Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just Between Us by Mario Lopez

Mario Lopez with Steven Santagati. Just Between Us. New York, N.Y.: Celeba, Penguin Group, 2014.

The author has worked in the entertainment business since age 10. He started doing commercials. He was on the TV series “Saved By the Bell”, was a guest judge on “Dancing with the Stars”, and now hosts “Extra”.

Lopez was a chubby baby, claiming to look like a sharpei dog. He grew up in Chula Valley, Ca. near the Mexican border. It was whispered some of relatives were involved in the drug cartel.

Lopez’s mother enrolled him in dance class at age nine, which he questions as “what cool boy ever took a dance class?” He found he liked it and enjoyed being the only boy in class dancing with girls.

Christine Guerrero, a talent agent who specialized in representing children and young people was at a dance recital where Lopez danced. Lopez’s mother approached Guerreo who had liked his dancing. Lopez read for her at her San Diego office and she took him as a client. His first work was in local print ads. He then was cast in 1984 as a regular on the TV series “A.K.A. Pablo”, a Norman Lear production that showcased Hispanic actors. He enjoyed working with guest star Bea Arthur who answered many of his questions. Lopez remained in public school through graduation. “A.K.A. Pablo” filmed 13 episodes yet was canceled after six episodes. “TV Guide” ranks it as the 45th worst TV show of all time although Lopez argues it wasn’t on long enough for it to gain an audience.

Lopez met other child actors. He found Gary Coleman, who had several handlers, spoiled from all the attention. Ricky Schroder, on the other hand, was friendly and nice to Lopez and others.

In the fall of 1984. at age 11, Lopez was cast in the TV series “Kids Incorporated”. His dance and drumming skills were important to his work on the show. He recalls it as “the toughest job I ever worked” with a “tough as nails choreographer”. Off set, he exchanged 11 year kisses with Stacy Ferguson who is now knows as Fergie. He also did guest appearances on other shows such as “The Golden Girls”.

NBC developed a TV show “Good Morning, MIss Bliss” that it then rejected. The Disney Channel ran it but canceled it before its first season was over. NBC reclaimed the show, changed the focus from the teacher to the students, and renamed it “Saved by the Bell”. Mark Paul Gossler was kept as the lead along with Dustin Diamond and Lark Vorhies. New characters were created. Lopez won a role as one of the added characters. He was a permed mullet cut wig. The wardrobe was chosen by staff who attempted to follow current trends.

Lopez was friends with Dustin Diamond. Not everyone liked Diamond. Diamond would leave photographs of his penis around the set.

Mark Paul Gosselaur’s mother did not let him go to parties or hang out with the other kids.

Lopez was close to co-star Elizabeth Berkley as a “brother / sister” type relationship that continues to the present. He dated co-star Tiffani Thiessen off and on.

“Saved by the Bell” laster five seasons. It became more popular afterwards in syndication. There was a season long spin-off “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” which did not connect as well as the network did not want the characters to become too different from their high school characteristics.

Lopez did personal appearances. He was amused seeing how young girls would slip him their phone numbers, and then mothers would also slip him their phone numbers.

Lopez appeared as Greg Louganis in a TV movie “Breaking the Surface”. He was nominated for an ALMA Award.

Lopez hosted the reality TV show “Name Your Adventure:. He later co-hosted the talk show “The Other Half”. Dick Clark gave him lots of useful advice. Lopez then had a recurring role for four years on ?Nip/Tuck”. He was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” and won the contest He then hosted “America’s Best Dance Crew” on MTV in Los Angeles and would then fly to New York where he was on Broadway in “A Chorus Line”. He was later hired to host “Extra”.

He notes that, on movie press junkets, a stopwatch is used to time interviews and when the prescribed time is reached, the interview is over and then next interviewer takes over.

Lopez also had a radio show “ON with Mario Lopez’ that is nationally syndicated. It ranks best in its time slot in all major markets including Los Angeles. He also has a NOVO show “Mario Lopez: One on One”.

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