By Dale Reynolds
This special show was originally to be on the 4th of July, celebrating the ways the Latino culture has contributed to the United States. But for whatever reasons, the show was postponed for two weeks, which didn’t hurt either what the evening was to celebrate or, as important, how entertaining the three-hour evening turned out to be.
Culture Clash has certainly, in its 30+ years of existence, blazed societal and political trails by their brand of satire – taking Anglo-America to task for its too-often refusal to acknowledge Latino civil rights and political leadership. So in bringing in established Latinx music, sketch-comedy, satire, dance, and so on, and by declaring it a “desmadre” – a mash-up, chaotic-style — the entertainment quotient was on a very high scale.
Opening with an enthusiastic speech by Olga Garay, Executive Director of the Ford Theatre Space, followed by a pleasant series of dances by the Pacifico Dance Company – young women and men performing stylized versions of older Mexican dances, all outfitted in colorful red, black, and white outfits. Then veteran comedian Rudy Moreno, somewhere in his mid-60s, kept the blue-content out and entertained with lines like, “So many Latinos here tonight; looks like night school…or the clean-up crew,” made his a huge hit with the thousand or so mostly Latinx audience.
We were introduced to former L.A. Councilwoman Gloria Molina and current L.A. Councilmember Sheila Kuehl, who was instrumental in raising the $72,000,000 renovation funds for the 1920 Ford Theatre, previously known as The Pilgrimage, when it hosted a religious play for four decades.
Then a three-member female Mariachi band, La Victoria, sang several sets – beautifully, it must be said, followed by on of the Culture Clash members, Ric Salinas riffing on immigrants and the various salsa moves: how Chicanos, or Dominicans, or El Salvadorians, or Cubanos vary the rhythms, along with broad interpretations of how African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and European-Americans try the music on for size. Needless to say, it brought the house down in solid recognition. Salinas is a gifted comic artist, as are his performing buddies, Richard Montoya and Herbert Siguenza.
Adding to the eclectic mix of talents up there was 50-something Alice Bag and her band of still-relevant punk music – her songwriting and her singing were a marvel for those of us new to her act.
There was also a surprising, but delightful, inclusion of the Lesbian/Gay/ Bi-sexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Communities. Out lesbian comic, Sandra Valls, was very funny in her loving attacks on homophobia and lesbian attire. And the Culture Clash guys all contributed to the normalization of same-gender humor, when Salinas said to actor Emilio Rivera (Mayans MC, Sons of Anarchy), “I’m straight, but I could go for you right now,” bringing shocked laughter to the evening.
Rivera was the stand-up guy in the last sketch; putting Trump, Rivera, and a stereotyped Mexican worker into “Jeopardy,” where Trump gets all the answers wrong, the peon insists every answer is “Cheech” or “Chong,” and Rivera answers them correctly. It was a hit sketch, with the acknowledgment that the material had been written that very afternoon by the CC guys: Salinas, Montoya, and Siguenza.
The evening closed with the four-decades-old jazz-flavored R&B stylings of Tierra, a hugely successful E.L.A. band – with a classy sound, indeed. Their 20-minute or so set was powerful and had the audience a-jumpin’.
With Hispanic folk now the majority “race” in California, we should see more of these kinds of successful one-off evenings, where Latinx culture – ripe, entertaining, and teachable – will show off both its roots and its influences on white American culture. So, those of you who were there, congrats. For the rest of you, so sorry you missed a fantastic night of humor, song and dance.
¡Viva La Raza!