Sunday, February 24, 2008

El Gran Teatro del Estrellas

"I'm never gonna make it to midnight," Big Dog complained after I told him that Miss J and friends were going to go to the club around 10:30pm but things don't really get going until around midnight. It's been a weekly ritual for her to go to the tourist town on the other side of the bay with her friends for "some dancing." I had wanted to go to hear the local band do some rock en espanol, but until now, we were invited to dinner or Big Dog was sick, or we just didn't feel like it.

Our plan had been to go to the town for sunset and dinner and then head to the club for a short while, but what would we do between dinner and dancing? Hang out in a bar for 3 hours? We're just not big enough drinkers to do that and unless Big Dog is behind the wheel, he gets Very Antsy, Very Fast. It was almost a relief to get a call from The Japanese Dude's daughter inviting us to "el hipnotizador."

There's been this circus tent on the edge of town near the highway for several weeks now. A circus or something, we thought, but last week Goro, The Japanese Dude, told us that it was a hypnotist show and they come to town every year.

So, off we went, around 8:30pm, with Goro's two teenage daughters, a Japanese boy who's staying with them while his landscaping job in Japan is dead for the winter, and a couple of Goro's employees.

"See, nothing ever starts on time here," explained Chisa, the older of the two girls. "The locals know it, too."
Sure enough, the inside of the tent was almost completely empty. A few kids sat up in front, a few couples were scattered here and there, and there may have been one or two other families, but most of the white plastic chairs emblazoned with "Corona" and "Coca-Cola" were empty, as were the bleacher seats.

"Maybe everyone's seen it already," I whispered to Big Dog. "They did say it was the last day. Or maybe the last week. Ultima something."

While the place slowly began to fill, we amused ourselves by watching an attractive girl mindlessly sucking on a lollipop, kids having popcorn fights, grownups greeting each other.

By 9:30, the place was packed. The plastic chairs were nearly completely filled and most of the bleacher seats as well. But unlike every other event in this town, this one was strictly local. The only non-Mexicans were those in our small group.

Finally, with a deafening drum machine rhythm blasting out of the speakers, the show began.

Two men dressed like cowboys appeared on stage to lip-sync to a ranchero number with a lot of adolescent potty gags. Especially fart gags. Kids and adults all howled.
"Maybe there are more fart jokes in Mexico than other countries..." I suggested.
They continued to lip-sync through a few other songs, including what sounded like something by the Backstreet Boys.
Next, a pretty woman dressed a la torera, with sequined sombrero, lip-synced a romantic ballad.
Then, an older man in baggy pants and cowboy hat, did a comic rendition of a popular song.

After each set, the curtain would close and there'd be a dash to the concession stand. Lollipop Girl went to get a hot-dog and ate that as erotically as she had sucked on the lolli. But mindlessly. I don't think she had a clue as to how erotic it was!

"Oooo, maybe it's The Hypnotist next," I'd hope every time the curtain re-opened, but the singing show kept going on.
When the first two guys reappeared, dressed as what might have been a Mexican impression of a local gringo and gringa, I realized we had seen all the estrellas we were going to see on this stage.

After the clown (the skinnier of the first two) did a comedy skit with the help of audience participation -- using to everyone's great amusement, Take-kun, the Japanese boy who probably wasn't nearly as clueless as I was, but was clueless enough to draw giant peals of laughter -- at long last, The Hypnotist show began. And not with just one hypnotist, but two! (The two other men in the show, now dressed in business suits. Guess you can't have a Cowboy Hypnotist.) They asked for volunteers and about a dozen people climbed onto the stage and to the plastic chairs (same style as ours but red) lined up at the back. A droning voice counted up, then down, and up again. Although I could only catch a few commands ("dormir" "contento y contenta") it seemed to sound like every other hypnotist routine in the world -- except, of course, that adjectives like "content" have to have both the masculine and feminine forms.

The casting of the hypnotist's spell took quite some time.
"They're plants," Big Dog insisted. He had never seen people really become hypnotized.
"I don't think so. At least not all of them." There were people in the audience under the spell, too. Heads rolled back, forward, to the side, everywhere. "And don't you remember that time a producer at my radio station got hypnotized?"

A friend of one of the staff at the station was a magician who also did a hypnotist routine. He used to come around to the station late at night to entertain his friends and the producer in question took a liking to him. Before long, the magician had his own late night radio show. Things went well until he was invited to a wedding party for two directors who were getting married. At this party, he did his usual hypnotism trick, but he made the mistake of using the producer of his show.

"When you hear Go West by the Pet Shop Boys, you will want to watch soccer," he told the hypnotized producer, then "woke" him up. After that, at odd moments, the engineer would play a piece of Go West and the producer would suddenly get an uncontrollable urge to watch soccer. This cracked everyone up. The music would stop and the producer couldn't understand what was going on, why everyone was laughing at him. This went on all night (long after it was funny, for some) until the producer became all messed up with paranoia. The following week, the magician had no radio show.

Here in Mexico, the routine was similar. The hypnotized people remained on stage to play imaginary instruments, speak "Chinese" ("Wasn't it funny how everyone said something like 'arigato'?" Chisa and I laughed, later) dance with same gender partners ("You are at a quinceanera! You are the sweet fifteen year old!") and become pop stars. The funniest was a chubby girl shaking it like Shakira, though that might have been because Shakira was the only pop star familiar to me.

By the time the show ended it was midnight.
"Thank you so much for inviting us. I had a thoroughly good time even though I didn't understand a lot of it. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because it was bewildering!"

This is the "Mexico" I love -- simple and funky. In these times of globalization, these uniquely Mexican moments are truly precious. I can't wait for a masked wrestling match to come to town.

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