Tours under Pan AmericanConcerts (Edward Perkins)
During the engagement in the San Francisco night club, La Fiesta, I was seen by a gentleman, Edward Perkins, a concert manager and newspaper man who approached me one evening after the show. He complimented me on my dance in male costume and asked for my contact information.
When I returned to Los Angeles, I received a call from Mr. Perkins and he presented me with an offer to do some performances in a sort of concert variety format featuring other Spanish artists. I was intrigued by his offer and after some weeks he sent me a clipping from a San Francisco newspaper with my picture and a small notice of my upcoming appearance at the Marine Memorial Playhouse.
The appearance in San Francisco under the auspices of Pan American Concerts was a success and resulted in some favorable press comments. It was a completely different environment from the rollicking atmosphere of cabaret show business and I felt lifted to a higher status as a performer.
Other concert dates were set up subsequently in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles at the best theaters attended by an entirely different public. Every detail of publicity, travel, and stage craft was arranged for us in this setting. Above all, the artists who worked along side of me were of a higher caliber than I had experienced before. Among the roster of performers was the Inky Taky Trio which consisted of the phenomenal Peruvian singer, Ima Sumac, and her husband, Moises Vivanco, and Clolita, another dancer- singer. Sumac was not then well-known as she later became in the 1950’s. She was always astonishing in her performance. Her fame subsequently faded somewhat but was well-remembered until she died in 2008. Edward Perkins always stayed in the background and often sat in the last row of the theater to assess the audience response and plan future programs. No master of ceremonies ever appeared on stage. Nothing was ever sold in the theater except souvenir programs with elaborate photos and lists of coming attractions, plus an itinerary of the tours we made. No food was served or offered. All emphasis was on the artistic elements and presentation of the material. These were very different times.
We were presented with dignity and respect. The pianist Francisco Avellan was a Spaniard from Valencia. He became an ardent fan and dedicated two of his song/dance compositions to me. He played with great flair and authenticity.
Julian Oliver was a serious opera singer from Spain. A dance team, Tavo and Esperanza from Mexico were also on the bill with me and they offered genuine Mexican Folk dances done in great style and beautifully costumed. Another dance duo from Mexico, Los Juchitecos, a male danceer, Ladislao, and his partner, Carmen were wonderful performers. Part of their act of several authentic folkloric dances consisted of a mock cock fight with two well-trained roosters. The birds did a cockfight during the number. No blood was drawn! All staged. However it resulted in an amusing incident during our tour. I believe the roosters were kept comfortably in the theater overnight. They actually cock-a doodled at dawn one day to the surprise of the residents nearby who thought someone was raising chickens in the auditorium!
Newspaper reviews were very favorable and we were often interviewed on the radio. On two occasions I was interviewed on a radio program emanating from “The Top of the Mark” of the famous Mark Hopkins Hotel and restaurant in San Francisco. One time,Yul Brynner, the well-known actor of stage and screen was also on the program. This was prestigious for me in my early 20’s.
Apart from the critical comments in the West Coast press, there appeared in a Mexican publication at that time called Todo. An article praising our shows was written by a correspondent for that magazine. The dances were cited for excellence and a marvelous passage about my work was included mentioning my work as outstanding and predicting a great future. “All the soul of an exceptional artist” was an excerpt with one fanciful idea that I might be a “reincarnation” of one of the great Spanish dancers of the past! Certainly this was an enormous compliment for someone so young. It was encouraging and a sign that I had chosen my profession well.
I worked with Edward Perkins over a period of five years and it bolstered my dance career immeasurably. Significantly, he never attached his name to his productions and worked behind the scenes.
After only several months and tours up and down the West Coast, Edward presented me in a complete solo recital at the Municipal Auditorium Concert Hall in Long Beach California. I performed 12 dances and encored several. In this concert, Francisco Avellan was my piano accompanist and offered some solos of his own. The astonishing aspect was a huge banner across the building with my name announcing the event. It could be seen from the highway as we approached the Hall.
My mother and my costume designer assisted with the wardrobe changes. As the footsteps of the people coming to the concert could be heard outside the window of the dressing room, my mother was almost moved to tears as she realized that this public was coming to see “her child”. My father was very amused by her emotional response. In this one instance I was presented as the headliner. The other concerts usually were billed as A Night in Mexico, A Night in Granada, Fiesta Mexicana or simply Ballet Español. Actually these performances were similar to a variety show but on a high level. A dance duo by the name of Muguet and Albaicin were from Spain and added special authenticity to the program. The inclusion of Carlos Montoya, the well-known Spanish flamenco guitarist and the pianist Pablo Miguel on the programs gave prestige and the stamp and flavor of Spain. Montoya was the first flamenco guitarist I worked with and I danced the Farruca with his accompaniment. He and Pablo Miguel became great admirers.
My press book quickly filled up with numerous clippings about my appearances with very good reviews. I felt like a star. However, although well-known on the West coast, my fame did not extend to the East Coast. The tours covered all of the West from San Diego to Seattle, Washington and the South West to El Paso, Texas and Tucson and Phoenix, Arizona.
Edward Perkins, a resident of Beverly Hills, California, traveled the world to recruit artists from everywhere. I often received postcards and letters from Paris, Madrid, or Mozambique and other exotic locations. He once was featured in an article in a Los Angeles Newspaper about his travels relating that he had covered 20,000 miles and many flying hours in an around the world trip. Yet he remained a mysterious character. He would stay in touch for a while and then suddenly disappear without warning. The last contact I had with him was in the late 1960’s when he booked me at the Circle Star Theater in San Carlos, outside of San Francisco for a all-solo concert with just a guitarist. That was the last I saw him. I believe he passed away several years afterwards.
I recall two memorable incidents that occurred during these tours. In Carmel in Northern California, we had concert dates two consecutive years. The last time, the world-famous artist, Salvador Dali, came backstage to compliment me and said: “Muy bien” Another time, one of the famous Marx brothers, Harpo himself came to my dressing room to see me and sit on the couch and converse. This was an honor without compare. Looking back I found out that he and Dali were great friends and Harpo might have heard of me though their mutual acquaintance.