By Elia Esparza
To have a seat with the Madrina of Latinowood and her knights of the round table, well it’s not often it is for the sheer fun of it! Usually it is all work and no play. But last night literary royalty got together with movie and TV titans and sat around our own self-proclaimed Aztecalot Round Table and had a blast!
There is nothing more delicious than to gather with a group of people of great character: Bel Hernandez Castillo (CEO and publisher of Latin Heat Entertainment and Executive Producer and Co-Host of KCAL9’s HOLA! L.A. and the Madrina of Latinowood); her hubby, actor Enrique Castillo (Weeds); Dennis Leoni (Executive Producer/Director Los Americans, Resurrection Blvd.), his wife, former ABC network honcho Debbie Leoni; Luis Alberto Alberto Urrea, bestselling author (Queen of America, Hummingbird’s Daughter, Devil’s Highway); his amazing wife, Cindy Urrea, who keeps Urrea’s crazy-busy life sane; and little old me, Elia Esparza, Editor, Latin Heat and HOLA! L.A. show writer.
We all took our time sipping quality spirits, eating fine food as each of us had a good and “tasty human observation” of each other. (I read this once in The New Yorker).
Our waiter, Alfonso, thought Luis looked like a young Roger Moore. I, personally think he’s a dead ringer for Guillermo del Toro. It took almost an hour for us to figure out what we were eating. Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant at The Grove had a lot to choose from. The lobster-baked Tilapia was to die for.
The Aztecalot Round Table was the liviest of the entire venue. While I am not at liberty to discuss the industry talk between why Luis was meeting with his “movie and TV friends,” the conversations that I can divulge were passionate and ranged from a deep debate between Bel and Debbie about why studios didn’t give a damn about the Hispanic/Latino breakdown. Bel pleaded that is important to give Mexican-Americans their just due because they are the largest percentage of Latinos (65.5%) and yet Cubans, Puerto Ricans seem to be respected more. Debbie (who worked for ABC and is a TV expert and privy to of how networks and studios think) basically said, “They just don’t care. Hispanic, Latino, it was all the same to them.” To which Bel replied: “Well, they should, because it is Mexicans who are contributing the most in money. They are the key consumers of all Latinos.”
Enrique called the debate “The Rumble in The Rain!” It was very exciting to watch. Actually, you should read his take on the evening on his Facebook page, it is much more “descriptive”: http://www.facebook.com/ElMeroMeroMontana?fref=ts
Then, there was Bel outing me as being run-over by my two dogs. “She spoils them and spends a lot of money on them! Whatever happened to just having them run loose in the backyard and feeding them left overs? That’s the way it used to be.” Obviously, she is not a candidate for Dog Owner of the Year! And, while we were on the subject of pets, Dennis shared a hysterical story when he and his wife owned chickens as pets! Oh, this tale is too funny for me to tell, so you’ll just have to ask him about how he almost got thrown in the clinger in the middle of the night when chasing his runaway two dollar chicken that ended up with a broken wing that cost $100 bucks to fix!
Luis and Enrique were in deep conversation about a history documentary that Kiki had seen about Wounded Knee. The history buffs of the table were all into it and Cindy remarked about how he had to visit the land to truly comprehend. Bel, not being a history buff was still trying to make her point on the value of Mexican-Americans to Hollywood, specifically in television.
Luis shared the good and bad of some of his book tours. Most times he packs the house. But in the early years, there must have been nervous moments… would anyone show up? I imagine was going through his head. He also let us know that Oprah taped him during a recent book reading in Nashville and this show will air on Super Bowl Sunday night on the OWN channel! (Check your local listings) Maybe our bestseller author will break new ground with his Queen for America! About time Oprah took notice of this incredible writer and lifelong friend of mine.
If you’ve never read Luis Alberto Urrea, you have not truly experienced the Latino experience… the Mexican-American experience… the American of today, experience.
Winter is moving along and as Spring looms, our next Aztecalot Round Table will be closer to Summer when Luis is back in town. Aztecalot Round Table at the Maggiano’s came to an end four hours later but we could have gone on to the wee hours.