Friday, May 20, 2011
JUST CAN'T HELP LOVING JOHN!!!!
A few weeks ago, I was personally invited to see John Leguizamo's new Broadway show, Ghetto Klown. I almost didn't get to go, but his people accomodated my schedule and I am, to this day, very grateful. I had already seen his past one-man shows, Freak and Sexaholics, and I was just in awe of his tremendous talent. Back in the 90s, I used to do one-woman cabaret shows in the theater district. It was so hard to come up with all the material to give the show a rhythm and keep people interested - at least I had music to fill some gaps. But doing a one-man hour to two hour monologue is a serious project to take on. So when I heard he has done it again at the Lyceium Theater in NYC, I HAD to go & show my support.
I had met John Leguizamo in 1997, while I was on the KTU Morning Show. He had come to do an interview with us. Anytime a successful Hispanic came to KTU I so badly wanted to ask them questions. Not about what their next project was, or whether silly rumors were true. I wanted to ask them, "How did you do it? What obstacles, as a Latino, if any, did you have to hurdle over? Do we have similar dysfunctional, violent, and traumatic childhoods?" While I was on the morning show, the producer didn't really allow me to speak. So I just had to wonder the questions in my mind. But to this day, I still have the photo he took with me, while wearing his sunglasses...it was a proud day for me. And you need to know, he was especially gracious to me.
So, I went to see Ghetto Klown on a Monday - evening performance. I was seated in D114 - orchestra seats. Those are $115 tickets, baby! When I sat down, I was in awe how close I was...and I was VERY grateful. Ghetto Klown is an incredibly raw and honest portrayal of Mr. Leguizamo's rise and fall...and rise again in his personal and professional life. It is quite impressive to see him reinvent his stories, and tell them humorously and at times even show his own vulnerabilities. He does an amazing job at combining the music of different decades and his stories of his own life. He dances too - and I love the way he dances...he's actually pretty freaking adorable!! LOL.
To my surprise, John mentions the genre of freestyle in a way I never thought I'd hear in my own lifetime. He keeps it real, honest, and doesn't try to mask a darn thing. I cannot quote him verbatim, but it was something like this: "Madonna stole freestyle from Sa-Fire and Sweet Sensation!" Oh.....my.....God....did he really say that? He said it...and he said it loud. And I know some people didn't know what the heck he was talking about. But if you're a latino in New York, you get the reference immediately. I was just stunned to speechless. Here he is a Tony-Award nominated actor, comedian extraordinaire (and by the way I thought he was awesome in Moulin Rouge) - talking about freestyle. I don't discuss these things often because I like to focus on the positive and not the negative. I prefer to move on, than to stay stuck in the past. But ok. I'll say it. Freestyle was cheated and never given its true due respect. Freestyle was born here. It was a genre of music created by its mostly inner-city, hispanic youth. AND it was innocent music. You will never hear of a "gangster" freestyle song. And the thing was that freestyle had reached a height that even the top 40 music industry, the political industry was finally forced to acknkowledge the heightened popularity and demand for freestyle. A few of us crossed over and were signed to MAJOR labels: George Lamond, Lissette Melendez, Sa-Fire, Cover Girls, Sweet Sensation. The general vibe of music began to copy the sound, and somewhere along the line, it was destroyed. Sometimes it was destroyed because the general major music industry just wasn't ready for us. THey didn't know what to do with us, and they tried to CHANGE who we were - that was the first mistake. And then, others came forward, producing freestyle...some of it was not as good. Many copied the sound, everyone wanted to sing it, produce it, release it, and somehow in the rush - the people paid less attention to the QUALITY of the music and were just thinking about a quick buck! And one day, HOT 103 announced that freestyle was being replaced by hip-hop and would no longer be on the radio. Thus the fall of freestyle began. And yet, it had not died and still lives...and to have John Leguizamno, a major player in the mainstream industry, mention freestyle - well it was just exhilarating. And there I was screaming my butt off like a crazed woman winning on the Price is Right!!
After the show, and his standing ovation, I walked away with a little voice in my head nudging me: 'Hey, why don't you tell them who you are, and see if they'll bring you backstage?' But I HATE using my name to get things. I know, as I'm often told, that it is completely natural to do it, but the goodie-two-shoes-girl in me just can't. When I woke up the next morning, I found an email from one of his people telling me that when the show was over, go see so-and-so, and he will walk me to the back to meet John. NOOOOOOOO!!! How is it that I received this email a day late? It can't be. But I was still satisfied that I was given the incredible opportunity to see John Leguizamo in action...and it was free too, lol.
Then on Monday, May 16th, I get a call from Wilma, my friend who's band I sing with (Mirage) when I don't have shows. "Chica, um, I know you already saw the show but so-and-so can't make it, and we have an extra one...you'll have to pay for it though." Who cares? YES!! yes, I want to go! When I asked who was coming I was told that a certain celebrity's mom asked her to invite me, and I was honored. So, in the middle of cleaning out my closets, and looking at a tornado of clothing all over, I abandoned it all and jumped in the shower.
The second time seeing Ghetto Klown was definitely better than the first time. Ironically I was seated in the same row. The usher who walked me to my seat recognized me and I was seated next to two wonderful women, one of whom is Mr. Leguizamo's cousin. They were very friendly, and his cousin said to me, "You should say something...he'll shout you out during the show." "Nah, that's ok. I love all his work. I'm a fan no matter what. I'm just glad he mentioned freestyle in his show at all!"
John Leguizamo stepped out and was brilliant - it was the same show (which must be exhausting for him to do day in and day out), but for some reason it really resonated for me. When he discussed his father's disposition and attitude about life, his feelings about feeling somewhat unsupported by his father, etc...I just totally related. In fact I was able to relate too much, and I found myself crying during one of his scenes. The thing that strikes me about John is that he is willing to go to that painful place and talk about it, help us laugh about it - that others are not willing to go to. It's just too painful. When he mentioned freestyle again, I yelled even louder than the first time and so did a whole lot of other people too! At the end, he was given another standing ovation..and the theater cleared, as if just 5 minutes ago no one had been there.
We were escorted upstairs where we waited to meet John. I wasn't going to even try, but thanks to my friends who invited me, there were were - waiting for him. It reminded me that waiting for him and being patient must be what some of my fans go through. And I had LOTS of compassion. I think we waited almost a half-hour, but I would have waited overnight for the chance to say hello. As soon as he saw us, he said, "Judy, what's up, girl?? Are you still singing? Still at the station?"
Breathe, Judy...just be normal. "Yes, I am."
"Aw, you should have said something - I would have shoutled you out and Lissette Melendez too."
I asked if he would take another picture with me.
"Claro que si." (Yes, of course!)
And as I walked toward him, he said, "Oh, I love a tall woman towering over me!" LOL....he was gracious, he was professional and gave me personal attention that I was not expecting. He signed my PlayBill too. He hugged me and kissed me and I told him, "I think we have the same father." "Oh, yeah?" "Absolutely." He even told me to tweet him. I am going to TWEET him for sure, lol!!!!
Ghetto Klown touched me so profoundly and actually healed a couple of unresolved emotional wounds I had about my childhood. John made me find the humor in the dysfunctions of life. He made me realize that our success today couldn't be possible without the many failures and disappointments of our yesterday - dysfunction and all! Please go see this show! He does INCREDIBLE impersonations of Al Pacino, Steven Segal, Patrick Swayze and his wonderful family.Please go see the show and support a man who is honest enough to put it all out there - to admit to his own shortcomings and mistakes - and yet allow us to walk away knowing life can redeem us all!!