“A Book” by Desi Arnaz: Pepito’s Contributions to the Lost Pilot for “I Love Lucy” Explained (1976)

An Excerpt From “The Outspoken Memoirs of ‘Ricky Ricardo’ — The Man Who Loved Lucy”

I had a very dear friend named Pepito, who used to go fishing with me. He’s retired now but he was one of the world’s greatest clowns. His billing was “Pepito, the Spanish Clown.” He headlined at the Hippodrome for years during the time that theater was the place in New York. He also had done command performances for the Queen of England and the King of Spain. A brilliant clown.

While we were fishing one day I told him what Lucy and I were planning [a potential foray into the new medium of television], and he said “Yeas, that’s a good idea. I’ve got a few clown bits which might help you with your act, and I’m sure Lucy would be great doing them.”

“Thanks, Pepito, we would sure appreciate it.”

We got a suite at the Coronado Hotel in San Diego and Pepito spent two weeks working eight to ten hours a day with Lucy and me. He also converted a cello and a xylophone into great comic props — exactly like the ones he had used as part of his clown act. We used them both in our theater tour and later in the pilot film, of I Love Lucy. They were two of the best routines Lucy ever did.

Bob Carroll, Jr., and Madelyn Pugh, who were writing her radio show with Jess Oppenheimer, wrote a short sketch for us. As it turned out, this was not the only thing they were going to write for us. By 1959 they had written 180 I Love Lucy half-hours, plus twelve hours of the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, and after that they wrote a number of The Lucy Show episodes, then many of the Here’s Lucy shows. I tell them the next one they’ll write for her will be There Goes Lucy, and the, I’m sure, Here Comes Lucy Back.

I wrote some lyrics for her to do with me on the second chorus of “Cuban Pete” and staged a wild rhumba with which to finish that number. She was now ready to join our show.

The tour was arranged so that a true cross section of the country would see us. We appeared at the Roxy Theatre in New York, followed by theaters in Minneapolis, Omaha, San Francisco and others.

Desi Arnaz in a white blazer, standing on the street corner under the Roxy Theater marquee bearing his name and Lucille’s, on their vaudeville tour around the United States, 1950.

Of course she was sensational.

In the cello bit, I would be on the stage doing a number and she, dressed in ill-fitting, broken-down white tie and tails and an old felt hat, would come through the audience’s carrying this cello down the center aisle. As the audience recognized her it created quite a commotion. I would pretend I didn’t know what this commotion was all about and who was interrupting my show.

“What’s going on out there? Please put the lights on.”

She would then be spotted in the audience, asking “Where is Dizzy Arnazy?” in a husky man’s voice.

Then she would come onstage, look me up and down and say, “Are you Dizzy Arnazy?”

“Desi Arnaz,” I would correct.

“That’s what I said, Dizzy Arnazy.”

Giving up, I would say, “Look, mister, what is it you want?”

“I want a job with your orchestra.”

“Oh, are you a musician?” I asked.

“Yeah, that’s right.”

Then she would go into the band, starting to take the cello out of its case, climbing over music stands, hitting some of the guys in the head with the case as she was turning around and looking for a place to sit, until I had to go to her, saying “Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Come back here!” And I would take her back up front again.

“She’d say, “What’s the matter?”

“I have to see your credentials,” I’d say.

She would then do a big take, look shocked and cross her arms over her bosom.

She is one of the greatest pantomimists in the world and a clown at heart. She had the routines Pepito had given her down pat. Every move she made, everything she did with the prop cello, while giving me an audition, got nothing but big yaks.

After the cello she played the xylophone, not as Lucy but as a seal, a seal playing the xylophone. Later in the show, during the second chorus of “Cuban Pete,” she would come out with a “Frankie and Johnny” outfit, swinging a purse and singing, “They call me Sally Sweet/I’m the Queen of Delancey Street/When I start to dance, everything goes/Chick, chicky boom/Chick, chicky boom,” and with the last “boom,” she would do a big [hip] bump and knock the straw hat off my head. Then we would do the wild rhumba dance to exit with.

After the cello she played the xylophone, not as Lucy but as a seal, a seal playing the xylophone. Later in the show, during the second chorus of “Cuban Pete,” she would come out with a “Frankie and Johnny” outfit, swinging a purse and singing, “They call me Sally Sweet/I’m the Queen of Delancey Street/When I start to dance, everything goes/Chick, chicky boom/Chick, chicky boom,” and with the last “boom,” she would do a big [hip] bump and knock the straw hat off my head. Then we would do the wild rhumba dance to exit with.

This whole act, plus the short sketch that was written for us, and Pepito himself, eventually became the pilot show of I Love Lucy.

The tour was a tremendous success and convinced Lucy and me that the people liked us as a team, which meant more to us than whatever the executives of one network or another thought.

Source: “A Book,” by Desi Arnaz, William Morrow And Company, Inc., New York, 1976, pp. 194-195.

Photo: http://www.lucyfan.com/photoweek138.html

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