Posted in Blogs,Dan Guerrero,LatinopiaApril 16, 2012
¡LATINO HOLLYWOOD! – Everyone loves a good rags to riches story. Maybe it all started with Cinderella. Not that there haven’t been male versions along the way, too. There’s a new Cubano in town that has the current rags to riches tale all sewn up and it very much mirrors the life of an earlier Cubano, Desi Arnaz who arrived in the U.S. with nothing and made it big in Hollywood. The 2012 version is, of course, William Levy. The guy is well known to Spanish language audiences through torrid novelas, but American TV’s “Dancing with the Stars” has made him THE hot new discovery and Flavor of the Semana. Levy arrived in the U.S. from Cuba with his family as a child of nine. As with many that have made that journey, they had nothing. And now he’s on the cover of People Magazine where he may be more used to People en Español. He’s even being auctioned off at this week’s Hispanic Heritage Awards in DC. Only for lunch. Don’t you love a good rags to riches story?
¡TEATRO! – LA theatre lovers are looking forward to the world premiere of the musical “Los Otros” at the Center Theatre Group’s Mark Taper Forum set to open on June 3. Buenos Aires-born Graciele Daniele directs the piece that will integrate several California stories that span many decades. The first act features a Southern California woman who encounters Mexican immigrants and in the second act, we meet a Mexican-American man first as a 12 year-old boy working in the fields and then as a 75 year-old man. Puerto Rican-born Julio Monge stars along with Tony award winner Michele Pawk with book and lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and music by Michael John LaChiusa. The cast and creators are all major Broadway veterans with credits and awards that are way too many to list in this space. Daniele began her stellar dance career at the Teatro Colon in Argentina and moved on to study ballet in Paris where she saw a production of “West Side Story” and that was it. She packed up and moved to New York and started dancing in Broadway musicals before turning to choreography and directing. Many years ago, I was casting a TV movie about dancers that Daniele was set to choreograph before breaking her leg. No problem. The lady would sit immobile on the floor in a rehearsal room with her leg in a heavy cast, shouting out in her delicious accented English and commanding attention. She got those dancers to do exactly what she needed. An awesome and multi-talented lady. ¡HASTA PRONTO!
¡Artes y Cultura! – Do you believe in miracles? There’s a true milagro unfolding on a wall in downtown LA on Calle Olvera, the birthplace of Los Angeles. The milagro being the long awaited conservation and exhibition of America Tropical, the epic mural by Mexican master David Alfaro Siqueiros unseen for more than 70 years. Siqueiros lived in LA for many months back in 1932 and was commissioned to paint something to celebrate “tropical America” that might give a boost to tourism on Olvera Street. If anyone was expecting lovely palm trees and exotic birds, forget it. Suffice to say in this short space that the politics featured in the mural facing City Hall, of all places, created an uproar and an almost instant whitewashing of the masterpiece followed by deportation of the maestro when his visa ran out. The local artistic and political communities have driven many attempts through the decades to save the mural and it’s finally happening thanks to the Getty Conservation Institute, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City of Los Angeles.
The Siquieros Mural Center will include a protective shelter, a viewing platform and an interpretive center set to open to the public in October, 2012. I got a recent sneak preview thanks to Chris Espinosa of the Mayor’s office along with my Amigos de Siqueiros advisory board co-chair Dalila Sotelo and Pueblo Commissioner Carol Jacques. One word – Wow! Amigos de Siqueiros is proud to be on the team as a programming partner for this cultural landmark. www.amigosdesiqueiros.org
¡LATINO HOLLYWOOD! – Is the big screen ready for La Magnifica Salma Hayek teaming with El Intenso Benecio del Toro as jefes of a Mexican drug cartel? ¡Ay, Chihuahua! Actually, Baja California is where the two headquarter. Things get rough and ugly when a couple of California pot growers start to crowd Salma and Benecio’s lucrative turf in idyllic Laguna Beach. They all eventually have to watch out for a ferocious John Travolta as the DEA agent after the whole bunch. Controversial director Oliver Stone (“Platoon,” “Natural Born Killers) is the man behind the cameras in the aptly titled “Savages” set for release in the fall. Throw in the elegant and mysterious Uma Thurman who played with Travolta in the classic “Pulp Fiction” and you get a helluva film dripping with big stars, drugs, sex and steam. ¡HASTA PRONTO!
¡HOLA TODOS! – Cheating a little this week since this blog is about Latino arts and culture in our Pueblo de Los Angeles. But, just back from a week in the Big Manzana and must report the Latino presence in Times Square in two very different ways. A big marquee boasts the name of the Puerto Rican kid that leapt from teen heartthrob to superpop star and most recently to fatherhood and life as an out and proud gay man. Ricky Martin is starring as Che in the big “Evita” revival and the crowds are eating him up. The 40 year-old Martin is no stranger to the New York stage. He starred in “Les Miserables” about sixteen years ago, probably never dreaming he would return one day with twin sons. And peering down at Ricky from giant billboards across the street is the gorgeous Sofia Vergara, sipping and loving her diet Pepsi. Don’t you just love Latino Broadway?
