Why You Crying?: My Long, Hard Look at Life, Love, and Laughterby George Lopez
When G-Lo gives a comic performance, there's not a dry eye, or an empty seat, in the house. While he can make his audiences cry with laughter, Lopez's own life/b>/center>/i>/i>
When G-Lo gives a comic performance, there's not a dry eye, or an empty seat, in the house. While he can make his audiences cry with laughter, Lopez's own life before becoming one of America's most popular Latino personalities was anything but funny.
Abandoned by his California migrant-worker father at the tender age of two months and deserted by his own mother at the age of ten years, Lopez was raised by his grandparents, who viewed love as a four-letter word. "I was angry, alone, teased, and tormented," writes Lopez. "I grew up around Nobodies as a Nobody wanting to be something else." Why You Crying? a sentence borrowed from the grandmother who bullied him is the story of Lopez's journey to become Somebody. Along the way he riffs on the amusing differences between Chicano and gringo culture, shares his struggle with alcohol and depression, reveals amusing backstage anecdotes, and paints a vivid portrait of a fascinating life and career that have broken barriers of race, culture, and class. Read it and weep!
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Why You Crying?My Long, Hard Look at Life, Love, and Laughter
By George Lopez Armen Keteyian
TouchstoneCopyright © 2004 Encanto Enterprises, Inc. and Lights Out Productions, L.L.C.
All right reserved.
Chapter Onefrom Me and Ernie and Freddie
The kid from Home Alone had nothing on me.
I didn't know there was a name for children like me until one day I saw a commercial about a latchkey kid letting himself into an empty house after school. Every day, around three, that was me, letting myself in the kitchen door or slipping through an open window.
When you're home alone you find love in other forms and faces. Some kids talk to their toys. Some make up imaginary friends. Others live in imaginary worlds populated with people who don't argue or drink, folks who think nothing of giving you a hug or a kiss or a compliment or a smile. The people I interacted with on those lonely afternoons lived in a box. My electronic family - variety show hosts like Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, and Dinah Shore - were always inviting funny and interesting people over to their place. Jimmie "JJ" Walker, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin were some of my early favorites, guys me and Ernie would sprint home from school to see.
Consequently, we got the comedy bug young, and we knew all the comics - the famous and the not so famous. One day we were cruising Laurel Canyon Boulevard in North Hollywood, and we passed this car going in the other direction. We both shouted, "That's Johnny Dark!" You have to really know your comics to remember - much less to have recognized - Johnny Dark, but he was a fixture at the Comedy Store in the late seventies with the likes of David Letterman, Elayne Boosler, Jay Leno, Steve Landesberg, and Pryor. We whipped a U-turn in the middle of Laurel Canyon and followed Johnny Dark all the way home. I jumped out and approached him in his driveway. "I am George Lopez," I said, "and I want to be a comedian, too." He told us to wait outside, went in his house, came back with two eight-by-tens, autographed one for each of us, and just hung out and talked shop. He was so cool, and it was cool to be in the presence of a professional comedian.
It was in that electronic box in the summer of 1974 that I met my new best friend. Over time he would become my guardian angel, the one who watched over my career from above. And today, in the strangest of ways, I have become the keeper of his flame.
I was all of thirteen when the promotion came on, a classic sixty-four Chevy with pom-poms and the antenna and the little dog in the back window followed by the words "Coming this fall." From then on I'd sit in front of the TV, watching it like a hawk, waiting, hoping just to see the promo again, to see the kid, this Chico with the bedroom eyes, who wore denim like we did, cool as shit with that droopy mustache, long hair, and lover-boy body.
My idol ... Freddie Prinze.
Think Robin Williams in the eighties or Chris Rock today, and that was Freddie Prinze Sr. in the early 1970s. Words like "creative genius" get tossed around a lot in my business, but they're actually on target when it comes to the comedic talents of one Frederick Karl Pruetzel, born June 22, 1954, to a Puerto Rican mother and E. Karl Pruetzel, the Hungarian taskmaster Freddie never really liked.
He grew up up in Washington Heights, New York - "a slum with trees," he called it - studied music and karate, and dreamed of fame and fortune. His idol was Lenny Bruce. Eventually Freddie got his break earning stand-up shots at New York landmarks like the Improv and Catch a Rising Star, mesmerizing people with his comedic and imitative talents. Before long he got the call every comedian died for back then - a guest spot on The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson. Freddie laid Johnny out that night, so much so that he was offered a coveted seat on Carson's couch. That contributed to his meteoric rise and led to an audition in the summer of 1974 that would change - and eventually help end - his life.
