Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill
'Ultimately, success requires taking action and making choices."
Three years ago, I was appreciative Lucie took the time to chat with me. You can read her first profile here: https://www.onstageblog.com/profiles/lucie-arnaz-luckinbill.
It was a rather humorous experience attempting to connect via Zoom with each other this time. Our email correspondence was filled with comical attempts to schedule due to our different time zones on the West and East coasts. After much online effort, we finally managed to connect and had a good chuckle about the whole situation, agreeing that it was quite the “clusterf&%k.”
I felt highly comfortable picking up where we last left off three years ago. Lucie’s wry sense of humour and love of life remain keen and sharp as ever.
Everyone is well in her immediate family:
“Knock wood, babe. Everybody’s doing great. My brother and I are getting on. I’ll be 72 in July, and Desi’s 18 months younger. He and I are healthy. I have three beautiful grandchildren. My three children are working and happy, and my two stepsons are working and happy. Larry is of a certain age, and he has all of his wits about him. I’m a very, very grateful gal, very lucky.”
Lucie calls these last three Covid years a great exercise in the study of impermanence, the good and the ugly. Covid’s always going to be here, so we just had to get used to that going forward. Change is inevitable, and you have to live in the moment and live for tomorrow but be ready for the plans to change. A lot of stuff has happened to all of us in these last few years, and we’ve learned this the hard way.
She also had a knee replacement and had just returned from her physiotherapy before our conversation. Calling herself a late bloomer, a come-from-behind horse, as it has taken almost a year to recover, Lucie was up and around a few days after the surgery, but the knee still swells. She coyly stated she’s not tap dancing yet, but her knee is almost back to normal. It’s totally fine at the moment. She’s not in any hurry regarding the other knee, given what she experienced in this first recovery phase.
Lucie also travelled to Kenya in February of this year as part of Craft Tours group with Jim West and said it was ‘life-changing.’ It was a culture none of them on the tour could even imagine. In her words, the tour was a hell of a lot more than a safari.
She can’t wait to return:
“The combination of the magnificence of the wild animals that you see, the tenaciousness and the kindness of the Kenyan people. I was astounded. Every person I met was polite and gentle, and smiling. And they live in such abhorrent poverty most of the time. The children have to walk four miles to school by themselves. Some of them are 5 years old. They’re in the dust and dirt to sell whatever they can make on the streets”.
It was an entirely different world outside the walls of beautiful trees surrounding the hotel. The Kibera slum in Kenya was one of the worst seen anywhere. She also spoke of touring a school where it was exorbitantly costly (around $240 US for one year) to send a child. That’s not a lot of money, so Arnaz and a few of her friends took each of the six kids individually and paid for them to attend the school for the next three years. Arnaz rationalized this school fee payment in comparison to shopping weekly at the grocery store.
When the tour group returned, the hoops she and her friends had to jump through to send the money for the next three years in support of these six students seemed insurmountable. Finally, a bank account was established where the money would be deposited and then distributed to the students at the school. Arnaz and the group were assured that no money laundering or distributing would go elsewhere except to the students. But tracking down and ensuring the money was going through the proper channels was hard.
Arnaz is now back to touring her concert shows across the U.S., postponed during the pandemic. ‘I Got the Job: Songs from My Musical Past’ opens in New York’s 54 Below on July 19 and runs to July 22 inclusive. I’m attending the opening night to review and looking forward to returning to the city and finally seeing Lucie at her nightclub performance.
How does she feel about venturing back to the Big Apple?
“There’s nothing quite like it. There isn’t another city anywhere that’s like the hub of fashion, industry, finance, theatre, and music. It’s a town that embraced me and welcomed me, and that’s a wonderful feeling. Larry and I have many friends on the east coast, so it’s an opportunity to get caught up, see them, and have them come to see the show…when I’m working there, it’s just like I’m Cinderella at the Ball. There’s no place like it.”
Yes, Lucie is cognizant of the constant traffic, construction, and noise compared to the peaceful environs of Palm Springs, where she and Larry live. She balances that by comparing New York to a big campus where all the performers are in a concentrated area. At a particular hour of the night, everyone is walking to work from the nightclubs to the theatres and restaurants, and everyone is waving to each other. How cool is that?
As a proud Canadian, I asked when she was planning to cross the border and come to Toronto.
She smiled and wished she was in charge of wherever she went. She would love to call up a venue or theatre and say: “I’m ready, willing and able,” but concert bookings don’t work that way. Any interested persons are to go to Lucie’s website and follow the instructions.
Toronto producers and concert venue promoters – are you listening?
Yet a lot has changed in how Lucie approaches her concert work. Depending on scheduling and if an artist gets sick, it can change on a dime. Lucie isn’t naïve to think Covid is gone because it’s not. It’s still out there. She’s constantly on the alert:
“I wear a mask everywhere, not because of getting sick or feeling unwell; I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to leave. I leave in ten days for New York for my show that has been postponed four times, and I don’t want to get sick. I have to be very cautious.”
