The Religious Affiliation of Actress, Comedienne, Television Producer
Lucille Ball (Lucy) was born into a Protestant family (apparently Baptist) and she identified herself as a Protestant throughout her life. Her father died and her mother married a man from a devout Swedish Protestant (Lutheran) family. In a civil ceremony, Lucy married Desi Arnaz, a musician from a devout Cuban Catholic family. In addition to being Catholic, Arnaz was also at least partially an adherent of the Afro-Carribean religion Osha, which was practiced by a large proportion of Cubans. The couple later had a Catholic religious wedding ceremony, and Lucy studied Catholicism for a time, planning to convert. She never did. She had a life-long interest in numerology and dabbled in astrology and the occult. Later in life she was a devotee of nationally popular preacher Rev. Norman Vincent Peale, and she attended his Marble Collegiate Church. Peale and his Marble Collegiate Church were affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church, but it should be emphasized that Lucille Ball was specifically interested in Peale and his teachings, and did not attend this church because of its specific denominational affiliation. Ball considered herself a Protestant, not a Dutch Reformed church member, and she regularly attended Peale's church during only a fraction of her life.
From "Norman Vincent Peale: Champion of Positive Thinking" webpage on "Cornerstone Books" website (http://normanvincentpeale.wwwhubs.com/; viewed 7 May 2005):
Ordained in the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1922, Peale served as pastor at a succession of churches that included Berkeley, Rhode Island (1922-24), Brooklyn, New York (1924-27), and Syracuse, New York (1927-32) before changing his affiliation to the Dutch Reformed Church so that he could become pastor of the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City (1932-84). There he gained fame for his sermons on a positive approach to modern living, which were regularly broadcast, first on radio and later on television. The church had 600 members when he arrived to pastor in 1932; it had over 5,000 by the time he retired in 1984. In 1969 and 1970 he was president of the Reformed Church in America.
From: Stefan Kanfer. Ball of Fire: The Tumultuous Life and Comic Art of Lucille Ball, Alfred A. Knopf: New York (2003), pages 10-11:
Clinton Ball, Lucy's great-grandfather... headed for the progressive, gaslit village of Fredonia, New York. There he built a large house and acquired an additional four hundred acres. Clinton must have found Protestant fundamentalism to hs liking; he donated generous sums to build local churches, but made certain that anyone who preached there hewed to his literal interpretation of the Bible. Unsurprisingly, he looked upon city life as licentious and went so far as to forbid any of his children to dance. Five of them obeyed; the sixth [Lucille Ball's grandfather] was an adventurer who wanted something more... He settled... in Jamestown, New York [where Jasper's son Henry Durrell Ball (nicknamed "Had") met Desiree Evelyn Hunt... on September 1, 1910, the two [Had and Desiree: Lucy's parents] were married at the two-story gabled home of Frederick and Flora Belle Hunt. Some 140 guests witnessed the ceremony, conducted by the Reverend Charles D. Reed, pastor of the Calgary Baptist Church.
Lucille Ball's father died from an illness in 1915. In 1918, 7-year-old Lucy's mother married Ed Peterson. Lucy's parents went to Chicago for work, and Lucy stayed with her new grandparents (Ed's parents). Kanfer, page 15:
There could have been no greater contrast than the indulgent Mandicoses and the severe and elderly Petersons... Grandma Peterson let it be known early on that she would brook no backtalk or misbehavior. Sophia Peterson was something of a pioneer woman herself. The Swedish immigrant believed in the literal truth of the Bible, with emphasis on the seven deadly sins as off-ramps to Purgatory.
Kanfer, page 72:
Desi [Lucy's future husband] was to rememeber 1939 as one of the most triumphant years imaginable--but also one of the saddest. For during that year his father filed for divorce, a rare event for Catholic Cubans...
Kanfer, page 73:
Hollywood is a town that runs on rumor, and the Desi-Lucy romance had barely begun when studio gossips started odds-making. Unsolicited advice issued from Lucy's friends and acquaintances: "He's flashy and egotistical." "He's Catholic and you're Protestant."
