Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Entertaining times in Las Cruces

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Here we are, now entertain us!
That classic Gen X anthem is old hat around here, where we’ve never had to fight for our right to party. During full-tilt fiesta season, good times are almost impossible to avoid and we’re already off to a good start. The impossible choices started last weekend, with everything from hot concerts and duck races to entertain us.
Doc Severinsen and Mariachi Cobre also proved that it pays to be entertaining.
As their concert with the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra went into overtime encores, Doc revved up the crowd with an impromptu auction for a chance to hear “Estrellita.” Three mariachi-loving good Samaritans (Dr. Craig Cannon, Edgar Lopez and David Ikard) made a combined pledge of $6,000 to hear the tune, soulfully delivered by Mariachi Cobre soloist Steve Carrillo.
The encore loot went to the Catholic Diocese of Las Cruces Foundation.
Doc was a good sport and boon companion on-stage and off. And also a snappy dresser. His outfits included a black sequined jacket with jeans, a purple and chartreuse ensemble, and, for his final jam with Mariachi Cobre, a snazzy traje (a traditional mariachi suit) complete with white sombrero. His rep as a fashion risk taker didn’t stop him from taking a shot at dapper Las Cruces symphony conductor Lonnie Klein’s cutting-edge, knee-length white tux.
“Hey Lonnie, you look like a guy who’s going to deliver 250 pounds of meat,” Doc quipped.
Earlier that week, he showed up for an interview in a snazzy brown plaid jacket, blue shirt and jeans and cowboy boots with pastel blue inlays. As fate would have it, he and Lonnie, who is know to do promo pix riding a motocycle in his tux, stumbled upon a gleaming red Indian motorcycle just outside the Hotel Encanto and quickly commandeered it for pictures.
Doc reportedly sampled a lot of chile while he was here, at sites that included Roberto’s and Taco Mexicano. During a rehearsal at Pan Am, chowing down on a spicy snack so elated him that he broke into an impromptu dance, gracefully twirling Susan Roberts with one hand without losing his grip on a slice of pizza.
Final celebrity food anecdote: Doc, known as Don Carlos Hidalgo Soberon in his new home in San Miguel de Allende, talked about his efforts to become more fluent in a new language.
“My horse is teaching me to speak Spanish. He’s already taught me to say zanahora,” or carrot, the horse’s favorite treat.
Many of us grew up watching Doc on TV, during his stint as lead trumpet and then bandleader with “The Tonight Show” from 1962 to 1992, and if we have been lucky enough to have a close encounter of the Doc kind, we remember it. Esperanza Sanchez of La Union recalled seeing him at the Las Vegas airport.
David Wright, a second clarinetist in the symphony, remembers Doc’s visit to his bandleader dad Maury in Burlington, Iowa, in 1962, and he has the pictures to prove it.
Me, too: I have photo documentation of our meeting when I with the Palm Beach Council of the Arts and I was promoting appearances of Doc and Beverly Sills during our 1989 Jazz Etcetera festival.
I finally got those old photos signed, along with a new sobrero-clad Doc shot with what he told me was his first “Don Carlos Hidalgo” autograph.
My fave Doc encounter story came from Michael Swickard: “Maybe some other former NMSU journalism students remember the time in 1971 when Doc played the Pan Am. After the concert a bunch of us went to VIPs Big Boy Restaurant on El Paseo. We all were astonished as Doc drove up by himself in a red luxury convertible. He came bopping in and we invited him over to join us (for) milkshakes. We asked why he wasn't over at a special mucky muck party for him at the Best Western on South Main. He shrugged and said he had driven there and walked up to the door. A man guarding the door told him that the place was closed that evening; it was a private party so he couldn't let him in. Evidently, Severinsen said, ‘OK’ and drove away. He sat there with us for a couple of hours and it was some of the best hours of my college career. We were just blown away by how nice and interesting he was.”
Read more of Mike’s tale, see Norm Detlaff’s video clip from the concert and share your own Doc encounters or other celebrity anecdotes at my new blog by going to www.lcsun-news.com, click on the Blogzone and then on the Las Cruces Style icon.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com

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