Saturday, December 8, 2012

Azteca History Written on Walls

Azteca Theater performers left their mark - literally!

By David Owens
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Back in the 1970s the Azteca Theater was fully engaged in the presentation of movies and talent from Mexico. Azteca  Impresario Arturo Tirado was well known around California and often escorted top acts around the state.
Arturo Tirado, Azteca Theater Manager

Back behind the stage there is a staircases to  rooms where singers and actors could rest and prepare for their performances. They are odd rooms, about 20-feet long and tapering from 10-foot wide to a five-foot wide trapezoid space.

Some performers used it as a dressing room, others for a green room, and over the years many visitors signed their names on the walls.  At first glance it seems simple graffiti, but then you start to recognize names and dates of the people who came there. 

Wall art of  F. F. 1974
The best drawing is F. F. in 1974. A handsome dude with moustache smoking a cigar.

Listen to Fernando Fernandez

Many names are scrawled on the wall, often very lightly in pencil. I have increased legibility where possible by adding some contrast.

I appreciate anyone in the audience who can recognize or correct my transcriptions. Click on images to enlarge and leave comments with you thoughts and additions.

Listen to Valente del Campo  
Some signatures appear to be:
Valente del Campo, Celia Nieto, Sahol Esqueda, 3-31-1979
Hector Montemayor, Recuer Dos De Su Amiga, Olga Martinez, La Sinaolense, 7-8-1079
Listen to Hector Montemayor

Hugo Karman
Y Mr. Tirado
Mundo Armenta

Show Man Hugo Karman
Show Man La Pacaha     Flores
Toto Y Tito
Estrellita    Mary Irene Consuelo
Y Mr. Tirado                        Listen to Maclovio Contreras video
Oscar Y Carolina
Recuerdo de sus Amiga

 A big heart for:
Recuerdo de sus Amiga
Maclovis Contreras
Yolanda Hernandez
Jose del Monte

Arturo Tirado poses with Ana Berte Lepe, 1960

The top actresses and actors from Mexico packed the 700+ seats at the Azteca Theater.  Even Cantinflas (Mario Moreno)  stopped in Fresno. Watch Cantinflas in "Soy Un Profugo" from 1946. (100 minutes)

See song and dance from  Ana Berte Lepe
La Fronteriza1978
Rafael Hernandez Presenta
Rafael -Buendia    
"La Fronteriza" 1978
Dueto Frontera
Maclovio Contreras
See Maria Elena Jassa perform  "La Fronteriza" at the Mexico Theater in Los Angeles,   it looks exactly like the Teatro Azteca in Fresno inside.

Jose A. Jimemez
Manuel Ceja 78

Jose Luiz Gonzales
El Avileno

Maclovio Contreras
Listen to Maclovio Contreras

Manuel Ceja
El Arabe
Julio Fileman 1970

Jose A Jimenez    Alicia Juarez    Yolanda Oropeza  Oct. 6, 1972
Jose A Jimenez y Alicia Juarez perform "Tu Solo Tu"
Listen to Jose A. Jimenez "Las llaves de la Casa"

Alvaro Zermeno  Marina Padilla   Alvaro Lara  Palomo y Paloma   6-26-1975
Listen to El sauce y la Palma by Alvaro Zermeno

Song Palomo y Paloma      

7-29-1978   Un recuerdo de sus amiga Yolanda  Hernandez
Sep. 17, 1976  "Chelilo"  Yolanda Hernandez
Elise Carrera
Los Carpentidos
Listen to  Valente del Campo, Celia Nieto, Sahol Esqeuda, 3-31-1979


I.Oe disiembre
Jose Luis

Rosenda  Bernal

Rosenda  Bernal

Joe Flores
El Avileno

Maybe this song !

Ah, the golden age of Mexican cinema and music!