Kanfer, pages 75-76:
As [Desi] listened, Lucy assured the journalist that while the couple would see each other in New York... marriage was out of the question. There were too many cultural, professional, and emotional barriers between them... Desi sat and twitched until the interviewer departed.
"This girl is going to have a hell of a time with that story," he predicted.
Really, Lucy remarked. And why was that?
"Because I have everything arranged to marry you tomorrow morning, if you would like to marry me."
..."You're kidding, right?"
"No, I'm not kidding. I want to marry you and I want to marry you tomorrow."
"Why couldn't we just live together?"
"No, I don't want to just live together. I want to marry you and I want to have some children with you and I want to have a home. I am not like the image you have of me."
Kanfer, page 78:
In his haste Desi had neglected a few items. Connecticut law required couples to observe a five-day waiting period before taking marriage vows. IN order to get around the law, he and Lucy had to round up a judge to make an official exception... On November 30, 1940, Justice of the Peace John P. O'Brien agreed to conduct a ceremony at the Byram River Beagle Club.
Kanfer, page 114:
Lolita Arnaz thought she knew why Luc and Desi had failed to become parents. Granted, her boy was not the best-behaved man in the world. And there was the business of the couple's conflicting schedules. But the real trouble, according to Lolita, was that Lucy and Desi remained unmarried in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Desi listened to his mother for the first time in years. He acknowledged that he wanted a son desperately; if getting married in a ceremony would make things right he would do it--if only Lucy would agree. She would, with certain provisos: "Desi and I... finally decided that Desi would give up his cross-country tours and only take local engagements with his band. We would both consult doctors to see why we did not have children.
"And we would 'kick out the bums'--drinking, brawling, constantly dropping in, they gave us no peace. We had to take over our home again, losing the parasites for good."
...On June 19, 1949, in the local cathedral of Our Lady of the Valley, Father Michael Hurley officiated at the Roman Catholic wedding of Desiderio and Lucille Arnaz... Eight years after the first Arnaz marriage, with DeDe and Cleo looking on and wiping away tears, Ed Sedgwick gave the bride away... Looking back many years later, Lucy noted: "It was a beautiful ceremony and I believed in it. At the time, I seriously intended to become a Catholic. I took instruction for a long time, but lost the inspiration when I realized that Catholicism did not seem to help Desi in his life."
Kanfer, page 145:
The most fortunate [circumstance] was public knowledge of that Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were husband and wife in real life. Other real-life couples made radio or TV comedy their speciality, but none offered the strong constrast of a WASP ["White Anglo-Saxon Protestant"] wife with a Latino husband..."
Kanfer, page 226:
[Lucy] placed the children in private Catholic schools -- Lucie in Marymount, Desi IV in St. David's--and described them to the press as "happy, adjusted kids" grateful to be in New York.
From Kanfer, pages 300-301:
...Lucille Ball had ben laid to rest at Forest Lawn cemetary, her ashes set in a place next to her mother's remains... Lucie [Lucille Ball's daughter] scheduled three memorial services: one in Los Angeles, one in Chicago, and one in New York... The Manhattan service took place at St. Ignatius Loyola Church, on Park Avenue at Eighty-third Street [a Catholic church].
Kanfer, pages 202-204:
Lucy had always flirted with superstition and numerology--she had been convinced, for example, that the letters A and R, as in "Arnas" and "Ricardo," brought good luck. Now she turned to astrology, accompanying Arlene Dahl, another unhappily married redhead, to the lectures of Carroll Righter.
The man who called himself "the Gregarious Aquarius" had risen to the status of Astrologer to the Stars. Among his clients were Cary Grant, Marlene Dietrich, Susan Hayward, and Charlie Chaplin. Dahl was especially impressed; she attended many of "Righter's "zodiac parties," given for his favorites. The fete he gave for her had a Leo theme, complete with lion. The big cat was so drugged he fell into the swimming pool and had to be hauled out, but no one saw this as an embarrassment. Righter was much too important to be mocked. It was common knowledge that he had told Hayward the best time to sign a film contract was exactly 2:47 a.m. She set her her alarm for 2:45 so that she could obey his instructions. Like the others, she agreed with the astrologer's self-appraisal: "They need me here. Just like they need a doctor."
