Dan Guerrero posing in front of his "Gaytino" poster at The Kennedy Center
Dan Guerrero, who created the one-man play Gaytino, is like a modern day Liberace. Even though he dresses modestly with his grey suit, his personality speaks volumes. Every word he speaks resonates with energy, and you can't help but laugh at all his jokes, even if they don't have a punch line.
With his cleverness and quick wit, it's no surprise he created a word that went viral. Flipping through TV channels one night, Guerrero came to the realization that there were more queer people in starring roles than Latinos. "What! Takes place in L.A. and there's not one Latino lead!?" shouts Guerrero.
Then it came to him, a word that combined his queer and Chicano identity; a perspective that was missing from the mainstream — "Gaytino." Guerrero got off the couch and decided to write and perform a one-man show entirely devoted to his queer Latino perspective from the 1950s to present day.
Gaytino, which he'll be performing soon at ELAC, examines the history of queers and Chicano-Americans from his point of view, covering topics from living in East LA as a gay Latino, to relocating to New York to start a dance career, to coming back to L.A. where he rediscovers his identity as a queer Chicano American. Gaytino also features the two most influential people in his life: his best friend Carlos Almaraz and his dad, the late singer Lalo Guerrero.
Carlos Almaraz and Guerrero met in elementary school in East L.A. They moved to New York in 1962. Carlos studied art and left the city within a few months, while Dan stayed for 20 years making a name for himself in musical theater and dance. Almaraz later gained recognition with his involvement in the Chicano street art movement in the 1970's. He died of AIDS in 1989.
Dubbed "The Father of Chicano music," Lalo Guerrero had several hits in the 1940s and 50s. His songs were sung in Spanish and paved the way for many Latin musical artists. In 1996, President Bill Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts.
Dan Guerrero has performed Gaytino across the US, including The Kennedy Center. When he arrived in Boulder, Colorado to perform at the University of Colorado, the city newspaper featured the play Gaytino, but placed the article next to a photo of a bench on the campus spray-painted with "Kill Fags." Guerrero says this was the first time he was nervous about performing, but he went through with it, "and was flawless!"
Though "Gaytino" is told from a specific point-of-view, Dan wants the show to appeal to everyone. "I totally prayed that it would be accessible to all," Guerrero says. "I had to tell my story in my way and I hope that it would touch a chord in everyone."