David de Alba — The “Lost” Interview

| Apr 15, 2013
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In 2003 David de Alba, who was living in Arizona at the time, was interviewed by drag icon Vicki Rene. The interview was made available on Vicki’s website. A couple of years ago Vicki Rene passed away and the interview disappeared from the Web. Thanks to David de Alba’s friend and former music arranger Miss Linda La Blanche, who found the interview on some  ancient form of media (David insists it was on a floppy disc. Who has a way to read those anymore?) the interview has been sent to us by David and we present it for you here.

Oct 1, 2003

David de Alba

David de Alba

Interview with a Superstar — Mr. David de Alba

Vicki Rene: Who is David de Alba?

David de Alba: David de Alba is the made-up theatrical name for a boy from Cuba named Heri F. García, Jr., me. I was called Heri mostly by family and other people that knew me from the late ‘50s/‘60s period in Cuba and the USA. Nowadays I am called David by most people, and by many others The Cuban Legend from Finocchio’s. I think is awfully nice of them to think of me thusly. David de Alba has tried very hard throughout his theatrical career, starting in the mid-‘60s in Chicago, Illinois as a teenager to raise the art of female impersonation to a high standard of quality. I am able to create the female illusion with my own voice, which is rare among the FIs, since most of them have to pantomime to recordings and can’t sing in a believable female voice.

VR: Where are you living these days?

DA: Well, I have been living in Arizona for quite sometime, first in Scottsdale and then the Tri-State Area on the Arizona border by Laughlin, Nevada.

VR: Can you tell us a little bit about your life at the world famous Finocchio’s?

DA: It’s hard to condense my answer to fit this interview, but if you buy my two volume Finocchio CDs, Backstage Memoirs and Rare Recordings, you will get a good picture. Meanwhile I can say, it changed my theatrical life completely. There are great moments in my memories of wonderful audiences that went to Finocchio’s who appreciated and applauded my act. In fact, my late friend and Emcee Carroll Wallace once told me: “David you are a good act and I don’t have to beg for applause for you when you leave the stage!” (As Carroll had to do many times with The Eve-ettes, the chorus line of our show as they ended a number and the applause was weak).

There are some people from the club that I miss so much, like dear old Carroll, Russell Reed, Bobby De Castro, Lucian, Lavern Cummings, René de Carlo, Marlo Adame, our pianist and conductor Bill Bullard, and a few others . . . but then there are some I wish to forget. They were instigators, filled with hate, and no matter how nice I was to them, it did not matter, they still remain nasty people to work with.

You see Vicki dear, I was very lucky to have started my live singing and dancing theatrical career in the mid-‘60s in Chicago because by many show people standards ‘The Golden Age of Entertainment’ was coming to an end after 1960. When I started at Finocchio’s in 1970 until the mid-‘80s (off and on) our wonderful cast then stretched that Golden Age of Entertainment until the mid-’80s. By that time Lavern Cummings had retired from the Biz and I left northern California too. A short time after that Mrs. Eve Finocchio let go of the musical trio on stage and the whole show went pantomime. So because of that and higher rent and lack of business the club came to an end. I cherished those live performing days because we had big headliners at one time like The Great Lucian, known as the male Sophie Tucker, who played big venues/theaters in New York in his heyday, Carroll Wallace who played all over the world, and last but not least, Lavern Cummings who came directly to Finocchio’s from the famous Jewel Box Revue. There were other important acts too, but I just mention these three so you can appreciate what I mean.

VR: I know this is a hard question, but can you tell us what your life has been about?

DA: My life has been a like a yoyo . . . having to leave Cuba as a young child because of the Castro regime, not knowing English, coming to the USA alone without a penny. Then being a gay boy in the USA where in the ‘60s — and even now in the Year 2003, there are so many people whose religions teach them not to accept gays — was hard throughout my life, even though I have never been one to display my affections in public or talk about my personal life to strangers.

