In September 1974, Chico and the Man was an American sitcom on NBC that starred Jack Albertson as Ed (the Man), an old difficult-to-deal-with owner of a run-down garage in East Los Angeles, and Freddie Prinze as Chico, an upbeat, optimistic Chicano street kid who came in one night and cleaned up the shop and moved into a van that was parked inside the shop. Hard to believe, but this show was the first U.S. television series set in a Mexican-American neighborhood. It was also a huge show for our movement, as the show’s intro/opening showed a Lowrider cruising by a busy local intersection. That’s the day Lowriders went Hollywood! The Gypsy Rose was that now famous car, and through this show, it opened the doors for Lowriding to be on the worldwide stage. Everyone who drove a Lowrider was recognized more, too. Jesse Valadez was the proud owner of the Gypsy Rose and served as the Imperials Car Club leader back then.
Unfortunately, Jesse Valadez passed away recently at an unfortunate time, but his memories and the legacy he left behind will continue to grow forever, just like the roses that were hand painted on his legendary car. In Jesse’s last days he was sent home from the hospital to rest and be with his family and friends. While he was there, his club took it upon themselves to vote and make him honorary president. When I visited him, I was told about what the club had done out of love and respect for him and I told him, As long as there are still the Imperials, you will always be the leader.’ He certainly leaves a whole lot of memories behind, as this humble, soft-spoken Lowrider Legend shared good times with everyone. Things won’t be the same anymore without him that’s for sure, and I encourage those who loved him to remember the love he had for his family, the passion he had for the paintjob on his ’64 Impala, and remember that just about anybody that was involved in Lowriders were all his friends too.
Jesse Valadez was chauffeured in a procession that was lead by his Gypsy Rose one last time, leading him to his final resting place. The church and cemetery were standing room only, as car clubs past and present arrived to pay their respects. Some jackets in the church even had to have the cobwebs removed so that they could be worn to represent their club’s presence in honoring Jesse. It was good to see the different club colors and plaques everywhere in E.L.A., and only a legend like Jesse could bring that into fruition; it’s just too bad it had to be in his memory. I’m sure he was happy at such a large gathering of blue, maroon, and black colored jackets paying their respects as he looked down from up above, and that was all due to the fact that his hard work in the culture earned that respect and privilege. God Blessed Him, and all of us for having known him.