Latin flair

comedy
MUY FUNNY | Dan Guerrero works for laughs while being gay and Latino in his one-man show.

Before he could write ‘¡Gaytino!,’ Dan Guerrero first had to find his roots

rich lopez  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Growing up gay and Latino can be a tough hand to play. In a culture that revels in religion and machismo — hell, the word “machismo” is Latino — coming out poses pitfalls.

But Dan Guerrero lucked out. With some artsy upbringing by a musician dad and a not-so-practicing Catholic background, Guerrero’s closet was easy to open. In fact, it was harder for him just to be Hispanic.

“Los Angeles never made me feel like I was good enough,” he says. “I fell in love with musicals in junior high. I wanted to hear Julie Andrews in Camelot! Who gives a rat’s ass about mariachi?”

His dad might have given one. He was famed musician Lala Guerrero, the father of Chicano music who popularized the Pachuco sound in the 1940s (the beats most associated with Zoot suits and swing dancing). While Guerrero appreciated his father’s legacy, he established his own identity by moving to New York to become an actor. That didn’t work out so much, but becoming an agent did.

“It was kind of by accident, but I ended up being an agent for 15 years,” he says. “I got into producing and I loved it.”

Although he stepped away from performing, Guerrero finds himself back onstage Friday and Saturday at the Latino Cultural Center with ¡Gaytino! The autobiographical one-man show is part comedy, part cabaret, with Guerrero recounting in lyrics and punch lines his experiences growing up gay and Latino, life with father … and having to rediscover his roots after moving back to L.A.

“The main reason I did the show is, I wanted to know more about my dad and my best friend. I was already fabulous,” he laughs. “So I don’t think of this as my story. I wanted to embrace his legacy and celebrate him and our lives, but also tell of being a born-again Hispanic.”

In L.A., Guerrero rediscovered his heritage. While still working in entertainment, he noticed a lack of Latinos behind the scenes. He started a column in Dramalogue to change that, interviewing actors like Jimmy Smits and Salma Hayek and producing shows that spoke to Latin audiences.

And then came ¡Gaytino!

“Well, the word itself hit me first so I trademarked it. Then it was madness as I set about writing it,” he says.

When the show debuted in 2005, Guerrero hadn’t performed in 35 years. He was a different man, no longer a young buck with nothing to lose and untarnished optimism. He was a behind-the-scenes producer and casting agent. He was — gasp! — older.

“I remember thinking, ‘What am I gonna do? What if I forget my lines?’ I’m an old codger,” he says. “But I got onstage and it was like I had did it the day before. Performing is just part of who I am.”

With his successful day job (he once repped a young Sarah Jessica Parker), a healthy relationship (32 years this November) and irons in many other fires, why bother with the daunting task of writing a show and carrying it alone?

“It still feels like I’m breaking into show business. At least when you’ve been around as long as I have, you can get the main cheese by phone,” he answers. “But really, I had something I wanted to say and I love doing it. I’ve been lucky to stay in the game this long but it’s not by accident; it’s all been by design.”

What he loves isn’t just doing his show, but how it pushes positive gay Latino images. He’s dedicated this chapter in his life to that. Guerrero now feels parental toward the younger generation — maybe because he has no children of his own.

“I do feel a responsibility and not just to younger people, but to all,” he says. “For ¡Gaytino!, I first want them entertained, but I hope audiences will leave more educated about some Chicano culture and history and Gaytino history.”

……………………………………

QUEER CLIP: ‘BEGINNERS’

screen

 

Beginners is such a dreadfully forgettable and generic title for what is the year’s most engaging and heartfelt comedy, you feel like boycotting a review until the distributor gives it a title it deserves.

Certainly the movie itself — a quirky, humane and fantastical reverie about the nature of love and family, with Ewan McGregor as a doleful graphic artist who, six months after his mother dies, learns his 75-year-old dad (Christopher Plummer) is gay and wants to date — charts its own course (defiantly, respectfully, beautifully), navigating the minefield of relationships from lovers to parent/child with simple emotions. It’s not a movie that would presume to answer the Big Questions (when do you know you’ve met the right one? And if they aren’t, how much does that matter anyway?); it’s comfortable observing that we’re all in the same boat, and doing our best is good enough.

McGregor’s placid befuddlement over how he should react to things around him — both his father’s coming out and a flighty but delightful French actress (Melanie Laurent) who tries to pull him out of his shell — is one of the most understated and soulful performances of his career. (His relationship with Arthur, his father’s quasi-psychic Jack Russell, is winsome and winning without veering into Turner & Hooch idiocy.) But Plummer owns the film.

Plummer, best known for his blustery, villainous characters (even the heroic ones, like Capt. Von Trapp and Mike Wallace), exudes an aura of wonder and discovery as the septuagenarian with the hot younger boyfriend (Goran Visnjic, both exasperating as cuddly). As he learns about house music at a time when his contemporaries crave Lawrence Welk, you’re wowed by how the performance seethes with the lifeforce of someone coming out and into his own. His energy is almost shaming.