On the happy side, I was blessed to have met in my life, first in Chicago and then in The Bay Area and even from England, some wonderful people who have since passed on, but who I miss terribly everyday of my life. Some of them were hair customers of mine, some were entertainers and some were just Judy Garland Fans that I met through fan clubs who liked me and became my fans too. Thank God I have had for pillars to support me, my partner Paul since 1970 and also my dear Mom Tila and my late Grandma María. To sum it up, if I were to die tonight, I had a nice ride in my life, if only because of the people that I knew and that loved me, and vice-versa.

VR: Have you doing any albums or been in any movies that we should know about?

DA: Yes, in the past two years I have been very busy recording 8 CDs and also I put out a video, Volume 1 of my theatrical memoirs. Mind you, this is hard for any FI to do, especially without a big label studio or monetary backing. It was a labor of love done by my partner Paul and I, and also musically speaking, with the great help of Miss Linda La Blanche, an Earth Angel that came into my life as of late and helped me with the orchestrations for some of the tracks of some of my CDs.

I have never been in a real movie, but yes, I have appeared as a soloist and as a special guest star in many television shows, TV specials and documentaries . . . too many to mention here, but all of them are listed on the Online Resume of my website for anyone who may be curious.

VR: When you were growing up and each morning you would look in the mirror did you feel that was the wrong person looking back at you?

DA: I never had to look at two people in the mirror, because really I always surfaced as only one image that I liked and was very comfortable with. The people who loved or liked me always knew that I was never hypocritical and what they saw was what I was. Miss Linda La Blanche told me once that I was as transparent as Scotch Tape and that is the truth. She nailed me right on!

VR: Who was your inspiration?

DA: I have been inspired by two great ladies of show business, first in Cuba as a child by a wonderful Cuban singer, Olga Chorens and as a teenager here in the USA by the great Miss Judy Garland. I was kissed on my cheek by Olga many times and sang for her in some of her live shows in Miami with her dear late husband Singer Tony Alvarez, whom I also admired greatly. Once I was kissed by the great Judy too! That’s something to brag about for such a loyal fan of their work as I am!

VR: Who do you admire?

DA: My answer was covered pretty well in the last question, but I also admire anyone who tries hard in life and who is kind and warm to others. Some such people I met via the online interviews I gave them for my site and met them in person later on. They are entertainers Shaundriana, Anita Mann, Lady Patra, and Gypsy. Oh, and also Ricky Renée who I have yet to meet in person, who is no chicken anymore and still works very hard in his drag performances and by the way, looking great, in Germany where he has lived for years. There are others too I could mention, but these stand out in my mind.

I also admired many Showbiz legends (non FIs), but all came from the Golden Era of course, and they are wonderful singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Petula Clark, and Peggy Lee; actresses like Bette Davvis and Joan Crawford, and my teenage male idol, the handsome actor Richard Chamberlain (whom I got to sing to at Finocchio’s once).

VR: What do you think makes you stand out above others?

DA: Well, I try very hard at what I do best; hairdressing, make-up and showbiz, and it shows in my work I have always been told. Also in my private life I try to be the best I can be by staying fit and looking the best I can for my age. Perhaps the most important part of all is that I am a romantic at heart and very loyal to people I loved, liked and admired in spite of all the years passing by. I hope that makes me stand above the multitude. I have been told by some waitresses when I walk into a dining room (and not in drag either) that someone at another table asked who I was because I had an air of showbiz about me.

VR: You have a very impressive website, www.David-de-alba.com. What inspired you to create and maintain it all these years?

David as Judy

David as Judy

DA: You see Vicki dear, my website was born with the original goal of documenting the highlights of my theatrical career and to tell the story of a little boy from Cuba trying to make a place for himself in a new country. My Biography was one of the first pages.

First we added a special tribute to the Finocchio Club since it just had closed its doors for good. Then we added another Finocchio page with loving tributes to some of the entertainer/co-workers of mine that I was fond of. I felt I had to give them a personal touch with a bit about their own acts on stage.

As if that wasn’t enough to complete my site, I thought there is nothing about my dear American singing idol Judy Garland, so we added two special pages on her, one about my encounters with Judy and another about the Garland auction that Sid Luft conducted in LA. in the ‘70s, with interesting photos of celebrities I met and some items that I bought at the auction.

