‘I Love Lucy’ star Keith Thibodeaux recalls playing ‘Little Ricky,’ working alongside Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz

‘I Love Lucy’ star Keith Thibodeaux recalls playing ‘Little Ricky,’ working alongside Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The former child star is participating in Reelz’s ‘Lucille Ball: We Love Lucy.’ The documentary, which features interviews with Ball’s friends, chronicles the late star’s life and legacy in Hollywood.

Friday marks 70 years since “I Love Lucy” first hit TV screens in American households. 

In celebration, Fox News has information to bookmark travel to Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, in southwestern New York, where the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum is located.

The site features replica sets of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s New York City apartment, “623 E. 68th Street,” as well as their California suite at the fictional Beverly Palms Hotel. Props, scripts and the couple’s wardrobe are all on display, and fans can take the opportunity to place themselves in their favorite scenes.

“Visitors definitely have this visible reaction full of nostalgia,” Journey Gunderson, executive director of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum and the National Comedy Center told Fox News.

New York City apartment set, Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, Jamestown, NY
(National Comedy Museum)

“For most people, stepping into the museum and seeing sets of ‘I Love Lucy’ takes them back to an era, gathering with family around the television, laughing together and enjoying with the entire country what is arguably the most successful television show of all time by several measures,” Gunderson added.

“I Love Lucy” premiered Oct. 15, 1951, becoming the first series to air in 10 million homes. Six months later, it was the number one show in America. It has aired in 77 different countries, been translated into multiple languages and was named one of TV Guide’s best series of all time.

The laugh-out-loud comedy starred real-life husband and wife Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball as the Ricardos and their landlord friends Fred and Ethel Mertz, played by William Frawley and Vivian Vance.

The ambitious, animated character of Lucy Ricardo brought smiles with her constant attempts to get into her bandleader husband’s act. Memorable episodes include “Job Switching,” which includes the cult classic chocolate factory scene, and “Vitameatavegamin.”

(National Comedy Museum)

The episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital,” in which Lucy and Ricky Ricardo welcomed Little Ricky, was viewed by 44,000,000 Americans. 

“That plummeted the next day during the presidential election of Dwight Eisenhower,” Gunderson said. By comparison, 29,000,000 watched the inauguration of Eisenhower, according to stats provided to Fox News by the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum.

Ball was also the visionary behind the first national cultural institution and museum dedicated to the art form of comedy, which is now the National Comedy Center, also located in Jamestown about four minutes from the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum.

The National Comedy Center has interactive experiences, and visitors can “try their hand at being Lucy or Ethel” by acting out the chocolate scene from “Job Switching” in front of a green screen,” Gunderson said,

Design By Jack L. Rouse Associates
(National Comedy Museum)

Ball’s iconic polka dot dress is on display at the National Comedy Center, which also includes artifacts and wardrobe from some of the greatest comedic artists of all time, like Jerry Seinfeld, Charlie Chaplin and Carol Burnett. 

“We all need laughter now more than ever,” Gunderson said. “What we see in both museums every day are visitors … leaving and saying, ‘I never expected to laugh for four hours straight.’ And, who doesn’t need that?” 

(National Comedy Museum)

Around Jamestown, Lucy fans can pose with the life-size dedication statue of the actress located at Lucille Ball Memorial Park. Eight minutes away sits Ball’s restored childhood home in the village of Celoron.

For more information on the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum click here. You can also plan your visit to the National Comedy Center.

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