Writer/director Mike Mills’ semi-autobiographical film suffers only being underlit and over too quickly. It wouldn’t be a bad thing to spend more time with these folks.

—Arnold Wayne Jones

Rating: Four and half stars
Now playing at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 10, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Agathe von Trapp dies

Agathe von Trapp

Agathe von Trapp, the oldest daughter of the von Trapp family, died last month at the age of 97. The death was announced by Mary Louise Kane who has lived with von Trapp for the past 50 years.

The musical The Sound of Music was based on a romanticized version of the escape of the von Trapp family from Nazi Germany. Agathe would have been the basis for the character Leisl. In the actual von Trapp family, the oldest child was a son, Werner.

The family moved to the U.S. in 1939. After World War 2, they moved to Vermont where they opened the Trapp Family Lodge in the ski resort town of Stowe.

Von Trapp and Kane operated a kindergarten in at the Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Glyndon, Md.

And this being an LGBT paper, do we really need an excuse to post something from The Sound of Music? Here’s Julie Andrews and Charmian Carr as Leisl — Agathe sort of — singing “I Am 16 Going on 17.”

—  David Taffet

Sparks unplugged

Straight comic (and gay icon) Hal Sparks gets the last laugh

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer  stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Hal Sparks
COMIC AS FOLK | Hal Sparks headlines this weekend at Arlington Improv; gay baiters not welcome.

NO COLLAR COMEDY
The Improv Arlington
309 Curtis May Way, Arlington.
Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Sunday at 7:30 p.m. 817-635-5555. Improv.com

Hal Sparks does a mean impression of a female British robot.

During our phone interview, he was greeted by an automated voice alerting him that he was being recorded. So for the first few minutes, he conducted the interview in the same mechanical tone.

“Is this a good time?” I asked.

“It’s absolutely a good time. And even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t tell you that because I’m being recorded and I’d seem like a dick,” he said before breaking back into his computer-generated Julie Andrews voice: “You are being an asshole to the fellow who’s trying to record you.”

Sparks is one spontaneously funny guy, which he brings to his No Collar Comedy Tour, featuring Texas comedians Richard Hunter and Chris Bonno, this weekend. The “no collar” concept, he says, comes from a comic book fan/rocker point of view that makes wearing collared shirts an enigma.

Despite his explicit role on Queer as Folk, the motorcycle-riding Sparks is definitely not gay. Still, many of his fans can’t separate him from his Michael Novotny character.

“Those people are insane,” he says. “You’ll never sway them from thinking that way, whether it’s a straight character or a gay character. These are the people who see a mime in the park and really think he’s trapped in a box.”

Sparks is anything but trapped, thanks to a wildly diverse Hollywood career. Or careers: He’s been on TV in dramas, hosting game shows and comedic on programs like VH1’s I Love the ’80s, and appeared in movies like Spider-Man 2. He even sings and plays guitar in the indie rock band Zero 1 and hosted the Femmy Awards for Intimate Apparel Makers a couple months ago. This guy’s diverse.

But standup is front and center, at least until his band’s next album drops in the fall. Sparks is in the Richard Pryor/Eddie Izzard vein, preferring to poke fun at universal truths rather than the day’s gossip headlines.

“Topical humor? It’s comedy and it’s worthwhile, but it’s fast food; that’s toilet paper. My comedy style: Is it more brilliant than funny or more funny than brilliant? I’ll leave that up to you to decide,” he says. “It’s more socio than political. A comedian has a responsibility to be a bullshit meter. For me, I think the goal should be not that we give a crap what Paris Hilton did today, but why we give a crap what Paris Hilton’s doing day to day.”

And there’s definitely one media outlet of which he’s not a big fan.

“I have challenged the entire cast of TMZ to a fight and they haven’t taken me up on it. A bare-knuckle fist-fight. The rule is that the entire cast has to come into the ring at the same time,” he says. “Harvey [Levin] can hang out until they’re all done and come in last when I’m supposedly tired. They can wear whatever padding they want and bring whatever stick weapons they want. That’s a standing offer.”

Motorcycle-riding, fight-picking Sparks is good to have on our side because he doesn’t put up with nonsense from people who are anti-gay.

“It’s always funny — in a bad way — when a club doesn’t realize that I have a really open-minded, progressive, definitely left-of-center crowd that comes to see me because of Queer As Folk and I Love the ’80s. They are a smarter crowd. They put up a regular opening comic that drops a couple of F bombs [“fag”] or makes some sort of gay reference and wonders why the audience would bristle or why I would say after the show, ‘Dude, don’t do that fuckin’ joke again or you’re not opening again for me.’ It catches them off guard, but they need to pay attention.”

With several additional projects in the works, from new series to producing efforts, Sparks has definitely ready to hold our attention for years to come.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas