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The Salsa Revolution

Chapter 6: Yankee Stadium, Celia Cruz, and Salsa the Movie

After the success of "Our Latin Thing", Masucci was ready to make a second film. He took a high-risk gamble on an ambitious venue.

[FOOTAGE: Home movie of setting up for the concert at the Yankee stadium]

J. MASUCCI: (Archive Interview) I decided to rent Yankee Stadium. It was 280,000 dollars for the night and everybody in New York told me I was totally crazy.

A. MASUCCI: (OC) And that was Jerry. That was 100% Jerry. I even thought he was nuts. (VO) I'll never forget, we put 50,000 dollars down on the field, you know, fifty grand as a deposit.

[STILLS: Photos of Jerry Masucci at the stadium]

The Masucci brothers were guaranteeing with their own money the crowd would not damage the Yankee's valuable turf. That is, if a Latin audience could ever fill a stadium of this size.

J. MASUCCI: (Archive Interview) I'll never forget, I went there, sitting on the pitcher's mound — Yankee Stadium — and looking up and nobody's in the stadium and all of a sudden they started to come, they started to come. And then we had, what, about 45,000 people there that night.

[FOOTAGE: From the concert at the Yankee stadium of the stars coming onto the stage]

After a series of opening acts, Fania brought out the All Stars in a roll call of its best talent.

[FOOTAGE: Concert at the Yankee stadium. The artists coming on stage one by one "Cheo Feliciano!...Willie Colon!...Larry Harlow!...Hector Lavoe!...the great Johnny Pacheco!...."

Ladies and Gentlemen here they are! The World's Greatest Latin Musicians! The Fania All Stars! ]

[FOOTAGE: Fania All Stars on stage at Concert at the Yankee stadium]

With the film shoot underway and forty thousand people in the stands, the night appeared to be a success.

A.MASUCCI: (VO) Johnny was leading the band and the band you know, they're playing 'Congo Bongo' and Mongo's playing and Baretto's playing and the drums are playing (OC) and I'm looking and I'm saying "what the [deleted] is that?"

[FOOTAGE: Fans at Yankee Stadium cheering and making their way towards the stage.]

A. MASUCCI: (VO) And it looked like a waterfall. Something was moving from the loge down. And I realized, "That's people!" These people were climbing down onto the field and they're charging the stage and Johnny don't see it, the band don't see it. (OC) And all I'm thinking about is that fifty grand that we're gonna lose. And I'm trying to stop the show. (VO) You know the guy who's going "cut, cut" that was me. They went right over the stage, they stole the piano, they stole the timbales, you know, the body guards picked up Jerry and started carrying him away. (OC) And it was pretty much of a riot you know. (VO) I was so depressed. I took the money and I went home. Jerry said, "what are you gonna do?" And I said "I'm gonna go home, I'll take the money." (OC) And I took all these suitcases with the money in it and I went home.

[FOOTAGE: Hector Lavoe singing backstage]

The crowd's favorite, Hector Lavoe, was left in the changing rooms, unable to perform. As Fania's top male star, he had to be in that expensive Salsa film.

So a year later Masucci took him all the way to Puerto Rico and filmed him there.

[FOOTAGE: Hector Lavoe singing 'Mi Gente']

This performance turned 'Mi Gente' — "My People" — into a Salsa anthem.

[FOOTAGE: Hector Lavoe singing 'Mi Gente']

But because I'm one of you
I invite you to rejoice!
Yes, come dance with me
Come rejoice with me
Sing my people
Sing my people
I am a 'jibaro' from Puerto Rico
And I will shout it to the four winds

[FOOTAGE: Fania All Stars Puerto Rican concert]

[FOOTAGE: Celia Cruz singing 'Bembe Colora']

SUBTITLE: "For the first time, with the Fania All Stars, Celia Cruz."

NARR Fania's rise to the top of the Latin scene had started in the streets but at the same concert in Puerto Rico, Masucci presented the new dazzling jewel he had recently added to the Fania crown, the legendary Cuban singer Celia Cruz.

FELICIANO: She had a powerful voice, she had everything. She had that African heritage and that's what she exposed. She was rhythm, she was Salsa.

[FOOTAGE: Archive of Celia performing in the 1950s]

Cruz's story reached back to the radio stations of 1940s Cuba.

[FOOTAGE: Nightclubs of Havana in the 1950s]

When she graduated into the nightclubs of Havana, American tourists including Jerry Masucci were entranced by her voice.

[FOOTAGE: Celia singing on stage in a white dress]

J.MASUCCI: (Archive Interview) I just always loved Celia and I really wanted her to come, and to our label.

A. MASUCCI: Jerry went wild for Celia, you know, he went wild for Celia.

By bringing Cruz to the label, Masucci introduced the star to a new generation... and Fania gained, not only a singular talent, but some old school show biz glamour.

[Cruz Performance]

[FOOTAGE: Open to Jerry Masucci's second film, 'SALSA.']

Finally completed after two years, the second film attempted to take the music out of El Barrio and place it in the middle of mainstream pop culture.

[FOOTAGE: Montage of clips from 'SALSA.']

Jorge Santana, Carlos' brother, added rock guitar... Mongo Santamaria, well known in the jazz and pop world, was featured... Cameroonian Manu Dibango played his R&B and pop hit, "Soul Makoosa"...

And hip New York reporter Geraldo Rivera added commentary.

GERALDO: Now if the music is hot and the beat is uptempo there's only one name for it. The name is...

SINGER: Salsa!

[FOOTAGE: Montage of clips from 'SALSA']

But the critical and commercial response to the film in the US was tepid.


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