All you baby boomers out there who loved the show I Love Lucy will be stunned to see what Little Ricky looks like today at 64. Many may also be surprised to learn that the first Little Ricky on I Love Lucy was played by twins. The twin brothers are grown men who are enjoying their retirement today. They don’t look very much like the adorable television baby son of Ricky and Lucy Ricardo from yesteryear. The older Little Ricky, who was the one you remember playing the drums, came along after the twins bowed out of showbiz at the ripe age of 4.
The Idaho Press Tribune recently had the chance to interview the twin boys who had the first Little Ricky roles on the iconic I Love Lucy show. The twins were only in show business for the first four years of their life, then their parents pulled them out because they were worried about the statistics on how child stars fared as adults. Those statistics pointed to child stars not going on to become “functional adults.” It seems that even back in the 1950s they knew something about the outlook for the future of kids who experience fame at such a young age.
I Love Lucy welcomed a son on the show at the same time that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz welcomed their real-life baby into the world. The famous TV couple did not want their baby on the set, so they held a nationwide search for a set of twins that could pass as the baby son of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Many thought that the baby on the show playing the part of Little Ricky was Desi Arnaz Jr., Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s real-life son, but it wasn’t.
It was Desi Arnaz who first saw the twins in a picture, the twin boys who would go on to play Little Ricky on the show. They were the sons of the president of a twins club. Once Desi got a glimpse of their picture, the babies were hired on, according to Good Housekeeping.
Hiring a set of twins on the show I Love Lucy gave the show double the amount of time they could film with the baby, as child labor laws only allowed so many hours each child could actually be working on the show. The search ended for the I Love Lucy show’s Little Ricky and it was Desi Arnaz who actually picked out the 15-month-old twins, Joe and Mike Mayer.
Times have changed when it comes to paychecks for the stars of the shows making up the TV series offered today. The baby twins only earned $150 per week, but back in 1953, that wasn’t anything to sneeze at by way of a weekly wage, even for a grown man. The twins were introduced as one son, Little Ricky, on the I Love Lucy episode that was titled “No Children Allowed.”
In this episode of the I Love Lucy show, Lucy brings Little Ricky home from the hospital to that famous apartment of theirs and the baby keeps the tenants up all night with his crying. The apartment building has a rule that there are no kids allowed. This is something you’d be hard-pressed to try and pull today due to the Fair Housing Act, which was passed about 15 years later.
— Hazel Lightfoot (@Sha_Elizabeth_4) January 24, 2017
Fred and Ethel were the landlords and also the best friends of Ricky and Lucy. So after some arguing and laughter, Little Ricky stays. It’s not as if Lucy and Ricky would have given the baby away, but allowing him to stay meant Lucy and Ricky didn’t have to move.
The Mayer twins played Little Ricky for three seasons on I Love Lucy, until the traveling to and from the set got too much for the family. According to Good Housekeeping, the parents had also heard about the stats on child actors and how they don’t usually turn into well-rounded adults, which gave them yet another reason to pull their boys from the cast. Of course those stats were from the 1950s, but some might argue there’s a few examples they can offer up where those stats still hold true today.
— Local News Only (@localnewsonly) January 19, 2017
The boy who played the older Little Ricky, Keith Thibodeaux, joined the I Love Lucy cast in 1955 and as a child of 4, he had already been on a TV variety show playing the drums, according to ABC News. This drum-playing boy was perfect for the new Little Ricky, since his dad was Ricky Ricardo, the orchestra leader.
— ABC News (@ABC) October 15, 2015
This Little Ricky went on to do 35 shows over five years on I Love Lucy, a show that is ranked No. 3 in TV Guide‘s Top 50 Greatest TV Shows Of All Time. Thibodeaux is seen in the tweet above from his days as Little Ricky on I Love Lucy and what he looks like today at 66. Thibodeaux is probably the Little Ricky you remember most because he was the one with the speaking role and drum-playing talent.
— Lisa Yee (@LisaYee1) January 24, 2017
So how have these twin boys fared through life? Pretty good by any standards. The Mayer brothers live in Emmett, Idaho, and both are retired. They both attended college and went on to different careers. Joe worked for Portland General Electric in Oregon after graduating from California Polytechnic State University.
Mike was an internal auditor for the supermarket chain Fred Meyer. He then moved on to Kroger chain of stores doing the same thing. He started his career after graduating from Brigham Young University. When Mike retired, he then became a teacher at a local high school.
1953 – 68% of all TV sets in the U.S. were tuned to "I Love Lucy" on CBS, as Lucy Ricardo gave birth to a baby boy, named "Little Ricky." pic.twitter.com/M9ctvbp7qj
— Today In TV History (@tvhistorytoday) January 20, 2017
After leaving the I Love Lucy show, they got to see Lucille Ball one more time. It was when they were 12 and long since they departed from the I Love Lucy show. The twins stopped by to see her while she was filming the movie, Yours, Mine And Ours, with Henry Fonda. That was back in 1968 and it was their real-life mom who brought them to the movie set to see their past TV mom.
Thibodeaux, who still plays the drums, went on to play small and brief roles in other shows while he was still a kid, like the Andy Griffith Show. He revealed how he became depressed later on in life. According to ABC News, he later “ditched acting and joined his wife Kathy, a professional ballet dancer, as the executive director of Ballet Magnificat!” He now lives with his wife in Jackson, Mississippi.
[Image by Associated Press File/AP Images]