Arts A brown niche? No thanks

Gaytino's Dan Guerrero wants art to mirror life: Where are the Latino Friends?

Dan Guerrero, the son of legendary Chicano songwriter Lalo Guerrero, comes to town this week in his one-man historical (and, according to the reviews, hysterical) musical revue, Gaytino! The younger Guerrero is a veteran of Hollywood and Broadway, the latter which shows in his warm, scratchy voice and a bullet-proof public-relations constitution. Despite a demanding touring schedule and no personal assistant to manage it, Guerrero phoned the Current on the dot to make sure he wasn't supposed to call us (it was our responsibility).

Performer, agent, and producer Dan Guerrero channels Chicano and gay American history for Gaytino!, a one-man musical and performance piece that makes a stop at the Esperanza Center November 5 and 6.

Thank you for being so timely.

Actually, I'm quite sound asleep. Yesterday I had to get up at five to get here, I had a late-night interview - in Spanish! - and this morning I was fried. I was awakened by a phone call, 45 minutes about the documentary I'm doing, but now I have a sugar doughnut and a cup of coffee in front of me, so I'm absolutely fine.

Is the documentary about Gaytino?

No, about my dad. About two years ago my producing partner and myself applied to Latino Public Broadcasting, which is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to do a documentary on dad. So we've just been working on it the last couple of years, before dad passed. Everyone's in it: We interviewed Luis Valdez, Eddie Olmos, Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Dolores Huerta, Cheech, Los Lobos. But I'm doing that with my left hand and Gaytino! with the right hand, and my regular producing life, so I'm ready for the Betty Ford center.


8pm Sat, Nov 5
3pm Sun, Nov 6

Esperanza Center
922 San Pedro

Take me with you, please. How long have you been performing Gaytino?

Just this year. It's moved so much more quickly than I ever dreamed. I came up with the idea a couple of years ago; I'm a big one on signs - "destiny" sounds too deep, but I just believe in all that. I'm sitting here right now in the Brava Theater in San Francisco, a gorgeous Deco theater in the Mission District, and about two-and-a-half years ago I was in San Francisco producing a fundraiser for the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund. A friend was driving me around town and he said, You've got to see the Mission District, which is heavily Latino and heavenly, I mean heavily - and, well, also heavenly - gay. And I saw this theater and I thought, When I do my show, I gotta do it here. Fast forward, this is the first city on the seven-city tour. So you can see the universe works in mysterious ways.

I hope it does. Do you think Gaytino's publicity is helped by the anti-gay-marriage bills, such as Texas' Prop 2?

I don't know if it's helped or if it's gonna hurt. It's too early to tell.

When you were in the early development stage, what did you feel the audience members responded to most strongly? What got them the most excited?

The truth is, the whole thing did. I was more concerned with what would not get them excited than with what would, because this obviously is a play that was designed and created to reach - I hate the word - the mainstream. I'm not doing this strictly for gay or Latino audiences. We already know our stories, so the idea is to get our stories out to everybody. So my concern was, what if you've never heard of Lalo Guerrero, do you care? The two driving forces are my dad and my boyhood friend, who grew to become one of the leaders of the Chicano art movement, who died of AIDS in 1989. Through them we get Chicano history and gay history. `But` everyone has friendships, everyone has a father-son or mother-daughter parent relationship.

East LA native and Broadway veteran Dan Guerrero as a heartbreakingly handsome young dancer.

Do you find that there's something particular to being a gay Latino as opposed to just being Latino or, conversely, to being a Latino gay man rather than just a gay man?

Again, I go back to universal themes. I had a young Asian boy come up to me who's gay, and he said, Thank you so much, you speak for all cultures. The reason I brought the two together is that here I am, a gay man, I am a Latino, and I have devoted my career this last 20 years to the Latino community, and then I happen to be gay on the side. And then I kept saying, Oh my god, did I ever dream I would see more gay characters on network television than Latinos? I could not believe my eyes! And then I began to look at the two worlds, and there are many similarities: both approximately the same portion of the population as best as one can know, both heavily discriminated against still, both making steps forward in a positive way but still a long way to go.

But it is getting better?

Of course it's getting better, but again, we've got a long way to go. And I'll tell you something else, we have the George Lopez Show - great, I'm very glad it's there. But, you know, I don't need to see a half-hour show with 500 brown faces in it. I want to see one of those Friends be brown.

You don't want to be segregated by market.

No, I want it to be just like in life; we're everywhere. My dad's song, "No Chicanos on TV," said it perfectly: "Hugees has its three babies, black and white and Japanese. Chicano babies also pee, but you don't see us on TV."

By Elaine Wolff


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