¡Y ESTO! – I’m a big fan of anyone that celebrates Latino arts and culture, especially when it comes from our younger generation. Meet Richard Moreno de Martinez. He found me through a mutual friend because he had a rare recording of my Dad’s he wanted to give me. So, I schlep out to La Princesa Record Store on Lincoln in Venice belonging to his Godmother Margaret. She’s owned the joint for 39 years. Margaret tells me Richard used to sit in her store every day after school when he was about 12, just listening to all the great artists. He admits he didn’t understand a word anyone was singing, “but the passion behind the voice intrigued me, especially Amalia Mendoza.” So, there Richard sits on this day busy at the computer transferring discs to a WMA file to preserve and clean up the sound. I don’t know anything about WMA files or any of the tech work he is doing. I only know he is archiving and preserving our music and he’s made a brisk business of buying and selling rare LP recordings. Music lovers can reach him at Moreno.firstname.lastname@example.org ¡HASTA PRONTO!
Posted in Blogs,Dan GuerreroMarch 25, 2012
Our very, very busy Latinopia entertainment and culture blogger Dan Guerrero is off to the East Coast this week, hobnobbing with East Coast Latino celebrities, movers and shakers, but of course, the hoi polloi as well–Dan is no elitist! From barrio backyard and cerveceria to Broadway, Lincoln Center and the Mark taper Forum–that’s our Dan! Watch for his blog next week!
Posted in Blog,Dan Guerrero,LatinopiaMarch 19, 2012
Guerrero & Richard Montoya
¡HOLA TODOS! – Opening night of “American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City drew the Latino Literati by the fistful, in addition to Kirk Douglas himself and anyone that loves theatre and those Culture Clash boyz Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza. In the crowd were Production Manager Jose Delgado, Center Theatre Group honcho Diane Rodriguez, Director and Los Angeles Theatre Company jefe Jose Luis Valenzuela and playwright/LATC also- jefe Evelina Fernandez – two of my all time favorite married couples. (JD and Diane, Jose Luis and Evelina to be clear here.) “American Night” is a unique take on U.S. history – part play, part vaudeville, part delicious lunacy and serious social conscience. All was developed by Culture Clash and Jo Bonney and written by Montoya. He and Siguenza are also in the cast that includes René Millan, Stephanie Beatriz, Daisuke Tsuji and Rodney Gardiner joined by other talents in multiple roles with a gaggle of mustaches, beards, wigs, costumes and props zapped on and off at a frenetic pace. Show runs through April 1, so zap on whatever you drive and don’t miss it.
JD & Diane, Evelina &José Luis
¡LATINO HOLLYWOOD! – Kudos, as we say in show biz, to NBC for renewing its NCLR Alma Awards partnership for a second year. The big night ain’t until September 21, 2012, so don’t start getting out the tuxes and gowns quite yet. That time of year, of course, is Hispanic Heritage Month when everyone thinks we’re just fabulous (for 30 days or so.) Hard to believe the awards night that honors Latinos in entertainment first hit the small screen in 1995. There’ve been a few bumps along the road. We even lost it for a bit, but our gorgeous Eva Longoria becoming a big star helped get it back on track along with the leadership of National Council of La Raza prexy and CEO Janet Murguia. Eva serves as host and exec producer. You can’t argue with two strong Latinas, Hollywood. This also says a lot about NBC that, of course, is teamed with Telemundo and working hard at reaching and celebrating Latinos in the U.S.
¡HOLA TODOS! – Was an historic gathering of Chicano heroes on hand at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in our querido pueblo de Los Angeles last weekend. Was for the unveiling of a monument commemorating the recent “official apology” by the California State Legislature for the Repatriation of the 1930s. LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina, Sect. of Labor Hilda Solis, actress/activist Eva Longoria, MALDEF President & General Counsel Tom Saenz and the iconic Dolores Huerta (all pictured here) were joined by former Congressman Esteban Torres, Senator Gil Cedillo and other dignitaries to honor the hundreds of thousands of American citizens and legal residents of Mexican heritage that were forcibly “relocated” to Mexico from our Golden sate during the depression. An additional estimated 2 million across the country with approximately one million of them U.S. citizens got the same treatment. Perhaps not surprising that most of America knows nothing of this ugly piece of U.S. history. Funny what gets left out of history books in our beautiful country. And we do love our country warts and all.