Other Voices - Ron De Blasio, Freddie Prinze's manager
I am on the road with Pryor and we're going to Chicago and we finish a show and Richie says, "C'mon, we're going to a club tonight."
I say, "I'm not going to a club."
He says, "No, you're going to come to a club. We're going to Mr. Kelly's to see this guy, a friend of mine, a comic."
I say, "Who's this guy?"
He says, "Motherfucker, just c'mon."
"What's he like?"
"He's Spanish, sort of, from New York - he's like me."
"He's like you?"
So we walk into Mr. Kelly's, and I know the club pretty well. Bette Midler broke out there. Streisand played there. Mr. Kelly's was one of those places you had to play.
So I see Freddie and he's funny. His language is a little salty for a nineteen-year-old kid, but the jazz people like him - it's an old crowd, old Chicago patrons, drinking, couples, some not with their wives, Frank's Chicago. So I sorta liked him, and we go outside, and Freddie says to me, "So, you saw my act, would you consider representing me?"
Without batting an eye I say, "Represent you? I don't even know if I like you." And that was the end of that.
Then the show gets on the air and he's out here. I pick up a copy of Time magazine and the title of the article is "The Prinze of Prime Time."
So I start to ask around about Freddie, and hear there're lots of problems, the least of which is his manager. Freddie calls me up once more and we chat, but again nothing really comes of it. Then one night, late at night, Freddie says, "Listen, I have an attorney, David Braun. Do you know him?"
I say, "Yeah, good guy, straight shooter."
"Listen, I've worked it out whereby for the length of the contract I have with my manager I will pay him what I have to pay him, so I have to have a reduced commission on what I pay you. But just as soon as that obligation is over, I'll pay your full management commission."
"Okay," I say, "sounds fine."
* * *
Freddie Prinze was the thing that really brought me and Ernie together. We had both seen Freddie perform on the Midnight Special. He was wearing bell-bottom jeans and a rhinestone shirt, and me and Ernie were both bitten. Up to that point, the only Latino on TV we could relate to was Pepino on The Real McCoys. Freddie Prinze was our Beatles, and that show was our Ed Sullivan Show.
To me, Freddie was the second-generation Desi Arnaz. Desi was the brains behind I Love Lucy, the man Bob Hope once described as one of the smartest people he'd met in Hollywood. Desi invented the three-camera format that sitcoms still use today, but because of the language barrier - not to mention the color barrier - never got the recognition he deserved.
Given Hollywood history, it's no surprise that the star of Chico and the Man wasn't Freddie but rather veteran Oscar-winning actor Jack Albertson, who played Ed Brown. A crotchety old man, Ed was the cantankerous owner of an auto garage in a run-down - or overrun, in Ed's mind - East LA barrio. Freddie played this wisecracking Chicano named Chico Rodriguez, Ed's eventual partner in the garage.
At least that was the premise on paper. No different from a hundred other oil-and-water sitcoms. Except in this case you had James Komack as the executive producer and an actor like Albertson who was willing to share the stage with a comet like Freddie that streaks across the sky once every decade or so.
The show premiered on September 13, 1974. The first words I heard were, "Chico ... don't be discouraged ... the man he ain't so hard to understand," written and sung by the incomparable Jose ("Light My Fire") Feliciano. In the very first scene, a rumpled Albertson is mumbling and grumbling his way down the stairs from his room above the garage. He kicks a water can out of the way for good measure. The world was changing, and Ed Brown wanted nothing to do with it.
He shuffles over to the cash register where, it turns out, he keeps a glass stashed and pours himself an eye-opener before delivering his first shot of the show: "In those days Mexicans knew their place - Mexico."
Watching that first episode today I can still see what lured me in, what lured America in. From the very first time Freddie literally rode into Ed's life on the back of his bicycle and said, "Oh, buenos dias," Freddie sizzled and smoked and proved the perfect foil for Albertson.
"I won a Silver Star in Vietnam," Chico says.
"Where?" counters Brown. "In a crap game?"
"I want my place in the sun," says Chico.
