I Love Lucy & Desi – because they were my secret grandparents, woman claims
By DAN MANGAN
New York Post
September 2, 2008
They were America’s favorite couple – charming the country on screen and off – but Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz may have been hiding a secret so scandalous, it would have shattered their public image.
Cassandria Lucianna Carlson, 38, believes that she is the legendary comic couple’s granddaughter – and that her mother was adopted in 1947 for fear that a baby would derail Ball’s plans for stardom.
The Illinois woman nearly had a DNA sample to prove the claims, but the offer from an estranged Arnaz relative was suddenly rescinded under circumstances that have only deepened the mystery. (Click ‘Continue Reading’ for more)
Madeline “Linda” Jane Dee, Carlson’s mother, was born four years before the 1951 debut of I Love Lucy and immediately given up for adoption to California nurse Ruth Smith.
Madeline “Linda” Jane Dee, as a child and as an adult. Is she the dauther of Ball and Arnaz?
Birth records indicate Helen Elizabeth Barnes as the mother. There is no listed father.
“I believe [Carlson],” said Vito Colucci, a Stamford, Conn., private detective who has called on Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr. – the couple’s only publicly known children – to “put this to rest” by providing DNA samples to test against Carlson. Desi Sr., died in 1986, and Ball died three years later.
Colucci cites facts that his client has “accumulated over the years” as the basis for his belief.
Carlson said she has vivid, early childhood memories of a brash, red-headed woman called “Mrs. Morton” coming to visit her at her mother’s house in the mid-1970s. Smith, the grandmother, was often present.
Ball took the name Morton after divorcing Desi Sr. in 1960 and marrying Gary Morton.
Carlson remembers the women playing cards or taking her to the playground. She even remembers at least one visit by Mr. Morton.
Dee – whose troubled adult life included multiple drug and prostitution arrests, several marriages and domestic abuse – died in 2003 when she was hit by a bus in California.
Carlson phoned Smith from a funeral home to help locate Dee’s birth records.
During that call, said Carlson, Smith asked, “Are you sitting down?” and told her that Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were her mother’s parents. But Smith, who has since passed away, warned her that she would never find a record of their parentage.
In Carlson’s mind, that shocking statement cemented what she had long suspected.
She said she once asked Dee if it was true, and her mom replied, “It could be, but what does it matter?”
But in 2004, the identity of Carlson’s real grandparents became pressing when she fell ill with what was thought to be a hereditary condition.
In an effort to see if the Arnaz family suffered from the same malady, Carlson’s husband, Dennis, wrote to Lucie Arnaz, who was born in 1951, and suggested Carlson was related to Ball and Arnaz.
“I must inform you we’re almost certainly not related,” Lucie Arnaz wrote the Carlsons in a May 25, 2004, reply.
“In 1947, my parents were married and wanted nothing more than to have a baby together,” Lucie wrote. “They struggled for 10 years with infertility and miscarriage until I came along in 1951. My mother would never have given up a child of hers nor would my father have let her.”
Carlson hasn’t been dissuaded. She says her two sons strikingly resemble Desi Sr., and is intent on proving a family connection.
Her best hope was a DNA offer in July by Desi Arnaz Jr.’s out-of-wedlock daughter, Julia Arnaz.
It was abruptly withdrawn, and a short time later, the Arnaz family publicly acknowledged Julia’s paternity apparently for the first time – taking steps to end what several people said was her deep alienation from the famed clan.
“It’s way too coincidental,” Carlson said of the timing. “One can only conclude they thought she was going to get too close to me and she was going to give the DNA.”
Before changing her mind, Julia “was very, very adamant, saying, ‘We need to do the DNA, we need to put your mother in her right place,’ ” Carlson recalled.
Julia Arnaz, 39, denies her dad played any role in changing her mind about giving Carlson a DNA sample.
However, the Connecticut resident confirmed she initially offered the genetic material to Carlson “because she’s in the same position that I was a long time ago” – referring to a court-ordered paternity test Julia obtained in 1991 from Desi Jr., who impregnated her model mom when he was just 15.
“But that’s not my place” to prove Carlson is another Ball-Arnaz granddaughter, said Julia, who claims her reconciliation with Desi Jr. and her stepmom occurred several years ago, and not, as others assert, in the past month-and-a-half after making the DNA offer.
“We’re really working on me threading back to the family,” said Julia, who claims to be three years sober after a long history of substance abuse and multiple drug and other arrests.
She now does not believe Carlson’s claim to be relative “because that’s what my family told me,” said Julia, who admittedly has met her dad just twice as an adult.
But in e-mails she sent Carlson in mid-July – after first becoming aware of her existence – Julia wrote, “I do know you are my cousin,” and, “I’m the one who wants you to get the DNA done.”
Julia then abruptly stopped talking to Carlson after having told her that “people” in Jamestown, NY – Ball’s birthplace and home of the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center – had contacted her and wanted her to visit, Carlson said.
Less than two weeks later, in an odd posting on her personal blog, Desi Jr.’s wife, Amy, wrote, “Desi & I has [sic] always had a Julie in our lives, beginning with his oldest daughter, Julia Arnaz (a k a Julie).”
The posting noted that Desi and Amy once had an adopted cat named Julie, and currently were enjoying eating Julie’s Organic Ice Cream while on vacation in the Pacific Northwest.
“Good things come in threes,” wrote Amy Arnaz, whose posting appears to be the first time she has publicly stated that Julia is her stepdaughter.
The professional biography of Desi Jr., an actor and musician, makes no mention of Julia, although it does mention Amy’s daughter as his stepdaughter. Desi Jr.’s 1953 birth was mirrored in a landmark TV episode of I Love Lucy with the birth of “Little Ricky” Ricardo to his parents’ comic characters.
Johnna Paradis, a Stamford, Conn., woman who until recently was friends with Julia and was planning to write Julia’s memoir, told The Post that Julia’s relationship with Desi Jr. and her stepmother, Amy, was “non-existent” until two months ago.
Paradis said Desi Jr. never called Julia on her birthdays and routinely changed his phone number whenever Julia managed to get a call through to him. She also said Julia and she in July met with a lawyer to discuss possibly suing Desi Jr. for intentional infliction of emotional distress because of his lack of contact with her.
And Paradis said that in mid-July she and Julia contacted a DNA lab to discuss doing a test to confirm Carlson was Julia’s cousin. When an emotional Julia called Amy in mid-July and said she wanted to speak to Desi Jr. about Carlson, Amy repeatedly demanded to know, “How’d you get this number?” said Paradis, who listened in on the call.
Julia did not confirm that version of the call. She has repeatedly claimed to have a good relationship with her stepmother.
Desi Jr. and his cabaret-singer sister, Lucie Arnaz, did not respond to repeated requests for comment.