Emil Guillermo: WARNING–If you see Dave Chappelle tonight (Wed., March 25) at Yoshi’s in Oakland, who knows what you’ll get. Good dangerous fun on Cosby, glory holes, Pope Francis, the “N” word,a women in a tiara, and more. BEWARE–explicit.

Yoshi’s is an intimate jazz club and Dave Chappelle seems perfect for the small venue addressing the crowd like a riffing’ improviser, more like a jazz performer than a standup.

 

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(Dave Chappelle, in action previously)

 

You won’t have to rely on a Jumbo-tron to get the full Chappelle at a place like Yoshi’s, made for Chappelle’s laid-back, raw style, and an occasional flash of comic brilliance.

Currently, he’s easily in the top three or four comedy acts in the U.S., a short list that would include Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Aziz Ansari. Then Chappelle? Or Chappelle first? Jim Gaffigan in there? (For my money, yes). Chappelle’s four Oakland general admission shows this week sold out in hours for $65 a pop.  Ducats ended up on StubHub for more than $200 each. That’s standard these days for a top act like Chappelle.

By his own admission, he’s been on a two year tour since his return after walking away from his $50 million dollar Comedy Central show deal. And he’s banking as much as he can now.

So the live show in Oakland will be a mixed bad. Some rehearsed jokes. Some riffs off the news. A lot of crowd work. A lot of it. If you think crowd work is filler, and horseplay, then catch him free on YouTube.

At Yoshi’s, Chappelle was heavy on the crowd work: “You from Iran? Good luck with your nuclear program;” Another moment, Chappelle in his white voice to a well- dressed tech hipster in the crowd, “How’s the software going?”; When a train in Jack London Square could be heard, Chappelle turned that moment into gold: “A train whistle in Downtown Oakland…Seriously, this is like 1850s…I should get like 12 bikers together and we should rob a train!” Chappelle’s interplay between the jokes and the crowd is like watching a master mixer, an artist at work.

The live show isn’t canned and there’s its charm.

With Chappelle, there’s that ever-present sense of danger.

On Tuesday, Chappelle came out riffing on Cosby, the man whom he has called the reason he wanted to be a comedian from a very young age. Got to say, I remember listening to all the records myself as a young Catholic Filipino hearing the words, “Noah, how long can you tread water.”

Chappelle immediately starts surfing the crowd for laughs, beginning with his hero’s rape story. “Allegedly!” he cried out. “Allegedly…34 allegations…is….a lot….Still, man probably only raped 13 or 14 girls…. Raping girls with placebos….I don’t know if I believe it. I don’t know. What’s the point of f***ing a sleeping girl? Nothing? (laugh) This is the kind of thing you’re not supposed to say out loud but come on everybody, it’s kind of late on a Tuesday (it was around 1:20 a.m.) It’s not actually a bad question. What is the fun of f****** a sleeping girl?”

“I don’t know if I believe it. I don’t know. What’s the point of fucking a sleeping girl? Because if it’s good, I’m going to tell my wife,’ I’m going to f*** with you while you’re sleeping, is that cool?’”

And yes, that was the clean stuff.

I usually get upset hearing jokes about Asians. And Chappelle made comments about Malaysia Airlines losing a plane, and China losing planes. And it led to another yet another “bad Asian driver” joke:

“You can’t drive on the ground is one thing. But there’s a lot of room in the sky.” He didn’t have to go there. But he was on the offensive. It popped into his head.

No one was safe. Not even Pope Francis and his recent comments on homosexuality.

Chappelle: “He said, ‘Who are we to judge? You the pope, nigger.”

Next, up, Terrence Howard and the Fox TV hit “Empire,” commenting on the prominence of gays in show biz.

“You can tell the writers are gay because the gay characters are the most functional,” he said. “All of the sudden being gay and black are being heroic. All problems don’t come from being black but being gay.”

Chappelle then leans in as if whispering: “It’s not hard to be gay in show business, it’s actually easier that way.”