"Then go to the beach."
They stayed that way for much of the next three years, most of the time on Friday nights between eight-thirty and nine. To a thirteen-year-old it was a "good" show; to an adult, Komack & Co. offered a lighthearted but pointed look at family and cultural and social issues of the time. Like the time a young Spanish-speaking pregnant girl arrives at the garage, and Ed assumes that Chico is the father, or the time Ed gets the wrong idea about what Chico and his girlfriend were doing in the back of his van; or in another, for pure laughs, Ed becomes convinced he's lost his touch as a mechanic.
With a supporting cast that included Scatman Crothers, Della Reese, and Charo, and guest stars like Shelley Winters, Sammy Davis Jr., and Jim Backus, the show was a smash from the start, rising all the way to number one in the ratings. Over time, the opening credit sequence slicked up a bit - the shots of the LA barrio became hipper - and so did the billing. What was once "Introducing Freddie Prinze" soon changed to "Also Starring."
As year one turned into two and three, Chico moves in with Ed, and Ed falls in love with Chico's aunt Connie. At the same time, Americans fell in love with Freddie. No one more so than me. One day I sat down and wrote a letter to NBC asking, in my best penmanship, to please, please, send me two tickets to a studio taping in Burbank of Chico and the Man. Sure enough, a couple of weeks later an enveloped arrived addressed to me. Inside, a letter and two tickets to the show. It was like winning Lotto.
"I want to go," I told my grandmother. "Please take me."
She said nothing, so I counted the days until, finally, it was time. I still see her in the kitchen and me asking, pleading, begging her to take me. And her turning and saying, "I'm not going to take you. We're not going anywhere."
There's crying, and then there are tears that tear a thirteen-year-old's heart out. I lost a piece of mine in the kitchen that day.
Yet, in a strange way, from a distance I drew even closer to Freddie as he skyrocketed to fame, and phrases like "Loooking Goood" and "Ees not my job" exploded into pop culture: Freddie jetting to Vegas for sold-out stand-up gigs, recording a comedy album, major guest shots on everything from Dean Martin Comedy Roasts to the inaugural ball for President Jimmy Carter in Washington, DC. Overnight, comedic fame and fortune mixed with another combustible fuel: major heartthrob status for the Tiger Beat and Sixteen crowd and the intoxicating scent of cover stories in both Rolling Stone and Playboy.
It was while on vacation that Freddie met the woman who, for a while, would help him handle celebrity, the increasing tug-of-war for his time and talent. He and Katherine Cochran were married in August 1975 and later had a child, Freddie James Prinze, in March of 1976. By then, it turns out, Freddie was drowning bit by bit, his marriage faltering, his mind altered by drugs and distracted by a breach-of-contract lawsuit by a former manager.
I knew everything there was to know about him. Fuck, I was Freddie.
His picture hung on my bedroom wall. Day after day I stared at it, thinking, I can be a comic. I can do what Freddie is doing. I want to make people laugh.
Excerpted from Why You Crying? by George Lopez Armen Keteyian Copyright © 2004 by Encanto Enterprises, Inc. and Lights Out Productions, L.L.C.. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
George Lopez is the cocreator, writer, producer, and star of the acclaimed ABC sitcom George Lopez. A current cast member of HBO's Inside the NFL, he has appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and Good Morning America, among others. A recipient of many prestigious awards and honors, Lopez lives with his family in California.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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In the book Why You Crying, is about the whole life of George Lopez starting from when he was a baby and now days. It is similer to his show. For Example, his mom's name is Benita and his best friend growing up is named Ernie. The title of the book really repersents his childhood and how it was so bad and his family he went thought that totcherd him. This book is called Why You Crying because it shows that his long hard life is a lot wrose than a lot of poeple. But he really turned his life around whenhe got into the comeidan bussiness and now is living in the dream he always wanted.
