By Sasha Mitchell
“‘Make sex mandatory,’ says Guillermo â€” now in heels. Â Dudeâ€™s a phenom, and I for one wonder if heâ€™s banged Miss Ghraib. Â Montoya likens him to Gloria Swanson, which is fun. “
Sheâ€™s eccentric; the kind of gal who stands in the corner at a social gathering, sweating and listening to a Fred Astaire mix on her Droid, encased by a crowd of Los Angeles public radio and museum supporters, watching without watching them.
The evening is a Wednesday, September 14th. Â The location is the Fowler Museum at UCLA: a campus so Middle-Earthly charming I almost wish Iâ€™d gone to college. Â The event is Los Doppelgangers, brought to you by La Pocha Nostraâ€™s Guillermo Gomez-Pena and actor/director Richard Montoya of Culture Clash.
The showâ€™s program informs those of us pseudo-mingling but earnestly libating in a leafy courtyard, wherein stages are set in the three east-most corners (a prompt but subtle nod to the Cholos in East LA, perhaps?), that we are to be regaled by â€œmean writers and long-time friendsâ€ as they go â€˜mano a manoâ€™ in â€œmovement, spoken word, and radical storytelling in alternating dialog.â€ Â Yes, itâ€™s performance art, but itâ€™s good performance art. Â Particularly as itâ€™s not done by college kids tripping on glue and wrongly distended egos, but men of stout, symphonic culture shouldering the pertinent human appeal.
The surface component of their topical plea is clear, as 2 small posters- erected in North-West and South-East corners of the courtyard- read (in black letters over white): WHAT IS A CITIZEN? Â I AM A CITIZEN. Â To this effect, the program also promises profanity by way of dramatized border rituals and a look at the â€œrampant violenceâ€ in Mexico today, as well as the â€œanti-immigration hysteriaâ€ occurring in the States.
But before the savage-gasms commence, you can get your picture taken with Abby Ghraib: half-naked, pin-up girl with an American flag at her crotch and a duct-taped sack muting her head. Â By her slender, gloved hands sheâ€™ll tease you with her rope, or let you put your mouth beneath her Baghdad in a camel pose. Â Young, porcelain bark in a polka-dot bikini top and sex-red heels… who wouldnâ€™t want to revel in a torture so handsome?
If itâ€™s further terror you need to get off, thereâ€™s a deceptively dormant chainsaw in the corner stage opposite Abby, beneath the face of Che Guevara on papel picado and a round table where a Macbook Pro mimics some invisible, ubiquitous, cyborg DJ. Â Watch out for the furries with the microphone and camcorder (these are the conejos: or the simulatedly-bumbling Raul Baltazar & his muy bonita â€˜Company Bunniesâ€™).
And now, with some margarita in her system, our socially inept narrator finishes her rounds of the courtyard just as the augmented environment starts to play â€œHotel Californiaâ€ for a second time, signaling that the playlist is indeed repeating. Â But not for long, for in the middle corner set-up, a band starts to play. Â They are Chicano Son, and my first thought is: upgraded Latino Pearl Jam? Â Nonetheless, itâ€™s enjoyable; for thus far Iâ€™ve had wine, tequila and certain herbs â€” and also, me gusta to rock.
An older gentlemen thinks Iâ€™m a part of the proceedings, with my Transformers notebook and my pedantic photographing of the set. Â He asks me if the postcards lining the unseen DJâ€™s table are for sale. Â I say I donâ€™t know, and he answers that he could do without the stop-and-smell-the-roses rhetoric but he likes the images. Â More drinking of my margarita.
Next, a voice of verdad antigua wallops the courtyard: â€œWho wants to be a post-chicano?!â€ Â Enter Richard Montoya and Guillermo Gomez-Pena, squaring off on either side of Fowler Fountain (this, but not the furries, are purportedly on loan from the Getty). Â Right now, smack-dab and intra-audience, a Mexican stand-off is in the making, with the ethno-techno extremist sex-bomb (Guillermo) vs. the satirical â€˜racemanâ€™ son of a poet (Montoya). Â Theyâ€™re setting me on fire with their full-immersion intro, even if they are speaking in Spanish for some of it, which means Iâ€™m entirely ignorant to the spoken text. Â When I ask the lady beside me to translate, her and her bad hair and uptight face told me â€” with mucho disdain â€” â€œItâ€™s Spanish.â€ Â Well I gathered as much, Watson. Â I know the Spanish donâ€™t speak binary.
Hey, Iâ€™m not an asshole â€˜cause I ainâ€™t multilingual (incidentally I do speak some French, very little Russian and, often, full-retard). Â Iâ€™m merely patiently awaiting my babelfish implant. Â Anyway, I agree with Guillermo that Spanglish should be the official American language, much the way I believe Marijuana should be legal if fucking tequila gets to be.
