Actor Keith Thibodeaux played Little Ricky on I Love Lucy from 1955 until the show’s end and into its The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour years.
He was an adorable miniature version of Desi Arnaz, down to his impressive drumming talent.
Once it was all over, Thibodeaux moved on with his life. Years later, as a young man he received his final check from his work with Desilu. Here’s how he spent it.
Keith Thibodeaux’s stage name was Richard Keith
Desi Arnaz hired Thibodeaux at the age of 5 to play Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s school-aged son. Upon hearing the new cast member’s name, Arnaz wanted it changed.
As Thibodeaux himself explained in a 2005 conversation with the Archive of American Television, “That was Desi’s answer to people not being able to pronounce ‘Thibodeaux.’”
The Cuban star changed Thibodeaux’s name to Richard Keith.
“He thought that would be good, ‘Richard Keith,’ my name ‘Keith’ which was an aspect of who I really was and then ‘Richard’ could be like ‘Ricky.’”
Luci Arnaz thought Thibodeaux was her relative for many years
The Arnazes liked having their new show son come over and play with their actual children. They were all approximately the same age. Their firstborn child Lucie was 4 and Desi Jr. was 2 at the time. Thibodeaux was 5 years of age.
He was at their home so often that Lucie Arnaz thought he was just another member of their family.
“For a long time, I thought Keith was related to us because he went everywhere with us,” she said in a 2011 interview. “He was Desi’s best friend. Because of Keith, Desi learned to play the drums.
“My mother kind of adopted him in a way. He would go with us on weekends. Keith is in all of our home movies and all of our photographs growing up.”
Thibodeaux’s final ‘I Love Lucy’ check
The child actor born in 1950 was asked if he was able to live off of some of the funds from the I Love Lucy years. At the time he received his final check, he was in a rock band called David and the Giants.
“Yes,” he said. “I bought a PA for David and the band; I got a car. I wasn’t able to live off that [money]. It wasn’t that much money, frankly, when I turned 21.”
Thibodeaux opened up about his parents having to spend some of his money on expenses for himself and their large household.
“My parents had access to some of that money,” he said. “My parents put us through parochial school, private school. I guess the minimum was put away for me. We had a lot of kids in our family, you know, six kids.”
A father himself, Thibodeaux mused on his life as a child actor.
“I could definitely identify with a lot of the problems with child actors,” he said. “It’s a very unique position to put a kid in.”
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