The popular television sitcom, "George Lopez", is full of jokes and humor, but not many people realize that much of the show is based on his actual childhood. In his book, "Why You Crying?: My Long, Hard Look at Life, Love, and Laughter", published by Simon & Schuster New York in 2005, George Lopez reflects on how his discouraging childhood lead to his rise to fame. With no father, and an extremely unstable mother, George went to live with his grandparents at the age of ten. The title, "Why You Crying" represents a phrase commonly used by his grandmother, who showed George little love and encouragement throughout his childhood. In his show, George's mother is based on his real life grandmother. George turned his brutal childhood into comedy and lives his life to the fullest. When he first started stand-up comedy, George was incredibly nervous. His best friend Ernie would accompany him and reassure him as much as he could, yet a lot of the time he ended up leaving before his turn. When he was on stage, he struggled to think of what to say. His focus was always on the clock and how much longer there was left in his act. He decided to quit a few times, going on to new careers, but always ended up going back. As he went on, with a lot of encouragement from his wife, he ended up to be successful. He also discusses his comedic influences, Freddie Prinze and Richard Pryor, and how they inspired him to be who he is today. Although most of the book was about how George's struggle to survive his childhood led to his career as a comedian, he also includes his signature humor. About every other chapter is used as comic relief. He compares Mexicans to Anglos several times throughout the book. It is, at times, very racist, but it is also very funny. The thing is, he is racist to himself, as well as anyone else, so no one can really complain. This book is very enjoyable throughout. It is inspirational, yet humorous at the same time. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves the George Lopez show or inspirational stories, although I would limit the audience to PG-13 because some of the language is explicit.
george lopez is one of my biggest hero he relates with many latinos that has gone throught what he has. not only has he overcomed his tragity he has become an inspiration.Thisbook is only one of his many accomplishments. this is a must read book. its not only entertaining but it also tells a story. geroge explains what its like to grow up in the streets of LA and how big he has came to be but he has never forgot where he came form. and one day i hope to be like him
this book is great it tells about his struggles growing up in LA, and i am proud that a Mexican was able to over come all the BS that is in the barrio and succeed
I'm so proud, that finally after generations, their is a latino out their makeing a sucess of his career, not only through this book. But through his T.V. show, and comedy acts. George Lopez touches many of us. He makes us laugh and show us that we should be proud of being Mexicans we are one of a kind. And that all Mexican families goes through the same every day things.When I read or see him perform I cant stop laughing, becuase I can relate to alot of his experinces. I recommend this book to any latino.
He played the voice of Poppie in Beverly Hills Chiwawa.
If you love George Lopez... You will love this book, simply funny!
The book was very good it took you through the life and hard times that George Lopez had gone through the years.
MY GOD! One of the funniest books I've ever read. You'll cry your eyes out and laugh your ass off. Seriously, if you love his stand-up act and have watched his show, read the book!
I read this book in 2 days, and it has been awhile since I had anything keep my attention for this long. This book if halirious from cover to cover. It is a very telling story of a guy (a real guy) who has ups and downs, and sees the humor in it all after therapy and reflection. Wow! I'm still laughing days later.
One of the main conflicts that George Lopez had in his life was that he didn¿t feel loved by his own family. As a kid, George Lopez was pushed to the side a lot by his family. This is because he lived in a house where his mother was nowhere to be seen. George was raised by his grandparents ever since he was a little boy. Gorge explains that no one cared about him, for example the first time he hit a home run his grandfather was peeing on a tree. George¿s aunts were especially mean to George, name calling was used at a very early age. Another of George¿s conflicts was as an early comedian. George had a hard time getting opportunities to perform. The first time he got on stage was when he was in his early twenties. George says that as soon as he got on stage he felt bad vibes, as if the crowd didn¿t want him there. The crowd wasn¿t `feeling¿ Georges jokes. He thought he was going to get `bood¿ of stage so he walked off of it before they did. These were some of Georges conflicts through out his life. One thing I like about Georges book is that he uses slang and curse words in Spanish. I also like the fact he uses a lot of his stand up material in his book. One thing I didnt like about the novel was that off and on in the book there was friends and family would give comments about his life and book. Another thing I liked about the novel is that it was written with Spanish dictionary so that you could know what certain words meant.
Very insigtful into George Lopez personal sad and funny life. Made me cry because there are many things that he felt growing up that I felt as well as young boy feeling like a 'nobody' The pride you feel for him as you read along will make you feel proud as well.
The lopez family is attacking the usa
Actually this book was a little disappointing. Half of the book is dialogue from his stand-up rountine. Now I love George Lopez and have seen him live twice, plus I've seen almost every episode of his show. With that said, the book pretty much repeats everything said and done. Of course I'll keep it cuz I'm a big fan, plus it's an autographed copy I'll treasure forever.