Then revealing the punch: If I had the courage to suck a d**k I’d be a lot further….”

It was one of his biggest laughs of the night.

You allow the political incorrectness as a way of getting to the truth.

You figure at a 1 a.m. show of one of the world’s top comedians, you’re going to get edge.

Still, there was one black woman with a tiara, who Chappelle couldn’t help but engage.

He was drawn to her, he said. That she was a lesbian brought on a fist pump from Chappelle who identified with her, ahem, M.O. But eventually Chappelle crossed the line and when the talk turned to glory holes and tranny anal, and well the woman with the tiara required kid glove treatment.

This is where Chappelle revealed a real sense of surprising heart and intimacy. You figure to get some combined with your penis jokes.

But anal sex with a tranny?

“Trying to get some parameters,” said Chappelle while still getting laughs. “I’m telling jokes. I feel sexual energy coming from you …I’m sorry I don’t mean no disrespect.”

The show continued and became the highlight of the show, because indeed, why not a glory hole?

“Is this crass? Chappelle asked. “I don’t mean to shock. Should I be more eloquent in my description.

What if there was a crevice?”

He kept going, then he went in for the finish. In a night of titters, it was a big moment of truth.

“Do not be offended by my jokes. I have the utmost respect for you and choices you make for yourself,” he said. Then in a throwback to all the past comic heroes, notably guys like Lenny Bruce, he says: “I don’t mean to overstep any boundaries. These are just mere words. Words are nothing but the best for its intentions. I will boldly control what I mean. The truth is what I said was funny because it was mean. I didn’t say it because it was mean. I said it because it was funny.”

“I’m sure in my heart of heart my intentions were good. Please forgive me,” said Chappelle. “I made some crass reference about ejaculating into a tiara. I just said it because it was funny.”

Crass and grace. Equals art?  Chappelle’s fans ate it up. The woman stayed.

Free speech is dangerous, sometimes funny at 2 a.m. in the morning, as Tuesday turns to Wednesday in Oakland and the train whistle blows.

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Emil Guillermo: Second thoughts on Starbucks’ #racetogether while I’m drinking my Peet’s coffee

peets

OK, OK.  I am joining the coffee grumps. Coffee, black, no race convo.

I read the Starbucks insert in USA TODAY this past weekend, and frankly, I’m astonished.

Race together?  It’s pretty much the same two lanes:  black and white.

In an eight-page insert, the first mention of Asian Americans is on page 5.

In one of 8 questions, there’s this question: “Asians recently surpassed Latinos as the fastest growing group of new immigrants to the United States.” TRUE or FALSE.

The answer is: TRUE.

“Asians recently surpassed Latinos as the fastest growing group of new immigrants to the United States.”

Asians are mentioned in the timeline titled, “Path to Progress.”

But as I point out in my column on the aaldef.org/blog, there are some glaring omissions.

Pass the Peet’s. And see my new column on the aaldef.org/blog.

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Emil Guillermo: Earnest Starbucks gives in to race bullies and no longer encourages baristas to write #racetogether on cups.

I was hoping CEO Howard Schultz would stick to his ideals and stay the course. But I guess, when you’re a corporate enterprise, you can’t go 100 percent on principle if it means you could lose profits by doing the right thing. Ultimately, it’s about shareholder value, and I’m sure Schultz heard from some who weren’t crazy about the idea.

Reports say Starbucks isn’t giving up the initiative. They’re just telling baristas not to use the hashtag  #racetogether on cups.

I know they say they had planned to phase out the writing on the cups. But they would have kept it going if it didn’t blow up in their faces.

Still, they’re not throwing out the baby with yesterday’s old coffee water. They’re moving forward.

I said previously how much I liked the idea.

Small talk actually can lead to better relations. Too often racial hurt comes from micro-aggressions that people of color experience. Positive small talk simply can make people in general more aware of their words.

But I’m in the minority here.

Starbucks says it’s not giving up.

