Off-screen, Thibodeaux became a playmate to the Arnaz children.
Lucy, Desi, there wasnt a lot of trust about who would come over and be at the house with the kids, he said. I was on the staff, the cast, I was on the payroll. Thats how I was introduced to the family. I was young and they thought Id be a nice kid to hang around with their kids.
Thibodeaux, the eldest of six children, grew up Roman Catholic and went to school in Southern California with other child stars including Angela Cartwright ( Make Room for Daddy) and Jerry Mathers ( Leave It to Beaver).
From the time his family moved from Lafayette, La., to California, he was the main breadwinner.
Everything changed on March 2, 1960, when the Lucy cast and crew shot what would be the shows final episode. Afterward, Ball and Arnaz announced their 20-year marriage was over.
On the drive home from the set, Thibodeauxs father, a Desilu publicist, broke the news to his son.
He told me as we were driving back to home in the valley, Well Keith, I guess youre out of a job. He said the shows over with, Lucy and Desi are getting a divorce and the show is ending, he recalls.
Here I was at 9 years old and this was my job, my employment. I had gotten so used to, as a kid, being someone who worked.
The Thibodeaux family stayed in California and Keith guest-starred on 60s series including The Andy Griffith Show. He and Desi Jr. often helped warm up the studio audience for Balls second series, The Lucy Show.
After his father lost his Desilu job (Ball fired him because he was having an affair with a secretary, Thibodeaux says), the family returned to Louisiana and his parents divorced.
The former child star played in rock bands and got involved in drugs before turning to Christianity in the early 70s.
He and his wife, dancer Kathy Denton, have been married since 1976 and have a 33-year-old daughter. In 1986, they founded Ballet Magnificat!, a Christian ballet company in Jackson, Miss., that presents story ballets with themes of love, forgiveness.
Thibodeaux, who in 1994 wrote an autobiography titled Life After Lucy, said religion helped get him past his traumatic young adulthood.
Up until the time I became a Christian and gave my life to Jesus, it was really bitter. I was trying to run away from Little Ricky, he said. To this day, I dont run away from it, but I dont run toward it. Its kind of like this old friend I knew way back when, that you want to have coffee with.