By Elia Esparza
Three weeks ago, my dear friend, Luis Avalos suffered a heart attack. It was bad. One of his arteries was 90% clogged. Surgeons placed a stint and saved his life. Luis spent a few days in ICU and eventually went home rejoicing on his second chance. He latched on to his new lease on life with a firm grip and was making all sorts of plans.
Then last Saturday the unthinkable happened. Luis and Angel, his life partner, are at home having a normal day when Angel noticed Luis was having trouble breathing and loses consciousness. He’s rushed back to the hospital. It is unclear if he suffered a second heart attack or a stroke. This time, Luis would not recover and after last rites administered, he was taken off life support and on Wednesday, January 22, took his last breath in the middle of the afternoon.
I met Luis in the early 90’s when I was working for entertainment attorney, James E. Blancarte. Luis was one of many celebrity clients. In time, we became close friends and eventually worked with him on the production of “Paquito’s Christmas,” a holiday musical he wrote, produced and directed. I helped him with the public relations and as a liaison with the various county and government agencies supporting the production.
He was a joy to work for albeit no pushover. He was detailed oriented and not afraid to roll up his sleeves to help us all do our jobs that would produce the results he required. “Paquito’s Christmas” was his baby… I think he was the real-life Paquito.
We laughed a lot. He was a funny and sensitive man. I loved making him crack up and at times felt like I was the production’s resident court jester. It was a role I cherished because nothing cures like laughter.
A life long active member of Ricardo Montalban’s non-profit organization, Nosotros, he supported them in every activity for decades. In 1998, NCLR hired me as Project Manager to oversee the property transition from UCLA to the newly formed Ricardo Montalban Foundation, when they acquired the Doolittle Theater in Hollywood. One of my first tasks was to draft a list of potential board members. On top of the list was Luis Avalos, and thus became one of the six founding board members.
Social media has exploded with many saying what a great man and friend he was to the community. But to some of us, he was profoundly more. He was family.
“After more than 30 years of working with talent in the entertainment industry, I can count on one hand how many ‘celebrities’ I can call a true friend,” says James E. Blancarte. “Luis Avalos was one of the few who was not only a true friend, but such a kind, loving and loyal friend that almost 20 years ago, my wife Cindy and I asked him to be the Godfather to my youngest daughter, Analisa. As Latinos know, this is the highest honor and sign of respect you can bestow on someone, but it is only a small measure of how much we loved Luis, and how much we will miss him.”
Director, producer and performer, Dan Guerrero also has fond memories. “When I moved back to LA from New York in the early 80s, I immediately immersed myself in the Latino Hollywood community that was quite small at that time. That’s when I first met Luis Avalos, as well as Carmen Zapata and Lupe Ontiveros” he recalls. “It was a tight knit group of people I greatly admired.”
Guerrero says that Luis was the sweetest soul. “Everyone adored him and his partner Angel.” Angel Fedo, Luis life partner and soul mate. “They were a couple in the true sense of the word. Everyone knows Luis was a great talent, mentor and friend, but what stands out most for me, was his relationship with Angel. So precious.”
“I am so saddened that we have lost Lupe, Carmen and Luis, tres grandes and true pillars of our community. Who’s left of the trailblazers from back in the day?” asks Guerrero.
My fondest memory is spending Monday nights having dinner with Luis, Angel and Estrella (Luis mother). Our little soirees were always a night of great conversation, laughs, and cooking lessons. He would also invite me to his private special dinners and I never knew who was going to be there. It could be the president of CBS or several major TV stars. He was also a close a personal friend to Mexican singing idol, Joan Sebastian. I once was invited to meet Joan’s then wife, a big Mexican telenovela actress and little son. My job for the evening? Answer any of her questions about her desire to cross-over into Hollywood to work here.
Another memory that burns in my heart is one time when I was having problems with a couple of people in this industry and wasn’t sure if I would survive the gossip and fakeness– it is hard to gauge who your real friends are — well, Luis was directing the Golden Eagle Awards that particular year. He asked if I was going and I told him I didn’t think so. He insisted. Then he sat me at his table, the most important table at the Beverly Hilton Hotel’s International Ballroom. He sat me next to Salma Hayek. I didn’t know it then, but while he never publicly took sides, he did sit me down in the most visible spot.He made his statement this way. After the show, everyone came up to me, people who had previously given me the cold shoulder. I remember Luis smiling in the background witnessing my resurgence.
Luis Avalos is survived by his life partner Angel Fedo. His beloved mother, Estrella died in 2010.
Thank you, Luis Avalos, for being a friend who never failed. Godspeed. Until we meet again.