Years before he tried to lure Elian Gonzalez back to Cuba, Fidel Castro unsuccessfully tried to convince the son of famed Cuban bandleader and I Love Lucy star Desi Arnaz to visit his father's homeland.
Desi Arnaz Jr. tells TV Guide Online that he turned down an invitation from Castro to attend Cuba's annual Ernest Hemingway Fishing and Tennis Tournament five years ago. The junior Arnaz, son of late Hollywood legends Arnaz and Lucille Ball, says he'd like to one day visit the country but he's not willing to do so as long as Castro's Communist regime remains in power.
"If it ever becomes a free country, I'll have a house there," says Arnaz, 47, who today calls Nevada home. "People want to go back, they just don't want to go back with him."
Cuba is of special interest to Arnaz, whose father fled the country in 1933 and left behind relatives that still live there today. The younger Arnaz, who made a name for himself as one of the members of the 1960s bubble-gum pop band Dino, Desi and Billy, says he and former partner Billy Hinsche have even composed a song, "Patria," about a modern-day Cuban family that finds success in America.
Arnaz certainly knows a thing or two about successful ex-Cubans, given the enduring success of his parents' TV classic, I Love Lucy. The sitcom continues to be a staple on Nick at Nite and CBS is considering a 2001 prime-time special to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary. "They were good, but what is this phenomenon?" asks an amazed Arnaz. "I don't get it, but that's just me. Maybe it was the music, I don't know."