way in five Hollywood years of everything from the tiniest bits and featured roles in biggies to starrers in "B's." A swelled head may be a common thing in these parts, but rest assured you won't find one on Lucille Ball.


She hasn't discovered temperament and begun to kick furniture around, snarl at her hairdressers and maids, and teach her directors the elements of directing. No, the Lucille Ball, who, chucklingly, refers to herself as "the ex-Queen of the 'B's,'" is much the same today as she was yesterday and will probably remain that way tomorrow.


A grain of salt is not enough. She takes herself with a barrel. Those who know her best will tell you she's still wrestling with an inferiority complex that's haunted her ever since she can remember and wins every fall.


The first day of any picture is one of quaking for her. But few people make the mistake of trying to soothe or coddle her during this jittery period. If you even look as though you're going to say you feel sorry for her, she gives you the full blue- blast of those eyes, and a wise-crack that makes you understand it's an old habit she has of fighting her own battles — and winning.


And battles they were— Lucille Ball versus Lady Luck, producers, and experience, with Lucille winning because she could take a bouncing around and come back for more bouncing. For instance, when she was 17 and modeling and posing for commercial photographers "n I he side, she had a car accident in New York City's Central Park. The road was icy, the car skidded, and smash—


"I was taped from head to foot — like an Egyptian mummy," she laughs, "but a little more alive. My legs were in splints. The only things I could move were my eyelashes." She reflected a moment. The smile became a straight face. "It was so painful I couldn't think about anything but the pain. They finally got me home to my mother in Jamestown, New York, and one day the doctor told me I wouldn't be able to walk for six years because of my paralyzed legs and injured spine.


"Six years?" I shouted. "How can you say that ? How can you say it will be six years, nine years, or twelve years ? No, Doctor, you're wrong," I said. "You've just got to be wrong!"


For months Lucille lay with her back against the bed. In the still of the night when the family were asleep, Lucille, determined, tried to walk.


"It was worse than being a baby and starting from scratch. I collapsed with pain and weakness and fell down with such thuds that I shook the house and awakened my mother. Finally the doctor came around to thinking it would be all right if I tried a few steps. I had them take all the mirrors out of the room. That wasn't to pamper myself.


I just couldn't stand seeing myself moving like the Frankenstein monster." Her face brightened. "The doctor was wrong. It wasn't six years in bed. In less than three I was walking normally again.


"I still have photographs of myself in those braces that went up to my knees," she reminisced. "I wouldn't want my best friend to see them. Those shoes were awful things about as wide as a cop's. I hadn't worn my dresses for a couple years, and they were a yard too long — a foot anyway. I had lost weight and looked like a female scarecrow."


SOON Lucille bucked Broadway head-on. She hadn't a friend, a letter of introduction, or any real show experience to recommend her, but Ziegfeld was casting a new road unit of Rio Rita and picked her, among others, from the long line of lovelies.


"In the row next to me was Caya Eric, a tall Nordic blonde who had poise — something I wish I had had," explained Lucille. "I was green and unsophisticated and just went overboard with heroine-worship for her. She knew show business besides. So — "I looked at her with wide eyes, let out admiring ooohs and ahhhs, followed her around like a puppy dog down aisles, around scenery, even out the fire escape exit until she shook me. She must have wondered 'what is that dame ? Can I get rid of it with Flit ?'


"Sounds silly, but I had to make friends with someone. So I picked on Caya. Only a girl can understand how hard it is for a newcomer to break into the cliques of experienced showgirls.


"Of course I wrote home that I had been chosen. Mother was delighted, and the Jamestown Morning Post ran the yokel-girl- makes-good story.


"One day the chorus of us was around the piano rehearsing songs from Rio Rita — that is, I was supposed to be singing, but I was so scared with all those strange faces that I just opened my mouth like Charlie McCarthy, but there was no Bergen to make sounds. Henry Sharp, casting director and a fellow with shoulders from here to Times Square, singled me out of the bunch and said, 'Say, why don't you try singing? And when you're up on the stage unbend a little — give a little. You can't walk around like a stick.'


"That made me more self-conscious. Sharp and the others sat in the front rows and seemed to be watching me, pointing, and making comments to one another. I went from extremely bad to extremely worse.  

Next day I got a notice that said I could go home and that they would call me when they needed me."Does that mean anything, Caya?" I asked. " 'You probably won't work for a while,' she said." Caya was right !


"I couldn't go back to Jamestown after all that publicity in the papers. I was miserable, lost control of myself, and burst into tears right on the street. Imagine ? That was one of the few times I ever felt sorry for myself. I was just about ready to choose a nice big limousine to fall in front of — might as well go out in class — when a fellow in a car pulled up along the curb and shouted to me. I thought he wanted to pick me up so I growled out of the side of my mouth — 'Getaway. I do-wanna-ride !'


" 'This is no pick-up,' he answered, got out, handed me a card, and drove away. It was his father's. His father turned out to be a dress manufacturer who needed models. I applied and got a job."


SINCE then Lucille has never wept to the tune and tempo of Hearts and Flozvers. It was a step in the right direction — and she kept on taking them.


Later, as a Hattie Carnegie model, she learned to wear clothes. As a Ziegfeld showgirl she learned the gentle art of walking, singing, and dancing. As a photographer's model she acquired poise and an ability to change her personality, mood, and entire appearance. And she hoarded this knowledge.


While mannequining at Hattie Carnegie's, she mastered all sorts of walks — the B-12 for formals, otherwise known as the Hepburn-going-down-stairs-on-wheels walk ; the B-19, a languorous long limbed number, also for formals; the B-21, the jaunty first- day-of-spring number for suits, and many others.


She learned walks for all walks of life, and it all came in handy when Samuel Goldwyn heard about her and brought her to Hollywood for a chorus part in Roman Scandals. So it came to pass that in the year 1935 Lucille did her first screen assignment in a wisp of chiffon which was the G-string of that season.


Then another assignment. She stepped out of line once — to take a crack at a sentence of dialogue for RKO's Roberta, and that led to a long-term contract. In Stage Door, you'll remember Lucille as one of the girls with a vulture-appetite who entertained the visiting lumbermen from Washington. A wedge into comedy roles. And bit by bit small parts in Moulin Rouge, A Tana, Roberta. Top Hat, Follow the Fleet and a half-dozen others.


Came second-class pictures with first- class Lucille as star. Today the buzz of the "B's" has almost died in her ears. She's glad she doesn't have to hang from railroad trestles by her long red nails, pant across deserts with the wind and the sand in her hair — and teeth — or serve as a meat course for voracious police dogs.


With the rapid release of the "B's," she and her hair went through some amazing changes of color. Lucille outdid the spectrum in this matter of variety. A paint catalogue listing everything from ghost-white through golden oak and midnight black would be the only thing she could use to identify changes her hair has seen. Now she is a reddish blonde, but who knows what tomorrow may bring? She's happy she's not living in ancient Egypt with her tresses the hue they are

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