The stargazer traced the roots of the Arnazes' difficulties to the constellations. Lucy was a Leo and her husband a Pisces. Soon other astrologists summed up the fate of the union. One report read: "Desi is emotional, tender, sentimental, easily swayed by moods and appeals to sympathy. Lucille is as as committed and Loyal as Desi is, but Lucille is uncomfortable feling or expressing softness, neediness, vulnerability, and emotion in general. She can easily dominate or trample over Desi's feelings, and this can be a source of considerable unhappiness."
When the unhappiness persisted, Lucy turned away from the heavens and sought earthly help. She turned to the apostle of self-esteem, the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. In his heyday from the late 1940s to the early 1980s, the paster of Manhattan's Marble Collegiate Church was the most popular minister in America. His book The Power of Positive Thinking sold in the millions (he wrote forty-six books in all), and his sermons were mailed to 750,000 adherents every month. A believer in "positive imaging," a mixture of religious philosophy and motivational psychology, Peale had special appeal for middle- and high-level executives. In a typical speech to Merrill Lynch real estate associates, he declared:"If you se yourself as inferior in any way, and you hold that image in your conscious mind, it will presently, by the process of intellectual osmosis, sink into the unconscious and you will be what you visualize. If, on the contrary, you see yourself as organized, controlled, studious, a thinker, a worker, believing in your talent and ability and yourself, over a period of time that is what you will become."
Here was a philosophy Lucy could apprehend. She had ben reading Peale's words for some time, and when he visited California on a speaking tour, she sought him out and invited him to her Palm Springs home. Actress and singer Sheila MacRae, then suffering from her own marital tribulations, remembered: "We kneeled in front of her new fireplace and prayed with him for about an hour, and we both cried and hugged each other." More could be gleaned from this inspiring figure, Lucy decided, and invited Dr. and Mrs. Peale to dinner sand Desi. Peale asked if he might bring his brother along. She was only too glad to oblige. The brother, as it happened, was an obvious alcoholic, and when Lucy tried to steer the conversation around her current difficulties, Dr. Peale thrummed, "If only you knew what a role model you two are--a marriage with love."
Lucy followed that unsatisfactory meeting with another. She wrote to Peale "in heartbreaking tems, and so he invited her to come to New York." Psychiatrist Smiley Blanton "was Dr. Peale's right-hand man. Norman wanted it known that she could talk to Smiley--whose wife just 'happened' to have a sript for her to read." (Lucy did read the script of Mrs. Margaret Gray Blanton's best-seller, Bernadette of Lourdes, and persuaded Desi to have a look. He signed the author to adapt the book for television.) Deliberately ignoring evidence that she was being courted for her fame, Lucy devoured Peale's and Blanton's books. Surely these men would show her the way to tranquility.
Kanfer, page 226:
On Sundays, to bolster her flatting spirits, [Lucy] attended services at Marble Collegiate Church. There the celebrity-hunting Norman Vincent Peale dispensed commonsense advice. Lucy supplemented it with readings from The Art of Selfishness, by the self-styled psychology writer David Seabury. Students of Ayn Rand would recongize the similarity to that author's approach: "Here is a mysterious contradiciton. Those who toil for the good of others often lose the respect of those for whom they sacrifice. As we change, under the stress of helping, others may blame us for the lessening of our strength, health, ability to cope and our charm." For Lucy's bruised ego, here was the perfect salve, the assurance that she had no reason to feel guilty about taking care of Number One. "This little book revolutionized my life," she would maintain. "It taught me to worry less about all the outside factors in my life and take command of me. I learned to subject everything in my life to these questions: is this good for Lucy? Does it fill my needs? Is it good for my health, my peace of mind? Does my conscience agree, does it give me a spiritual life?" A paragraph in which "my" comes up seven times, "me" seven times, and "Lucy" and "I" on each indicates that altruism was not very high on her agenda ust then. Yet all this self-absorption did little to fend off the terrors of ill health, of encroaching age, of the feeling that she was losing her place on the board.
Gary Morton proposed, and Lucy accepted. Kanfer, page 230:
...she said in a determined voice: "All right. If Dr. Norman Vincent Peale is free to marry us this week, we'll go ahead."
