Inside Lucille Ball’s Tragic Life

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s second child, Desi Arnaz, Jr., arrived on January 19, 1953. Ball’s I Love Lucy character Lucy Ricardo was pregnant, too, and on the exact same day that Arnaz, Jr. came into the world, “Little Ricky” was born on TV. Arnaz followed his parents into television, appearing as a series regular on mom’s Here’s Lucy as a teen, which, along with a singing career, elevated him to teen heartthrob status. A People profile from 1978, however, implied that Arnaz, Jr. was just as big a fan as women as they were of him — before the age of 20, he was romantically linked with Patty Duke, Liza Minnelli, and Tina Sinatra. According to the New York Post, he secretly fathered a child with a model when he was just 15 years old. Carousing wasn’t Arnaz, Jr.’s only vice, as he struggled with addictions to drugs and alcohol. “I was destroying myself,” Arnaz, Jr. told Closer Weekly in 2020. “I got tired of being me.”

Her son’s substance abuse issues left Ball devastated. “I can’t tell you how much his addiction hurt us,” Ball once said (via Psychology Today). “It tore me apart.” In the early ’80s, Arnaz, Jr. entered a drug rehabilitation program, with the full and public support of both of his parents. “Sometimes people in the public eye don’t want to reveal anything going on inside them in front of even one other person, and it was extraordinary that they did it,” Arnaz, Jr. told People in 1989.

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