Is I Love Lucy the real Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, the Vault of the Adepti, the Island Beneath the Sea? Robert Anton Wilson used to talk about “the sect of Fred Mertz, Bodhisattva,” and its adherents’ simple creed:
They believe that if you look at enough I Love Lucy re-runs when you’re really wasted, eventually you’ll hear Fred reveal the most esoteric Zen teachings. . . .
If that sounds far-fetched, consider this: Ricky Ricardo’s signature song was addressed to a fearsome deity in the Yoruba pantheon. For practitioners of Santería, Babalú-Ayé is the orisha who controls health and prosperity. You want to be very cool around Babalú-Ayé because he can cover you with boils or give you the Ebola. The next time a conga drum tempts you to do your impression of Ricky Ricardo singing “Babalú,” remember that you might be mocking the god who decides whether you catch leprosy. Ixnay on the abalúbay!
Below, in his hit version of Margarita Lecuona’s song, Desi Arnaz lights 17 candles and offers aguardiente, tobacco and money to the orisha in exchange for a woman’s love. (Whereas I personally would just ask for no Ebola, Mr. Babalú sir, please and thank you.) Further down, Ricky puts on voodoo drag for a big number at the Tropicana, and the Ricardos and the Mertzes fly to Cuba.
Desi Arnaz and his Orchestra, ‘Babalú,’ 1947:
‘I Love Lucy’ season two, episode 16, ‘Lucy Goes to the Hospital’:
‘I Love Lucy’ season six, episode nine, ‘The Ricardos Visit Cuba’: