Four years ago, Lowrider Magazine perhaps best captured the legacy of Jesse Valadez, a pioneer of lowrider culture and L.A. car culture in general who died at age 64 on Jan. 29, and was buried Saturday in Whittier.
In 2007 the magazine named Valadez, the owner of the iconic pink 1964 Impala known as "Gypsy Rose" (above, in action) as that year's recipient of its Lifetime Contributor award. From the piece:
Some of the greatest works of art haven't always been famous. Take for instance, Vincent Van Gogh, the now-famed artist who only sold one painting in his lifetime, but a century later, is recognized as one of the great artists in history. And just as Van Gogh became a well-respected pioneer of what we know as expressionism, our Lifetime Contributor Honor winner Jesse Valadez has that same influence and impact, except in the artistic discipline of lowriding.
Jesse's work has become internationally known, and his crowning achievements have pushed lowriding into a culture far beyond what anyone would have expected. And while it took decades to recognize Van Gogh's talents, it only took a few years for Jesse Valdez to be recognized for his.
Jesse's '64 Chevy Impala, "Gypsy Rose" is best known for its unique floral paint job and vibrant flow, and whether you saw it back in the day out on Whittier Blvd. or in the introduction of the '70s television show Chico And The Man, you know why people used to refer to it as "the world's most famous lowrider."
Gypsy Rose remains one of the lowrider world's most respected vehicles, and Jesse remains a true diplomat of lowriding and a respected veterano who always lends a helping hand. He's also an upholsterer, businessman and community activist, but more importantly, he's a lowrider who helped establish our culture as a force to reckon with.
Valadez established The Imperials Car Club with his brother in 1965. The original Gypsy Rose was a 1963 Impala painted in similar colors but with a simpler floral design. Even so, "At the time, the paint job was 'way out,' " Lowrider Magazine wrote, "and some were skeptical about the car's style and tone." After the first Impala fell victim to vandalism, Valadez started over with a second Gypsy Rose.
Though Gypsy Rose's fantastic exterior was painted by Walt Prey, Valadez was the visionary behind it, an artist in his own right who was instrumental in elevating the lowrider into a respected art form, one in which the perfect canvas consists of a sleek expanse of vintage Detroit steel.
Valadez and his "way out" vision for a lowrider beat out the skeptics. Gypsy Rose was featured in the 1970s NBC sitcom "Chico and the Man," where lowriders were glimpsed during the opening credits. The car was was exhibited several times, including in 2008 at the Petersen Automotive Museum.
An Associated Press story described Saturday's funeral procession of lowriders, led by Gypsy Rose on a flatbed truck. Valadez, who died of cancer, was buried in a customized casket painted to resemble his famed Impala, the making of which was photographed by Lowrider Magazine contributor Jae Bueno.
Before he died, Valadez bequeathed Gypsy Rose to his son, Jesse Jr.