These days, you're as likely to come across George Lopez on ABC as you are on HBO or Univision. His smiling face is everywhere: on stages across the country, on his hit weekly sitcom George Lopez, in films, on late-night talk shows, even on Inside the NFL. The multi-faceted Lopez is ubiquity embodied, firmly embedded in modern pop culture. But life wasn't always so good for the Chicano comedian.
"I'm as tragic as anyone out there," Lopez writes in his autobiography, Why You Crying?, which he will read from at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Tattered Cover in LoDo. "As a little boy, I grew up angry, alone, teased and tormented. I grew up around nobodies as a nobody wanting to be something else."
Abandoned by his migrant-worker father when he was two months old and deserted by a confused mother when he was ten, Lopez wound up with stringent, critical grandparents who often hit and belittled him. He idolized Freddie Prinze and Richard Pryor, and soon left home in California's San Fernando Valley to follow in their footsteps. In his book, Lopez describes that twenty-year journey through standup comedy -- killing one night, bombing the next, all the while battling anger, alcoholism and depression. He became a comedian, he says, to cope with psychological abuse and pain, to come to terms with "a life so sad it had to be funny."
He writes: "To me, tears are tiny drops of remembrance, portals to the past. They bleach the dirty laundry of my life. They're my release. A sign I'm alive. That's why people have tears in their eyes when they laugh, because the humor hits them deep in a place that's harsh but real."
By the time Lopez is done this evening, there won't be a dry eye -- or an unsplit side -- in the house. Free tickets are available at the Tattered Cover, 1628 16th Street, starting at 6:30 p.m.; for information, call 303-436-1070. -- Adam Cayton-Holland
Rising Sun SAT, 6/12
Japanese Prints: 150th Anniversary of United States-Japan Relationship, opening today at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, is more than just another art exhibit. It's also a subtle visual history lesson that chronicles the East-West connection that's blossomed over the last century and a half. Built around a timeline, the two-part show offers an engaging pictorial view of a country bound by old traditions yet slowly emerging from solitude in an age of advanced technology. Part one, on view through October 10, covers the period from the Japan-U.S. peace treaty of 1854 to the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904; the second half, which begins October 12 and continues through mid-January, will bring viewers from 1905 to the present, portraying Japan's overwhelming transformation from feudal nation to world power and source of modern and popular culture.
What does nostalgia taste like? Might we suggest a Spam-burger?
The "miracle meat in a can" is just one item on the menu at Pop Foods, a tour of classic comfort cuisine that lands at Lakewood's Heritage Center from 1 to 4 p.m. today. Pop will dish up a healthy helping of American history as participants step into an authentic 1930s kitchen to prepare such retro recipes as macaroni and cheese, Jell-O and Campbell's soup. According to curator Elizabeth Nosek, the real secret ingredient is speed. "Twentieth-century foods focused on saving time," she says. "The fast-food culture of today is really just a continuum of that same timeline."
Pop Foods is part of the center's "Foodways Program," where visitors munch on memories as they nibble at the past. "Everybody is engaged in food in one way or another, and we can learn a great deal about ourselves by what we eat and why we eat it," Nosek points out. "These events bring with them a lot of conversation and family history. It's a total tactile and tastebud experience."
The Heritage Center is at 801 South Yarrow Street in Lakewood. Pop Foods tickets are $28.50/$25 for members. Reservations are required by June 11; call 303-987-7850. -- Kity Ironton
Just Say Yes The Colorado Prog Music Fest rocks on SUN, 6/13
For folks who think prog rock is nothing more than reheated leftovers from Yes, Jethro Tull and Genesis, the second annual Colorado Prog Music Fest offers a refreshing kick in the cranium. "It gives a chance for the musicians in our group to play all the progressive songs they've always wanted to play in a band but were too afraid to," says Phillip Satterley, founder of the Colorado Art Rock Society, which has organized the all-ages event. The adventurous all-local lineup includes Colorado Guitar Circle, the Music Retaliation Ensemble, Patch, Pindral, Singularity (below) and Zed; the musicians will play covers of prog classics as well as their own material. An exhibit of expressionist oil paintings by Denver artist Julia Satterley will also be on display.
The festival runs from 2:30 to 9:30 p.m. today at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton Street. All proceeds from the suggested $5 door donations go to the Colorado Alliance for Arts Education, a non-profit organization that promotes arts in the schools. For more information, call 303-744-6959 or go to www.coloradoprog.org. -- John La Briola