Maybe #Racetogether 2.0 will simply be more of what the company had been doing successfully–public forums for employees and corporate partners who opt-in.

Preaching to the choir always works.

That’s the sad thing about this experiment.  It shows us exactly where we are racially in this country. With our sensitivity levels at new heights, everything is capable of being misunderstood when it comes to race.

Starbucks has learned you can even be dissed for earnestness when no one really wants to make the  effort to have the tiny conversations  we need.

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Emil Guillermo: My interviews with three immigrant workers suing Filipino bakery owners in Los Angeles for visa fraud, labor exploitation

anamoitinho_edited THESE ARE NOT THE WORKERS.  This is a picture of Analiza Moitinho de Almeida, the daughter of a powerful and wealthy Filipino government official,  seen here with her husband, Goncalo.

The two met in Switzerland, where Ana had attended boarding school, then  hotel school.

What they learned they put to use in Manila, serving up fancy French delicacies, and then in California.

But what of their ethics?  In the U.S. dollar world,  some Filipino workers claim the couple’s ethics were still operating in the peso world.

The couple and their California corporations are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by 11 Filipino immigrant workers in Los Angeles.

The plaintiffs, all poor Filipinos, claim they were lured to the U.S. under false pretenses in an investor visa fraud scheme concocted by the Almeidas.

The workers are asking for back pay, overtime, penalties and damage that could be in excess of $1 million dollars.

The Almeidas have not returned my phone calls. But I was able to talk to three of the workers who are plaintiffs in the case.

My original column on the workers was published in the online version of the Manila-based Philippine Inquirer.

I have re-posted my opinion/commentary column here:

IN CIVIL LAWSUIT, 11 FILIPINO NATIONALS IN CALIFORNIA ALLEGE SCION OF PROMINENT FILIPINO ENGAGED IN FRAUDULENT IMMIGRATION SCHEME By Emil Guillermo

On the phone, the woman was so scared for herself and her family in the Philippines, she will only go by the name “Nora.”

In 2011, she was working at the Le Coeur de France bakery in Manila when she was approached by the former owner, Analiza Moitinho de Almeida, who had moved to the U.S. Almeida, the daughter of Philippine Social Security chair Juan B. Santos, was starting a new bakery in Los Angeles—L’Amande Bakery–and asked Nora to come work for her.

Nora said Ana offered $2,000 and an E2 visa. It’s a temporary visa, good for five years for skilled workers to America. Ana took care of everything for Nora and ten others. She is alleged to have made up some things in the paperwork to get the visas.

An E-2 visa is for skilled workers. But when Nora and the others arrived, they were put to work as household domestics, doing dishes, cleaning, cooking and yardwork for Almeida.

On top of that, she said they did other manual labor like cleaning of Almeida’s rental properties.

Oh, and the pay? Not $2,000 a month. Try $360 a month, according to Nora and the other workers.  About the same amount that the workers got if they stayed put in their old jobs in Manila. But this was Los Angeles not Metro Manila.

Never mind. They said they stayed together in the Almeida’s laundry room, sleeping on the floor.

Did they even have a banig?

“Nora” began crying when I talked to her and  she recounted her tale. I asked her if she felt like a “slave”?

Opo,” she said. She wasn’t allowed to leave, and when she finally brought up the pay discrepancy she was threatened by Almeida.

She said she and the others were told they would have to repay an $11,000 debt for being brought to America.

Debt of $11,000?

That’s not slavery. That sounds more like “indentured servitude.”

Nora, 47, said she felt trapped. Like many of the others, she had had a working relationship with Ana and had known her for a dozen years or more. They trusted her on the offer to come to America. They didn’t think it was a scheme for cheap labor.

For Nora, it was a dream opportunity—a way to send dollars back to the peso world, to help her family mired in poverty. But she didn’t know anything about the paperwork, about the visa. Ana had taken care of all that, she said.  And when the suggestion came up to leave, Nora said  Ana threatened them.

“I’m very afraid for my family,” Nora said. She said she feared Ana wouldn’t hesitate to use any connections back home.

