The extraordinary Chicano playwright Luis Alfaro wrote the kindest words for my birthday this week! Thank you so much, Luis, ¡eres muy dulce! Luis talks about our participation in a march at the LLEGÓ conference in 1997. (The National Latino/a Lesbian and Gay Organization, better known as LLEGÓ, sponsored its conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico from October 9 to 13 of that year, as José Quiroga discusses in his book Tropics of Desire). Luis also mentions a panel held as part of the Latina/o Focus Group Pre-Conference on Monday, August 2, 2010, before the ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education) annual conference held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles, CA. (That was the same day I got a $185 jaywalking ticket downtown while going to the open mike at the Company of Angels located at the historic Alexandria hotel! The very handsome, African-American motorcycle-riding policeman who stopped us was not persuaded by our argument that we were from out of town. I was supposed to read some fiction at the open mike but ended up offering some stand-up comedy instead.)
I am moved my Luis's words, and also by the knowledge that we have known each other for so long and have coincided in such different places! My favorite memory of Luis is when he picked me from the audience (or perhaps I volunteered?) to be his assistant in his performance at the CLAGS Crossing Borders U.S. Latina/o Queer Performance Conference held at the University of Texas, Austin, February 2 to 4, 2001. I was supposed to serve shots of tequila that Luis would gulp down periodically. He soon caught me sipping the tequila myself and stealing the show! (For a discussion of this conference and of Luis's Twinkie-eating segue, see Jill Dolan's review "Remembering Beyond the Self: Crossing Borders 2001" in the CLAGS Summer 2001 newsletter, available here.)
¡Gracias, Luis, por tantos años de amistad y tan lindas memorias!
This is what Luis wrote this week:
Who is the happiest academic I have ever met? I would have to say the most wonderful Larry La Fountain at the University of Michigan. A specialist in Latin-American, American, English and LGBT issues, Larry is his own special person and I always get the feeling that no one enjoys life more than he does.
In academic settings, he seems to break down the walls of the academy to create spaces for others to be truly themselves. I haven’t seen him in a long time and I have only danced around the edges of his spotlight a few times. I can remember a human rights march through the streets of Puerto Rico sometime in the mid 90’s and watching Larry as if he was marching through the streets of Disneyland.
A few years ago at a conference in Century City, I was on a panel, and people were slowly dutifully streaming in, kind of stoic and reverential, and it was quiet and there were not enough chairs and all of sudden (super hero music) Larry strolls in, not on the panel, but he could have been the Broadway producer of it, and he YELLS out, “Oye, why are we acting like we are in church? Everybody grab a chair and come in, all the way in, there are seats down in the front, this is going to be very fun, I am really looking forward to it! Hurry up, let’s not waste any time, let’s start, the Latinos are here, we have to bring the fun!” It was a kind of call to action by way of party invitation. I love that about him. Sweet, funny, smart and so very full of life. Happy Birthday, Larry La Fountain, wherever you are! — with Larry La Fountain.