On a fresh summer night in L.A., there’s always so much going on. This past Thursday Dan Guerrero gave a presentation called “Platica” at the Plaza De Cultura y Artes (Platica means “Chat.”) Fresh coffee and warm pan dulce was served as we waited for Dan Guerrero, the man, the myth, the legend.
Who is Dan Guerrero? Dan is an award winning producer, writer, casting director, activist, and total renaissance man. Dan is the son of the famed Lalo Guerrero, the “Original Chicano.”
In every demographic of poverty, from every culture, there is always that person that doesn’t embrace the restrictions and labels that society stamps on them, and they simply go on to do what makes them happy. This philosophy is almost always met with success. Dan was born to a family of independent thinkers. In an era of repression, separatism, and racism, how does someone like Dan Guerrero get the ideals of no limits, and pride? If you’re unfamiliar with his father Lalo Guerrero, let me suggest you google “No More Tortillas.” Dan did not fall far from the tree. Just like his father, Dan can deliver his message in both English and Spanish.
Dan’s Father, Lalo Guerrero was a musician, singer, writer and entertainer. He broke every barrier of racism and discrimination of the 30’s and 40’s in America. His lyrics and parody’s were too entertaining to ignore and he gained worldwide fame and recognition. Lalo will always be an American folk hero and will forever be beloved. Dan produced “Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano,” an award winning documentary on the legend of late.
Dan was raised in East L.A. back when the neighborhood was a diverse mix of many cultures. Dan is gay. Imagine what that might be like for a youth growing up gay in the 1950’s. Then I ask myself, how would I ever know, considering I’m heterosexual? What do any of us know about any situation we could never actually put ourselves in?
Gay, homosexuality… lets talk about that for a minute. I’m no doctor or psychologist, but I don’t think you have to study homosexuality in order to get a grasp on it. Let’s just go over some history. The 18th Century lavish style of hair and makeup with wigs, frills and ruffles, was all designed for men by men. That’s a real head scratcher right? How about Julias Caesar, his mannerisms and dramatic affairs? Ancient Greece mentions homosexuality and bisexuality quite frequently in its history. How about every chef, designer, or barber, all industry’s originally dominated by men. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, any of these men were gay? What about gay women, were they ever discussed?
Let’s go right back to 27 BC, the first same sex marriage was recorded under the rule of Augustus in the Roman Empire. Gay prostitution was taxed, and gay acts were to be punished by loss of citizenship. Homosexuality has been here since the beginning of time. It is not a choice. Untrue and unfair is the description Dan refers to that was a label put on gays in society “sexual deviants with a mental disorder.” We must accept human natures differences, that’s all. But some people don’t see it that way and even with strides made, the community continues to be demonized, and ostracized.
Dan has dealt with the realities of growing up Latino and gay. Not only has he dealt with the worlds judgement, hes reveled in it. Dan’s entire life was immersed in the entertainment industry. Dan had the example from his father that you do what you love. Dan’s fearless ambitions took him to New York. Dan says NY didn’t have the same racial tensions of East L.A. and its Brown Berets, zoot suit riots, protests and demonstrations of the time.
Dan performed in many off Broadway productions. His career was prosperous and graduated to becoming a casting director. Radio, film, theatre, you name it, Dan has done it. Some of the events Dan has produced have been held at some of the most exciting venues in our country and overseas. The Kennedy Center, The National Hispanic Cultural Arts Center, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, LATC, to name a few. When asked what is a Chicano? Dan’s answer… “A Chicano is a Mexican American that isn’t kidding.”
Dan Guerrero is an extremely funny and intelligent man, his performances and interviews will have you dying with laughter. It’s no wonder his solo show “Gaytino” is a huge hit. “Gaytino- Made in America” is a show written and performed by Dan. “Gaytino” takes you through decades of the life and travels of Mexican history and the gay experience from a personal point of view. Dan opens up to his audience, taking you with him to the haunting memories of being harassed by kids at school, beautiful memories and extremely funny experiences.
I asked Dan if he thought gay youth of today have it any easier than gays in the 50’s. “Out and proud celebrities on magazine covers, films, TV programs about the gay experience, books, online services, LGBTQ organizations and clubs on campuses all lending support and shouting “It’s ok!”
“We were all alone with our secret in my day, and of course prior.” Dan couldn’t understand the staggering amounts of suicides caused by bullying and harassment. “An educator explained to me that with the new age of social media, an attack was magnified. Instead of a dozen people attacking you it was a constant attack online, all over twitter, facebook and instagram complete with images, and videos, to the point where it swallowed up the LGBTQ person until they could no longer bear it.”
Guerrero is an influential activist in person, print, and radio. “Activism and the Arts, A Life Journey” a presentation given by Dan, addresses issues for both Chicano and LGBTQ and is kept in the archives at UCLA, UCSB, and CSUN. Dan also created the first Latino show to fundraise for aids, and has a show on KPFK radio.
This story is for all of us to absorb. Both Dan’s parents and family accepted his sexuality. Dan calls himself “One of the lucky ones.” “The truth is, I still don’t know if it is easier to be gay today. In the end, it depends on the person, who they are, and what personal tools they have on hand at such an early stage of life. Some will survive, some won’t, and some will forever bear the scars and never get over the painful early years of self acceptance. Bless them all.”