March 05, 2012

Lucie Arnaz Honors Dad with Latin Roots

By Robert Sokol as Special To The S.F. Examiner

“I don’t play that side of me very often,” says the daughter of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, “though I’ve always said that if I didn’t have that side of my family I don’t think I’d have the rhythm or any kind of musical ability at all.”

She’s been playing that side a lot more the last couple of years, paying tribute to the musical influences of her father with a spectacularly reviewed stage show, the CD “Latin Roots,” and a new nightclub act that just played to raves at Manhattan’s Feinstein’s at the Regency.

“When I put together my ‘hybrid’ version of that ‘Babalu’ show – utilizing some of Dad’s charts, a lot of the Latin flavored material that I have been including in my shows for years and a lot of tunes from the CD – I was happily surprised to know how much the audiences accepted my interpretations of some of Dad’s trademark songs, like ‘Cuban Pete,’ ‘The Straw Hat Song’ and ‘Babalu.’”

The impetus for both her nightclub career and, now, the focus on her Latin side has its roots in the Bay Area.

“When my dad passed away I found this wonderful little set of cassette tapes that had been compiled by a man in San Francisco named Edward Maffei, who was a discographer and fan of my father’s work. It included all sorts of recordings and broadcasts of Dad’s that he had gathered.”

Arnaz would drive around playing the cassettes and absorbing the sound. “This was, like, 1987, and it was the whole reason I decided to put together my first club act.”

Spending as much time as she has lately, steeped in her father’s musical legacy, her respect for his talent “really couldn’t have gotten any higher than it was before. But, I am just enjoying that ‘See, I knew I wasn’t crazy!’ sensation, now that everyone else is responding to this kind of material the way I did when I first heard it.”

So, what might her father think of all this? “One can only guess, right? I think he would be very choked up and stand a little taller in his shoes as he watched. I think he would be very, very grateful that all his work during those years had not gone unappreciated in the shade of the very large ‘I Love Lucy’-Ricky Ricardo branches.”

Lucie Arnaz
Where: Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason St., San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 7 p.m. March 11
Tickets: $45
Contact: (800) 380-3095,

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