The reverend was of course free, and on November 19, 1961, Lucille Ball and Gary Morton exchanged vows at Marble Collegiate Church in a ceremony attended by DeDe and the children, flown in for the occasion... Much symbolism, and not a little irony, attended the service. Lucy and Desi had also been married in November--twenty-one years before. When she and Gary applied for a license, Lucy wore the same outfit in which she had divorced Desi the previous years. She had done a little numerology when adding up the figures on her new marriage license and found that they equaled nineteen--"My lucky number!" she exclaimed to a reporter.
From "Lucille Ball" page on Find A Death.com website (http://www.findadeath.com/Deceased/b/Lucille%20Ball/lucille_ball.htm):
APRIL 2001 - Findadeath.com friends Tucker and D. Helbling send this in: The AFRP was a spin off of Marble Collegiate Church on lower Fifth Ave./NYC. (Julie Nixon?? married there; the Pastor was Norman Vincent Peale "The Power of Positive Thinking." Anyway! Lucy was on the board of directors of the AFRP and she gave $millions to the cause of mental health.
Lucille Ball's second husband Gary Morton (to whom she was married from 1961 until her death in 1989) was Jewish. Kanfer, pages 228-229:
And then there was Gary Morton, who showed up one day and settled into the guest house for several weeks... Desi... annoyed his ex-wife by expressing approval of her new man... And he was Jewish; that would bring additional complications [if] they married.
Kanfer, pages 253-254:
Mission: Impossible... starred Steven Hill, one of the charter members of the Actors Studio... Mission was to become one of the most successful programs in the Desilu stable... Hill caused some new, and eventually insurmountable, difficulties. He had become an Orthodox Jew, and his contract specified that he would not work Friday nights or Saturdays. There was no doubt of his sincerity; Hill spent a good deal of time organizing prayer meetings for the Jews working at Desilu. But refusal to work on the Sabbath, coupled with spectacular outbursts of temperment, were more than the show could bear. In the second season, Season Hill was unceremoniously replaced by Peter Graves. (For the next ten years, Hill abandoned acting and settled in an Orthodox community in Rockland County, New York. He was not to become a performer of note until his much-lauded appearance as a district attorney on Law & Order in 1990.)
Excerpt from letter that Lucy's ex-husband Desi Arnaz sent to their son, Desi Jr., from Kanfer, page 261:
Remember, good things do not come easy, and you will have your share of woe--the road is lined with pitfalls. But you will make it, if when you fail you try and try again. Persevere. Keep swinging. And don't forget that the Man Upstairs is always there, and all of us need His help. And no matter how unworthy you think yourself of it, don't be afraid to ask Him for it.
Good luck, son.
From Kanfer, page 293:
Lucy was to speak to her ex one more time, on November 30, 1986, repeating the words "I love you, Desi, I love you" on the phone. He asured her that he loved her, too. Had they stayed together it would have been their forty-sixth anniversary. Two days later he died in his daughter's arms... Lucy issued a statement to the press, carefully scrubbed of reference to their marriage: "Our relationship was very close, very amiable over the years, and now I'm grateful to God that Desi's suffering is over."
From Kanfer, page 294:
As the 1980s dwindled down, Lucy's main comforts came from her children. Desi Jr. had remained clean and had remarried, to Amy Bargiel, a recovered addict he had met at the New Life Foundation. The organization, dedicated to physical and spiritual renewal, turned the couple's life around.
From Kanfer, page 274:
At a screening of Woody Allen's cheeky Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex but Were Afraid to Ask, Lucy... erupted in fury: "Am I seeing a man making love to a sheep? Am I seeing a man who is married with children wearing a gown? Am I seeing a breast appearing over the horizon? Has civilization come to an end? Take this picture off! Now! Immediately! This is filth!" It was as if by an act of will she could push time backward, past the Vietnam War, the youthquake, the clanging music of the Doors, the lyrics of Bob Dylan warning his older listeners about what was blowing in the wind, the experiments with drugs, the sexual revolution, the bumber stickers reading QUESTION AUTHORITY--as if she could re-create 1952, when she and Desi ruled the airwaves and all things and all people were in their places and the music was good and the laughter did not come out of a can and the world was as stable as Twentieth Century-Fox.