Then of course, there was my Cuban singing idol friends, the husband and wife team of Olga y Tony, so we did two tribute pages on them, one in English and one in Spanish. Thank God Tony got to see it before he passed on recently. Both of them were very happy and touched that I did that for them.

Then there were all these famous people’s photos taken with me that I had in my show memoirs album, entertainers that I got to know at one time or another during my Finocchio Days in San Francisco and also some taken in Miami with Olga and Tony. Thus my Celebrity Scrapbook Page was born, and to this date new photos with other celebrities have been added.

Then I added an online Résumé. My partner Paul feels it is a waste of time, because no one reads it, but anyway it is there. Anyone interested in David de Alba can go there and check out my theatrical past and present.

So many wonderful FI historians and entertainers have interviewed me over the years, so eventually we put all of these interviews together under my “Career Publicity Page” along with copies of notable publicity articles. Then I thought, why can’t I also interview some entertainers and celebrities from my own perspective as an entertainer. There were many fine performers that deserved but had never received an on-line interview about their careers and personal life. We started with one or two and then it grew out of proportion as we had more than we could manage, and after a few years I just stopped doing them. In time I became known as a professional and respected Celebrity Interviewer. I even did some famous big Stars (non FIs) such as Robert Goulet, Amapola, Marilyn Michaels and the late Buddy Ebsen.

Next there were all these wonderful online awards coming to us. Some were dedicated to me for my theatrical work from fans and critics and some were from different professional sources that liked the Website design, graphics, music backgrounds, etc. that Paul did for me, so we launched a special page for the awards.

Recently we added an FI Tribute Page to celebrate the career of a number of entertainers that made a notable contribution to the art of Female Impersonation and that I knew personally. Many that I never had the opportunity to work with or even see perform were added to the Epilogue.

Of course David de Alba still is alive in the Biz so we added a special page that features my 8 CDs and video releases available for purchase from my site. Some respected critics like Linda La Blanche and the late Billy Tweedie gave me some wonderful testimonials to add to each item.

My website is done with warmth and love and it does not have the cold professional look of some entertainers’ sites that are done just to promote their own career. My site gives a special home to many entertainers other than myself, and mind you, I have to pay extra for all these pages and there is no hidden agenda . . . just me trying to pay respect to my fellow entertainers.

I am sure I must have left something out, but this is how a modest start grew into such a vast Website celebrating the field of theatrical arts. For those of you who like Showbiz and want to reminisce about some of the finest talents of the 20th Century, this site is for you. I get many e-mails from all over the world from people who confirm this statement and it makes me happy that I have touched their hearts.

VR: Do you get nervous when you are asked to speak to a group or perform on stage?

DA: I never really got a bad nervous feeling when I performed, just a little happy nervous feeling that goes away immediately once I start my first song or whatever act I am doing at the time.

VR: What has been your biggest accomplishment?

david-in-whiteDA: I guess my biggest accomplishment other than being part of the cast at Finocchio’s for years, is that my name still rings a bell with many people on the Internet as they find me via my Award-winning website that my partner and Webmaster Paul prepared for me. Also at different places I have visited someone has told me they saw me at Finocchio’s and how much they loved my act, etc..

I never had to work in the chorus line, not even at Finocchio’s. I was always one of the main acts or the headliner or a guest Star at the shows where I performed. Even after Finocchio’s ended for me, I have kept my name alive though guest appearances here and there in clubs in New Mexico and Arizona, and on TV Shows, such as the well-known international show “Fuera De Serie” on Univisión, etc.. Also working several times with the famed husband and wife singing team from Cuba, my dear friends Olga y Tony as a special Guest Star in the revue in Miami was an incredible experience for me that I will never forget as long as I live.

VR: What really makes you happy?

DA: What makes me happy are just simple things dear Vicki: Having peace around me, listening to beautiful music, having my lovely pets near me, and having vivid memories of the wonderful people I have known. Oh yes, also enjoying a warm piece of home made pie and a frothy milk shake!

VR: What really makes you upset?

