MAR 21, 2008 3:32 PM
Gay, Chicano and Proud
BY MELISSA LAMBARENA
Dan Guerrero stands alone on the Schoenberg Auditorium stage,
engaging the audience in a roller-coaster ride of emotions as he
reveals details about a father-son relationship and a much-treasured
In his one-man show, "¡Gaytino!," Guerrero traces his
extraordinary life's journey — from East Los Angeles in the '50s to New
York in the '60s and '70s — through memories and song. The 75-minute
autobiographical play gives insight into decades of Chicano history and
the gay experience from a unique and personal perspective.
"a lovable wit . . . infectious lunacy!" by the Los Angeles Times, the
hit show is yet another success for a man who has had quite a storied
career in entertainment. Add academia to his list of accomplishments, as
Guerrero has just completed his tenure as the 2007-2008 Distinguished
Community Scholar in the César E. Chávez Chicana/o Studies Department.
In June, Guerrero will take "¡Gaytino!" to the John F.
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., although he
does not promote it as his story. "I wrote it to celebrate my dad and my
best friend growing up," he said. "Now they are both gone, and I don't
want people to forget them."
His father was Lalo Guerrero, known to many as "the father of
Chicano music." And although Guerrero considers his father a Chicano
hero, there was a time when he wished to avoid growing up in Lalo's
shadow, moving at the age of 19 from East L.A. — where his father was
well-known — to New York. There, young Dan was able to establish his
career, first as a performer and later as a successful Broadway talent
agent whose clients included actresses Sarah Jessica Parker and Fran
Twenty years later, he returned to Los Angeles to "shape more
positive Latino images in media" as a casting director, writer,
producer and director. "I like variety — I get bored with things,"
Guerrero explained. Ironically, his father's career had been rather
quiet, but when Dan moved back in the '80s and started producing and
directing for the Latino market, people reacquainted themselves with
"[My dad] often said I'm the one who resurrected his career,"
Guerrero said. "People were studying him in Chicano studies, and then
of course when he got the National Medal of Arts from the White House,
that catapulted him to another level, so he became this icon."
As a gay Chicano, Guerrero never experienced opposition from
his family. "They were totally accepting — it was never an issue," he
said. He met his partner, Richard, in New York City, and the two have
been together for 28 years. "My family loves my partner," Guerrero said.
"My mother used to call him son number three."
Hailed by Hispanic magazine as "one of the 25 most powerful
Latinos in Hollywood," Guerrero was invited to teach at UCLA during the
Winter Quarter by Professor Alicia Gaspar de Alba, chair of the Chávez
Department of Chicana/o Studies. "I knew I could learn from young
people, and I felt I had something to teach them," Guerrero said.
At the end of the quarter, he assigned his students to
perform a 10-minute autobiographical piece they had written in front of
family, friends and other audience members. "It's about finding your
voice," Guerrero said. "That's why the course is called 'Performance and
the Power of One.' One voice can make a difference."