Lucille Ball Was Devastated by Desi Arnaz's "Sexual Escapades," New Book Says
She was well aware of his frequent cheating.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz played a fictional couple on I Love Lucy, in which the most serious issues had to do with fictional Ricky Ricardo (Arnaz) getting annoyed at the silly antics of his wife Lucy (Ball). But, in real life, the TV stars dealt with far more complicated marital problems. According to a new book, Ball was deeply hurt by Arnaz cheating on her frequently and his ideas of what a man was entitled to do outside of his marriage.
Sarah Royal, the author of A.K.A Lucy: The Dynamic and Determined Life of Lucille Ball, spoke to Fox News Digital about the legendary showbiz couple, including how Arnaz's womanizing and Ball's ambition brought their relationship to an end.
Ball and Arnaz were married well before I Love Lucy.
Ball and Arnaz first met on the 1940 film Too Many Girls. Only months later, they ended the relationships they were in when they met and married each other.
"Lucy was the level-headed one, and Desi was the romantic," Royal told Fox News Digital. "[But] there was this electric hold and connection between the two of them where [they] were just madly in love immediately." She added, "What surprised me about them is that they did have this hot steamy romance, this sexual chemistry. But there was also a lot of arguing and a lot of heartache."
Ball and Arnaz's relationship was not just romantic but also professional and artistic. Beginning in 1951, they began co-starring in and producing I Love Lucy through their company Desilu Productions.
Arnaz's cheating hurt Ball intensely.
According to A.K.A. Lucy, during the early part of their marriage Ball and Arnaz both had "ferocious feelings of jealousy" and feared that the other was cheating when they were apart. In 1944, Ball filed for divorce, but soon had a change of heart. Working together on I Love Lucy was a way for them to be around each other more, and they eventually welcomed children—their daughter, Lucie Arnaz, was born in 1951, and their son, Desi Arnaz Jr., in 1953.
Still, Arnaz cheated, according to Royal. "To his credit, Desi admitted that he was raised observing and believing in a double standard where women must remain sexually loyal, but men were free to wander," the book explains.
"Everyone's like, 'Desi was a womanizer and ruined the whole thing.' That's part of the story," Royal said. "He had a certain way of thinking about sexual escapades outside his marriage that had nothing to do with the emotional dedication and loyalty he had to his wife. Lucy felt differently. She felt that these sexual escapades outside the marriage were not part of what she wanted from a husband … She got hurt very badly, and Desi got hurt very badly."
Ball's ambition was hard on Arnaz.
On the other side of the equation, according to Royal, Arnaz was bothered by how much energy Ball put into working.
"There were a lot of qualities about her that were also tough to get along with," Royal said. "At this point in their success, he said, 'Can we stop and just enjoy the family that we've created and enjoy our success?' And she wanted to keep going. I think that was another pain point, too … I think it was surprising to me just how powerful they were together, even though there were so different and there were so many red flags … Eventually, they came to that conclusion where the pressure was too much."
In 1960, Ball and Arnaz divorced after 20 years of marriage.
There are other accounts of Arnaz's cheating.
Scotty Bowers was a gas station attendant-turned-escort and pimp for many big names in Hollywood. His story was documented in his 2012 book Full Service: My Adventures in Hollywood and the Secret Sex Lives of the Stars and in the 2017 documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood. In an interview with The Daily Beast in 2012, Bowers said that he set up Arnaz with two or three women per week.
"His type was any nice-looking girl who was a quick lay," he claimed. Bowers, who died in 2019 at the age of 96, said that Ball once confronted him at a party about setting up her husband with women. He said she yelled, "How dare you pimp for Desi!"
Arnaz himself admitted to cheating on Ball in his 1977 memoir, A Book, but he claimed that she cheated on him, too.
They remained friends.
Despite the issues in their marriage, their divorce, and the fact that they both remarried, Arnaz and Ball remained friends throughout the rest of their lives.
"At first, there was a lot of sorrow and a lot of rockiness," Royal told Fox News Digital. "But they shared children. They created this incredible TV studio and machine together … And they had this chemistry that nobody else had … The pain softened and, in a lot of ways, they did have a more comfortable relationship. They actually were in each other's lives a lot."
In an interview with Closer in 2020, Lucie shared that her parents' divorce was "the best thing that ever happened to them."
"They had a great divorce," she said. "They had a very successful divorce. It was fantastic. If their parents can't get along and that happens, then kids should be so lucky to have a divorce like my mom and my dad did, because they were kind, they never said bad words about each other in front of their children and they stayed friends till the day they died."
Arnaz passed away first at age 69 in 1986. Ball died three years later in 1989 at age 77.
For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.