My recent posts have spent a lot of time with Asia and tea, but I want this new post from the Latin side of my LA life. I’ve got a strong readership in Mexico and Brazil. In fact all of South America except Uruguay and Paraguay follows my blog.
And a trip to Latin Grammy events will be a great reconnecting point for us all. There’s lots to tell and so I’ll get started with this hymn to two of my favorite people: my wife Jan Karlin and composer Gabriela Ortiz.
They made quite a combo at Latin Grammy!
There are plenty of perks to being a Grammy nominee. A pure gold keepsake medallion from Tiffany’s. A professional photo shoot. The best press line in the world. In the case of Latin Grammy, the finest banquet meal on Planet Earth. I swear I keep my fingers crossed for these nominations for the food (pictures to come, so keep reading). A Person of the Year concert. Then the Grammy Awards the next day.
Having 9 nominations and 2 Grammy Awards, I can attest to the fact that a Grammy nomination means you are in the game and not on the sidelines. We didn’t win but our company this year included Natalie Cole and Miguel Bose, who was honored as Person of the Year (the word for that, I think, is snub).
Every nominee faces a .5% chance of winning. So Jan and I have learned that participating in the whole series of events is important. There are times in life you need to shine your shoes and dress your best. So let me take you backstage at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Jan was born in The Year of the Horse, which is coming up soon. My readers in Asia know that already! Like most trusted horses, Jan knows where she is going and will take everyone where they need to go with her without complaint. Be it Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, Saigon, Hanoi, Mexico City, or Guadalajara our players know we won’t get lost. And that means the labyrinth of the Grammy Awards as well…
There are times in life where Jan’s New Jersey childhood and teenage weekends in NYC and Greenwich Village come in handy. Gabriela was a bit overwhelmed by all the commotion. Grammy commotion IS overwhelming. But Jan knew from being an old hand at the Awards that this plan was best. 1) Get Tiffany medallion. 2) Go to photo shoot. 3) Proceed to the press gauntlet. 4) Have a cocktail (or three) before the Person of the Year Banquet 5) Enjoy dinner and concert (Latin Grammy is way more fun than mainstream, hands down). 6) Try to go to sleep for the next day!
Getting the Tiffany medallion is straight forward. You stand in line and present your Grammy membership ID for your nomination status. Proceeding to the photo shoot is then important as it becomes a study in traffic congestion if you wait (see photo above). Then you proceed to the press gauntlet (see photo below).
Now things got interesting. We were misdirected by Mandalay Bay staff to the wrong end of the press line. We realized it pretty fast and zoomed down to the entrance. When we arrived at the correct entrance, a hassled staff member declared the press line would be closing.
Time for a good dose of New Jersey and Manhattan to show up at Latin Grammy. Jan knew from experience this was not something for Gabriela to miss.
“Excuse me, m’aam. I have the most important composer in Mexico with me who is a Latin Grammy nominee. She has to be made available to the press.”
“I’m sorry m’aam, I can’t help you.”
“Yes you can. Her grandfather was Pancho Villa’s personal physician and she needs to walk the press line.” What you need to know is that everyone has a media chaperon for this press line, so crashing it is not simple.
Gabriela was a bit shy about all of this, but like I mentioned, Jan was born in the Year of the Horse and will take you where you need to go. Jan was wearing the staffer down, and a chaperon in ear shot appeared, sensing we weren’t backing down. No one wants to be kicked by a Horse…or turn down a family connection to Pancho Villa, I might add. Use everything you’ve got!
Sure enough, having a little New Jersey and NYC in her voice Jan broke through the staffer’s hassled obstruction and got us on to the press line. Gabriela, I am happy to say, immediately understood the benefit to the effort. And I have Jan and Alejandro Escuer, Gaby’s husband, to thank for one of my all time favorite conductor/composer photos of my career.
And Gaby certainly lost her shyness quickly. The next few moments found her working the photographers and press like a seasoned actress. The press chaperon has a sign with your name on it for press ID. The photographers are snapping a lot of people quickly and pride themselves on accuracy. But nothing prepared us for the loud enthusiastic chorus from the press:
“Gabriela! Gabriela! Gabriela” they shouted. She obliged with a celebrity dose of glamor oomph. Really, do you think a guy composer could give them this photo op?
Remember Jan’s fourth item on the Grammy list? Proceed to reception and have cocktail (or three). It’s an open bar….
And the greatest pick-up line in the world can be heard at this party. “So, what are you nominated for?” It’s become a family joke that we’ve shared with Gaby and Alejandro!
Time for No. 5 on Jan’s Grammy Party list: dinner and Person of the Year concert. As promised, I’ve got photos to prove the food at this banquet is the best you can have. Here we go:
The delectable steak you see is accompanied by two sauces: a red guajillo and a huitlacoche (the truffle of Mexico, a delicious corn fungus). But leave room for dessert…
Time for some music for Person of the Year Miguel Bose, who is related to both Luchino Visconti and Pablo Picasso. Thank God we had a rich meal! The highlight for us all was Carlos Santana and Carlos Vive playing for Bose.
But let’s not leave this party early.
Gabriela had spotted Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inrarritu and had reason to talk to him. But she got shy again, momentarily.
My mom’s considerable experience with serving Hollywood stars for over 40 years gave me a sense of confidence around any celebrity. Her advice was to realize that when you meet someone distinguished they are not in character. She never served Rick from Casablanca, she waited on Humphrey Bogart. Big difference.
So where Jan’s East Coast gumption helped Gabriela earlier in the evening, my LA sense that she should take the time to connect with Inarritu, an Academy Award nominee and director of 21 Grams, Amores Perros, Babel and Biutiful paid off (if you’ve directed Sean Penn, Benicio del Toro, Naomi Watts, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Javier Bardem something is going right for you in Hollywood). She did persevere and you never know what might happen….
So we finally went off to our hotel rooms, but not without seeing the Ciroc Vodka Lady guiding our path. You’ve got to love costumes!
So off to bed and sleep we go. The next day brings the Grammy Award ceremony. Though not receiving the award has elements of anti-climax, the nominees night lingers on in memory. No one falls that far down, and no sore losing allowed.
The Latin Grammy show is a good one, with one favorite moment for us being Natalie Cole singing with her father in Spanish. What a touching moment. Oh, and she didn’t win her Latin Grammy either. What good company to keep!
And I can’t leave out another great artist.
The Awards show takes a good 3 hours and is a perfect capstone to the tiring crazy days of Grammy. Many thanks!
All four of us planned to stay on for another day to have some time away from all the activity. Have I mentioned there are parts of Las Vegas I really like? Sure, it’s a crazy, insane city that is now more theme park than Rat Pack haven. Sadly the weather betrayed us. The high temps were in the 40s F. Jan and I wanted to take Gaby and Alejandro to our favorite haunts, but I will substitute some photos from clearer skies in 2010.
The four of us then double dated in the evening for a wonderful dinner of celebration and a farewell gesture, a rite of Las Vegas passage, to the Latin Grammy experience. Nobody is a loser at the Grammy Awards, trust me.
I am certain Gabriela and Alejandro will be returning to Latin Grammy in the coming years. Their story is just getting started and Gaby’s opera “Unicamente La Verdad! La Autentica Historia de ‘Camelia La Tejana'” has just been released.
I don’t even have my fingers crossed for that one!
Best, best, best,