He’s NOT Making a Come Back. He Never Left and He’s Here to Stay
by Lisa Morgan
I had received the invitation from our resident, award winning film maker, Chip Miller, to attend the world premiere, celebration and screening of music legend, Trini Lopez’s, “Fly Like an Eagle”. I was intrigued to see what the famous, original Latin pop star would be bringing us via music video. I had no reason to expect the phenom to be present at the event. I did, however, relish the opportunity to familiarize myself with Chip Miller’s work and future projects as well as further my knowledge regarding Desert C.A. M. Studios. And, of course, there would be great networking opportunities. As I sat in my car parked outside of what appeared to be a large, beautiful private home in La Quinta, I watched well dressed and beautifully coiffed attendees enter the gala event. I suddenly felt ill-prepared and a bit intimidated. After all, I didn’t really know anyone there and had never met the host in person. My sudden siege of timidity nearly caused me to message in my regrets. As I walked into the home, turned state of the art production studio, it was soon obvious that my fears were unsubstantiated. The women were fascinating, open and funny, the men intelligent, courteous and obliging. A stranger among friends, these beautiful people introduced themselves to me and shared their fun personal stories with the artist we were there to celebrate. But none were more endearing than one very special woman who saw me sitting alone momentarily, and made a point to introduce herself to me.
The beautiful and mild mannered angel introduced herself with outstretched hand, “Hi. My name is Oralee…Oh, you’re with CV Weekly? Fabulous!… Me? Oh, I’m Trini’s personal assistant of 18 years…”. We were not alone for long. As she began to tell me stories of working with her long-time associate, employer and now dear friend, she, like a magnet, drew her own crowd. The conversations were captivating, all painting a lovely light around the man of honor, who though he loved the ladies, had never married. There were stories of his adventures swimming in the Palace Pool in England, detailed explanations of the photo of him smiling calmly as he was smothered by hundreds of adoring fans in Japan. All of this was taking place in the room that held the original guitars Gibson had asked Trini to design. With this being his 65th album, with an international career that encompassed both music and acting, there was no question when Oralee explained that she had been trying to write a book about him, but “there is just so much to tell!”
Suddenly, we looked up simultaneously, and there he was, Trini Lopez, dawning a white straw hat instead of his infamous black felt with his blue sunglasses on, smiling, hugging and kissing everyone, greeting each by name. I introduced myself to this charismatic gentleman who was sincerely interested to meet me. As he and the crowd around him began to move to the studio where his video would be shown, he grabbed my wrist gently and said, “Lisa is it? Shall we go see a video?” As the video played, I could not help but watch him as well. He watched the screen intently but did not stop moving and grooving to it until it came to an end. I’ve never met such a positive and vivacious man. One almost forgot he was a man on the backside of 70. It certainly seemed to slip his mind.
The video was a buffet of color against beautiful desert imagery from the La Quinta hills to Salvation Mountain, surrounding an artist who has not lost a fraction of a beat and sounds better today, than ever. He, being very much himself, commanded the screen that surrounded him with the contrasts of gritty brown mountains and shocking blue sky. The song, its arrangement and production were a beautiful blend of contemporary rock and smooth jazz with Trini’s guitar prowess showing its infinite character. Yet it was his vocal delivery of the song by Steve Miller that enchanted me the most. It floated along with the melody in gorgeous soft velvet tones. Time was unable to steel anything from his effortless range but instead, deepened his sense of grace and intuition as he made the 1976 rock classic his own. He brought to the song a sense of hope and brightness with a more staccato and upbeat delivery than the original. The optimistic flavor of the vocals was matched by his youthful, energetic movement. Brilliantly augmenting this already inspirational moment, the artful and intuitive cinematography, flawless editing and stellar direction and production delivered the dynamic punch that made this so much more than a music video. It was a spiritual, symphonic experience, perfectly framing this very special artist’s relevance, place and purpose in today’s music. This was nothing less than a labor of love for all those responsible for bringing this vision into creation. After the video ended, I leaned over and said to Trini, “You still got it!” to which he winningly replied, “You think so?”
This production was a fantastic introduction to an album that is as perfect an accompaniment to moments of relaxation as it is to encourage that much needed second wind. It is a fantastic choice to play while entertaining, or to encourage a beautiful, smile enhanced, dinner for two. The entire album resonates with the easy going, uplifting, center of joy that is the simple nature of Trini Lopez. On one of the tracks, recorded live, Trini shouts to the crowd, “I love you!” The crowd cheers. Then, again he says, with even more gusto, “I love you!” and the crowd lets loose a huge response with thunderous cheers and applause. The album also features songs by Rogers & Hart, Bobby Troup, Irving Berlin and Leon Russell.
It was very important to Trini that I not leave without getting a copy of the CD. With the legendary Mr. Lopez surrounded by friends and fans, I turned to the one person who I believed had all the answers to the questions about the artist, Oralee Walker. I followed her to the room with the “secret stash” of CDs. I took the private moment to thank her. I shared my earlier trepidation when I first arrived and how meaningful it was to me that she had reached out to me. She graciously took my hand and said, “I represent Trini. I am an extension of him. That’s how he is and so that’s what I do.” As I listened, I knew I wasn’t merely looking into the eyes of a gracious personal assistant. I was looking into the eyes of a best friend, a deeply trusted soul kindred to Trini’s own who perhaps is a very large part of the reason Trini Lopez has kept so well preserved, his youthful joy and charm.
* Credits for the production of “Fly Like an Eagle” by Trini Lopez:
Director/Producer/Writer, Chip Miller
Desert C.A.M. Studios