The aftermath of Covid has also affected Lucie’s concert work. She used to love to come out to the audience to chat, pose for pictures and autographs and sell CDs. She can’t do that anymore.
Instead, she wears a mask when she does go out to greet people. She feels guilty if people want to take pictures, but she has to face the reality that she can’t get sick. Larry Luckinbill (Lucie’s husband) is of a certain age, so she also has to be cognizant and aware of him and his health.
Lucie doesn’t have any theatre work lined up at the present time except for the concerts. She loves live audiences and feels at home in her concerts. Regarding any upcoming plays in the future, she calls herself a woman of a certain age. She would have to be super passionate about the material to leave Larry or uproot him if she is cast in an 8 show per week schedule.
She couldn’t say no to the revival of ‘Pippin’ several years ago. Although she only had one scene where she played Berthe and got to sing that terrific song, ‘No Time at All,’ Lucie also was trained to do a trapeze routine high above the stage. That was an experience she was glad to fulfil.
Family is vital to Arnaz. She and Larry are in what she calls ‘the third act,’ and her husband remains rightly so her priority. They want to spend as much time together as they possibly can, so at this time, producing, directing and concert work suits Lucie just fine. But that doesn’t exclude any producers from contacting her if there is an upcoming project. She reads everything, and if it entices her, she, and Larry talk about the project. It all depends on what the project is, where it is and for how long.
Although artists cannot earn a decent living at the theatre, Lucie says it’s the place where her heart has always been. If she didn’t love it, she wouldn’t do it anymore. There’s much rejection in this business, and she still would tell up-and-coming artists not to be bothered by that. It’s an opportunity to be tenacious, to learn and practice. Rejection is never personal in the theatre.
Arnaz was fortunate to have had her start on her mother's television show, which opened doors for her. She seized the opportunity and never looked back, knowing that having an advantage only gets you so far. Ultimately, success requires taking action and making choices, especially when bills need to be paid. Lucie faced a similar dilemma, as she had a passion for both family and live performing/theatre. Balancing these two aspects of her life was not always easy, and every choice required careful consideration.
Speaking of television shows, Lucie also appeared in the early 90s in the terrific comedy/drama ‘Sons and Daughters’ and loved working on it. Is there any talk of her appearing in another show anytime soon:
“There are about five and a half people who can plan their television future and 55,000 in the Screen Actors Guild. (and we both had a good laugh). No, I don’t have any plans. Sometimes things come my way, and I turn them down because I’m not passionate about them…I pick and choose my work carefully.”
As we wrapped our Zoom conversation, I threw some quickie questions to get an immediate response.
1. If your life was turned into a live performance play/musical, whom would you like to see play you? Larry? Your brother? Your parents?
I have the same answer for all these individuals – “The best damn actors of the time with a damn good script.” Who knows when that will happen? It would depend on what ages of Larry, my brother and me. I think enough has been done about my parents, so I can’t see that happening anytime soon. But I’m not in charge.
2. What book(s) are you reading right now?
Generally, I’m not a book reader since I don’t have the time. I do the shopping and the cooking and other things, so that’s my priority. When I have an opportunity, I read a lot of books by listening to them, and that has helped me to get through a number of them. I love biographies more than fiction. I’ve been reading everything from Mel Brooks’ autobiography to Michelle and Barack Obamas, Carl Reiner, and Randy Rainbow’s.
3. Is there a particular place you have not been to yet, but feel drawn to visit?
Ireland. We’re going next June with the Craft Tours, and I’ll do my show. Larry will come with me this time. He really wants to go. I’ve never been there so I really want to see it.
4. You and Larry have been married for 43 years. What’s one piece of advice you would give to newlyweds? To new grandparents?
To newlyweds and married people – ‘Never give up.’ Stuff happens; you get mad at some dumb stuff and can have some really bad fights. Go back into the room and say you’re sorry, even if it’s not your fault. Don’t give up. People don’t know how to talk about stuff today.
To new grandparents – “Enjoy every blessed minute because it goes by so fast. Don’t be judgmental. Let your children raise their children and be there for them.”
5. You’ve been elected President of the United States for one week. What would you focus on and try to change in that week?
Global warming, helping the planet survive and convincing the world this is a priority. It’s the one thing that scares me more than Donald Trump, more than gun control, more than women’s rights being taken away, more than Russia, more than China. It’s the planet, for God’s sake. If we don’t have the planet, none of this other stuff matters.
To learn more about Lucie and her concert work, visit her website, www.luciearnaz.com. You can also follow Lucie on Facebook: @LucieArnazOfficial.
‘I Got The Job: Songs from My Musical Past’ plays at 54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, Cellar, New York City, July 19 – 22, 2023, inclusive. For tickets and more information, visit 54below.org. I’ll post my review after opening night.