Dan Guerrero Merges Two American Identities Into One Triumphant 'Gaytino'
In a unique and maybe antiquated way [in an everything old, is new again way] Dan Guerrero delivers his story in updated formats. And consequently a new generation of Americans are getting to know their own history through the lense of Dan Guerrero. His story telling proves, to us, the format a story is told in, sometimes is not as important as the impact the story has on a nation and its people .
The acclaimed long-touring play, now on film, is a remarkable life journey from 1950s East LA to New York’s Great White Way in the 60s and 70s and back to Hollywood. The autobiographical 75-minute film with music is driven by Dan’s lifelong friendship with late Chicano visual artist Carlos Almaraz and by Dan’s father, Chicano music legend, Lalo Guerrero. His story travels through decades of Mexican-American history and the gay experience from a unique and personal perspective. Touching, provocative, hilarious and absolutely one-of-a-kind, Dan Guerrero brings his two fascinating worlds together in a riveting solo performance.
The long-awaited film version of the story-telling piece of documentary theater is currently hitting the Film Festival circuit following the 2018 shoot of a live performance with an audience. Distribution, broadcast and other media outlets are also in the works.
U.S. Lifestyle Magazine brings you an exclusive one-on-one with the master mind of Gaytino .
What was your main motivation for "Gaytino”?
I was moved to write the play for several reasons. I wanted to document Mexican-American/Chicano history and the gay experience as I lived both over these many decades. I wanted to celebrate two extraordinary forces that influenced me greatly, my dad Lalo Guerrero and my life-long boyhood friend Carlos Almaraz. I wanted to educate and entertain and a funny and poignant story-telling piece with music seemed a good way to do it. And I’m thrilled to have recently filmed a live performance to bring my stories to a wider audience.
How has someone elses culture enhance the way you approach your work?
I don’t know how to answer this question. Maybe answering the next will fold in here.
How important is it for you to experiencing others culture ?
Extremely. The best way to learn about life if you pay attention. Geography was always my favorite class in school. I loved learning about other countries and cultures and was desperate to grow up and travel as much as possible. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to wait that long. We flew to Mexico City and on to Acapulco in 1951 when I was 11. Not many were flying in those days. Especially from East LA. And then we took two road trips from LA to Mexico City in my later teens because my parents wanted my brother and me to know the Mother country. When I was living in New York, I explored most of Europe and the Caribbean. When I returned to LA, it was all the Hawaiian Islands and Latin America. I recently visited Cuba and did the Copper Canyon train trip in Chihuahua. Wondrous. You have to do the obvious world sites, but I’ve always loved getting off the beaten path and have gravitated to the indigenous cultures of the world.
What people have shaped your personal style?
I”m still looking for it.
How would you describe the American creative stage?
You mean stage as in a theater? Yan and yang. Like any of the arts. There is magnificence and there is garbage. I’m amazed how many Americans love garbage.
When social issues are concerned, which ones do you champion?
There are so many that it is important to focus. I focus on the Latino/Chicano and the LGBTQ struggle especially in the current political climate where too many are chipping away at our hard won victories. Forces that feel threatened as we have become stronger and more vocal. Forces that want to return to a time when people of color were kept in their place and the LGBTQ community kept in the shadows. The America I grew up in back in the 50s. Not going to happen.
What food connects you to both your heritage and your nationality?
Chorizo and jelly donuts.
How has your age helped or hinder your professional growth ?
I have never let age mess with me. And that is not an easy statement in Hollywood. I’ll be 79 this October and proud of it. Proud to still be running around trying to break into show biz and screaming about human rights and social justice.
You have an influence on many people. Can you teller reader about your biggest influence?
Who do you admire today and why? I am aware of having influenced people with Gaytino because they come up to me after a performance or send an email and it is hugely gratifying. And now it's happening after screenings of the Gaytino film. I do feel proud to have touched lives in some small way. But I admire this new generation of soldiers and soldaderas, Latinx/Chicanos, especially the LGBTQ Latinx. I meet so many as I travel the country with Gaytino or with my presentation Activism & the Arts: A Life Journey. They inspire me. These new voices are smart and loud and strong and I’m so proud of them.
“I do feel proud to have touched lives in some small way. But I admire this new generation of soldiers and soldaderas, Latinx/Chicanos, especially the LGBTQ Latinx.” -Dan Guerrero
What does the future hold for "Gaytino" and for Dan Guerrero ?
If I knew, I would tell you. I have no idea. But I will tell you this: I will keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully do it better. I will keep moving forward though I am never really sure where I am going. I will keep reaching for the stars because even if you don’t get one, you will have traveled much farther than never having tried. And it’s not alway easy. There is that fine line between "follow your dream always" and "wake up and smell the coffee.” I continue to move forward even with the occasional aroma of coffee beans in my condo.