From Kanfer, page 279:
When the filming concluded, Lucy gave out interviews pushing Mame as a family movie. She made it, she insisted, "because I don't want the industry to go down the sewer, and I mean sewer! There are too many lines around the wrong movie houses these days." She cited the Bernardo Bertolucci film Last Tango in Paris as a prime example of sex gone wrong. "I don't know why Marlon Brando would lower himself to do a film like that. I think there are a lot of dirty men making a fast buck--and confusing young people." She kept making that point wherever she journeyed...
From Kanfer, page 280:
People magazine Jim Watters... confessed he was less than enthusiastic about Mame [the movie Lucille Ball recently starred in], she should have stayed away from the subject. Instead she gave Watters a ten-minute diatribe on the deterioration of American cinema: "'Don't you think there is a need for pictures that won't stain to the nth degree every bone in your body? Don't you have enough reality so that in a theater you sould be entertained? I suppose you like covering the waterfront. I bet you even liked Last Tango [the mainstream but pornographic feature film starring Marlon Brando],' she asserted in her best basso tones."
From Kanfer, page 289:
The Boston Globe...: "At a recent press conference, [Lucille] Ball said she gave up on television comedy because it was all filth--'sex, sex, sex.'..."
From Kanfer, page 309:
[Lucy's] longtime friend Sheila MacRae remembered an occasion at the Arnazes. "We were all having dinner with William Holden and his wife and watching a movie, and Lucy said, 'Take it off. It's all about people having sex.'..."
From Kanfer, page 155:
Powerful as Lyons's words were, they could not alter the network's rigid internal law. Lucy could be "expecting" or "with child," but the word "pregnant" could not be uttered in prime time. After a series of unpleasant meetings. Oppenheimer arrivd at a solution. A priest, a rabbi, and a minister would vet each of the "baby show" scripts, and attend each of the screenings. If a phrase, a sequence, or even a word was found offensive it would be excised. "Everyone," he was pleased to report, "was enthusiastic about the idea of having the baby shows 'blessed' by local clergymen. The network executives were finally starting to get comfortable with what we had been tellling them all along--we could deal humorously with pregnancy on a television show and at the same time keep the program on a high moral plane."
From: Jennifer Emick, "Afro-carribean Syncretic Religions" on About.com's Alternative Religions forum (http://altreligion.about.com/library/faqs/bl_afrocarribean.htm; viewed 6 May 2005):
Afro-carribean Syncretic Religions... The origins of the Afro-Carribean sects (Known variously as Vodoun, Santeria/Lukumi, Candomble, Ifa, Palo Mayombe, etc.) are shrouded in the ancient past. Most were brought to the Americas by Yoruban slaves, (except for Palo, which is Bantu) who blended their tribal beliefs with Catholicism. Varieties of Yoruban religions are practiced in almost every country in the world. Most of the examples given here conform mainly to Santeria/Lukumi beliefs. The most common of the syncretic faiths are: Candomble
Santeria (Lukumi, Regla de Ocha)
it is estimated that seventy percent of Cubans are believers, and followers in the US number in the millions. Many practicing Catholics are also practitioners of syncretic religions...
Famous adherents: Desi Arnaz, Fidel Castro.
Fred M. Frohock, The Free Exercise of Religion: Lukumi and Animal Sacrifice, ICCAS Occasional Paper Series, November 2001 (http://www.miami.edu/iccas/Santeria.pdf), page 17:
Osha, like many religions, appeals to those who have problems that need to be addressed by a third party, and also to those whose lives are unusually hazardous and want protection of some sort. For eminently pragmatic reasons the religion is the choice of those in high-risk professions: deep sea divers, boxers, certain gamblers, smugglers, artists, drug dealers in particular. Entertainers, curiously enough, are also found in these ranks. Practitioners fondly remember Desi Arnaz and at least his surface homage to Osha by opening his act with the chant of "Babalu" culminating with the full name "Babaluaiye" (the orisha of disease and health) ["Babalúaiyé"].
Webpage created 1 June 2005. Last modified 19 August 2005.
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