Guillermo, the tatted-transhuman who wears a keener rendition of Neoâ€™s Matrix jacket, declares that he â€œwants [Montoyaâ€™s] urgency.â€ Â The mutated-Mexican responds that thereâ€™s not enough eyeliner in West Hollywood for the both of them. Â Montoya continues with unorthodox praise for his opponent, or â€œilliterate MacArthur genius Motherfucker,â€ while Guillermo insists they start to â€œfind some common ground.â€ Â From my post-show research, I note they have plenty. Â Both are triple-A cabrones (artists, activists, and anthropologists), Â gloriously politically incorrect, mercifully flamboyant, hybrid identities all up in the multicultural experiment.
They posit building borders of sugarwall, that we might lick them (and our xenophobias) away. Â They reference the stereotypes they might have to assume to find success, taking jabs at Danny Trejo, Xtina Aguilera, and the Cholo section of Dodger Stadium. Â Are they to empathize with â€œright wing David Mametâ€ or the governatorâ€™s Spanish nanny? Â Guillermo smokes the tangent that â€œart school is the new law school,â€ and they joke about rehearsing for 6 months or 6 minutes before Montoya suggests they stick to the script, which â€œwrites itselfâ€ anyway. Â We hear some of each contendersâ€™ past â€” about Montoyaâ€™s father, poet Jose Montoya, and how, in Guillermoâ€™s childhood, all Americanâ€™s sounded like Donald Duck.
â€œIâ€™m testing the limits of my intensity. Â This is not my real voice… this is a strange malaise and cultural anthology.â€ Â It is strange that weâ€™re encouraged to shoot human beings just for crossing a border when we did essentially the same thing to escape the British. Â Still, we â€œborrowedâ€ from the language of those we bulldozed in naming our new territories- and later in naming our sports teams and urban assault vehicles. Â Montoya conjectures whether the Spanish should revoke their contributions to American cuisine and entertainment, seeing as the Teabaggers and friends of Sherrif Joe Arpaio are so averse to considering Latinos beyond having their houses built and cleaned by them and their hedges trimmed (was that included in the Schwarzenegger affair, or was he already manscaped? Â And I vomit at the thought). Â Montoya references a â€œTerminator vs. Zorroâ€ situation, and Iâ€™m increasingly of the opinion that he doesnâ€™t think much of Arnie.
Anarchismâ€™s in the air, and Montoyaâ€™s a Marxist Robinhood â€” albeit with a Christian tinge (that greasy Mexican you sidestep in Silverlake might be Jesus; would you give him water as you would a dog?). Â Guillermoâ€™s the abstract absurdist and futurist, asking us to imagine LA in 2050 and giving speeches (tonightâ€™s is #12) to the green people â€” or we who baptize in the power of spoken word; we who introspect to our reflections. Â He likes the taste of this anarchy, but asks Montoya what theyâ€™re offering us: the audience. Â Radical imagination? Â Marijuana? Â Next, Guillermo takes a faux-hit, but Iâ€™m affronted that he canâ€™t take a hit IRL (I did, both before and after the show). Â Per Guillermo, â€œ[our government] turns us into freaks, and then we act accordingly.â€
â€œMake sex mandatory,â€ says Guillermo â€” now in heels. Â Dudeâ€™s a phenom, and I for one wonder if heâ€™s banged Miss Ghraib. Â Montoya likens him to Gloria Swanson, which is fun. Â Whatâ€™s not fun: abiding anti-immigrant fervor on moral grounds. Â Bring on the Cholo baptism in the Fowler fountain by the redheaded, Kosher, all-white-virgin Angel of Westwood. Â The Cholo is underground hip-hop artist Esteban Luz, and the virgin angel cleanses his Cholo feet â€œlike a mothefucker.â€ Â But for full redemption, he must wash her feet â€” as if they are the feet of the dead white boy he killed in Echo Park a month ago. Â He causes a tingling between her legs, but she doesnâ€™t give a fuck. Â Montoya only asks that we respect whatâ€™s going on in her mind, and not overcontemplate her wet, supple, and wonderfully tank ass.
Itâ€™s a task, to be sure.
But Los Doppelgangers was nothing but a treat â€” an interactive brain banquet that both challenged and comforted me, tickled and triggered me to do â€” in whatever way I might to better understand/improve/impact while only slightly reiterating the obvious. Â Hey, for performance art â€” which for me is a medium prone to grievous transparency â€” Guillermo and Montoya together are as close to flawless as it gets.
And our narrator? Â Sheâ€™s forgotten her neuroses for the moment, drunk on at least three new sexual obsessions (Guillermo, Montoya, and Guillermo y Montoya junto, speaking binary). Â Sheâ€™s also honoredÂ to have glimpsed these forces in action, and a little bit changed for the better.