A funny little genius

Our restaurant was shaped like a “Z”. The bottom of the “Z” was the restaurant, the upright portion was the bar, and the top, was the dancehall.

The dance floor was in the middle of that room, a raised bandstand was on one side and the bar for that room, sat on the other. At both ends where tables and booths.

One one end and up 15 steps or so was that damn diorama that always scared me as a young child. The room would seat about 200 hundred people with more standing room at the bar.

We had “big name” entertainment often. The bands and singers were mostly Mexican entertainers as our customers were predominantly hispanic.

We often had Mariachi bands which tend to be large and have many types of large stringed instruments, many large and small brass instruments and several singers. I can still hear the music ringing in my ears.

However on one occasion we had Cantinflas. He was a very famous actor, singer and producer from Mexico. He was born in 1911. His main character was a poor Mexican hobo character. Charlie Chaplin called him “the greatest comedian alive.” Chaplin was about a decade older than Cantinflas.

He did a show in our place with several beautiful women all around him. I was ten perhaps, and liked that very much. They sang and danced into the late hours of the night.

He made over forty-eight films and was David Niven’s butler in “Around the world in Eighty Days.

Why he performed at our place is a mystery to me. Perhaps he was on a downward trajectory or perhaps just the opposite. Perhaps he was trying to break into the North American entertainment scene. It would have been around 1960 or so.

He started out working the streets dancing and singing and then tried his hand at prize fighting and there he learned to make his audience laugh at his comic antics. He did tent shows and finally after many years he started making movies. At one time he was paid more than Bob Hope. He was the highest paid performer in Mexico in his day.

There are many talented people in movies and art around the world. Why not do your self a favor and rent some foreign films. The French do great comedy, the Iranians have many interesting movies available, as do many other countries. Japanese and Chinese are some of my favorites.

We have seen several good and great foreign films. I recommend Black cat white cat which I think is from Eastern Europe and The Golden Apple, from Iran.

The movies available here used to be just the winners from the Cannes Film Festival. That seems like a great place to start. But now with the advent of all of the new technology, you can probably get any movie you might want to see.

If you like these little stories of mine, you might like to read “Sunrise Sunset.” It’s full of short stories about people and times in my past.