Already there have been knocks on some of doors of family members, she said. “I regret that I joined Ana here,” Nora said tearfully. “If I stayed, I would not have endangered my family.”

Nora was so fearful she would not use her name. But at least she talked to me.

Two others did as well. But they had a sense of justice that allowed them a bit more courage.

They’re using their real names.

Louise Luis, 40, and left her partner and son Mat in Quezon City when Ana offered her a job doing logistics for the new bakery in America. She sent home most of her money to the Philippines to provide a better life for her son. But she paid a price. She said she was overworked, and underpaid. And when she confronted Ana about her treatment, Louise said Ana scolded her like she was an ungrateful infant.

Louise Luis

“I thought of leaving a lot of times,” Louise told me. But Ana being from a prominent family was intimidating to her.

“I know Ana is wealthy and very powerful in the Philippines. Her father is wealthy and powerful and influential…And if you know the Philippines…when you’re wealthy and you know some people, you have body guards.. You can do things to people who don’t have money.”

That was the peso mentality that ruled and dominated the Filipino workers brought over by Analiza Moitinho de Almeida.

Ana’s position as a member of the Filipino elite, the daughter of the former chair of Nestle Philippines, and the current chair of the Social Security system in the Philippines, had as much to do with her ability to rule over the workers as anything else, according to the immigrant plaintiffs.

Even in America.

Another worker. Romar Cunanan, 33, felt similarly. He said the pressure of having an $11,000 payment hanging over his head, as well as the fear of harm to his family in the Philippines was too much to bear. But he also felt strange working for Almeida once the bakery opened.

The L’Amande bakeries in Beverly Hills and Torrance weren’t  “point-point joints.” They didn’t serve  halo-halo or Ube rice cakes and bibingka. They were fancy French places  with omelets in the morning and Croque Monsieur sandwiches in the afternoon.

The Filipinos were told to work in the back and stay there. The restaurants in Beverly Hills and Torrance were for whites, they were told. They were told not to speak Tagalog.

It practically made Romar feel sub-human. Definitely “less than.” And this was on top of getting a fraction of the $2,000 a month he was promised.

What made him feel better was his ability  to help his family.

Whatever he made, he sent the lion’s share back to his wife and two sons. He told me leaving them behind remains “the hardest decision he has made in his entire life.”

And now like the others, he is facing a legal battle and fears of retaliation. A member of the legal team said there are provisions that might allow for the employees to get new T visas. They are for those victimized by traffickers.

The legal complaint states: “The workers bring this action against Defendants for labor trafficking, racketeering violations, labor law violations, unfair competition, employment discrimination and retaliation, unfair immigration-related practices, and common law claims.”

A new T Visa would allow the workers the ability to live and bring their endangered families from the Philippines to America. That wasn’t in the plans at first. It is now.

Louise says once the bakery opened, they got the $2,000 they were promised, but it didn’t add up after all the extra hours at the bakery and at the Almeida home.

“We worked 14 hours a day without overtime pay, breaks, and no day off, “Louise said.

California’s department of labor did conduct an investigation. There still may be a criminal complaint, but Louise and the others learned they also had rights.

They spoke up against Ana and were fired. At that point, they decided to contact Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Los Angeles. It was time to fight.

“I want justice for what happened to me,” Louise said. “I still want to pursue my dream, save (money) and be with my family. …But I have to make this right. I need justice. I fear, but I know I’m doing this for a good cause—for Ana to stop what she’s doing… I hope this thing that happened to me won’t happen to anyone.”

She hopes the “T” visa application comes through so she can start working.

But she’s not going to stop talking. It’s different for Ana Moitinho de Almeida and her husband Goncalo.

I made several calls to them once the lawsuit was announced.

The person who answered at the bakery said reporters were “vultures,” and hung up.

A court will decide who the vultures are.

(My  original Philippine Inquirer column is here).

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Emil Guillermo's commentary on race, politics, diversity…and everything else.

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