Blogmeister's note: RudyG has disappeared in the wilds of the Yucatan, perhaps seeking some Truth to shed light on Rudy's piece last week on the movie, Apocalypto that is set somewhere in the same latitude as Yucatan. In his absence La Bloga welcomes a guest columnist.
Last week, it was a pleasure to introduce the reminiscenses of a Spanish-language media pioneer of the modern era, Hugo Garcia. Here's Hugo's follow up on the early history of the LA Express, an interlude with Telly Savalas AKA "Kojak". Savalas carried el papel of the eponymous teevee show's detective.
Getting ethnic with Kojak
On my day off I took my girlfriend Mercedes (now my wife) to the Alexandria Hotel to check the renovations the LA Times had mentioned in a recent story.
The Alexandria Hotel at Spring and Fifth was a hot party spot for middle class Mexicanos in 1967. By the 70’s, it lost its magic.
At the lobby, we saw Telly Savalas aka Kojak walking towards us. His white dress shirt was tucked but unbuttoned, showing his hairy chest and panza.
I had always been a fan of Telly and was glad he was the star of the Kojak TV series. Fueled by the vodka, I introduced myself as a reporter and asked him for an interview about his ethnicity. Someone from his posse muttered. “No, he’s working now.”
He brushed off his aide, told us to meet him in his trailer in 30 minutes.
I called Entertainment Editor Mari Carmen, she said “great” and hung up. Twenty minutes went by. I called her again, sensing my impatience; she retorted, “I don’t even know who this senor is.“
I ran to my car four blocks away and got a tape recorder.
Telly motioned us to get comfortable for it was not a big trailer. One of his people motioned me to shut off the tape recorder but Telly said he had no problem with it.
The ethnicity angle had interested him and he was flattered I could remember most of the parts he had played in. “Oh you saw that one?” was his surprised response when I told him I had enjoyed his suave villain in a 1966 Kraft Theater TV drama.
I asked him if because of his Greek ethnicity he had only been offered to play villains, just like us Mexicans. He grinned and said because Anglos were lazy and had trouble pronouncing his full name Aristoteles; he became “Telly”and now he was “Kojak.” Speaking of racism and stereotypes, he agreed the British were also quite adept.
I didn’t ask him about immigration but did ask him about his opinion on gun control, which was another hot topic at the time. “I support it,” was his unequivocal answer.
He said he employed his brother and some childhood friends to keep him from getting a fat head. The men behind him smiled and said they had no problem deflating his balloon.
When we were saying goodbye, Rafael Rosales and one of Fico’s brothers showed up to take a photo.
Rosales asked me who Telly was and I said he was a big movie star. He then handed the camera to Fico’s brother and joined us in the photo.
Next day Paul suggested talking to Ray Herbeck who received the use of an office for his public relations services.
Ray brushed off the ethnic angle but his face lit up when I told him about Telly’ssupport for gun control.
The next day the LA Times in its newsmaker section credited the LA Express for quoting “Kojak’s support for gun control.
Ray had been trying for weeks to get the Express noticed by the English language media.
Our publisher, el Licenciado Galvan would be pleased.
The following day a reporter for a British daily called from the East Coast. He had read the Times brief and wanted more material for his own story. He said “Kojak” was the top TV program in England and the fans couldn’t get enough of Telly.
I was tempted to tell him what Telly had said about British racism. I could have proved it because I had it on tape but sensed this would be beneath a journalist, even as aspiring one like myself.
I watched KNXT TV movie critic David Sheehan that night and he looked and sounded upset. Telly Savalas for gun control? What a laugh he spat since Kojak was in his opinion one of the most violent TV shows being aired and he went on and on showing examples of its violence.
Did my little story steal the thunder from his expose? Did Telly or his people know about Sheens upcoming expose and used me to blunt it? Sounds very farfetched but I later learned everything is possible in Hollywood.
Nevertheless, the story had put the LA Express on the map and I had enjoyed my five seconds of fame.
hugo cesar garcia
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