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April 3, 2024

On April 3, 1953, TV Guide Released Their First Ever Issue With a Special Guest on Its Cover: Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV

Before computers and onscreen guides, you had one way to find out what was on TV, and it was your trusted TV Guide magazine, which helped you find what you wanted to watch and when it would air. There were no VDRs or DVRs to capture your shows, you had to wait patiently for your favorites to come on. Commercial breaks were for bathroom breaks and gathering snacks, and if you missed anything important, you might not ever see it again. Family members would yell “It’s on! It’s back on” to warn you when the program returned. It was 71 years ago today that the very first national edition of TV Guide was introduced to consumers.

On April 3, 1953, a chubby-­cheeked newborn named Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV — eventually known as Desi Arnaz Jr. — graced the cover of magazine’s very first issue with a cover line touting him as “Lucy’s $50,000,000 Baby.” Lucy, of course, was Lucille Ball, the madcap, flame-tressed star of America’s most adored sitcom at the time, I Love Lucy, while Dad was Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz — and both of them knew the value of publicity.

The first issue of TV Guide (April 3, 1953), featuring Desi Arnaz Jr., the younger child of Lucille Ball (seen at upper right inset).

Lucy and Desi purposely scheduled little Desi’s Cesarean birth for January 19, 1953, because, on that same night, Lucy Ricardo was going to deliver Little Ricky on I Love Lucy. The double baby blast caused a ­frenzy (a record 68.8 percent of all sets were tuned to CBS for the episode), and it shoved another major news event — the inauguration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on the following day — out of the public consciousness. Life only got crazier from there.

“Because that cover was so widely seen, everyone thought I played Little Ricky, and that’s stuck with me throughout my life,” Arnaz told TV Guide. “Of course, my parents only added to the mis­understanding by casting a series of ­infants — there were six in all — who matched the TV Guide photo.”

More head-scratching followed when Arnaz became BFFs with Keith Thibodeaux, who played Little Ricky as a tyke. The two were ­frequently photographed together and would even team on the drums to warm up the I Love Lucy studio audience. Eventually, fiction became fact when Arnaz played ­Lucy’s son on her 1968-74 series, Here’s Lucy.

“I wouldn’t trade any of it — not even the confusion — because it’s all been a blessing,” said Arnaz. “How lucky I am that I can turn on the TV any day of the week and see my parents! I Love Lucy seems to be stuck in a weird time warp. The humor and situations are still as fresh as the first time they aired. And the thing that’s most wonderful about it — even beyond the laughs — is the love factor. No matter what crazy stunt Lucy pulled or how many times the Ricardos battled with their friends Fred and Ethel Mertz, everyone’s jealousy and idiosyncrasies and dumb mistakes were ­for­given in the end. There’s a reason it was called I Love Lucy. Love was what it was all about.”

That held true even when Lucy shocked the nation by filing for ­divorce in 1960, while the duo was still starring in a series of I Love Lucy spin-off specials on CBS called The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour. “My parents’ problems started long before that, but you’d never know it by watching them transform into Lucy and Ricky,” Arnaz recalled. “The show was very healing for them because, in a way, they were playing the best parts of themselves. On screen, they were the perfect team. And, sadly, you couldn’t help but wonder, ‘Why can’t they do that in real life?’ because their love for each other was so big, so extraordinary. Even after the divorce, they remained best friends and made the split as easy as possible for me and my sister, Lucie. So even the bad stuff turned out good.”


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