Dan Guerrero with Roselyn Sanchez
¡LATINO HOLLYWOOD! – Fans of TV’s “Desperate Housewives” have been wearing black to mourn the passing of the American novela during its “adios’ season. But the sabor Latina will not only linger on ABC thanks to the trail blazed by fan favorite Eva Longoria, it will quadruple. Take off the widow’s weeds, viewers. ABC is filming the pilot, “Devious Maids” starring Judy Reyes (“Scrubs,”) Dania Ramirez (“Heroes,”) Ana Oritz (“Ugly Betty,”) and Roselyn Sanchez (pictured here) from TV’s “Without a Trace” and on the big screen in “Rush Hour 2” and “Chasing Papi.” Always good to see our gente working, but some are cautious because all four ladies play – hello? – maids.
Si. Criadas. But, let’s not jump to conclusions. “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry is behind the pilot that is based on the novela, “Ellas Son La Alegia del Hogar” and although these maids work in Beverly Hills for the rich and famous, insiders insist the characters won’t be stereotypes. OK. Vamos a ver.”
Posted in Blogs,Dan Guerrero,LatinopiaFebruary 26, 2012
Ritchie Valens Display at Grammy Museum
¡HOLA TODOS!- Fun and fabuloso reception at the Grammy Museum this week to kick off the new exhibit, “Trouble in Paradise: Music and Los Angeles, 1945-1975.” Guest curator and USC professor Josh Kun has put together a dazzling show with music memorabilia through those post WWII years and buenas noticias. The contribution of Latino musicians is very well documented from Ritchie Valens to Li’l Willie G, El Chicano and my Dad, Lalo Guerrero, among many. (And, no, I will not write about Dad every week. Pure coincidence he was in last week’s blog, tambien.) The timeline that guides the exhibit is beautifully put together and clearly illustrates how political events of the day – from the Watts Riots to the Chicano Moratorium – exploded into music. The talk by the talented Kun after the reception and strolling the exhibit filled out the evening. The show is there through the rest of the year. So, if you ain’t been to the Grammy Museum at LA Live, this is the best excuse ever. Kudos Kun!
Lalo Guerrero Display at Grammy Museum
Y ESTO – And Kudos to Comcast TV for closing a deal to create four new “networks” including two Latino themed and headed by – Wow, Latinos. Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (“El Mariachi,” “Spy Kids”) is honcho for the English language El Rey Network aimed at Latino and general audiences with a mix of high quality music, comedy, sports, reality and animated programming. And Rodriguez is taking his time to get it right. The launch is not expected until January, 2014. The other Latino themed network is “BabyFirst Americas” aimed at, yep, Latino baby boomers and their niños y niñas. Spanish language TV vet Constantino Swarz heads this one set to preem this April. Mighty pronto. There were over 100 proposals submitted for the open slots with these two among the four new indies. The other two are targeting African American and general audiences and headed by Sean “Diddy “ Combs and “Magic” Johnson. All will be distributed on Comcast Cable systems nationwide. Hope they have smoother sailing than Oprah’s OWN. ¡Ay, Chihuahua!
Posted in Blogs,Dan Guerrero,LatinopiaFebruary 20, 2012
Tony Plana, Dan Guerrero and friends
¡HOLA TODOS! Our longtime amigo Tony Plana is best known these days as Ugly Betty’s proud papa and as the abusive step papa that gets knocked off (not knocked up) in Desperate Housewives. But, Tony is a better man these days filming an original Hallmark Channel Original Movie, “Meddling Mom” opposite la deliciosa Sonia Braga. Add Saundra Santiago (The Sopranos) and George Contreras (The O.C.) and things are looking good for Latinos on the American tele. Tony started his stellar career on stage in the original LA production of Zoot Suit and, bless him, still keeps his Cuban-born heart in the theatre. He co-founded the East LA Repertory Theatre that takes the classics and gives them a shot of salsa adding Latino flavor. The photo here shows a proud Tony next to his young cousin, opera singer Daniel Montenegro at a recital a while back.
José Aguirre & Carlos Almaráz Monument
ARTES Y CULTURAS: There are hidden art treasures all over El Pueblo de Los Angeles aka LA and contrary to semi-popular belief, it ain’t all on the Westside. Yeah, no shortage of public art in Beverly Hills, Westwood or in my hood of West Hollywood. But, check out the work of Mexican-born artist Jose Antonio Aguirre on the eastside of town in El Sereno. His A Luminaries Journey celebrates Latinos in the arts in a series of standing sculptures produced in Huichapan Mexican limestone with Byzantine mosaic of fusion glass each sculture weighing between two and three tons. Jose took me on a walk of the monuments because two of them had very special meaning. Standing along the wide street were tributes to songstress Vikki Carr, early screen beauty Lupe Velez, latin jazz great Eddie Cano and two that were very special to me. One for my boyhood best friend, late Chicano artist Carlos Almaraz (photo) and one for my Dad, the late Father of Chicano Music, Lalo Guerrero. Each have been honored through the years in various ways, but this is the first time they stand together. Left me a little speechless. A rare thing. Jose next took me to the East LA Library where two of his two massive mosaic murals grace the entrance. Aguirre is an incredible artist with a great corazon who still finds time to teach a mural program to young Latinos at a middle school in Pasadena sponsored by the Amory Center for the Arts. ¡Bravo Jose Antonio!
