Amid the glitter of sequins, the constant light bursts of television cameras and flashbulbs, and the electrified Latino syncopations pulsing out from the all-star orchestra, some notable Latino entertainers Friday night received the 15th annual brace of Golden Eagle Awards, given by Nosotros, the Latino entertainment consortium.
The awards banquet, held in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel, resembled a smaller and more communal Academy Awards, replete with stellar presenters--Burt Reynolds and Morgan Fairchild, among them--and a healthy dose of show-biz glitz.
But for Nosotros--and for the Latino entertainment community represented in the teeming audience of almost 1,000--the purpose of the Golden Eagles goes beyond a flashy moment of self-congratulation.
As Nosotros president William Zamora noted in an interview before the dinner, the awards mark the emergence and continuing presence of Latinos on screens both large and small--and the effort to keep them there.
"We continue to work so as to be allowed to be part of the huge melting pot that America, and its entertainment industry, is and continues to be," Zamora said. "It's a big struggle to work against the stereotype--accent, surname, what have you--and make a regular career. We still have a long way to go, you know, but on nights like this I think it's worth all the effort."
A family feeling that went beyond language and entertainment informed the banquet, heavily attended by persons from the international Latino community who paid $100 each to view the ceremonies.
Television and film composer Lalo Schifrin, who was awarded a Golden Eagle for outstanding contribution in music, put the feeling this way: "These awards reflect something bigger than this community. I think they show that if a man believes in his worth and work, it doesn't matter where he comes from."
Maria Conchita Alonzo, awarded for her debut performance in "Moscow on the Hudson," felt differently. "You look like a typical American," she said to a reporter. "If you were trying to get work as an actor in Cuba or Venezuela, they'd cast you as an American, no? You'd work a lot less. It's not really a question of typecasting, it's knowing the people in the business around you."
Yet generally the honorees felt optimistic about the situation of the Latino performer in the industry today. It is this situation that Nosotros (Spanish for "we") has sought to address since 1966, when it was founded by Ricardo Montalban, its first president, as a non-profit entity to encourage Hollywood to look beyond stereotypes and allow Latinos more room to create real people on film and television.
"Even since last year, progress has been made," Zamora remarked with a broad smile. "Our paying membership has increased 150% since last year and we have a new suite of offices and rehearsal spaces. So our situation is ever so much improved--and people in the industry are really listening now."
The lifetime achievement award went to Flamenco dancer Jose Greco. Other Golden Eagles were awarded to Tony Orlando, for achievement as an entertainer; Los Angeles Raiders head coach Tom Flores, outstanding contribution in sports; the Hollywood Reporter's Hank Grant (born Enrique Galante), outstanding contribution in journalism; Jose Ferrer, constant achievement as actor and director; the late Rafael Campos, most consistent performance by an actor; Ana Alicia of "Falcon Crest" for most consistent performance by an actress; Nicholas Dante, outstanding contribution in theater; and Vincent Price, the Nosotros Humanitarian Award.