Desi Arnaz was honored by Google on what would have been his 102nd birthday. The television pioneer, who became a household name in the early 1950s when he teamed up with wife Lucille Ball to create the sitcom I Love Lucy, was the subject of Saturday’s Google Doodle. Arnaz was born on March 2, 1917, and died at age 69 on August 2, 1986, but he will forever be remembered as a pioneering figure in early television.
On March 2, 2019, Desi Arnaz was featured on Google as a caricature, shown holding a conga drum, a guitar, and later walking into his I Love Lucy brownstone. The Google Doodle is described by Deadline as “one of the digital age’s highest honors,” and Arnaz’ caricature was ultimately viewed hundreds of millions of times over the weekend.
In a statement posted by Google, Desi Arnaz was described as a “trailblazer” in American television.
“Here’s to Desi Arnaz, whose beaming joy and laughter continues to bring delight to living rooms and viewers around the globe,” the Google statement said.
In a Twitter announcement about the Desi Arnaz’ doodle, Google referenced the catchphrase of his I Love Lucy character, Ricky Ricardo, with, “Got some ‘splaining to do,” before revealing that Google Doodle was celebrating the life and legacy of the late star. You can see Desi Arnaz’ Google Doodle below.
We've got some 'splainin' to do!
Today's #GoogleDoodle celebrates the life & legacy of Desi Arnaz: Cuban-born American actor, musician, & producer best known for playing the role of Ricky Ricardo in the 1950s hit TV sitcom ‘I Love Lucy.’
— Google Doodles (@GoogleDoodles) March 2, 2019
Desi Arnaz’ children, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, and Desi Arnaz Jr., released a statement about their father’s Google honor.
“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.”
Lucie Arnaz later took to Twitter to describe her dad’s Doodle as “adorable.” Desi Arnaz’ granddaughter, Kate Luckinbill Conner, also posted about the I Love Lucy star’s online honor, adding that her grandfather’s story is further proof that immigrants make this country great.
So proud Daddy got a Doodle!! Google’s salute to my Pop today is just adorable. It’s been a hard secret to keep for the last few months. Enjoy the bios, too. We thought long and hard about what to say. Thanks to my daughter @KateLConner for all her help.????
— Lucie Arnaz (@realluciearnaz) March 2, 2019
One of the most profound innovators to step foot on American soil, proving once again that immigrants make this country great. Check out today’s Doodle and the story with it. We are proud to honor him on this day with the rest of the world. Happy Birthday Desi!
— Kate Luckinbill Conner (@KateLConner) March 2, 2019
Desi Arnaz was born in Santiago, Cuba, but his family fled to Miami when he was a teenager. The musically inclined Desi later landed a dream job working under famed bandleader Xavier Cugat. Desi moved on to Broadway shows and movies, where he met future wife Lucille Ball on the set of the RKO film Too Many Girls in 1940. By 1951, the long-married Lucy and Desi developed the legendary TV personas, Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.
Desi also worked as a producer on the landmark sitcom and the couple went on to form Desilu Productions, which produced megahits such as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Star Trek.
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) March 2, 2019
Desi Arnaz has also been credited with the idea of multi-camera television production in front of a live studio audience. The use of film — an expense that Lucy and Desi agreed to help pay for — allowed for higher quality images and spawned the idea of reruns and syndication of TV shows. Arnaz, who had been savvy enough to stipulate that he and his wife would own the I Love Lucy shows, later sold the series to CBS for a reported $4.5 million, per The Los Angeles Times.
According to the Times, Lucille Ball, who divorced Desi Arnaz in 1960 after a rocky 20-year marriage, once told Ladies Home Journal her ex-husband was a genius.
“He was a great showman, a great business executive,” Ball said in 1983, a few years before her death. “I was very proud of him… I still am. He built an empire.”
Take a look at the video below to see Desi Arnaz’ poignant speech from a 1954 episode of Toast of the Town, as he thanks America for his opportunities.