Friday, April 20, 2007

it's about time!

Congratulations to Erik Estrada on his long-overdue receipt of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You may know him from such roles as Officer Frank "Ponch" Poncherello on TV's CHiP's and infomercials for the Psychic Friends network. Or, if you are like me, this fellow (pictured at right) has plagued you for your entire life.

Lemme 'splain.

I am of Cuban descent. I was born in the US, but my parents were part an early wave of immigration from Cuba, shortly after Fidel Castro wrested control from the previous corrupt, but US-backed government. But that's another story for another day...we're here to talk about Erik Estrada.

Anyhow, my parents did a pretty good job of assimilating to American culture. Sort of. They decided to become productive members of society, unlike some Cubans who sit around in Little Havana down in Miami, sipping coffee and waiting for the day when Fidel dies and they can finally return to reclaim the homes they left. You can get some good food down there, though...

Anyhow, I never felt terribly Cuban. Even though I grew up in a WASPy neighborhood in the suburbs, I never felt 100% American. I don't know that it's possible. My family was just a little bit different than those of my neighbors. And I knew how to speak two languages, which is pretty damned UnAmerican!

And at some point during my childhood, my family chose to worship with other people whose backgrounds were similar. Since there isn't a huge exclusively Cuban community in the suburbs of Chicago, we ended up in a church that was very mixed among many Hispanic groups. A few Cubans, a disproportionately low number of Mexicans, some Guatamalans, Ecuadorians...the list goes on. There did happen to be a large number of Puerto Ricans.

That church was pretty wild...and in retrospect, I'm not so sure how I feel about that. It wasn't snake-handling wild...but there were "healings" and "exorcisms" and a lot of things that I can't be 100% sure weren't simply some sort of form of mass hysteria.

Something else that the people at the church were really hysterical about--the teenage girls, anyway--was Erik Estrada. He was the bee's knees...the cat's pajamas. He was sexy and PUERTO RICAN!

And in addition to being Puerto Rican, his first film was "The Cross and The Switchblade" which was a movie dramatizing the story of a young white preacher from Indiana who goes to live among the street gangs of New York, sort of like Jane Goodall and the chimps. This movie was a big hit with the evangelical crowd. Violent as it was, every so often the church would screen it. Sometimes it would be in English. Sometimes, it would be the really atrocious Spanish overdub. But every time, the girls would get the treat of seeing Erik Estrada in his boxers. Attendance among the young Puerto Rican girls would spike whenever the film was shown.

And so it was that at an early age, I was subjected to the notion that the masculine ideal to which I should aspire was Erik Estrada. I'm still trying to reach that goal. As he ages, it becomes somewhat more attainable. I think I'll go for the fat, reality-show version...I can probably achieve that. I don't have the hair for it, though.

If you want to visit Mr. Estrada's star, you can find it at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard between Sycamore & Orange on the North side of Hollywood Boulevard.


The Moon Topples said...

Weird, I had the same problem with Larry Wilcox when I was young. Small world, eh?

basest said...

don't get me started on Larry Wilcox!!!!