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Yes, Little Ricky has grown up

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POSTED February 24, 2009 4:36 a.m.
Several generations of television viewers are familiar with the previous work of Keith Thibodeaux.
Of course, we all knew him as the adorable child actor in syndication on the “I Love Lucy” show. Thibodeaux played Little Ricky, the TV son of Desi and Lucy Ricardo. “Those days seem like four or five lifetimes ago,” he said during this weekend’s visit to Manteca.
As executive director of the professional dance troupe “Ballet Magnifcat!,” he was the guy behind the scenes. His wife, the former Kathy Denton, not only established the Christian ballet based in Jackson, Miss., but also performed on stage at Calvary Community Church.
Last Friday, I had the pleasure to sit down and talk to the 58-year-old former child actor during setup of the “Ballet Magnificat!” I was feeling perhaps a bit like James Brady, who used to do the celebrity profile for the Sunday newspaper supplement magazine, Parade.
Sadly, Brady passed away on Jan. 27.
Thibodeaux was much alive and in living color. A far cry, if I may add, from the days of his younger years as he now sported locks of gray hair.
Back then, the shows were shot in black and white. And as I recall in one of my college radio and TV classes, Desi Arnaz had practically invented the three-camera method of filming that is the standard.
 I couldn’t resist telling Thibodeaux of my own childhood memories of him.
Back then, when I was home sick and had to miss school, we had but the living room TV. Now I can’t recall whether we had a color set or that old black and white. But it really didn’t matter.
Shows such as “I Love Lucy,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and, for the most part, “The Beverly Hillbillies” were aired in black and white. I can remember being bundled up with the sniffles and a 100-degree temperature while watching this morning TV lineup.
Those were the days prior to cable hookup and TV viewing was pretty much regulated locally by the antenna frequency. For a time, we had one the rotating type, enabling our household to receive programs as far as the Bay Area stations.
But, for the most part, I had grown up watching TV with no more than four or five local stations, with shows such as “I Love Lucy” aired regularly.
Thibodeaux was part of my childhood. I saw several episodes of the show with him as Little Ricky. I even remember him playing the drums.
His stage name was Richard Keith. He was once classified as “The World’s Tinniest Professional Drummer.”
Thibodeaux’s father was said to have been a big fan of “I Love Lucy,” and his goal was to make his son part of the show during that sixth season.
The youngster won out in the talent search based on his drumming abilities and his similar looks to that of Desi Arnaz.
Thibodeaux, who also appeared as Opie’s friend on “The Andy Griffith Show” – I’m hoping someday catch one of those episodes – spends several months a year on the road for “Ballet Magnificat!” From Manteca, he along with his wife and the dance troupe were scheduled to travel south along Highway 99 to the town of Hanford.
I came away thrilled to have a chance to meet Keith Thibodeaux. I was even more impressed to see that Little Ricky was all grown up.
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