Producer, actor and musician Desi Arnaz has received one of the digital age’s highest honors – he’s been chosen as the Google Doodle to celebrate what would have been his 102nd birthday, his caricature being viewed hundreds of millions of times today.
Best known for his role as Ricky Ricardo on 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy, where he played the husband of real-life wife Lucille Ball, Arnaz was a pioneering figure in early television and later, with his own studio, innovated on reruns and syndication of the shows.
Arnaz was born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y de Acha on March 2, 1917 in Santiago, Cuba, but his family decamped to Miami early in his life. His first career was in music, where he worked under band leader Xavier Cugat. Arnaz eventually launched his own band, which is credited with starting the Conga line craze in the US.
From there, he moved to the Broadway show Too Many Girls, later joining the movie version, where he met Lucille Ball. The two went on to create one of TV’s first sitcoms in 1951, as Arnaz played bandleader Ricky Ricardo, who had a regular gig at the Tropicana nightclub. He parlayed that role into the real-life hit single Babalu.
I Love Lucy became must-see TV for the early days of the medium, and is still in reruns today. Arnaz was a show producer and a key to its high production values. The show ended in 1957, and the couple divorced in 1960. Arnaz died in 1986
Google said in a statement that Arnaz was a “trailblazer” in the American television industry.
“Here’s to Desi Arnaz, whose beaming joy and laughter continues to bring delight to living rooms and viewers around the globe,” Google said.
Children Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill and Desi Arnaz, Jr., the offspring of Desi and Lucy, said in the statement that they are “thrilled” that Google is honoring their father.
“We are so proud that he is being recognized for his talent and his gifts of entertainment. Desiderio Alberto Arnaz III was a one-of-a-kind innovator and trailblazer, and we wish he could have lived to see this special acknowledgment of the lasting contributions he gave to the world,” the statement said.