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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > WESTSIDER LUCIE ARNAZ
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To star in Neil Simon's new musical


Bad timing. That's what had plagued me ever since I had tried to get an interview with Lucie Arnaz last June. Back then, I was supposed to get together with her downtown, but our meeting was canceled at the last minute. My second appointment, set for August 31 in her dressing room just before a performance of Annie Get Your Gun at the Jones Beach Theatre in Wantagh, Long Island, now seemed in jeopardy as well. I was kept waiting nervously outside while the house manager insisted that Lucie was engaged in "a very important telephone call."

But when the young star finally emerged, her face beaming with delight, I found that my timing could not have been better. Lucie had just received official word that a major new Broadway role was hers. As we sat down to talk, Lucie was in one of those radiant moods that come only in times of triumph. She had been chosen for the female lead in a new musical, They're Playing My Song, which is scheduled to open in Los Angeles in December and on Broadway in February. The show has music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager. The book is written by Neil Simon.

"I'm a lousy auditioner — at least, I thought I was," grinned Lucie. "This new musical will be probably the pinnacle of what I've been aiming for. … It's about a fairly successful lyricist who's not nearly as successful as the composer she's going to work with. Neil Simon has always wanted to do a play about songwriters. It's a very hip, pop musical. It doesn't have regular Broadway-type tunes."

She flopped back on the sofa touching my arm from time to time for emphasis, and chatted on in her mildly raspy voice. Finally she moved to a seat in front of the mirror and invited me to keep talking while she put on her makeup. There is a quality about her that suggests toughness, but this impression melts away under her girlish charm. At 27, Lucie is already an 11-year veteran of professional acting and singing. When she performed at Jones Beach this summer, up to 8,000 people per night came to see her.

Lucie first transplanted herself from the West Coast to the West Side on a full-time basis last winter, although, she admitted, "I had a New York apartment for four years which I would visit every couple of months. For some sick reason, I really like New York. There's a lot of crazy people doing strange things on the streets, but there's also a lot of creative forces here.

"I went to do an interview this morning for my radio show and it started raining. By the time I had walked six blocks I was looking terrible, and it suddenly occurred to me that I would never present myself like that in California. In New York, who gives a damn if you've got water on you when you come to work? On the West Coast, the things that aren't important they seem to put on pedestals." Her radio show, which she started this year, is a nationally syndicated five-minute interview spot called Tune In With Lucie.

>From 1967 to 1972 she was a regular on her mother's TV show, Here's Lucy. She has made countless guest appearances on other shows, and performed lead roles in numerous musicals. Her parents, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Sr., were divorced more than a decade ago and have both remarried.

"My mother was here for opening night, then she stayed a couple of days in New York. But she gets too lonely when my brother Desi and I go away for too long. He was here for most of the summer. He was doing a movie called How To Pick Up Girls. He played the guy who supposedly knew all about it — one of the two stars. He said, "It's funny, I meet girls on the street, and New York has the most beautiful girls in the world, and when they ask me what I'm doing here and I tell them the name of the movie, they walk away and say, 'You dirty toad!'" Desi also plays the groom in the new Robert Altman film, A Wedding.

"My father is now putting an album together of the music that was recorded for the old Lucy Show. Salsa music is coming back now, so he's been asked to make an album of those tapes."

Speaking of her hobbies, Lucie noted that "recently I started to build a darkroom in my house. The key word is started. It's hard to get the time. … And I have been writing songs for the last couple of years. I'm a lyricist. I've sung them on things like Mike Douglas and Dinah."

She enjoys all of New York, though at one time "the East Side gave me
the ooga boogas. Then I found a couple of places there that were nice."
On the West Side, she likes to dine at La Cantina, Victor's Cafe, and
Ying, all on Columbus Avenue near 71st and 72nd Streets.

When the five-minute warning sounded in her dressing room, Lucie had to turn me out, but not before she divulged her philosophy about show business. "Am I ambitious?" she echoed. "I don't know. There are people who are willing to really knock the doors down and do just about anything to get there. I'm not like that. Even now, when I go to the market, people come up to me and say, 'Aren't you. … ?' So I can imagine what it would be like to be a superstar. No, I'm not really looking forward to that."

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