DA: What makes me very upset are the many rude people you see in restaurants, people who drive in anger on the road, putting others in danger, and generally speaking, people who are not kind at heart. They have always been around, but it seemed to me that in the ‘60s and ‘70s with The Flower Children (Hippie Generation) there was an air of innocence with the sweet smell of flowers and incense that has disappeared.

Also in the year 2003 you find such rudeness in people, having private conversations on cellular phones in public, even in movies, theaters, bathroom stalls, etc. and some of the terrible music by people who call themselves singers and musicians, David de Alba still keeps his personality intact and does not try to blend with the times. I know better, and this time I won’t do as the old expression goes: “When in Rome do as the Romans do!”

VR: Have you ever had a true love in life?

DA: Yes dear, my partner Paul whom I met in San Francisco, California and have been with since 1970. Though we don’t agree in many things still after all these years, we do agree in all of the important things . . . and we are alike in many ways and he has been a strong pillar in my life.

VR: Are you in love now?

DA: This answer applies to the question above, yes. But also there are all sorts of love like the other people who came into my life years ago and made it richer with their personalities filled with kindness, warmth and at times wit. These were friends and fans of mine . . . all gone like my number one fan, the late Dee Dee Jeziorski and also Billy Tweedie. However life is a cycle of highs and lows, and Miss Linda La Blanche has filled some of that void with her kindnesses and devotion toward me as a person and as a fan of my theatrical work, and I am also very fond of her.

VR: Do you think you are nice person or do you think you can be a bitch at times?

DA: I am a nice person really . . . I never become bitchy . . .. yes reclusive and sad when times are hard on me or someone has given me a bad time for some reason, but I do not hold grudges or wish anyone harm. I know too well about re-incarnation and do not wish to add any penalties to my future Karma. Anyway, I am still a loyal and warm person at heart and after the bad times I sing a song or two to myself and put the bad times aside.

VR: Do you have any pet peeves?

DA: Perhaps the bad manners of many people these days. We need a modern day Emily Post to guide us.

VR: Where do you see yourself in the future?

DA: The future still seems so far way from me. You see, we are trying to sell our lovely English Tudor home here in Arizona to move to either Las Vegas or Henderson, Nevada. Until that happens life is sort of still for me for the things I still want to accomplish theatrically speaking, to work live again on stage. Meanwhile I reminisce on my wonderful past and make plans mentally of what I wish to accomplish, and with a little bit of luck and prayers I may get a nicer future. Once we left The Bay Area in the late ‘80s, (too long of a sad story to go into now), my life has never been quite the same, never as happy as it was then, but at least I had it once! Who knows, maybe I will get a second chance!

VR: I know you do not feel that you are a transgender person, but more of a performer, but even as a performer do you think you have opened any eyes in the transgender community.

DA: I have always have had an open eye and heart to anyone who needs compassion and love and the TG community is included. I became more acquainted with the TG world of transvestism when I lived for three years in Albuquerque, New Mexico and in one of my live appearances at a straight restaurant called Fofo’s. Some TG folks came in and supported my show. Two in particular come to mind, Ginger and Bruce. They were invited to visit our lovely home then one night with some of their other TG friends. I was even invited to one of their meetings at a near by college, quite interesting. Eventually they all disappeared from my life. I guess they knew there was a gap because I wasn’t quite like them in my thinking, but I always have welcomed all kinds of different folks, not just FIs, but sex reassigned folks whom I think the world of as my old friend and former entertainer Holly White.

As long as people are kind and accepting of my own lifestyle, what they do in their personal lives is their own business and I do not put them down for it. Indirectly I know in my heart that gays and lesbians and FIs have a thin thread that connects us to the TG community, though we may not think so. We all are in the same boat, misunderstood and discriminated against by many. That is why we all should hold hands and support each other always, though we differ in many ways in our thinking and actions.

VR: Do you feel that we as gay people are getting what we deserve as human beings from our government or are we getting what we deserve?

DA: Now in the Year 2003 it is a little bit better than in the ‘60s when I was a teenager in Chicago for sure, but it is a long, long struggle for acceptance. Many influential people, especially those who run countries, including ours here in the USA, have a fear and hate of gay people, and to this day I never understood why. Still I hear young boys and men talking who are so hateful of gays and that really frightens me. This is why when my time comes to pass on to a better place, I will welcome it. You see, “There are no sex organs in the Spirit World”, so that in itself will eliminate the hate toward homosexual love.

