By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
In 1986, after having joined and left Culture Clash, and feeling that she’d exhausted her possibilities in the Bay Area, Palacios tried her luck in New York and didn’t fare well. And she missed Mexican food. (“They were telling me it was Mexican food in New York, but I just didn’t believe it.”) In 1987, a friend invited her to live in Glendale. Her sister bought her a one-way ticket to Southern California, and after Palacios arrived here, she got a bicycle, which she rode to her waitress job at Burbank’s Smoke House restaurant.
“I was the only ‘out’ lesbian. I worked with a bunch of Latino men with the attitude sort of like, ‘Monica, you’re a lesbian because you haven’t been with the right men.’ My ego was as flat as a tortilla.”
After she bombed at the Comedy Store, Palacios grew increasingly gun-shy about being in mainstream clubs. Yet, from the more comfortable corner she’s relegated herself to, Palacios has accrued a slew of honors and the respect of her peers.
“A lot of people ask me, aren’t you afraid to be a mainstream lesbian? Yes, I am. That’s why it’s important for me to create a space for me, like Highways, where they want me to be who I am. They don’t come there to heckle me, like they do at the Comedy Club, where I’ve heard people say, ‘Keep heckling them, they like that.’ It’s important for me to create my own space and to do it my way,” Palacios says as the train slithers back into Union Station.
Herbert Siguenza, on a lunch break from jury duty, stands mostly stoic, facing front and center, with Richard Montoya and Ric Salinas parked on either side, clowning, as this newspaper’s photographer snaps their portrait in front of the historic Avila Adobe on Olvera Street. Tourists recognize them and ask for autographs.
Montoya admits that the Taper dramaturges used a “velvet glove” to prevent Chavez Ravinefrom being too pedantic, and that Gordon Davidson was in a “tricky situation” trying to avoid offending the city powers that also support his theater — powers whose ancestors were complicit in destroying neighborhoods to profit from the construction of Dodger Stadium, as was dramatized in Chavez Ravine.
“I think the man does love Los Angeles in an important kind of way,” explains Montoya. “He wants to leave us with a gift that will keep on giving. Whether [the complaints] were whispers, or whatever, he always asked politely.”
Politically balanced on a pinhead, Chavez Ravinewas a long way from Culture Clash’s rage of yore and lore. “At the Palace in Hollywood a few weeks back, we did a gig with Ozomatli for Robbie Conal and Shepard Fairey as they released their anti-Bush posters,” Montoya says. “What we did was drag a naked Iraqi prisoner across the stage as Herbert sang Neil Diamond’s ‘America,’ in true CC fashion. I nearly got 86ed from the club because they didn’t have a burlesque license, or so I was told by angry bouncers with USMC tattoos.”
Such shenanigans may explain why Culture Clash doesn’t get invited to Latino theater festivals, and why — despite having been on the main stages of the Taper and Arena Stage — they feel relegated to the margins.
“You get pigeonholed,” Salinas says.
“I get really pissed off when we don’t get invited to academic conferences,” adds Montoya, half-joking.
Says Salinas, “As a result, I don’t think people are seeing our stuff. We’ve never been to Louisville, Sundance.”
“We should be at Sundance,” Montoya pipes in. “I slept with [theater programming director] Robert Blacker.”
Hombres Talking About Life, Sex and Sangres | Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica (310) 315-1459 Sunday, August 8, 8:30 p.m.
Culture Clash in AmeriCCa | Assistance League Playhouse, 1367 N. St. Andrews Pl., Hollywood | (800) 595-4849 | Through August 29