Posted in Blogs,Dan Guerrero,LatinopiaFebruary 12, 2012
¡Hola, todos! Thanks for checking out this new Los Angeles blog. El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula aka L.A. is a diverse love it and hate it pueblo. Love the weather. Hate the traffic. Love the theatres, museums, concerts, film screenings and TV tapings. Hate the traffic. Love the myriad cultures that fill the streets and feed the soul from East LA to Beverly Hills and from the Valley to Hollywood. Hate the traffic. You’ll get it all here every week. And no traffic.
Perla Batalla, Dan Guerrero
Artes y CulturaA recent evening found me at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for a concert in their Bing Theatre, part of LACMA’s “Art & Music” series. The Eclipse String Quartet made beautiful music in the first act and mi amiga, singer/songwriter Perla Batalla, was her usual wondrous self in Act II. Perla was joined by her amazing musicians: John Beasley (ate up the piano!), Pete’ Korpela (percussion) and her collaborator David Batteau on guitar. All this in conjunction with the LACMA exhibit “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the U.S.” LACMA commissioned Perla to write a song that would celebrate the exhibit and in doing research of the artists in the show, she tells me she and Batteau became obsessed with Frida Kahlo. Who isn’t? They ended up writing ten songs about Frida and her husband/tormentor Diego Rivera and now hope to create a musical about the explosive couple. If you missed the concert, see the exhibit there through May 6.
Esto y el otro Count down to the Oscars and a renewed faith in the process with the Best Actor nomination for Demian Bicher for “A Better Life.” Read somewhere that the director kept referring to Bechir’s monologue to his son near the end of this wonderful film as “the Oscar scene.” How true. Recall when I saw it early on, I muttered to a friend, “This is an Oscar performance. Fat chance! Small film, Latino themed. No way.” But there is Bicher along with the Big Boys of Hollywood. Milagros do happen. Who knows who will take the Oscar home, but Bicher has already won big time. And a really nice guy, too……The CBS-TV series “Rob” is growing its viewing audience with Rob Schneider, Cheech Marin, Lupe Ontiveros, Diana Maria Riva, Claudia Bassols and new to English language audiences, Eugenio Derbez in lead roles. Love our Cheech, Lupe y todos, but Eugenio is the big new surprise. Mexico City born and a big name in Spanish language entertainment, he’s the son of Mexican film and TV star Sylvia Derbez. A great talent and they give him plenty to do on the show. A new fan in me.
Posted in Blogs,Dan Guerrero,LatinopiaMarch 11, 2012
Greg Nava & Lupe Ontiveros
¡HOLA TODOS! – MALDEF prexy Tom Saenz hosted a special screening of a new film that revealed a piece of Mexican history unknown to me and to others I’ve asked. Never too viejo to learn, I guess. Andy Garcia, Eduardo Verastegui, Peter O’Toole and Eva Longoria star in FOR GREATER GLORY (CRISTIADA – THE STRUGGLE TO BELIEVE) from Executive Producer Pablo Barroso. http://www.cristiadafilm.com It’s the epic story of the Cristeros War of the late 1920s, not long after the Mexican Revolution. This “holy war” was an uprising and rebellion against the government’s attempt to secularize Mexico, if you can imagine this deeply Catholic country murdering priests and destroying churches. No big surprise Mejicanos y Mejicanas fought back and Mexico once again found itself in a full fledged civil war. The film is lushly photographed with a sweeping score by James Horner (TITANIC, AVATAR) and the actors all deliver. Fave thing about screenings is running into friends like filmmaker Gregory Nava (EL NORTE, MI FAMILIA, SELENA) and actress Lupe Ontiveros currently in the TV series, ROB. Schedules in this town are so crazy, we’d never see each other if not for opening nights, fundraisers and screenings.
¡MAS HOLLYWOOD! – Looks like the life of Cesar Chavez is finally coming to the screen directed by actor Diego Luna. CHAVEZ stars Michael Peña (CRASH, TOWER HEIST) as the labor organizer with America Ferrera (UGLY BETTY) co-starring as Chavez’s wife Helen and Rosario Dawson (RENT, MEN IN BLACK II) as UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta. This one has been a long time coming with several top directors interested in bringing Cesar’s story to the screen since his passing in 1993. Shooting begins next month in Sonora, Mexico. Luna must like bio pics. His first directorial gig was the documentary JC CHAVEZ about the life of Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez. And he must like stories about men named Chavez? ¡HASTA PRONTO!