Students interested in studying Chicano and LGBTQ history will now be able to watch a recording of the one-man show “!Gaytino! Made in America” at university and college libraries.  

In “¡Gaytino!,” 78-year-old Dan Guerrero –an Eastside producer, director, performer, activist and educator– talks about growing up in East Los Angeles in the 1950s as a gay Latino. “¡Gaytino!” takes audiences from Guerrero’s Eastside neighborhood to Broadway, where he worked both as a performer and an agent. He returned to Los Angeles in the 1980s as a “born-again Hispanic” to fight for more visibility for Latinos in media. The show was filmed last fall while Guerrero performed at East LA College, his alma mater.

“The film documents one of the great groundbreaking works of Chicano theater, one that dares to retell the history of American art, theater, media culture, civil rights, counterculture, and sexual revolution through a Chicano lens,” says Chon Noriega, Director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center. “Gaytino is not a ‘minority’ story, but a new way of thinking about what it means to be a human, an American, and a Chicano in the contemporary era.”

As Guerrero began producing and directing for television, his social activism for Latinos and LGBTQ individuals became more pronounced. A graduate of Garfield High School, Guerrero says growing up on the Eastside was different six decades ago.  He says he rarely saw a Latino portrayed in media.

Gays: Invisible

Back then, he added, being gay was not even discussed. “It was a lack of visibility as a Latino; gay wasn’t even that,” Guerrero said. “You didn’t talk about it.  It was never discussed. People would yell, ‘Sissy, Sissy’ or ‘maricón.’ But you didn’t know anything about it. There were no stories on TV about it; no magazine articles. It just didn’t exist. It was like this big secret.”

In the critically acclaimed show, Guerrero celebrates the lives of two men who were tremendously influential in his life: his father, Lalo Guerrero, a famous Chicano musical icon, and his childhood friend, the late painter Carlos Almaraz.

Part of the success of “¡Gaytino!” says Guerrero, is the show’s ability to send a message in an entertaining context. “I wanted to educate, but I wanted to entertain, first and foremost,” he said. “That’s the best way to get people to learn something, if they’re having a good time, and they’re laughing and all of a sudden they get that little boom — a little bump, you know.”

From a young age, Guerrero says he recognized his own disconnect with his father’s music and fame. He recalls that when, as a young boy, he first saw his father on stage, he thought he wasn’t like a “regular” father. As a young teen, Guerrero no longer viewed his father’s famous Spanish-language songs, like Nunca jamás and Canción mexicana with admiration, but regarded them as distasteful, tacky and redundant. But his embarrassment fueled his fire to pursue music and Broadway, the catalyst for the move to NewYork City with his long-term friend Almaraz.

Guerrero with Boyle Heights playwright Josefina López. All photos courtesy of Dan Guerrero.

Back to LA

The fast-paced musical takes you through the streets of New York to his first jobs, Broadway shows and his casting agent career, including some eye-catching name drops like César Chávez. His venture back to LA as a “born-again Hispanic” was partly due to Almaraz’s tragic death from AIDS, as well as a renewed appreciation for his father’s music. Guerrero’s unique experiences come together in this music-filled story of Chicano history, music and life, suitable for audiences of all ages, but especially Baby Boomers.

With jokes mentioning iconic references, such as the movie “Zoot Suit,” which contained several songs by Lalo Guerrero, and Broadway musicals like “A Chorus Line” and “Cats,” the audience laughed throughout the show. A band, cameras and stage crew added to the excitement of the fast-paced production. To raise funds for the taping, Guerrero launched a crowd funding campaign.

The “¡Gaytino!” film is accompanied by a study guide, and both will be available to university and college libraries for study and archival purposes. The film will also become part of the Dan Guerrero Collection on Latino Entertainment and the Arts at UC Santa Barbara and the Dan Guerrero Research Collection at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, which includes his oral history recorded for the center’s LGBT and Mujeres initiative project.

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