 Let me paraphrase a little from "Arturo Tirado and the Teatro Azteca: Mexican popular culture in the central San Joaquin Valley," by
Manuel G. Gonzales.
"Imagine going to a theater in a small town in the 1940s thru 1970s and seeing top movie and musical stars performing live before packed audiences.  This was the experience of many Mexican workers in the San Joaquin Valley at the Teatro Azteca in Fresno. 
The performers were not from Hollywood. To these audiences, first- and second-generation immigrants from Mexico, they were even bigger celebrities--Cantinflas, Pedro Infante, Maria Felix, and the other great actors and actresses of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema. "

See a few more examples of golden age performers on our Azteca Theater Channel

We welcome your comments and suggestions.  Help us keep the Azteca Theater going by following us on    Facebook and Twitter

Friday, December 7, 2012

Jungle exploitations, so bad they were almost good ... almost

Jungle exploitations, so bad they were almost good ... almost!  Sixties B films still make it to bad movie events more as comedy than to admire.

 This one caught my eye because the title said "Samoa, Fille Sauvage" and as a former resident of Samoa I had to check it out. 

The film was made in Italian in 1968 by Italian diredtor Guido Malatesta  and released the same year in French. It never made it to an English release according to research on the IMDB. -->
Of course, it turns out to have tigers, Jon boats, and Indonesian natives, none of which are found in Samoa. 

 However, the waterfalls are beautiful, and the unlikely jungle princess is Edwige Fenech looking a bit pale for someone who has lived in the sun all her life.  

Some critics refer to this genre as "Jungle Slut" films. Aside from skimpy outfits, I am not sure this is an accurate name.  White explorers tramp around a tropical environment plagued by tigers, restless natives and quicksand.  The waterfalls are pretty and "Samoa" Edwige Fenech was attractive in this early role.

Needless to say, the connection to the Island of Samoa is nonexistent. The name must have sounded exotic to the writers and they used it to gain some interest. Much like Snapple did a few years back with their "Samoa Snapple," a drink concoction having nothing to do with Samoa.

Here is a clip that gives some idea of the plot (or lack thereof) and the type of B Jungle Films made inthe sixties.

Jungle B Film Ingredients:
Restless Natives! 
Foolish White Guys!  
Euro Princess!
Fake fights!
Some guns!
Jungle romance!

It is what it is!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Catching up with Patrick Contreras and his Wicked Games!

The last time I checked in here on Fresno's most popular violinist he was bursting strings at the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas.  I asked Rob Thomas, a jazz and rocking string player at Boston's Berklee College of Music (From Eugene, Oregon) if he had listened to Patrick and he said, he'd been a fan for a long time, where had I been? Well, I remembered watching all those talented musicians in the Youth Orchestras of Fresno and wondering where all that talent went. A few years went by and suddenly I saw Patrick's name popping up on the Internet.
Most recently Patrick bowed a soulful rendition of The Weeknd's "Wicked Games:" Have a listen and give Patrick some likes.  This one should go viral!

Patrick Contreras "Wicked Games"

I like Patrick's electrified version better than the original. Why? Because as great as the emotionally infused vocals from The Weeknd are -- the bad language in the lyrics takes me from a state of full listener empathy feeling the pain of a love gone away -- to thoughts of 'maybe the gutter-mouth deserved it. '  I know, sometimes there is no better way to express maximum emotion than a couple of F-words.  But it also carries a stigma.  Patrick proves to me that you can convey all the emotion without words. All the pure painful feeling of loss and sadness, without profanity. Go, Patrick!

Classical Rock Multiplied

 I love this "Purple Haze" from atop Irene's Cafe,  for the preview of their CD release in 2009.
(Be patient for 20 seconds while the Two Guys Who Like to Eat Finish the intro)

Electrified acoustic violin with horse hair's flying everywhere! Full rock effects with the additional expression of the violin.
Takes my breath away!

-- David Owens


Like the Azteca Theater on Facebook and let them know if you'd like to see them invite Patrick Contreras to play in person!