VR: Do you have a favorite movie and why?

DA: This is hard to say, because I do enjoy and appreciate many Judy Garland movies and many others too, but I don’t have a favorite really. If I was forced to choose just one, probably The Wizard of Oz will do, since it has lots of beautiful colors once you are in Oz. The movie displays a full range of human emotions with cute songs and a wonderful cast headed by that lovely little Dorothy, my dear Judy!

VR: Who is your favorite fiction character(s), in literature or in the movies, and why?

DA: I am not into fictional characters, but I do enjoy movies and documentaries that deal with the Spirit World and UFOs, but to me they are not fictional characters really, so probably I am giving you the wrong answer to your question.

VR: Can you recommend us a motivating or inspirational book. that has changed your perception about the world?

DA: Well, though I read from time to time all sorts of books, especially theatrical biographies, nothing comes to mind to recommend anyone to read that will change their perception of the world. I am sure if you asked Shirley MacLaine she would give you a ton of books to read.

Though I must say that a recent book I purchased Shattered Love, in which Richard Chamberlain reminisces about his life experiences in showbiz and in his private life was sort of enlightening to me. You see many people expected the book to talk a lot about his gayness and his coming out. He did speak about it here and there, but there are a lot of chapters where he talks solely about enlightenment of the soul and things that are connected with spiritual growth that he and his partner of many years, Martin, experienced through their travels. That is the closest I have come reading along with some of Shirley MacLaine’s books that deal with inspirational stuff, without getting religious about it.

VR: What words of wisdom would you give a to someone who is reaching out for help?

davidDA: I am not that wise to give such advice. I know that every time I have reached out for any kind of help I never got it free from anyone, but I kept trying and trying and kept praying and praying and finally, though exhausted and barely able to enjoy the fruits of my harvest, I got it finally. I know that nowadays there are many support groups out there on the Internet and elsewhere and if you look for them, and if you are lucky to meet the right person or persons, you may get the help you are seeking.

VR: Do you have a final statement, for our readers?

DA: Well dear Vickie, thank you for asking me to be interviewed by you. I can add now to my Resume another important interview, but also hopefully I made a new friend along the way. I hope your readers will visit my website at http://www.David-de-alba.com and spend some time there. It is a large site, but worth looking at. It is not just about my Art Form, and me but it is filled with Loving Tributes to many entertainers (some FIs and some who are not). There are also many interviews of interesting people you may recognize. While there, please do buy one of my CDs or my video, because then you will have a nice memory of me, of who many people and critics call nowadays: “The Cuban Legend”.
God bless you all.

Vicki Rene

Vicki Rene

Note from Vicki Rene: David has become a very good friend of mine of late, he is a very fascinating person. There is so much talent in this man’s body; he is a superstar among superstars! I go to his website every DA:y, I find something new each time I’m there and I never leave there without a new knowledge of the entertainment business or something about an old friend. What David does not know is that I have seen him perform back in the early ‘80s while living in San Francisco at the world famous Finocchio’s, he is everything you hear about, a true star and a great guy!

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Category: Impersonation, Transgender History


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  1. I have met David several times. You will never find a more honest, heart-warming person ever! David has resurrected the Finochios Show several times at the Onyx theater in Las Vegas. But more than that, Davis is a true friend who will let you cry on his shoulder when things are tough. God Bless You, David! –Love, Michelle, Washington, DC

  2. says:

    Sorry, I meant to type “field” not fiend in reference to the dear Vicki Rene!!!

  3. says:

    Fabulous memories from the past with one icon interviewing another. Vicki Rene was the best in her fiend and David is still the best in his. Thanks for publishing!!! Love, CC

  4. cuban legend cuban legend says:

    Of the many interviews that have been given to me throughout my theatrical career, this one by dear Vicki Rene was and is one of my favorites…..she was always appreciative of me and my Art Form and that meant a lot to me.

    May you rest in peace Ms. Vicki,….. and God bless,
    David de Alba.