Lucy Saroyan was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of the writer William Saroyan and the actress Carol Grace. Her brother is writer Aram Saroyan. Following her parents' second divorce, her mother married the actor Walter Matthau, and Lucy later worked alongside her stepfather in a number of his films. She was known during her lifetime as an actress (Blue Collar, Hopscotch) and for her close relationships with many of the most celebrated figures of the day.
Her Polaroid portraits of celebrities from the 1970s and 80s, discovered after her death in 2003, illuminate these intimate friendships. Many of these photographs have been exhibited subsequently in a number of galleries in the US and abroad.