Lucille Ball’s classic antics are colorized in an I Love Lucy holiday special airing on CBS. But daughter Lucie Arnaz’s vivid family Christmas memories don't require any embellishment to shine.
Arnaz says her parents, Ball and Desi Arnaz, made the most of the holiday at their Beverly Hills home in the 1950s. Arnaz and her brother, Desi Arnaz Jr., reveled in it.
“It was the only time of the year when there wasn't stress,” recalled Arnaz, an actress-singer who tours nationally in concert. “There was a lot of stress because of how hard they worked, and their marriage wasn’t doing well. But Christmas was always a good time.”
Ball made their Beverly Hills house elegant.
“My mother loved the East Coast, so she tried to bring it to Beverly Hills. We always had a flocked white tree with blue lights. At night, it made it look like wintertime in the snow,” Arnaz said.
Her Cuban-born dad added a memorable touch one particular Christmas Eve. Young Lucie awoke to the sound of clattering on the roof, followed by a man in a red suit bringing gifts into her room. As Arnaz recalls: “He bent over and kissed me and said, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” (here she adapts a Cuban accent) “I thought, ‘Santa sounds just like daddy.’ ”
Years later, Ball confirmed the memory.
“He got all liquored up and banged on the roof and got in his Santa suit with the presents and the whole thing,” the comedienne told her daughter. “And then he had to open his mouth.”
Lucie Arnaz, 62, said she was about 7 when her parents split up, and she and her brother then had two holidays: one at the Beverly Hills home with Ball and then a Cuban version at Arnaz’s thoroughbred horse ranch east of Los Angeles, complete with a roasted pig.
She fondly recalls watching her parents on the set of I Love Lucy, and hopes the I Love Lucy Christmas Special (8 p.m. Friday, CBS) will introduce the sitcom to a new generation of viewers. The hourlong program includes colorized versions of a Christmas special and one in which Lucy memorably stomps grapes for wine in Italy. A newly released DVD includes those and a third episode, Lucy Goes to Scotland.